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June 14, 2012 7:31 AM   Subscribe

How to thwart jealousy and possessiveness in a non-relationship relationship?

Background: I'm a 25 year old female. The guy in this scenario is a 28 year old male. We met in December when we were both in long-distance open relationships, we started dating, and then decided 'friends with benefits' was a better solution than dating given our circumstances. For reasons unrelated to our situation, we both ended up breaking up with our long-distance partners in early March.

Now: since March, we have continued on as 'friends with benefits'. We fulfill a lot of needs for each other so the setup has been great. Towards the end of March, we began to spend more and more time together and the 'friends' part of the equation has since become really strong. We still sleep together, but we also spend a lot of time together outside of the bedroom. We text each other every day at work to chat, we hang out every night (pretty much without exception), we spend weekends together. We're in a relationship, but we're not in a relationship.

So (you saw this coming), I have developed strong feelings for him. I took some time to figure out whether I was just rebounding or whether I have legitimate feelings, and I realized I am in love with him. I realize we're both getting over our last relationships, so the timing sucks.

Anyway, I told him. He wasn't exactly shocked, but he took a day or so to think about it. I know he doesn't want to be in a relationship right now, and my long-term plans are up in the air because I recently got accepted into a Master's/research program in another country. Being in a relationship is probably not going to happen. So why did I tell him? For one thing, to be honest. For another, to let him know that I am starting to feel little pangs of jealousy over silly things, so that he knows why I react the way I do sometimes. He told me he has very strong feelings for me, but he's not where I am right now.

My thinking: all or nothing. Either we try this out and see what happens, or we stop being friends and hanging out altogether. I don't want to be a jealousy, needy, possessive friend.

His thinking: we can figure this out. Why throw away a mutually beneficial setup? He's not sleeping with anyone else, nor is he interesting in dating or pursuing other girls. He doesn't want to make this into a relationship, but he's not looking elsewhere, so why should I be so worried?

Question: Is it feasible to remain friends with him? I really enjoy hanging out with him, in-love-with-him or not. We are really good for each other and we get along well as friends. Am I kidding myself if I think I can keep this up?

Throw away e-mail: thenewmayorcape@hotmail.com
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hedons vs. dolors! Is the enjoyment/happiness you get from hanging out with him/being 'friends with benefits'/chatting frequently greater than the pain of your jealousy/desire for more? If so, continue; if not, end it (at least for now).
posted by eenagy at 7:38 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why throw away a mutually beneficial setup?

It's not mutually beneficial. It's making you sad.

Per eenagy, if it's making you more sad than glad, then that is why you end it.
posted by telegraph at 7:39 AM on June 14, 2012 [19 favorites]


It seems like you're almost asking whether his perspective is more valid than yours. You've clearly laid out where you both stand, and if they are of equal weight then there is simply a mismatch: you want more and aren't currently able to be non-needy/non-jealous about it. Whether he thinks you should be worried has little bearing on what you feel!

What eenagy and telegraph said - if the positive outweighs the negative, give it a shot.

Sorry, this is probably going to hurt some whichever way you go.
posted by pahalial at 7:43 AM on June 14, 2012


My biggest question coming away from what you've written was "what are you jealous of?"

You say:
He's not sleeping with anyone else, nor is he interesting in dating or pursuing other girls. He doesn't want to make this into a relationship, but he's not looking elsewhere.


So are you feeling bad about the possibility of him ever being with anyone else even though he isn't right now in any way? If so, then you should probably end it now and probably consider whether or not a FWB situation is ever right for you. It isn't right for some people, and if you're one of them (prone to hypothetical jealousy), then it's better for all parties involved, if it's a situation you avoid. It creates the opposite of a mutually beneficial situation -- one where you feel bad and your friend-with-benefits is in a no win situation.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:55 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


As someone in a similar situation, the best way I've found to handle it is by keeping my options open, meeting other guys, and going on dates with them. Also, in my book, love is always a good thing even if it's not permanent. It sounds like the foundation of your love is the friendship you have. Friends are rare and precious in this world. Benefits are much easier to come by, especially for women. You may want to consider dialing back the sex with this guy for a while and letting that oxytocin glow wear off. It can give you perspective.

