the Deal-Breaker

I just found your blog and you're both awesome men to help us women. I love reading your thoughtful and insightful answers. I hope you'll have time to help me.

QUESTION: I have been seeing a man for four years off and on when we are both in town. He was persistent and approached me a few times to ask me out but I waited several months before I finally agreed to go out with him. Neither of us wanted to get into a relationship because both of our jobs keep us traveling a lot and we are way too busy to settle down. (He works in government intelligence). We were both interested in a sexual relationship and nothing more. The sex has always been great and he is a very giving lover.
On more than one occasion he told me I was his only lover and that he was addicted to me. He also made it known that he did not want me seeing other men (although I never requested he only see me). Later, unfortunately, I started having feelings for him and I told him this. He told me couldn't help but have feelings for me but then a few months later said he that he didn't know how he felt. We continued seeing each other sexually until recently when I again told him I was in love with him.

Now he says we can no longer have sex together but that he still wants to be friends. I have reassured him I don't want a commitment but he says it's not fair for me if we continue seeing each other. Now I wish I hadn't told him how I feel because I really miss him and the sex. I've told him I don't want a commitment so what could he be worried about? (by the way, I'm in my late 40's, have already had children, and he also has grown children from his first marriage). He knows I'm independent and has always been attracted to that.

What is the problem - I've only told him I have feelings for him - I don't expect reciprocation of those feelings. So why does he want distance now? Also, another thing that has bugged me recently. I caught him in a lie and although I didn't make a big deal of it - he became very offended and denied it. Although I had proof, I let it slide because it was such a small thing. I only found it interesting that he became very upset and denied lying about such a petty thing. It seemed very important to him that I not think he was a liar.

I've felt loved by this man in action if not in words but still it is pretty strange that I have been intimate with a man for four years and still do not know him very well. I hope you can give me some objective insight. Is he serious about being just friends or was he trying to find a nice way to break up and move on? Does he really have any interest in ever seeing me again? He is very reserved - a man of very few words so it's difficult to figure him out. How do I handle this? Are there signs I should look for that would suggest I should pursue this any further or should I leave him alone? I'm heartbroken, I really miss him, and I want him back in my life.

Thank you for your help.

GARLAND: Thanks for your question.

I hate to say it, but I think the "Let's be friends" is a prelude to the breakup.

What you all have had - to most men, and probably your beau in question also, is a long term friends with benefits situation... great sex, random dates, no strings, no morning after phone calls, just sex for the sake of pleasure.

Then you caught feelings. You said, you 'loved him' - oh, I'm sorry... you said you "are IN LOVE with him," which is even scarier to most guys doing the FWB thing. No matter what you say in your question to us and no matter what you say to him, when a man hears "I'm in love with you," he KNOWS that you will want a relationship VERY soon. Sure, you can say that you don't want one, you can write it down, you can tattoo it on your forehead but we will always believe and know that eventually you will want a relationship. And, it's not that you don't DESERVE a relationship... I'm not saying "relationship" like its a dirty word! It is simply... how can I put it?

It is a CARDINAL CHANGE in the terms and conditions of your FWB situation. It is a change in the scope of an agreement, a change that is equal to a breach of contract.

If this guy hasn't pushed towards a formal, monogamous relationship in four years - then he most likely isn't going to. You've dropped the "L-Bomb" on him and there's a good chance he's gone for good.

This is where men and women's differences come to the surface - you thought it was harmless to tell him you were in love, and quite frankly, those are the last words a guy in an FWB situation wants to hear. Sure, it sounds pretty shallow from a man's perspective, but this guy knows his limits and his limits are "hot sex with you once every blue moon" that's it, he doesn't want to date and he doesn't want your love, he just wants your sex. I hate to sound so blunt, but don't bank a lot on the whole "lets be friends thing" - he's ready to leave the roost.

CHUCK: S..., may I call you S? Garland's got this one pegged. I don't know for sure who devised this whole FWB concept, but I'd bet you a paycheck it was a man. Because these relationships play more to what men stereotypically want (hot sex, no strings, hot sex, little commitment, hot sex, limited cash outlay, hot sex) and less to what women stereotypically want (emotional connections, commitment, a planned future). Now I'm not saying that there are women who do not crave some of the same things men do. Not at all. But there are women like yourself, S, that enter into an FWB relationship and want more than it offers.

