Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

Does My Friend Want More Than A Casual Relationship?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I have a situation that I don’t really know how to handle.

A little backstory; I’m 30 year old woman and I’ve never been in a relationship. I’ve been complimented on both my looks and personality, but I’m an introvert and have struggled with self-esteem and anxiety issues most of my life so I don’t meet people often and rarely put myself out there. This means I have pretty much no experience to work from when it comes to relationships. But despite anxiety issues, whenever I like a guy, I do tell him, and every time I’ve been rejected and we just stayed friends. I have had guys like me, but please believe me when I say they have all been creeps, ranging from making me feel like they’re trying to buy me (I am neither a hooker nor something in a store for you to check the specs on and then haggle a price for. Please don’t treat me that way) to full-blown ‘I know where you live’ stalking. These two facts combined have not helped my unwillingness to put myself out there. But last year I moved to a new country where I didn’t know anyone and I wanted to make some friends, so I put myself out there and met a guy who I became good friends with. I developed a crush after a while, was rejected, and we just stayed friends. Again. He’s a pretty awesome friend though so it didn’t really bother me that much.

Months after my confession, we were out at a bar near his place, and one thing lead to another. Neither of us were even close to drunk (nothing happened until a couple of hours after we’d had a single glass of wine) and neither of us was unhappy that it happened or regretted it in any way, and after a few long and awkward conversations we decided to be FWB. He’s ridiculously comfortable talking about feelings and really good at knowing when I’m feeling uncomfortable so he’s pretty easy to talk to. He knows when to push me and when to lighten the mood, so we have been able to discuss it pretty well and made sure we were both on the same page and comfortable with that.

That went on for a few months. Things were going well. He’s helped me open up more emotionally and keeps trying to help me with my self esteem issues. I’ve been getting a little better about all that and I’ve gotten a lot more relaxed around him because of a combination of the above, and KNOWING where I stand with him so I don’t have that anxiety of ‘what if?!’. Then things started changing… And this is what I need help with. I think he’s starting to view me more as a girlfriend rather than just a friend. But I’m not sure if that’s just me being hopeful and wanting that, or if it’s actually happening. And despite his openness to these types of conversations, I don’t even know how to START having that conversation.

Anyway, there are a few things that have made me think things are changing on his end. He’s not a big texter. He prefers to talk in person so most of our texts are arranging a when/where/what of the next time we hang out. He’s like this with everyone, not just me. He doesn’t even have his phone on him when he’s doing a lot of things, and when he does have it on him, it’s turned off a lot. But he’s started texting me more often, and for unimportant things. Just to make a joke, or tell me something that normally would have waited till we hung out in person. And making arrangements with me further out as well. He’s started making more time for me, and I was already the friend he saw most often. He’s started introducing me to more of his other friends (I’d already met some, they’re all lovely people), and bringing me along when he’s seeing them. He’s joked about introducing me to his parents. He made a point of telling me he wanted to spend time with just me for his birthday. He’s started using pet names when he talks to me like ‘sweetie’…

Typing all of that out I feel like an idiot for thinking I need external confirmation that things have changed. But I still don’t know what to DO with that information. How do I approach starting that conversation? A part of me is still scared I’m just seeing what I want to see. But if things ARE changing, and it’s because I’ve been getting more comfortable with him and more ‘myself’ around him, so to speak, the anxiety of not knowing could reverse that so I SHOULD have the conversation rather than letting it fester in my brain like I have been… I just can’t figure out how to bring it up! How do I say ‘hey, I know you’ve already told me you don’t feel that way for me, but, do you feel that way for me?’ It sounds ridiculous!

Please help me before I do something stupid…

Trying To Exit The Friend (With Benefits) Zone

DEAR TRYING TO EXIT THE FRIEND (WITH BENEFITS) ZONE: Sometimes you have to take somebody’s behavior at face value, TEFWBZ.

Here’s one of the truths about FWB relationships: they all end eventually. Either you quit having the benefits (y’know… the banging) or you quit being friends.

Now, as scary as that last one sounds, it’s not automatically bad. Sometimes the “quit being friends” part means that the friendship ends, rather like a break-up. However, other times, it means that your relationship evolves into something more intimate and committed than a simple “we like to bang on occasion.”

As a general, when you’re maintaining a casual relationship, you keep your partner at a certain distance. You don’t treat them casually or cruelly, but you simply aren’t as emotionally intimate as you might be with someone you were fostering a deeper relationship with. People who want to keep a relationship strictly sexual tend to go out of their way to avoid setting up a dating frame – you don’t have the same conversations you might have with a friend or partner. You don’t necessarily integrate them into your social circle. You almost never make plans for things further ahead than the next time you’re gonna hook up.

But hey, guess what your honeybun is doing? He’s doing ALL those things. Cute nicknames, introducing you to his friends and family, wanting to spend special time with you on his birthday… those are typically the signs of someone who wants more than just a casual fling. He is, in short, acting like someone who’s caught feelings and wants to act on those feelings.

Now, he may be doing it consciously in hopes that you’ll get the hint – some people feel like they can’t or aren’t supposed to walk back the declared “we’re just f—king” status. Or it may be somewhat unconscious. He may not realize how things are changing and that he’s giving off more relationship vibes and this is an indication of how he feels without realizing it.

But there’s only one way to know for sure what’s going on: you just ask him.

It doesn’t have to be a big deal; not every DTR conversation needs to be dramatic. The next time you two are hanging out in person, just mention “hey, am I crazy or have things been getting a little different between us? I mean, I really like it, but I want to know if I’m picking up on something or not.” This gives him some space to either say “yeah, actually, I think you are” or “No not really” and lets you both agree to let the status quo continue.

But if you want to know, then you’re going to have to be willing to risk things and call the question. There’s no reward without risk… but this sounds a lot like a sure thing to me.

Good luck.

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