Friends, But Not With, You Know, "Benefits"

QUESTION: Hi Chuck and Garland,

I love your site and appreciate your dedication to speaking truth to women and providing insight in the minds and behaviors of men! Okay, so here's my situation. I met this guy last summer and we were feeling each other out for a potential romantic relationship. And by "feeling each other out" I mean getting know each other through conversation and doing activities together...the old fashioned way :-) A couple of months into it, his ex-girlfriend came back into the picture and started messing with his head (i.e., "she still loves him but is in love with her current guy too" type of stuff (or so I was told)). She's been dating someone else since a few weeks after their breakup a couple of years ago. Needless to say, her resurfacing brought up some old feelings for him and we backed off. We remain friends, his ex is still in the other relationship, and he says that he has let the situation go and moved on. I provided the background info about his ex in the event that it's useful in helping you figure out what's going on in his mind.

My question concerns his behavior towards me throughout our friendship (pre, during, and post his situation with his ex). He cooks/bakes for me, bought me gifts (just because), flowers and dinner, introduced me to his friends/family (local and long-distance), brings me lunch at work (offering himself), and calls me regularly (I do not have to call him). He calls to see how my day is going and calls me when he goes to work and when he gets off from work. He recently just called to let me know that some of his family members are coming in town to see if I can come over for a cookout with them. He also makes plans for us to do things with his friends and their wives/girlfriends. Did I mention that we ARE NOT dating...and more importantly, we have discussed dating on multiple occasions (most recently around New Year's) and decided not to. During those discussions, I was open to dating simply for the fact that we obviously enjoy each others' company and our behavior in time invested in one another resembles that of a romantic couple. It is also important to note that we have never been sexually active and have only kissed a couple of times (the last of which was around New Year's). He's even shown some jealousy when I've dated other guys and even tried to make me jealous by mentioning that a mutual acquaintance who had expressed interest in him...however, I was not jealous and encouraged him to pursue it if he was interested. Why? Because we are not dating and therefore, we are free to do as we please.

I have platonic guy friends who are in no way shape or form this attentive/generous to me and do not demonstrate jealousy behavior so I don't understand what's motivating his behaviors towards me. You and I both know that a guy doesn't have to do all the things that he does in order to maintain a friendship a woman. Also, since we are not physically intimate I don't feel like I'm being maliciously taken advantage of. While I do appreciate and enjoy his friendship (he's a great guy), I don't understand why a guy would want to spend so much time with a woman, engage in boyfriend-like behavior, but not want to date? Simply, it's like having a gnat hovering around your plate that's never willing to land on it! What's the deal fellas?


GARLAND: WOW! What a great question! I've got about four answers!

#1 - "Congratulations, you have a boyfriend that's waiting until you get married!"

All of the behavior you just described equals "dating without sex." Flowers, friends, phone calls, cookouts, gifts, lunches, dinners... it's all dating. You are spending quality time together and maybe YOU don't know it - but to the rest of us, you guys are dating. At least that what it seems to be, using the traditional parameters of courtship. Just off the top of my head, he seems to pay you more attention that a lot of the 'official' boyfriend's some of our questioners! Maybe he wants to get married before he brings sex to the table, or you consider my next answer...

#2 - "Congratulations, you've got a buddy to hang out with!"

"Hanging out" is a term that a lot of people use. To me, I've had female friends that I've 'hung out' with before and never formally dated or had sex with. Looking back - maybe dating or sex could have happened with some of these women if either of us had wanted it more - but what we had going on was cool enough for us at the time. Maybe in your guy's eyes - the two of you are "hanging out!' You spend a little more time together than normal platonic friends, and you're very close, but the dating chemistry, the sex and emotional intimacy and monogamous nature of a 'boyfriend / girlfriend' relationship just isn't there. So, maybe in his eyes you are just his 'special friend' his 'homegirl' his 'hanging out buddy," or you could consider my next answer...

#3 - "Congratulations, your good friend is confused as hell!"

Okay, this really isn't worthy of a 'congratulations' but I was on a roll - sorry. Maybe this fella' is just confused. He wants you close so he won't lose you; He doesn't want you too close because the verdict is still out on his feeling for his ex; He wants you close because you are probably great to hang out with; He doesn't want you too close because if the ex comes running with arms wide open he doesn't want to hurt your feelings by pushing you aside for her, or you could consider my next answer...

#4 - "You're his beautiful window dressing."

Maybe, just maybe this guy hasn't gotten over his ex, but he wants everyone, including himself to think that he has. Bear with me for a moment here.... there was an episode of 'Seinfeld' where this fellow kept making casual 'get together' plans with Elaine, but he never made a formal date request with her. She would reluctantly go out with him and then she'd ask, "Are we on a date?" He'd say, "No. Can't two friends have dinner without it being a date?" She'd accept it. Then on about the third 'un-date', he invited his parents to dinner with them and they were so impressed to meet 'his girlfriend.' The guy didn't tell them otherwise. This may be where you are. Maybe he needs you to give his life the appearance of normalcy. To him, he has a woman to show affection to, he has a woman to take out and spend time with, he has a woman that makes him feel like a normal guy and not some guy that can't get past a woman that has left him and moved on. To the family and friends around him, you are Johnny's new girlfriend; to them, Johnny has moved on so well; to them, Johnny is doing real good with his cute new girlfriend! So, there's a chance that you are an emotional crutch to him. That sounds pretty bad, but it might not be. He probably does care about you.