It's not your fault. Even despite the agreed-upon boundaries of your relationship, emotions are not something that can be regulated or controlled. But after four years of happy, uncommitted bliss, telling your friend "I love you," was effectively breaking your deal. By confessing your feelings, you made clear to him that, regardless of your assurances, you would not be content with your relationship as it's played out thus far.

All of the indications I get here suggest that you should leave him alone. He doesn't want to be in a love relationship with you. What I find unfortunate is that he is not being fully honest with you, either. That little lie you caught him in was probably just the tip of the iceberg. And he had such a strong reaction to being busted because he was feeling guilty. I can only speculate as to what he's keeping from you (another woman). And because of the casualness of your friendship, you're not even allowed to be angry about being lied to, or having information hidden from you.

I know it doesn't feel like it now, because you're without the friendship and the sex, but he did do you a favor. He could not return your feelings, and rather than string you along, he let you know it. I'm sorry things didn't work out for you. You've learned something about yourself, though. Before you consider entering into a relationship like this again, you'll probably give it more consideration, because you know that, for you, love and sex aren't that easy to separate.


Ball Out of Play!

QUESTION: Dear Chuck and Garland,

I just came across your website and thought I could make use of your wonderful insight.

I have a crush on a guy who works in my building. He is not a co-worker. My building consists of several different agencies. Anyway, I cross paths with this guy semi-frequently. I felt like I was getting the go-ahead cue from him; i.e lots of eye contact with no turning of the head when I caught his eye.He was also selling candy for his daughter one day and I found out his name and a little bit about him.

To make a long story short, a friend (female) who sort of knew him from another place he used to work called him at his desk described me to him and asked if he wanted my number. He told her that he knew exactly who she was talking about and if I wanted him to have it then I would give it to him myself. So I took it upon myself to call the same desk she called and dialed his extension. It was his voicemail and I left a message leaving my number. It was a professional message just telling him to feel free to call if he would like to.

The very next day the building had a safety-drill. Believe it or not I'm kind of shy and nervous acting, So when he was nearing me, I would unconsciously walk the other way. Other co-workers noticed this stating that he was close enough to kiss me and I walked the other way.

So months passed and he never called. I still see him around all of the time. We are always very cordial. I'm not the type of girl thats going to act stank because a man didn't call me. There was a time when I thought I lost my phone around where his office is. He heard(not saw but heard, meaning he knows my voice) me asking someone in the office and immediately jumped up out of his cube and tried to help me look through the trash and so-forth.(That was a couple of months back) So anyway, I'm starting to notice those looks again. He will look at me and when I catch his eye he will not look away. There was one specific time when I was in my car and he was walking with someone in the lot. His lips were moving and my windows were down. I literally thought he was talking to me because he was staring at me while his lips were moving, but I figured if I couldn't hear him then he must not be talking to me. I am 26 and I'm willing to guess he's 6 or 7 years older (okay I know he is a wonderful tool) My first impression of him is that he is shy. I am not the only person who notices his behavior. One guy that I work with has observed all that I'm telling you now and says he has no doubt that this guy is interested. So my question for you two is is the ball still in his court? or should I try a different angle? Sometimes I think that he thinks that if he stares at me enough I will be bold enough to pursue again, but after being rejected by him, I'm twice shy


P.S. No ring on the left hand

GARLAND: Thanks for the question Shy One.

I personally love the whole, Ladies makin' the first move. My wife did that with me and I've been happy ever since. I like to think she's been happy ever since too!

Is the ball in his court? Actually, the ball isn't even in play anymore. He sees you, you see him. He smiles at you, you smile at him. He stares at you you stare at him. He passes you, you pass him back. Days go by, weeks, months...years?

Sweet and innocent is cute by both of you! Honestly! But one can only put but so much sugar in one's coffee before it becomes undrinkable. It is time to set this party off!!!

As a guy, I'm not going to play visual touchy-feely for weeks and months and be too shy to formally introduce myself and strike up a conversation. Life is just too short for everyone to be gun-shy. Take the shot! This cutesy, bashful non-sense is a little weak.
The ball is not in his court and it's not in yours either - it has bounced off the court and rolled across the street and is now sitting in some bushes. Go pick it up and spike it on him! Okay, okay
- first, ask yourself are you ready for a shy guy. Because if this guy is so timid or so intimidated that he can't even strike up a conversation with you - how in the world are you ever going to get a first kiss out of him? And let's hope that 'other' things don't require this much prodding.

