i love you. but i dont *love* you
August 19, 2009 9:34 PM   Subscribe

How do i deal with having a best friend i simply cant afford to lose breaking my heart?

My best friend lives in another city, and i am madly in love with him. I know general wisdom is, it cant really be love if they dont love you back. The catch is, he says he loves me. He says im beautiful and im wonderful and he wishes he could be around to hold me when im miserable. But he thinks "we'd destory each other if we were together". Or more accurately, he doesnt want to date me.

Other info as follows:
1) We actually became friends because he had a crush on me. He used to be in love with me, and actually want to date me, and ive heard all the sweet stories about how he changed seats to sit next to me in school

2) We are friends with benefits. And afterwards we snuggle, and he tells me he loves me. And i have to leave and repeat "he does not want to date me, he does not want to date me" in my head the day after

3) We have similar "issues". Hes the only person i feel safe with, id tell him anything. And he makes me a better person, i am less neurotic, more comfortable with myself, and happier when im with him. He is very good for me, apart from the fact i want more.

4) Not speaking to him again is not an option. The thought makes me want to throw up, and hes my only support system for when i feel depressed. Which is a lot of the time.

5) I can handle it most of the time, i try to accept it as what it is, which is fun and not permanent. But he can be so caring and loving that i forget a wee bit, and then it gets brought home again and i feel like my heart breaks. again.

6) It is love. Ive taken all the litimus tests, and i just want him to be happy, and if he doesnt want to date me, thats fine. I wouldnt want to force it. But god damn it every little thing he does makes me love him more.

7) not speaking to him again is not option.

I need coping mechanisms. And advice. And a hug. But if i can get justk the first two from ask mefi ill be overjoyed.
Oh, and hes not an asshole. Hes an amazing person, i promise.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (48 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you have a great relationship, and other than living together, what more would you really want? Stop trying to have "more", whatever that even means.

Cherish the thing you have with this guy right now, and work to keep this, rather than transform it into something else.

The key to all happiness is simple: want what you have.
posted by rokusan at 9:36 PM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Addressing numbers 3 and 4. I think you should seek a wider support network. You say he is the 'only' person you feel safe with, and the 'only' person who supports you. I think you desperately need to find something outside of him. Address that issue first and other things will be easier to deal with.
posted by greta simone at 9:38 PM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Yeah, wow. I'm not trying to be an asshole but this is borderline-crazy obsession you seem to be expressing, and it isn't healthy in the least. You appear to have invested your entire existence in this fellow, and whether you wind up dating him or not, this isn't going to do you or him a whit of good. My advice is to speak with a professional, priority one, and get out there and hook up with some other people (that's the pudding).
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:40 PM on August 19, 2009 [5 favorites]

Oh, and its been two years, and ive had a boyfriend in the interim i thought i might be in love with. But it ended because i couldnt give beloved best friend up, and i knew he'd always come first and it wasnt fair.
posted by stillnocturnal at 9:40 PM on August 19, 2009

Best answer: You should disaggregate your social needs, and try not to rely on any one person for absolutely everything you need. For example, "hes my only support system for when i feel depressed" - why? Why don't you have anyone local who can help you at times like this? Someone from work, or school, or a knitting club? Make it a goal to find one other person who you can confide in; start slow, try confiding just one thing at first, and see how she takes it. Then go from there.

Ultimately, I think you know you can't be "best friends" with someone and also "friends with benefits" and ALSO madly in love in a one-way fashion. Putting a stop to this seems to scare you shitless, so you can start by not going cold-turkey. Just build up a bigger social network where you are - not involving him. Eventually you will have to stop at least one of the best friends / sleeping together / being in love things. Eventually, you'll wonder why you ever tried all three.

That seems pretty essential to me, but I would also suggest not dating anyone else right away. Try building up a network of good friends first. On one hand, it wouldn't be fair to him when you're still falling for someone else. On the other hand, you need to learn not to rely on your love interest for absolutely everything socially, and then try your hand at dating again.
posted by rkent at 9:43 PM on August 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

turgid dahlia - borderline-crazy obsession huh? f*ck. was trying to avoid being "that girl" at all costs. thanks for the honesty tho, brutal honesty always does me good, im personally a fan lol. tho nobody likes it initially.
posted by stillnocturnal at 9:44 PM on August 19, 2009

it seems as if your underlying problem is your own depression. perhaps if you focus on that, you will find your dependence on him lessens.
posted by anthropomorphic at 9:49 PM on August 19, 2009

I can sympathize with your plight, but I think you probably already know a few of the things you should be doing.

