DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a single female and have a lover for the last 3 years now. I could tell during the first time we hung out there was a strong mutual attraction. About 2 weeks after we first met he flirted with me hardcore and I knew he wanted something that wasn’t strictly platonic. I held off because I wanted to get to know him better and develop a real friendship. The pull was too strong and just 2 weeks after that we ended up in bed together. Since then we’ve become friends and continued our trysts whenever our schedules permitted. We don’t see each other that often, not even weekly because about 1.5 years ago he moved 2 hours away. I’m pursuing my professional goals, have always been more of an introvert and value my independence so not being in a defined relationship for long periods of time doesn’t bother me. I think what made this situation work is because he and I have a genuine attraction and connection so we focus just on enjoying one another when we do get together.
About a year after we first met, we stayed just friends for 3 months because he was dating someone. When he told me I was sad and knew I would miss him as a lover but respected his boundaries. I told him so, that I really do care about him and he wasn’t just someone I wanted only to have sex with. He never got serious with the other girl and soon enough he came over one evening for dinner and spent the night ravaging me.
It’s pretty much been the same since then, we spend weekends or get together for a week night together here and there. From what I can tell on social media there are female friends of his who he occasionally hangs out with. It always seems like its somewhat one-sided in the sense he enjoys the time spent with them. However they’re seeing the time spent together as a means to date him, which never materializes and they become extremely upset.
During this time I still meet and spend time with other guys I find interesting and are attracted to so I guess I’m not really bitten by the jealousy bug. He seems uncomfortable talking about his feelings or these kinds of situations, not that it bothers me and this suits me because I’m not looking for a serious commitment and expectations. Outside our sexual attraction to one another, we’re good friends and have a great sense of humor with each other. I’m just curious, what is your view on him? I don’t necessarily think he’s emotionally unhealthy or has an avoidant attachment style, as he’s been in 2 monogamous relationships before the last 3 years. Someone can choose to be single for long periods of time without being damaged somehow. I guess I’m wondering if I’m hindering him emotionally in some way.
Curious About My Friend
DEAR CURIOUS ABOUT MY FRIEND: Occasionally I’ll get a question from someone where the issue isn’t really with the relationship, so much with the expectations around the relationship. In fact, in my time, I’ve found that this issue comes up more and more often; the relationship itself is fine, but it’s unconventional in some way. Everybody involved is happy and satisfied. Their needs — emotionally, socially and sexually — are all being met. But because it goes against the cultural narratives of what relationships “should” be, there’s this vague, free-floating anxiety that something is wrong, somehow. Even when it isn’t.
One of the most common examples I see of this are couples who are great as friends who bang… but fight like cats and dogs when they’re “officially” dating. However, if you compare how they act as a “real” couple and when they’re nominally single, there’s no measurable difference. The only distinction between those two states is the label, with all the expectations that come with it. By getting rid of all the inherent assumptions that come with the term “boyfriend”, “girlfriend”, “husband”, “wife”, etc. they’re able to build a relationship that works for them, specifically.
Which brings me back to your situation CAMF. You and your lover clearly have a vibe that works for the two of you. You aren’t — and may never be — in a position where you could do the traditional style of relationship. So you and your guy have a situation that works. You have genuine affection and intimacy and smoking hot sex. You hang out on the regular when your schedules permit, you bang like rabbits on meth and then you do your own thing, separately. You aren’t “dating” in the classical sense but everyone seems pretty ok with the situation.
Honestly, it sounds like the only people who have a problem here are the women who think that things are leading to a relationship with him and get upset when it doesn’t.
If there’s any conflict here — for suitably small definitions of “conflict” — it’s the vague possibility that your friend’s interested in more. But then again, he might not be. If he’s uncomfortable talking about his feelings, then it could be that he is thinking that maybe you two have something different. But then again, it could also be that he has the same weird feeling you do: that he digs your arrangement but feels like he’s supposed to want or expect something more.
Now, it could be helpful to have some form of a Defining The Relationship talk, where you both sit down and make sure you’re on the same page. There’re far worse things than to say “Hey, I just want you to know: I really like what we have. It suits me down to the ground, and I want to make sure that it’s working for you, too.” I’m a big believer in using your words, instead of just relying on unspoken agreements and hoping that everyone’s in agreement. Giving him some reassurance that you’re happy, even laying out your expectations and how they’re being met and why it all works for you can go a long way to strengthening your relationship. Plus, modeling this behavior gives him the space to express any worries or concerns he has. Making it clear that you’re ready to listen could help him open up and muscle past any worries about judgement or criticism. Hell, you could even talk about this being some form of ethical non-monogamy, if that makes everyone feel better.
But if I’m being honest, it sounds like this is a case of everyone getting what they want, in a way that works for them. I don’t think you’re “hindering” him in any way or holding him back from other relationships. Rather, the only way you’re “hindering” him is by giving him a relationship that he enjoys and finds rewarding.
You’re happy. He’s happy. You clearly care for each other. You have amazing sex. You’ve both had the opportunity to pursue other relationships and ultimately haven’t. Neither of you seem to be feeling any resentment or expressing this feeling that you’re being kept from something you want.
There’re far worse things that you could do than to toss expectations aside and just embrace that you’ve got something awesome, even if it’s not standard issue.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com