But if you think he's all that and you want to see what's what - then go take the ball and put it in your court. You know that YOU'RE all that [and he does too] so, just walk up to him and say, "Hey Kevin, I need some coffee and some company, you up for a quick walk over to the Starbucks?" (How do I know there's a Starbucks near you? Because there's a STARBUCKS near EVERYONE!!! ) Have some conversation planned so you won't freeze up in case he tries to act cool and unphased, and just see where things go. But go ahead and take the ball into your court because obviously this chap isn't going to.

CHUCK: Garland, this ball didn't just roll into the bushes. Old Man Johnson next door found it in his yard and took it into his house! Now somebody's gotta go get it.

Okay. Enough with the ball metaphors.

It does seem like this guy is shy and hesitant to approach you, ShyinSeattle. However, let's acknowledge the part you've played in this fiasco. During the safety drill, when he was physicaly approaching you, who knows what he intended to do? Most likely, he was going to try to talk to you. But when you moved away from him like he had oozing sores or something, that may have confused him.

Two shy people are going to have a rough time kicking any relationship off. And engaging the services of third party facilitators, like your friend, just makes me think (forgive me) of high school. Unless somebody takes things further than just being cordial and maintaining eye contact, you guys will be at retirement age before someone makes a move. You don't want that, do you?

I'd say, take the bull by the horns. I know no one wants to be rejected. That's why he retreated so far after the Safety Drill Snubbing. But it seems as though you are both feeling one another, so why no just commit to it? Rather than doing yet another Google search on Shyboy

(internet= Devil), take Garland's advice, and ask him to join you for coffee. If he runs away screaming, oh, well. But he will probably surprise you.


Economic Inequities?

QUESTION: Hi, fellas. My issue relates to finances in my marriage. I've been married for 13 years. For the past 10 years, I've made significantly more money than my husband and have contributed more money to the household bills. At first, this didn't really bother me, because I feel that's what married couples, or anyone in a committed relationship, should do to support each other. Now, however, I'm having a problem with continuing to pay more of the bills.

My issue surrounds what I see as my husband's lack of ambition. I've been driven to continue increasing my earning potential, while my husband has been fine with staying in the same job for the last nine years because he's happy there, though it doesn't have a lot of potential for him to earn more money or get promoted. He gets an occasional raise here and there, but it's never enough to allow him to pay half of all of the household bills without being flat broke afterwards.

I've tried to talk to my husband, and even nagged him, about finding another job that pays better and has higher promotion potential, but he just shrugs off the idea and states that he's happy where he is and doesn't want to leave. He likes his boss, he can come and go as he pleases, can work from home when needed, and the job is low stress. Now, don't get me wrong, I can see why he stays; I wish I had his working situation. But, it angers me that he seems to be being somewhat selfish. What I mean, is that he's not thinking about the fact that his "happiness" means that I have to cut my funds short and keep kickin' out part of his share of the bills, which is making me unhappy.

You may be wondering why I'm upset about this now since I've allowed the situation to go on for 10 years. One, I love my husband and don't want to see him broke by forcing him to pay half of the bills. Two, I do realize the value of having the type of job he has since my job is highly stressful, requires occasional travel, and not as flexible. His job has been great for us when it comes to certain things with our kids. Three, before last year, I could easily afford to pay the extra money. My investments were doing great (my husband and I have both joint and individual accounts), and I had a lot of money saved. However, last year, I suffered a serious medical issue that required me to use a large part of my savings, and I now have medical bills that weren't covered by insurance. I had to liquidate all of my investments, which took signficant losses due to the stock market crash, to pay off some of those bills, and continue paying my part of the household bills. But I still have about $20,000 in medical expenses that need to be paid. (Note to everyone reading this: Get disability insurance, no matter what age you are.) I normally pay cash for everything and don't live above my means, so having this debt hanging over my head is driving me nuts. I'd like to contribute the extra money I put in for my husband to my medical debt.

How do I get my husband to see that his complacency is having a negative effect on me? I've told him that I need to pay off some bills and could really use the money I put towards his share, but I haven't seen any signs of him trying to move up the ladder. Except for this area, we have no problems. In fact, I don't know what I would have done last year without his love an support in taking care of me, but I still have trouble getting past this issue now.

