A Place in His Heart- or Holding a Place for Someone Else?

I'm a 44 year old, divorced woman who has been dating a 48 year old (separated 3+ years after 25 years of marriage) man. His divorce is pending until asset division is complete. We have been great friends since about 3 years prior to his separation, and decided to become more than friends after the split occurred. Since then, he has been consistent and open in saying that he shouldn't go from one exclusive relationship to another. However, we talk on the phone daily and see each other 1 - 2 times a week, and for the most part, neither of us have dated other people, although we have intermittently. We're very compatible, never argue except about the exclusivity issue, enjoy each other's company and have good chemistry and sex. We also share our daily joys and challenges with one another.

About once a year, he pulls away and reminds me that we are getting "too exclusive" and reminds me he wants to date other people too--to see what he wants and needs and what may be missing for him. I've been patient, understanding his standpoint and trying to give him the space he needs while still thinking about my needs. He feels that as long as he still calls and pays attention to me, I don't have any deadlines and I'm pretty much OK with the situation, although he knows I want more and the whole dating others arrangement doesn't make me happy.

My real problem is that I find myself getting more and more hurt by his inability to make a commitment. I feel at times that he's being disrespectful to our relationship and me--and this is fueled by his honesty about what he is feeling/doing. He has told me that he loves me, but doesn't feel like he's "in love" with me, like in the fairy tales. I'm about at the end of my rope and don't really know how to take a step back to get my own emotions out of the equation.

Any ideas on how to hang on to this guy without it breaking my spirit? Or maybe he's not really worth the effort at all. Understand I don't want to change him, I just don't want to lose my best friend and lover--but I am not sure how to hang in there. --Place Holder

Dear Place Holder--

Your letter is interesting in that you talk about your "exclusive" and satisfying relationship, yet also share (several times) that there has never been a real commitment. In fact, your friend has been consistent from the start in saying that he does not want to be exclusive.

I realize that what he has been saying conflicts with the amount of time he spends with you and the things that you share--friendship, joys, life's challenges and weekly sex and time together. I'm going to go with my intuition here and wonder aloud if perhaps you began this as more than just friends relationship, believing that in time he would grow to want what you have always wanted. Then, as time passed and it didn't happen, you began to feel angry and mislead.

He was married for many years, so suddenly being alone must have been very difficult for him- regardless of the problems that existed in his marriage. So he turned to someone who was already a friend, and who he did not have to explain his situation to. You were willing to have an intimate relationship and be patient (for 3 years now) for him to get divorced and have the time he would need to put the past behind him. It was comfortable for both of you, and allowed him to be in a relationship without having to go back out in the dating scene and do what was necessary to meet and connect with someone new, someone who would be open to dating a separated man.

Perfect situation, right? For him perhaps. However, for you, it meant giving your all with no guarantee, along frequent reminders that this would probably never be anything more than friends with benefits.

After 3 years he continues to say the same thing. He has told you that something is missing for him and that he is not "in love with you." He cares about you and shares with you, but continues to want something more/someone else. The ball really is in your court right now. You have to make the choice to stay until/if he finds Ms Right--or give yourself the chance to meet a guy who wants to be with you, now and always.

(from November 2007)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

"Lonely Boomer Guy Seeks Compatible (younger) Women"
List of more
"Compatibility Issues"

"Is it Me, Is it Her, or is it Us?"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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