First of all, I think you should stop the benefits. If he doesn't want to date you, then you should stop interacting with him in a romantic or sexual fashion. It's only going to keep your feelings all mixed up and make it that much harder to transition into a functioning relationship. If you keep having the occasional romp with him, you perpetuate a kind of vicious cycle that is only going to keep hurting the both of you.

Second, keep talking to him if you can't bear the thought of doing otherwise, but you need to find other people you can spend time with. Isolating yourself and obsessing over the one you cannot have will only break your heart over and over again. Get out into the world and find other people to laugh with. Distractions are key when nursing a bruised and battered heart.

Third, if it's really love, then accept it for what it is and move on. If it's going to happen, then it'll happen someday, but clearly that's not the case right now, and waiting isn't going to do you any good. The best thing you can do is get yourself happy and healthy, and if/when he comes around, you'll be ready.
posted by Diagonalize at 9:57 PM on August 19, 2009 [17 favorites]

*Disclaimer: I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with friends with benefits, but it doesn't work when any of the parties involved don't want to be "just friends". That just leads to a lot of heartache.
posted by Diagonalize at 10:00 PM on August 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Some folks will tell you that the only way you will be able to get past this is to cut him off cold turkey until you can move on. Maybe (and then only maybe) will you be able to be friends again. I'm afraid they'd be right, but it's clear from your post, you're not able to do that yet.

Do you have access to a therapist, or counseling of any sort? If so, you need to call a therapist and say just this:

"I am in love with someone whom I cannot have a mutually exclusive and satisfying romantic relationship. It is causing me terrible distress. I have moments where I am okay with it, but I regularly plunge into the depths of heartbreak, emerge, and then plunge in again. I am calling you for help to get out of this cycle."

It may take enormous strength, but if you pick up the phone and just do that, you will be miles closer to where you want to be.

This relationship is not the right one for you. He is not just going to come around. You deserve better.
posted by pazazygeek at 10:04 PM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

2) We are friends with benefits. And afterwards we snuggle, and he tells me he loves me. And i have to leave and repeat "he does not want to date me, he does not want to date me" in my head the day after

You really, really, really need to stop being friends with benefits. The entire point of friends with benefits is that you don't have those sorts of romantic feelings for eachother. Trying to be friends with benefits in your situation is doomed to disaster.
posted by Justinian at 10:05 PM on August 19, 2009 [11 favorites]

Sleeping with you and saying he loves you, while he knows you want to date him and but refuses to consider it sounds wickedly manipulative at the absolute best. The words cruel and selfish also come to mind, as well as several others not usually used in polite company. Amazing and nice people don't do that sort of thing to other people.

I think the larger problem is that your conditions number 3 and 7 make this an unfixable problem.
I burn myself when I put my hand on a hot stove. I refuse to stop caressing hot stoves. How can I prevent future burns?

I have no doubt that you love him. However, not all love is good or healthy. Some of it just messes you up really bad and makes you miserable for a long time.

You need to expand your support network. Get in therapy asap, but also try and get out more. Join a book club, reach out to family in your area, see if there's a stitch and bitch in your area and learn to knit, play bar league softball, take up LARPing, ANYTHING to get you out of the house, socializing with people who are not him. Don't make him your go-to person for everything.

If you won't stop talking to him, even for a bit so you can learn that you are able to function just fine without him, at least stop sleeping with him. And when he brings up the romantic BS tell him to either make with the relationship or shove his empty words sideways. Tell him if he wants to be friends that's fine and good, but that's what you'll be- friends. Let him know you don't want to hear the "I love you's" or any of that, since without the emotional commitment to back it up it's just breaking your heart. If he's even a tenth of the person you make him out to be he'll understand.

Who knows, maybe he doesn't even realize how bad he's jerking you around, and how much it's hurting you. (although I wouldn't count on that one)
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:06 PM on August 19, 2009 [29 favorites]

Repeat after me: Life is not Dawson's Creek. You can not have unrequited love, sexual intimacy and emotional attachment with someone and not date them, unless you want to go completely insane. I'm going to agree with the others that you need to build up support systems which are not him. I would also suggest seek some counseling to deal with depression ore independently. Finally, stop sleeping with him! He is the one making you depressed, and yet he is also the one you turn to. Something's wrong there. My best friend is also of the opposite gender, yet despite that has never tried to have sex with me or screw with me emotionally. That's not what friends do. It seems like he already knows how you feel about him, so sit him down and tell him having sex with each other isn't helping either of you deal with your whacked feelings. A true friend who values you will find another casual sex buddy who isn't important to him and in love with him.
posted by itsonreserve at 10:06 PM on August 19, 2009 [8 favorites]

Sleeping with you and saying he loves you, while he knows you want to date him and but refuses to consider it sounds wickedly manipulative at the absolute best. The words cruel and selfish also come to mind, as well as several others not usually used in polite company. Amazing and nice people don't do that sort of thing to other people.