My mother comes from the "old school" of thinking where a man is supposed to be a man and take care of the house financially. In her day, it was unheard of for a woman to pay more into the house than the man, so she thinks my husband is a bum for letting me pay more of the bills. She's never said that directly, but I've inferred it from a few conversations we've had. I'm more realistic and know that we live in different times where both partners have to be willing to pitch in. However, if I'm honest, I do sometimes have the thought that my husband is being "less than a man" in continuing to allow me to pick up a portion of his share of the bills, especially knowing the situation with my medical bills.

I haven't discussed this topic with my husband in awhile, because I'm trying to avoid an argument. But, this is an issue that's been simmering in me for awhile now and needs to be addressed. I don't want it to come down to me insisting that my husband pick up his full share of the bills and just decreasing the amount I contribute, but I think he needs a serious wake-up call. What are your thoughts? Am I being unreasonable in trying to change the playbook this late in the game, or is my husband being selfish in only thinking of his happiness? Or is it a little of both? Sometimes I think I'm the unreasonable one since, in one sense, I want the benefits of my husband's great work schedule and flexibility, but on the other hand I want to complain about the downside--lower earning potential. Please help me sort this mess out with an objective opinion. Thanks

GARLAND: This is such a great question and I thank you for sharing so candidly.

Let me start by saying a few things up front - No, I don't think that 10 years is too long to reach the point where you are now. Asking for changes / improvements in your husbands earnings is not a bad thing at this point or at any point in your marriage. I'm a little old school in my thinking too as far as men pulling all if not most of the financial weight in a household, but I understand the job markets and I see intelligent, talented and capable women climbing well higher than a lot of men in the current professional scene so it isn't unusual to see women with the fatter paychecks. I salute you!

But, let me speak about your husbands situation / position... as a man, I'm a bit disappointed that he is content to hover on the job ladder, especially knowing that you all have encountered some significant financial expenses in the last few years. Now, I can certainly appreciate a steady and easy job, who wouldn't like that - but in the REAL WORLD, folks have bills, and I believe that a man has to step up especially when times get tough! And you are NOT even saying "My husband needs to make MORE than me." You are saying that you just want him to earn MORE than he is now. You are commendably patient.

To me, a man is supposed to step up. Sure, sometimes that may not be easy, it may mean stepping way out of ones comfort zone, but that is something that a man should be willing to do! Folks don't say "Man Up!" for their health. Your husband needs to MAN UP and he shouldn't have to be prodded! He should be ready and willing... that is just what a man should do - in my book.

I hope you have a reasonable man, one that is just missing some social ques, if he is reasonable if you sit him down and really explain to him that Your Household needs extra money and you are pulling far more than your share and the time has come for him to step up. Maybe he'll respond. But it sounds like you've tried this and Old Boy still won't budge.

I hope he's not one of these MAN-CHILD kind of men... the kind of guy that takes a deep pleasure in being taken care of by a woman... the kind of guy that boasts to his Boyz , "Yeah, my wifey knew I worked in a warehouse when she met me. I'm just keepin' it real. If she wanted one of those Fortune 500 dudes, then she should have married one!" Of course all of his Boyz will give him dap and tell him how right he is. Honestly - he is partly right as much as I hate to admit it. If he was doing mid-level work and making mid-level money and NEVER told you that his ambitions went beyond that, then you may have got what you paid for. I really hate to admit that, because I feel your pain.

BUT - WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS? Let's see, if the sitdown and talk doesn't work. My next best suggestion would be - make it uncomfortable for him. Just take away the comforts you are bringing to him. If you are handling the bulk of the bills, then you are setting the lifestyle. Stop paying the cable bill for one, that will get ANY man's attention! Take away his NFL or NBA season pass on your cable provider too! Get a credit for it! If you are paying his car note and he's pushing a Lexus or a Beamer or whatever - tell his butt that YOU cannot afford to have him looking fly on his way to his $7 an hour gig. Okay, okay DON'T say that - but let him know that YOU can't afford his note anymore... be sure to keep your Beamer though. What else - if he gets a spending allowance - tie it up before he gets to it - no more new Jordans or oversized throwback jerseys anymore. And that weekly dinner to the nice steak house down the street - NA-DA cut it.

