DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’ve thought about writing in before but I’ve never had enough real motivation until now. I’ll try to keep it brief.
Over the last 7 years (woof, that long already) I’ve developed a FWB situation with a woman I met in undergrad. We texted on and off for most of the first half of the decade until we lived closer to each other. Then we began hooking up in 2017-2018 until she called it off in fall of last year.
We’ve become pretty good friends over the course of us knowing each other, and I care deeply about her. However, she’s not really as invested, which is why she called it off , which is fine. That’s normal. Stuff like that ends. It’s just begun to feel unhealthy in the last year.
After she called it off, we agreed to give each other some space, but we keep coming back to text each other. Neither of us want to admit it, but she likes the attention I give her, and I like being in close contact with SOMEONE who cared enough to f--k me. I’ve tried to tell her that it’s often painful for me to continue talking to her because I’m not over her, but she won’t stop. And I give in every time because I’m craving SOME kind of intimacy (even if it’s just a ghost of it).
Is there a way I can break this off? I feel kind of used for attention. She’ll even sometimes send me music that she knows will turn me on. Like. In a flirty way. But sometimes she’ll shut me down if I try something similar. I can’t let her go and it’s starting to feel kind of co-dependent. What should I do?
One Sided Affair
DEAR ONE SIDED AFFAIR: This one’s easy, OSA: boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. You need much stronger boundaries with your former FWB.
You’re 100% correct: she’s digging on the attention you give her. She may not be emotionally invested enough to keep up the benefits part of the relationship, but she’s clearly not willing to give up the charge of knowing that you still want her. That’s why she’s playing this game of “go away a little closer”; she’s giving you just enough of her attention to keep you hooked, but without ever actually paying off what she’s offering. That’s why she’s willing to flirt and flirt and tease and tease, right up until you start to make noises about taking this somewhere more interesting with accompanying squishy noises. She doesn’t want the affair, she just wants the knowledge that you want her, even though she doesn’t want you.
Quite frankly, it’s a power-trip for her. As long as you’re letting her get you wound up, she has power over you, power that she expresses by teasing you and then shutting you down. And, y’know, if you were into this sort of weird ass orgasm-denial play or you had consented to it when you ended your FWB relationship, that’d be one thing. But you aren’t, you didn’t, and this is actively hurting you and making it harder for you to get over her.
Similarly, it’d be one thing if she didn’t realize how much this was hurting you. But she does. You straight up told her. And she’s continuing to do it anyway.
That tells me pretty much everything I need to know about her. And it tells me what you need to do.
But you aren’t going to like it, my dude.
As much as I hate to say it, she didn’t just end the “with benefits” part of your relationship; she also ended the friendship. The way that she’s treating you is not how you treat a friend. She’s actively disrespecting your request that she stop teasing you and flirting with you because to do so would be inconvenient for her. It would deny her whatever thrill she’s getting from your continuing to be in her life and continuing to want her. It’s cruel and it’s unfair to you and if she actually cared about you, she’d goddamn listen when you said “stop“. But she didn’t.
Just because y’all had a casual relationship doesn’t give her the right to treat you casually.
The only way to break this off is to make a complete and clean break. First: tell her, straight up, that you’re ending things and why. You can’t have her in your life when she ignores your very reasonable requests to stop flirting with you. You especially can’t have her in your life when her behavior hurts you and makes it harder for you to get over her and your relationship together. Send her an email, a text, something, and them immediately take the Nuclear Option. That means blocking her on social media, blocking her number on your phone, deleting her Skype handle, taking her off your Venmo… every way she has of getting in contact with you or worming your way back into your life. And it needs to be immediately after you send that last email. You will feel as though you owe her the chance to explain or to make things right. You don’t, and she won’t. This will just give her the opportunity to do what she’s done over and over again: reel you back in. You already know that you have a hard time saying no to her, so don’t put yourself in the position of having to. She f--ked around, and now it’s time for her to find out.
The thing to keep in mind: this isn’t about punishing her. This is about enforcing your boundaries. Boundaries are useless if you don’t actually enforce them. If you draw a line in the sand and don’t do anything when someone steps over it, all you’ve done is tell them that your requests are optional. Having strong boundaries means that there are consequences to actions, yours and theirs. In this case, the consequences of her actions mean that you cut her off. The consequences of you enforcing your boundaries means losing a friendship you’d rather not have to give up. But, unfortunately, she’s proven that she’s not worthy of being friends with you. She has given up that right through her actions, and it’s time for you to do what you need to do in order to protect yourself.
As a wise man once said: “I may love you, yeah, but I love me more.”
It’s time to love yourself enough to tell her to go away and make it stick.
It will suck now, but you’ll be better for it — both in the short term, as you get over her, and in the long term as you learn not to let someone treat you this way.
It’s a sucky situation, and I’m sorry that it’s come to this, OSA. But this is the best thing you can do for yourself.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com