Well said.

But reading that behaviour of his as charitably as I possibly can, you might need to understand that people often say things like that in the heat of passion, or shortly thereafter. If it doesn't translate into ordinary, everyday life - walking the talk - then it means absolutely nothing; it's just getting carried away in the moment.

Believing that it means anything is almost as silly as thinking "He must really worship me, because he says 'oh my God, oh my God' when we fuck!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:21 PM on August 19, 2009

Actually, without knowing what sort of barriers he's putting up to a declarative relationship, this situation sounds just like, well, a relationship. You share everything, you love one another and say so, you're sleeping together. What part of this makes you not a couple?
posted by lottie at 10:33 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah... what makes you not dating? Are you missing public affection / declaration (aka friends in public lovers in private.) Or is it monogamy that's the crux of the issue?
posted by Wood at 10:36 PM on August 19, 2009

Oh - I should say if the answer to what I just asked is that the only reason you're not in a relationship is that he says you're not, personally I would ask him what he's ashamed of.

Personally, I would pull back a bit if he can't acknowlege what plainly already is. I wouldn't sleep with him, that's for sure.
posted by lottie at 10:36 PM on August 19, 2009

Yeah, this whole scenario reeks of teen drama. "We're friends with benefits, he says he loves me, we sleep and snuggle together, and yet he won't date me."

What the hell?!?!?! YOU ARE DATING.
posted by jayder at 10:42 PM on August 19, 2009

To answer some questions:

- I had a fair few friends. But my galpals are in another city, and i've lost touch, and i lost some good male friends when me and my ex broke up, because they decided they had feelings for me. Which i didnt see coming, since i was very VERY clear about the platonic bit.

- Its not a relationship because as soon as he gets himself a sexy girlfriend, im going to come second. Its a "only while im single" sexual thing.

- I know, im not putting a lot of stock in "i love yous". I believe he means it. But not in the "i want to date you" sense, more a "i value you as a person" sense?

Thanks for the advice tho everyone. I guess i did already know it, i was just pretending i didnt have to face it. Also, sorry i came across as crazy, the post was written in while i was still all flurried emotions again. I think secretly i hoped he'd love me again one day. But he wont. Now i just need to hammer that point home. Thanks :)
posted by stillnocturnal at 10:45 PM on August 19, 2009

Why would Real True Love mean that the other person is well aware of your I-want-more-than-just-friendship-and-sex love for him, but still takes the opportunity to have sex with you and then run out the door free of any responsibility for its emotional consequences to you? Is that the love that you believe you deserve? Because I believe that you deserve a whole hell of a lot more than that. Love is not having a broken heart all the time, and it's certainly not being sad about what you don't or can't have! You deserve love for real, from someone who is going to love you with the exact same fierceness that you love him. This guy is not that guy.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:46 PM on August 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

I self-edited and decided not to say it before, because I didn't want to get too into your business, but your last reply cemented it for me. It sounds to me like there is another element that could possibly be in play--lots of other guys have shown romantic, relationship-minded interest in you and may very likely be great for you, but maybe you push that idea and those guys away because you are still holding out hope that Friend is going to change his mind. You say that he will drop you for a girlfriend in a heartbeat, but you dumped at least one boyfriend for him because your love for Friend is so great. But this is the key to being able to truly move on--dating other people and being able to feel the greatness that is a reciprocal and equal relationship.
posted by so_gracefully at 10:54 PM on August 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

There are absolutely people in my life who I love in one way or another but wouldn't want to date. For the most part, it's an excuse - I can find perfectly good reasons why we'd make each other crazy but it's not like people don't work through those sorts of things. There's almost always some other reason - looking back it's been fear, usually (maybe 'fear that it'll ruin the friendship' in this case?). And yeah, as you just said, it's a "love your fellow man" kind of love, not pining-after-you love.

