Dear Wendy: “Is My FWB In Denial About Our Relationship?”

I’ve had a “friends with benefits” situation with a male friend of mine for the last few months. I recently told him that I had feelings for him, but that I was in no way interested in acting on those feelings, as I know that he is not wanting a “gf/bf relationship” right now. After I told him this, he told me he needed some time to think things through. A few weeks later, he invited me out for a few drinks, and then back to his place for the benefits part of our relationship. We went out for a middle of the night snack, and he did all of the classic “boyfriend” posturing — opening doors, hand brushing, turned toward me, looking at me during conversations, etc. After that, he has been contacting me almost daily, first for benefits and then for cuddles and talking. Last week, he invited me out for karaoke at a local bar where he introduced me to people (as his friend), but spent the whole night with his arm around me. At one point, he even kissed me after I performed. But he still insists that this is a FwB relationship, and nothing more. Oh, and he isn’t seeing any other women in any sort of capacity. He is in denial over our relationship, or am I just way too into him? — Just a Friend with Benefits

I guess what you’re asking is whether or not your FWB is being honest with himself and with you about his intentions, which is kind of ironic since you weren’t really honest about your intentions. You told him that you liked him as more than just a friend but that you were “in no way interested in acting on those feelings,” but that’s not true, is it? Of course you’re interested in acting on those feelings. It’s why you keep looking for signs that he has similar feelings and is interested in acting on them, too. It’s why you told him about those feelings in the first place. Now that he knows how you feel about him, you can twist all his behavior to suit the outcome you want. “He kissed me, so that must mean he likes me. After all, he knows how I feel about him, so why would he kiss me if he doesn’t feel the same way?” Well, because you told him you were in no way interested in acting on your feelings. You gave him a free pass to take all the benefits of having a girlfriend — the sex, the intimacy, the company — with none of the commitment or responsibilities. He’s not in denial about your relationship; you are. He knows how you feel about him. If he wanted to be your boyfriend, he would be.

Look, if being FWB isn’t enough for you — if you want more from the relationship — then fess up. Be honest and direct and stop trying to manipulate him. Tell him that when you said you “in no way wanted to act on your feelings,” you weren’t being honest. You, in fact, do want to act on your feelings and start a real relationship with him. Sure, in telling him the truth you risk potentially losing both the benefits and the friendship part of your relationship, but the way you’re going now both of those things are on the line anyway. Better to lose him for the right reasons than to pretend having him for the wrong ones. And for the record, looking at you during a conversation isn’t “boyfriend posturing”; It’s called being a decent human being.

How do you know when it’s time to end a relationship? I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost four years, but I’m beginning to think that we have certain “irreconcilable differences” that make breaking up in both of our best interests. He is eight years older than me, has a young son from a previous relationship (and so is unable to move) and is ready to settle down with a wife and kids. I, however, am just starting a PhD program and have goals like studying abroad, moving to a different city (or even country), and traveling. We do love each other and it makes us sick to think of the other person with someone else, but I think our objectives in life just don’t match up anymore. I was hoping you could provide an outside opinion and some advice for what seems to me like an inevitable breakup wherein neither partner really wants to end the relationship, but they’re no longer compatible. — Sad but Realistic

You know it’s time to break up when the work and sacrifice to stay together is no longer worth the return on the investment. You know it’s time to break up when you’re consumed with thoughts of doing so — when you lie awake at night wondering how and when you should do it. And you know it’s time to break up when you realize that in order to give your partner the kind of happiness he or she wants, you’d have to sacrifice dreams and plans you aren’t ready or willing to give up or change.

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