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Dear Dating Coach
Dear Dating Coach-
I met this guy about a year ago at my workplace. Even though we see each other frequently, we never got the chance to actually talk until three months after our first meeting. After spending some time together, we found that we have a lot in common, even though he is seven years older than I am. We share the same aspirations and goals, and have since become close friends. As our friendship deepened, I started to have feelings other than friendship for him. I never really acted upon any of these for fear that we'd lose the friendship if he did not reciprocate my feelings. Recently we have begun spending a lot of one- to- one time together- such as hiking in the woods, swimming in a remote river, and snuggling together under a blanket and watching the stars. We've talked about everything imaginable and the more I'm with him, the more I fall in love with him. I don't know what to do. He seems so comfortable around me and has told me so much about his life that he doesn't normally share with his friends. He's wrapped his arms around me and held my hand, which communicate romantic interest- but has never expressed this to me in words. I worry that the ago difference may be an issue for him, even though he has never said this. I don't know what to do. Please help.
I know how you feel, I'm confused too. Your letter describes a work relationship that has grown into a friendship and, with each encounter- into something more. On the surface, this looks and sounds like a budding romance. So, what's the problem? The only thing you mention (twice) that nidges at me, is the seven year age difference and your concern that this could be a deal breaker of sorts for him. I gather you think this because of something (s) he has said that leads to this conclusion.
If the two of you have not discussed this candidly and openly yet, I think that now is a good time. Your interactions are going beyond platonic relating and it sounds as though sexual intimacy may be just a few laps or shooting stars away. The next time you are snuggling or hand holding, try something open ended like; "This is nice- just what is this, anyway?" If he makes a cryptic reference to your age difference, stay with the topic and ask him to be more specific about what he is trying to say. It is possible that he is concerned that YOU may not want to date someone who is seven years older. Again, pick a nice sharing moment and open with something low key that leaves him lots of room for a comfortable response.
Dear Dating Coach-
I worked in a DVD library last year, and after I left the job one of the clients asked for my number from my colleagues and called me .We have gotten together on several occasions but he has never said anything to indicate whether his interest in me is platonic or romantic. I have developed feelings that go beyond friendship for him but we don't communicate very well and have never had one of those where is this relationship going talks. However, a few nights ago we slept together after an evening of clubbing. Now I want/need to know what his feelings towards me are. I need to hear this straight from his mouth, but of course I can't ask him directly.
It's always interesting to hear people (especially women) say that they can't talk about their feelings with someone that they are friends with, and have had at least one sexual encounter with. You two have been spending time together, and became friends with benefits when you recently slept together. Why isn't it OK to ask, "So, what's going on between us?" You will need to decide what phrasing is most comfortable for you and practice a few out loud before you approach him for your talk. If you aren't quite ready, give it a little more time, but not too much, to get to know each other better--and pay attention to how he treats you, what he says and mostly what he does. If his behavior continues to communicate feelings that are more than friendship, then the time will be right for this discussion. If you continue in a "friends with benefits" relationship, and carefully avoid any mention of a where is this relationship going talk- do not be surprised when he excitedly tells you about the new woman in his life and/or by your increasing feelings of jealousy, resentment, insecurity or sadness.
Dear Dating Coach-
For several months I have had an interest in a guy who works with me providing music for services at our church. I teach music in the public schools and he's a music graduate student at a nearby university. His father is actually the pastor of the church and his mom has taken a great interest in getting to know me, taken me under her wing, etc. Anthony and I share very similar musical interests, spiritual beliefs, and family values. We spend a lot of time together both at the church and socially in groups with mutual friends. We've had lots of lengthy one to one discussions and exchange frequent emails and phone calls, BUT it never goes any further. I know he rarely dates and is extremely work/school focused. I'm not one to show assertion and ask him out, so I'm not sure what to do. I also don't want to turn him off by seeming needy or desperate. He is going to be graduating in the spring with his master's and is currently looking for a teaching position. He is not only applying in this area, but also in other cities and states. I understand that he needs a job and has to look at his best options, but I really don't want him to leave. Should I say something? I don't want to regret having done nothing, but again, I don't want to come off as a desperate female. --Shrinking Violet
It seems to me that you have two choices here--speak up and share your romantic interest in him or start planning his going away party. Well, maybe other, grayer options will arise, but do you really want to count on that happening? There are certainly several possibilities here- he isn't interested in dating you, he is focused on graduating/pursuing a career and doesn't want to start a relationship when he is unsure where he will be living, he is shy, or he is waiting for a signal of interest from you. The possibilities are not limited to these-- but I'd say they are the strongest ones. Think them over, ask yourself what you are willing to risk and weigh this against what you could gain. You do have the option of playing wait and see, then making a move or responding to one of his further down the road. If it turns out that he finds the perfect job, but it is ten hours away--you can then share your feelings and get his thoughts on a possible relationship/long distance relationship.
It really comes down to one thing. How badly do you want to explore a relationship with this guy and how much are you willing to risk doing so?
Dear Dating Coach-
I was wondering if you could give me some help with a situation I am currently in. I have been spending a lot of time with a man and we have gotten to be quite close. He has told me how much he likes me and enjoys the time we spend together. At the beginning, I just wanted to be friends, but he treats me better than any man I have ever known.
The other day we had a discussion about possibly becoming more than just friends. I really thought we felt the same way about each other since he was the one who initially wanted more than I did. However, he said he's not really ready for a serious relationship and wants to keep things the way they are. He has also said that he wants a relationship with a girl who has the same religious background as his.
I'm not really comfortable with this because our relationship is one where we are in between being just friends and being a couple. We flirt all the time and are touchy feely in public. I am ready for a serious romantic relationship and I worry that I may loose the chance for one with a stranger who may be interested but not act on it because of the impression that I am with someone else. Sometimes I get the feeling that he's just occupying his time with me and stringing me along until he finds exactly what he is looking for. What do you think? How can I talk to him about this?
- Hearing a Mixed Message
Never ignore your feelings and what they are telling you. At the very least, he is giving you mixed messages. At the very worst, he is occupying his time and enjoying your company while he searches for the one. Either way, you are not getting what you want and may in fact be wasting time that could be spent finding Mr. Right.
When I read between the lines of what you have shared, I am getting the picture of a man who finds you fun and attractive and enjoys your company, but has ruled you out as a potential mate due to religious differences and possibly other reasons as well. You have told him what you want and he has told you that he doesn't feel the same way. However, the two of you continue spending time together and playing at being a couple. He has no reason to stop as he is getting what he wants. I'm guessing that you haven't cooled things off because you are waiting for him to be ready for a real relationship and realize he wants it with you. This could be a very long wait indeed.
I don't think you are going to like my advice, but here goes. YOU need to make a decision about what is in your best interest. If you truly want to be in a committed relationship it will require that you set some boundaries with him and give yourself the time and distance needed to focus on your dating and other goals. As long as your feelings and energy are wrapped up in him, there will be little left for anyone else. You can do this in small steps or by making a clean break. Either way, the ball is in your court.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
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