I'm agreed with most that you have to have to have to drop the friends-with-benefits. Especially if you've talked about the fact that you have feelings such that he had to say he didn't want to date you. I think that's the only way you would ever get him to see what you mean to him, if indeed you do mean something; I tend to assume people are clueless or in denial rather than assuming they're intentionally cruel (as I've done some terribly cruel things because of denial). So it's certainly possible that he's just happy with what he's got and not really conscious / emotionally aware of the fact that you're NOT happy with it. He has to see that handling the situation in this way has a price too - it's not 'just like a relationship but without the right to get angry' or something.

So next time the topic comes up, next time you're in a situation that would normally lead to sex, next time he calls you for a booty call, think about what you'll say. "I need to spend my energy on things that are actually going somewhere" or "I'm just not comfortable doing anything physical with you right now" or "I'd be glad to spend time with you 'cause you're awesome, but I'm confusing the hell out of my hormones right now with the sex so I'm thinking it's better for me if we hold off for a while" or some combination of those is probably what I'd say.

So think about what draws the line clearly not just for him but for you - come up with something you can feel good about defending. Don't just hope that next time he's putting his arm around you and leaning in all smoochy you'll suddenly have an attack of backbone (it never works with me, at least). Also, flinching away from hugs suddenly is not something I would expect anyone to take well, and it's not nice to do to your dear friend.

Oh yeah, I am totally fine with his being your dear friend. But you need another friend, or several. They don't have to be immediate-ten-hour-conversation-soulmate friends. But someone you can spend time with and talk to.
posted by Lady Li at 11:12 PM on August 19, 2009

You're both... 19? 20? The distinctions between friendship and "feelings for" and love (at least when I was your age) can be especially messy and spill from one container into another. Or all over the floor.

It's a big thing to ask, but you probably need to establish or re-establish relationships that aren't going to spill over. Friends who are friends. Boyfriends who are boyfriends. And give yourself a bit of space from Him, just to work out whether you can be friends or not without benefits, assuming that he doesn't still think he's Young Werther.

By your mid-twenties, you'll probably be able to look back with a sharper focus on these feelings. Life doesn't necessarily get less messy as you grow older, but it's a different kind of mess.
posted by holgate at 11:25 PM on August 19, 2009

I am not a therapist, much less your therapist. Also, I'm only a fair weather fan of evolutionary psychology. Nevertheless, I venture to suggest the following may be useful to you as sardonic amusement, if not exactly therapy, for your situation.

Your feelings of "love" are a trick your genes playing on you to get you to make babies. Repeat this to yourself several times a day if necessary. Your genes do not care about the quality of your life or the quality of your baby-making partner(s). It's up to you to find someone who wants to actually share your life, and raise your babies* together.

*Or some other mutually desired goal that "babies" may be reasonably sublimated for.

Okay, good luck out there.
posted by wobh at 11:56 PM on August 19, 2009

and hes my only support system for when i feel depressed. Which is a lot of the time.

...and that's how he gets to be "friends with benefits." You are young, you are depressed, he is there. That's it. Move on and find someone who wants what you want. You'll be a lot less depressed when you aren't sleeping with someone who is using you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:58 PM on August 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

You are not friends with benefits. There is no such thing [...] What, exactly, do you think the difference is between "friends who have sex regularly" and "people who are dating?" Is it a question of who pays for dinner?

I used to have that exact same philosophical view - that people who have regular sex in addition to phone calls, emails, socialising etc - are actually in a relationship, and if they say they're not then they just have their definitions wrong.

That was until somebody (probably TPS) set me right: it's not about who pays for dinner, or whether you do stuff that would look, to an outsider, like typical boyfriend-girlfriend behaviour.

It's about expectations for the future. Are you even pretending to try & build towards something long-term, perhaps even marriage? Does this involve explicit or unstated commitment to each other; to give it an honest go with each other first & foremost? Or is it a matter of "Sorry, but this will end on the spot when I find somebody else, and by the way, I'm actually looking for somebody else"?

Friends-with-benefits is the situation where there's no (mutual or unilateral) intention of a realistic shared future, even in the medium term.

One could call it a small-r relationship if one wanted, which I suppose was my position, but that probably leads to more conceptual confusion than it's really worth.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:23 AM on August 20, 2009 [5 favorites]

World Famous FTW. This sounds scarily like a relationship I had in the past. He basically "broke up" with me about 4 different times (but he didn't really break up with me because we weren't really dating, right?) and then finally, finally, I had the guts for an ultimatum and then he dumped me AGAIN for another girl he met for like 5 minutes.