From the description of your relationship, it sounds like he really enjoys your company. I wouldn't wait for him to "come around," but I wouldn't rule out the possibility that he might, either. But even if his love for you is always more of a friend-love, can't that still be awesome? One of my best guy friends is an ex from long ago. I thought we were soulmates, but we transitioned into a solid friendship. There were reasons for that. If you can keep a bit of detached perspective and enjoy the good times and focus on the friendship, you will minimize the pain of knowing you're on different life paths. And one day, you'll find a better fit, and this relationship will have enriched your life.
posted by xenophile at 8:01 AM on June 14, 2012 [8 favorites]


Let me get this straight. You're:
- having sex (exclusively)
- chatting all day
- spending every evening and weekend together
- talking about your feelings for each other
- not dating anyone else, or looking to date anyone else
What about this isn't a relationship? The fact that you haven't said the words yet?

I'm sorry OP, but you need to stop kidding yourselves. You're already in a relationship. You love him. He might be on his way to loving you. Or he might not. You've gone way past the point of no return.

If it were me, I would push for "all or nothing", if only because being in love with someone and not having those feelings validated hurts like hell.
posted by fight or flight at 8:02 AM on June 14, 2012 [12 favorites]


His thinking: we can figure this out. Why throw away a mutually beneficial setup? He's not sleeping with anyone else, nor is he interesting in dating or pursuing other girls. He doesn't want to make this into a relationship, but he's not looking elsewhere, so why should I be so worried?

This is ridiculous. You're not happy with this situation and you want something else. He is saying that he doesn't want to be in a relationship despite essentially being in one with you. He doesn't want to commit. You want a commitment. That's why something needs to change here. It's not at all a mutually beneficial setup. He's got what he wants and trying to convince you to maintain the status quo.

If it were me, I'd have one more talk with him about it and if he remained firm, I'd go. I think it is too painful, too anxiety-inducing, too self-esteem destroying and too self-destructive to stay in a situation like this without having my feelings reciprocated.
posted by Polychrome at 8:15 AM on June 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


kinda sounds like you are his "back-burner girlfriend."

I don't think I'd like being the one that he's got laying around until he happens across someone he likes better.
posted by Blisterlips at 8:16 AM on June 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


You know what you need to do.

Your remix:

we both ended up breaking up with our long-distance partners in early March.

Now: since March, we have continued on as 'friends with benefits'. We fulfill [fulfilled] a lot of needs for each other so the setup has been [was] great. Towards the end of March, we began to spend more and more time together and the 'friends' part of the equation has since become really strong. We still sleep together, but we also spend a lot of time together outside of the bedroom. We text each other every day at work to chat, we hang out every night (pretty much without exception), we spend weekends together. We're in a relationship, but we're not in a relationship.

So (you saw this coming), I have developed strong feelings for him. I took some time to figure out whether I was just rebounding or whether I have legitimate feelings, and I realised I am in love with him. I realize we're both getting over our last relationships, so the timing sucks.

Anyway, I told him. He wasn't exactly shocked, but he took a day or so to think about it. I know he doesn't want to be in a relationship right now, and my long-term plans are up in the air because I recently got accepted into a Master's/research program in another country. Being in a relationship is probably not going to happen. So why did I tell him? For one thing, to be honest. For another, to let him know that I am starting to feel little pangs of jealousy over silly things, so that he knows why I react the way I do sometimes. He told me he has very strong feelings for me, but he's not where I am right now.

His thinking: we can figure this out. Why throw away a mutually beneficial setup? He's not sleeping with anyone else, nor is he interesting in dating or pursuing other girls. He doesn't want to make this into a relationship, but he's not looking elsewhere, so why should I be so worried?

My thinking: We are [were] really good for each other and we get [got] along well as friends. Either we try this out and see what happens, or we stop being friends and hanging out altogether. I don't want to be [am not] a jealousy, needy, possessive friend.