Yes, you will suffer a little too, but this dude has to be shown just how much money YOU are kicking into HIS lifestyle - his eyes have to be opened! And if after talking, and pleading and cutting off his luxuries if he still wants to keep the same job he's had since high school, then you may have to talk to him about the real value of your family to him. You both may have to face some harsh realities if he is doing nothing to try to better and or secure your family's financial future.

Best of luck. My fingers are crossed that he steps up.

CHUCK: Thanks for the question. Your question brings up what I feel to be a double standard that some women have, and I think you acknowledge it. Women feel that they should be financially capable, savvy in their jobs, climb the ladder, all of that. But they are still conditioned socially to expect a man to be the provider. These women go back and forth in their expectations, and for some men, this contributes to some confusion. Maybe that's the case here.

We all view our jobs different ways. Some of us have careers that we can pour our hearts and souls and ambitions into. Some of us have time-killing, soul-draining jobs that we keep just to pay bills. Speaking just for myself, more often than not, my day job is the latter. And in this economy, we are left feeling we should be thankful even for a bad job. Your husband may feel that way.

Do you think your husband is a bum? Do you truly feel that he's not carrying his weight in your household? Either way, you seem to be nursing a resentment for your husband that needs to be addressed, and so it should be. As it seems that the two of you maintain separate finances, he may not be completely aware of how serious things have gotten for you. Or he may think you've got a handle on it. Or he may not care. Who knows? You need to find out.

Talk to him, and more importantly, listen to him about what his feelings are about his job and why he hasn't been seeking advancement. Maybe you can provide some assistance in getting a better job, if he's willing to do so. They say marriage is a partnership, so two obviously need to work together better to obtain your objectives.

Totally Crushed Out

QUESTION: Thank you so much for making this blog, I'm sure all the women who have ran across it have definately appreciated it. I hope that my question has not been asked before, but I will take my chances in asking it.

As a female, I believe that I have a well rounded knowledge of how the average woman acts when she is interested or "has a crush" on a guy, if you prefer. Girls with obsessive personalities enjoy "obsessing over" and think about the guy constantly, fantasizing, reminiscing, etc .... Girls who are more shy cherish every moment they see him as he passes in the hall despite having seldom exchanged words.

But I ask; How do guys act? This does not mean "how do you tell a guy likes you?" I'm merely asking the rituals, the habits of a man with a crush? Does he reminisce about the "hi" he exchanged with her in the hallway, does the an obsessive type of male "obsess" as much as the average female? I am very interested in knowing.Many thanks for your time. - Lady Curious.

GARLAND: What an interesting question. Thanks for asking.

I guess I can mainly speak from my own personality and from general conversations I've had with my buddies. For me, I tend to be a little more obsessive about things - when I met a woman that caught my eye, I tended to replay the moment we met in my head. Did I speak clearly to her, did I smile, did my eyes tell her that she struck me, was my zipper down? I also made it a point to check my watch and make note of where we were in case she happened to pass by that same spot the next day or at a time where I could better prepared... you know, with that perfect necktie or the perfect shirt or with just the Right way to approach her. So, to me - Yeah, when I encountered a new woman I thought about her and the meeting a lot.

As far as my friends go - I've had some of my buddies talk a lot about the details of encountering certain women, sometimes to the point of driving me a little crazy about the whole thing. And still, I know some guys that dismiss meeting a woman as just something that is going to happen today, tomorrow and the next day.

So, I have to say that I don't think that gender is a big deal in how people think about their encounters, I think personality is the BIG factor. Good question though.

CHUCK: Yeah, good question. Something we don't get asked every day. But I find guys don't really have too much honest, BS-free discussion about how we're prone to react when we are first attracted to someone. Because frankly, we are never at our most composed, or coolest at that time.

Take me, for example. I try to create a calm, easygoing image. I have what I think is a good sense of humor. But when I was single and in the presence of a woman I had a crush on, my composure was not its best. And worse, trying to appear effortless and cool would sometimes lead me to some behavior out of some bad comedy. Stuff like diving into a pool with my glasses on, and having to get them fished out. Hey, I was a teenager at the time!

So what other feelings did I have? I remember nervousness, finding excuses to see that person at different times of the day, poring over my memories to think of anything that might prove that she had the slightest similar feelings about me. And oh, the embarassment.

