I'm female and I've developed a close friendship with a guy over the past six months. As often happens, there is attraction beyond just a friendship. However, special snowflake circumstances dictate that we need to stay platonic--perhaps not forever, but certainly for now. I need help in setting boundaries.
My guy friend (let's call him Steve) and I are involved in a small community endeavor which meets four times a week with several other people. Some of those folks are regulars and others just show up occasionally. We're trying to build toward something meaningful in our community, and these meetings and the friendships I've developed have come to mean a lot to me. Aside from the small group activities, Steve and I hang out together one-on-one a lot and things feel very couple-like to me when we do. We go grocery shopping, cook meals together, and watch movies (often romantic ones).
Eight months ago, I left a mentally and emotionally abusive man. (I've asked some past questions
about recovery that will illuminate my progress if necessary).
Steve and I recently discussed what our friendship means to us. We both value it a lot. However, in addition, I have developed romantic feelings for him and was starting to feel more ready for dating and hoping something would develop in the future (like a few months from now, very slowly, because I am still recovering). Steve sensed this and brought it up in conversation, and told me he wanted to set boundaries so nothing happens before it should. He knows about what happened in my last relationship and that I'm not ready for one now, and he doesn't want to make any assumptions about what may or may not happen in the future.
He wants to spend the same amount of time together but make sure we don't touch or sit as close and he wants to make sure we focus on the friendship. I can do this, however I am not sure if we should even be spending any time alone regardless of how close we are sitting. I will miss doing that, but it feels couple-like to me and has caused my feelings to race ahead of reality, and I don't have a crystal ball about the future, so I don't want to assume it's inevitable that Steve and I will eventually get together. How can we set healthy boundaries and still maintain the comfortable closeness of a friendship without expectations?