(If you're kicking yourself because you cannot 'just go with it", well, you (and many others) are just not wired that way.)
posted by nickrussell at 8:22 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


You love him and he doesn't love you, but he wants to continue getting the "benefits." Not only will this erode your mental peace and self-esteem, but it will kill your friendship dead dead dead. End it now and maybe someday you'll be friends again - someday when you're both happily married to other people. Good luck. We've all been there, or somewhere close.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:27 AM on June 14, 2012 [11 favorites]


The thing where you're basically dating but the other person refuses to call it that is a self-esteem killer. Take care of yourself, take care of your heart. Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:33 AM on June 14, 2012 [20 favorites]


There's a great exchange in the Introduction to Statistics episode of Community, which I think is textbook for this situation:

Professor Michelle Slater: I didn't want or need anything more than what we were doing.

Jeff Winger: Great. Let's get back to it.

Professor Michelle Slater: Oh, but I can't because you went to the friend zone. That's you getting official, not me. Because unless there's something I need to know about the lunch lady or the blonde in your study group with the infinite supply of leather jackets, somewhere between our 8th and 11th time having sex, most people, statistically speaking, would say we're more than just pals.

Jeff Winger: Yes, but once you say it things can get messy and complicated.

Professor Michelle Slater: How?

Jeff Winger: Because once you say it, later you might have to unsay it.

Professor Michelle Slater: Whoopdie-freakin'-ding, Winger. It happens 5-million times a day. It's the Jim Belushi of sexual commitments. It barely means anything and it grows on what's there over time.
posted by alphanerd at 8:37 AM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


He's not sleeping with anyone else, nor is he interesting in dating or pursuing other girls. He doesn't want to make this into a relationship, but he's not looking elsewhere

So if you look at behavior, as opposed to stated intent, then in fact you are currently in a de facto boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, whether you label it that way or not.

so why should I be so worried?

Because you've got a good thing going with somebody you care about, and losing that would really suck. But on the other hand, killing it off before it gets to the point where you truly can't stand any more uncertainty might suck worse. And you have no idea which way you should jump.

My advice: You already know what you want. If you're willing to give him the time he needs to find out what he wants, it sounds to me like there's a good chance that this could turn out really well.

It has always seemed to me that love is worth risking being hurt for. You've told him where you're at; now the ball's in his court. It's up to him to decide to (a) keep things going the way they are until he realizes that he is also in a de-facto boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, and it's good, and the big scary R word that he ran away from last time is not so scary any more; or (b) get closer to somebody else than he is to you, which would ruin what he has with you.

If he does pick (b), there is nothing at all inappropriate about telling him "When you did X with Y I felt my heart break, and I just can't see you any more" - regardless of whether you two have agreed to label yourselves as "in a relationship" or not.

In other words, punt on all or nothing, but do so internally. Pay more attention to what he does than what he says about what he intends to do. If you're going to do the ultimatum thing, you might as well do the breakup thing straight away. Softly, softly catchee monkey.
posted by flabdablet at 8:43 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is your problem even so much the labeling of the relationship as it is your discomfort with the attachment level?

Honestly, who gives a shit what you call this? As is said above by others, yeah, it's a relationship. I'd argue they all are, even if you decide you're going to classify them as FWB. Any interaction between people is a relationship. If it continues the next day it's an ongoing relationship.

You're struggling with the basic human problem that the Buddha identified: attachment. You now like this thing so much that you want it to be ongoing and you're upset at the possibility that it won't continue.

Your eventual departure is a challenge to that but it's of your own choosing. So you're putting this pressure on what he and you call your relationship. Which isn't unfair -we're human, we label things. But what would change if you decide to call yourself a couple?

Can you continue to hang out with him as friends? That depends on if you can reconcile your attachment to things as they stand now with your plans and his unwillingness to commit to a label you want. I think if you're going to try to stop the sex and cut back on the contact that you're going to have a hard time with that.