If I'm to be honest, quite a few of those crushes that I had went unrequited. That's probably true for a lot of guys. At least those that don't slide over into Stalkerville. Bu thinking about it, it's that feeling you get, that excitement, that fascination, that basically makes those experiences worthwhile. Anyway, I hope that we've answered your question satisfactorily.


Ex Girl to Text Girl

QUESTION: i have this ex and we split up bout 2years agoand we dont really talk but if we do its friendly and chattyand he split up with me because he felt he was to old for me as he is7 years older!my problem is that everytime i feel that my life is good enjoying myselfhe will txt me asking me to meet him even though he is in a relationship!
GARLAND: I can only assume that he wants his cake and wants to eat it too. If he's seeing someone and dumped you and wants to keep you at arms length until HE wants you closer then I think YOU already know what HE's THINKING.

CHUCK: First of all, he felt that a seven year age difference was a good enough reason for you two to break up? I'm sorry, but come on. That might be a good reason if you were Hannah Montana, but I'm assuming that you were a little older than fifteen when this took place. There had to be something else going on there.

And obviously, because he is constantly trying to get back together with you. Apparently, his reservations over your age difference dissipate when he's trying to use you for some extracurricular activities. There's no point in mincing words here. He has no interest in you as girlfriend, only as the proverbial booty call. The next text you get from this guy, erase, ignore.

Same Old Game

QUESTION: Hi what are men thinking team, I am a little confused what are men thinking when they are around you for a few years nothing has changed and suddenly this year he says I am important in his life more than I know. Yet it goes for weeks having no time to even speak for a minute on the phone.

What does he want? I have tried asking this question he said we will chat, that was weeks ago. I do not push quite happy if he just pisses off if that is what he wants.

We are intimate only sees each other when he can spare an hour in a blue moon. Yet we are close when we are together. Sounds blooney to you I am sure. I am giving up. Do I have to tell him I am moving on or do I just close this door and move on?

He tends to suddenly sms me out of the blue once in awhile not yet this month. He did sms and said he did not want to lose me. Does he mean he just wants to string me for another year and another? I am a young 49 yr old, and he is a fit 54 yrs old. I am well balanced emotionally easy to live with and loving, have an independent 21 yr daughter. I do not need him at all. But I like him a great deal and we are good together. I am happy to let go but I do not understand silence and cowardly motives. Can you help?

GARLAND: Uh, okay. Thanks for the question. Honestly, I'm having a bit of a time understanding your question: You have a guy that you've known a while, then he changes but won't tell you how he's changed, but you're intimate with him and you don't need him but you're good together but he's a coward. I'm so sorry - but I think I am completely lost.

I think from what I can piece together, your man is all over the place with his feelings about you. If this is the case, then you need to sit him down alone and make him talk to you. If he keeps putting you off then tell him that you can't be bothered with him anymore. If he can find time to be 'intimate' with you, then he can find the time to be respectful enough to talk and listen to you! We only do what you ladies allow us to - REMEMBER THAT!

CHUCK: Yeah, it's kind of like that old joke: How do you keep a nitwit in suspense? I'll tell you tomorrow. Ah, yes, comedy...
I'm not trying to call you a nitwit, by any means, since you are aware you're being played on some level. But his principal is the same as the joke: Lay some vague bait out for you, and see how long he can string you out for it with no payoff. You are more important in his life than you know? But he can't even spare you the time for a phone call? Come on. You know this guy's full of shit.
Simply, he wants you to endlessly wait for him to tell you what he really wants, while you give up the goodies to him on demand. This is nothing new. What I find distressing, however, is the fact that this man is 54 years old, and you are 49. One of the beliefs that I've held onto since Garland and I started this blog, was that, at some point, maybe by the time you hit the half-century mark, all these deceitful games would fall by the wayside. But obviously, in your case, they haven't. This fifty-plus man is running the same weak game as the peers of your 21-year-old daughter. Sigh.
Anyway, I'll be brief. If you are fine with continuing to see this man, only on his terms, Then by all means, do so. You're a grown woman. However, unless he makes a serious attitude adjustment, you have no reason to believe that he has stronger feelings for you than any other booty call. Your instincts say give up. Your instincts sound good to me.