My gut tells me that he cares about you. While his actions seem thoughtful and warm, he just won't commit to dating on the terms you use to define that. If you are having a hard time with his halfway behavior or you are feeling that he's getting a certain level of emotional fulfillment greater than what YOU are getting out of your relationship, then I suggest YOU be the grown-up and back up off the situation. You control what he wants the most - YOUR TIME. Just start backing away and being less available to him and move on, either he'll accept that you are a ship that has sailed on and he'll do the same, or he'll realize that he's been foolish and step up to you with terms and conditions that only you'll accept.

Best wishes and best of luck to whatever decision you make!

CHUCK: You know, if you didn't already say that this man had an ex-girlfriend, I'd wonder if he wasn't gay and using you as a beard. But just from what you've said, it seems as though your relationship is a little more sincere than that.
What is this relationship? I've gotta say, damned if I know. Years ago, I was in a similar friendship relationship with a young lady. We hung out for a little while, and I hoped, that by being a friend to her, she'd eventually see that I wanted something different. Anyway, that didn't work out. She just wanted a friend, albeit a friend to go out on dates with, to be at her disposal, to call at 1 am NOT to have sex, etc. No, no, it's all right. I'm not bitter. Not at all.
Seriously, though, you are correct in your understanding that this friendship is NOT conventional. You are getting consideration from this man that women in long-term romantic and/or sexual relationships are not getting. Please scroll down the page. There are at least a half dozen women down there that would be envious of you, for the fact that he calls you regularly, alone. So make no mistake, you've got it good.
How good, however, is dependent on what you are looking for. Judging from your question, it doesn't seem as though you are pining away for this man, or are desperate to start a relationship with him. You seem more curious than anything else. But I'm curious, as well. Would you like to be in a relationship with this great, attentive guy?
I don't know how well you got to know his ex, or whether you did at all, but I'm tempted to suggest that you feel her out on him. If just to find out how he was in a boyfriend/girlfriend relationship. Because it could be that she chewed him, spit him out, and turned him into the gunshy basket case he is today. Or if she didn't do it, she might know who did.
That's what I believe has got him in the state he's in today. He may want to be involved with you, but it seems like he can't make that move. And because you're not placing any demands on him, one way or another, you are comfortable to be around. But as I have said before, men can live in a state of limbo for years, until they're forced out of it. But women need to feel that sesnse of progression. At some point, you're probably going to want that. And then you'll have to decide if you can get it with him.


Anonymous said...

I think the pic chosen to represent this post is kinda shady. Why does the "nice guy" post have a "corny guy" type of picture? That's not cool and it reinforces the negative and incorrect connotations about nice guys. Nice guys are hot!!

Chuck and Garland said...

Hey Anonymous! Thanks for the comment. I have to admit that in five years of doing this blog, you are the first to comment on one of the pictures that I've selected. I actually appreciate that - I didn't think anyone really cared about the pics I picked. It was after midnight when I choose that image, I was a bit sleepy and to be 100% honest, I kinda' didn't like it for the same reason. Just because this guy seems nice, he didn't have to come off nerdy with the pocket-protecto and all like the image I've since removed. I was going for 'confused' and that image caught my eye. But I respect your assessment so I've gone with a different image. This guy looks okay I think. What do you think? he IS confused!!! Take care-


Anonymous said...

Nice change on the pic. Confused but not corny, awkward, etc. I really enjoy your blog and the advice you provide.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your insight fellas!! An update: The guy in question told me that he didn't want to date me b/c he was afraid that he would hurt me. Do you think this is truth or bull? Either way, I've closed the door on this one. The ex issues coupled with his inability to be upfront (meaning that it took him a VERY long time to even share the "insight" above) is cause for concern IMO. To answer Chuck's question, I was interested in dating him in the beginning BUT his behavior has caused me to question a lot about him that would make dating him not a wise decision for me. And to help me maintain that attitude (it's can be easy to give in sometimes), I've made it clear to him that we wouldn't work out well and I think he has since realized that I've closed the door and has maintained that we're purely friends in his opinion. So, it's working well for me.

I have this guy as a good friend and am currently being pursued by another guy who is intentional, respectful, and thoughtful!! Hopefully, I won't need write to you all about him too :-)


Chuck and Garland said...

Hey C-

He doesn't want to date you because 'he'll hurt you?' Hmm, sounds lame... lame but true. He probably knows he's screwed up for whatever reason. Look - if someone warns you about harm THEY may bring to you - ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS listen to them and walk away as quick as possible!!! Really!


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