If you need to end it for your own mental health that's fine, but I think you should examine whether your upset here is entirely on this label issue vs the questions it raises for you in other ways. People manage to have relationships that they know have an expiration date and they sometimes claim they're maintaining something for the future that may well never work out... just as your last distance thing didn't.
posted by phearlez at 8:53 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


You want the two of you to commit to being boyfriend and girlfriend, or partners, or whatever term you would both be comfortable with. He does not. I actually doubt this is going to change, despite what others have said about maybe he doesn't know what he wants, "yet", etc. I think that when people talk about making a more serious commitment, and one of them expresses that they don't want to, that person's position rarely changes.

So, it's up to you. If the commitment is a deal-breaker, then you need to end things. If it isn't, then keep going. Keeping things going in the hope he'll change his mind is a one-way ticket to Despairtown.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:10 AM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're struggling with the basic human problem that the Buddha identified: attachment. You now like this thing so much that you want it to be ongoing and you're upset at the possibility that it won't continue.

The Buddha's resolution to this problem, by the way, was to learn to pay attention to the thing while kicking the attachment to it square in the head. This is all internal work, and you can do it like Kegels, without anybody else even knowing.
posted by flabdablet at 9:19 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


We still sleep together, but we also spend a lot of time together outside of the bedroom. We text each other every day at work to chat, we hang out every night (pretty much without exception), we spend weekends together. We're in a relationship, but we're not in a relationship.

In this situation, I'd cut down on the amount of time I spent with the person. A lot of times, a relationship that doesn't quite get off the ground does evolve into a friendship. But from similar experiences of my own, it sounds like you are in a stage where you are sort of bonded with that person, which makes you very vulnerable. I would just gets some space in a physical sense.
posted by BibiRose at 9:23 AM on June 14, 2012


His thinking: we can figure this out. Why throw away a mutually beneficial setup? He's not sleeping with anyone else, nor is he interesting in dating or pursuing other girls. He doesn't want to make this into a relationship, but he's not looking elsewhere, so why should I be so worried?

This is code for "I am not willing to commit to you physically, spiritually and emotionally, but I would still like to sleep with you and enjoy the other ancillary benefits of your devotion to me. Why are you thwarting this fantastic plan?"

I would break up with him, throw myself into my studies/work, and back-burner the friendship indefinitely.

Sorry. Do not settle for half-measures and coded language and FWB bullshit when what you want is a committed relationship.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:51 AM on June 14, 2012 [16 favorites]


For what it's worth, I just ended a situation like this (last week, actually). My reasoning was thus: I want a long term, committed relationship. This relationship is never going to be that, however long it lasts there will still be no commitment. This relationship is holding me back from getting what I want.

I presented it as an all or nothing choice, with no negotiation, but it honestly wasn't surprising when he quickly and easily chose the "or nothing" option. It was sucky and painful but also very freeing to not have it hanging over my head.
posted by anaelith at 10:37 AM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


My thinking: all or nothing. Either we try this out and see what happens, or we stop being friends and hanging out altogether. I don't want to be a jealousy, needy, possessive friend.'

The only compromise is that he agrees to be exclusive "friends with benefits." Sort of like marrying but not marrying.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:46 AM on June 14, 2012


I think you have to look at actions, words, and the reality of your situation all together. Leaving one of these things out is going to paint a misleading picture for you.

For example, if he told you he loved you and that you were in an exclusive committed relationship, but his actions were to screw around on you/tell you that you have bad hair and you smell like soup, I'm sure you would be put out that his actions didn't match his words.

Especially in a situation like this, saying is doing. If words really didn't matter then it wouldn't make a difference if he said "sure, I love you, and we're in an exclusive committed relationship or not" because it would be hot air - just as he claims. Therefore, of course his reluctance to say the words is significant.

Meanwhile, look at what he actually is saying. He wants this, he doesn't want that, so why change? Notice that he claims the setup is "mutually beneficial," yet his description of it contains no acknowledgement of what you want? If he were in a relationship with you, he, your loving partner, would have to care what you want. That's beneficial to him, it isn't beneficial to you. It's the opposite of beneficial to you. It's detrimental to you.

I actually think that you should end both the relationship and the friendship, because it's not what you want. You love him, and you want to be in a committed relationship with him, and if he doesn't want that, then by extension he doesn't want you. Then stay away from him completely - and I mean completely, no email, no texting, no TwitMyFacePic, no cyberstalking. Maybe hiding/blocking him on social media is a step too far, but definitely don't contact him, don't reply to him except in the ("fine thanks!") breeziest minimal ways and then only when strictly necessary, definitely don't read his updates in roundabout ways, that sort of thing.

Not only does this approach give you the best chance of clearing your head and moving on, it also gives him the best chance of realizing what he's missing. Don't misunderstand me - you do have to be genuinely willing to walk away, you cannot do this as a game tactic.

I realize that walking away probably feels really drastic and painful to you. Don't expect walking away to feel right, because it will feel horrible. But I also think that the situation you're in now is really really demeaning and hurtful to you, and that fairly soon, you are going to reach the exact moment when you genuinely can't stand it any more.

Sorry, it sucks. I call these setups "friends with detriments" for a reason.
posted by tel3path at 10:58 AM on June 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


He doesn't want to make this into a relationship, but he's not looking elsewhere, so why should I be so worried?

Because I'm not looking elsewhere doesn't sound anything like And I love you and want to be in a real relationship with you.

It is a testament to your good sense that it doesn't feel all that reassuring to you. At best it sounds like tepid, non-committal reassurance that he does not want a Relationship with anyone...not just with you. That's nice an all. Good to know. But it wouldn't necessarily make me feel all warm and fuzzy. Being in love without having to dicker about the nature and definition of a relationship does make me feel all warm and fuzzy.

We fulfill a lot of needs for each other so the setup has been great.

Well. Do you want a setup or a relationship? What do you do when your feelings have outgrown the setup box and he's still fairly comfortable in the setup box? You could hit twenty bullet points on the needs met checklist and still not be happy if the crucial ones aren't getting met.

My thinking: all or nothing. Either we try this out and see what happens, or we stop being friends and hanging out altogether. I don't want to be a jealousy, needy, possessive friend.'

You sound like one of those fortunate souls who knows what they want and has a solid grasp of what their heart can and cannot peaceably manage. It could be that the jealousy, neediness and possessiveness is your heart waiting for the rest of you to catch up.

Am I kidding myself if I think I can keep this up?
Better questions: What emotional price am I going to pay by keeping this up? How long am I willing to pay it?

You sound like you pretty much already know.
Have fun in your travels and studies!!
posted by space_cookie at 5:30 PM on June 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Here's what happened to me. Two years ago I met this "amazing" guy. We started dating casually and then I grew feelings. I wanted something more, he wasn't sure what he wanted. I thought I was in love with him, and I wasted a year not dating other people and hoping he'd change his mind. Even after he moved, I still hung onto hope and didn't push myself to date others.

A year later I met someone who I was even crazier about, and in retrospect I see that this other guy wasn't as amazing or as rare as I thought, and also that I would have been unhappy with him for the same reason I think you'd be unhappy with your guy even if you got him to commit. Whatever incompatibility that is preventing him from committing now would just become more a problem once you were in an actual relationship. He knows himself better than you do, so while from your perspective it might seem like you guys are made for each other he evidently doesn't feel the same way. Let's say he likes loud women and you're more reserved. This will just become more of an issue once you're in an actual relationship. And why would you want to be with someone who valued qualities different from yours? I realized after seeing who my guy eventually committed to (a flighty party girl) that his intrinsic values were very different from mine...and I'm so glad I didn't waste time in an actual relationship with him.

Basically, if you were truly compatible he'd feel the same way about you that you do about him.

If you hang on, fast forward say six months from now after this happens and you will be in a worse place then you are now. Either way you will get over him eventually but you will have wasted more time if you hang on.
posted by timsneezed at 5:54 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


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