That's what it finally took to make me realize he was immature, selfish, little boy who had no idea what a real relationship looked like or what my worth was.

Listen to World Famous: "he's a jerk who treats you like crap"

Sorry I don't mean to sound so bitter but seriously "amazing" people do not treat others like this. I am pretty sure if this guy came into AskMe for advice we would have all told him to stop messing with your head and leave you alone to live your life.

4) Not speaking to him again is not an option. The thought makes me want to throw up, and hes my only support system for when i feel depressed. Which is a lot of the time.

He is not your friend. You need new friends. Real, true, honest friends. He is totally kidding himself (and you). Think about this, if the situation were reversed, would you do this to HIM? You are willing to walk away for him to be happy. He should do the same.

But he thinks "we'd destory each other if we were together". Or more accurately, he doesnt want to date me.

What a load of crap. You don't say WHY he doesn't want to date you and his melodrama about how you would destroy each other (please) is just another sign of his immaturity. Girlfriend, you are so much better than this.

Oh, and he WILL notice you shut down the booty and he will entreat you and he will make you feel guilty and he will be SO SWEET. DO NOT FALL FOR IT unless he steps up to treat you properly. Your feelings and your heart belong to others who know how to handle it.
posted by like_neon at 1:32 AM on August 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

Firstly, I like your tags.

Secondly, listen to what most everyone else is telling you. Lots of sound advice in here.

Thirdly, though you say giving him the cold shoulder isn't an option, ending your more-than-friendship relationship with him is. If he's as good of a friend as you say he is, if you can actually tell him anything, you need to tell him that he sends you lots of mixed signals and has hurt your feelings regarding a romantic relationship. Tell him that, because of that, you no longer want to be sexual with him. Stick to your guns with this, too.

You may, in fact, want to continue your sexual relationship with him, but doing so will only confuse you, as others have said. That's not just about what he says after sex, but it's also about chemicals and hormones and all that jazz. There are exceptions to the rule, I know, but most women believe sex equals a romantic relationship or, at the very least, is the road toward one. Excluding maybe one or two women I've known, all the others that have screwed around have often done so in hopes of attaining lasting relationships; they've sometimes done this with friends, too, thinking that they would become "more than friends" eventually. I can't really think of a time when this hasn't ended in heartache, anger or both.

And, while again there are exceptions to the rule, men typically don't think this way. If you're fuck buddies, that's what you are; it's unlikely that there are any/many deep secrets about suppressed love. That's the stuff of romance novels. In all likelihood--and this is a hard truth--your friend sees you as his friend and occasional sex partner, and his using the word "love" means nothing. As others said, it's probably his getting carried away. That does, however, make him an asshole and makes him bad for you, at least from a romantic perspective. Sorry, it's true. It's unbelievably selfish to tell someone you love them and not mean it in the way it sounds, or even to say it in a way that the other party has to try to make sense of. He may be great in all other ways, but damn, that is a big place to mess up, particularly with his knowing that stuff has gone on between you two, feelings-wise.

So, long story short: not having sex with him will help you immensely in the coping process.

A few other, important points:

- He doesn't need to be your only support system. If you're truly depressed, too, he particularly doesn't need to be your only support. A counselor is more appropriate.

- He is not your "soul mate." Repeat this to yourself, in case you've ever thought he might be. I'd especially say this, if I believed in the concept (I don't, personally, but you might). No one who toys with your emotions, be it intentionally or unintentionally through carelessness, is someone who is good for you romantically.

- This most certainly can be love, even if he doesn't return that love. Love is a personal feeling, as much as it is a feeling between two people. You are in love. That doesn't mean that it's good for you or even would be good for you if he returned that feeling. Look at this objectively. Here is someone who, yes, may be there for you a lot, listen to you, laugh with you, etc., but this is also someone who has said to you that loving you, in "that way," would destroy your entire relationship, friendship and all; this is someone who knows at least some of what you've felt for him and chooses for whatever reason to tell you he loves you, when he doesn't mean it; this is someone who puts you second, when he's got a girlfriend, as well as when he's single (really). Objectively, this isn't a great guy, at least not for you.

- The over-used quote on love applies here:"If you love something, set it free; if it comes back, it's yours. If it doesn't, it never was." Let him go; let yourself let him go. Look forward to someone who's better for you and on the same page.
posted by metalheart at 1:39 AM on August 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

- Its not a relationship because as soon as he gets himself a sexy girlfriend, im going to come second. Its a "only while im single" sexual thing.

He is mean and pathetic.
posted by ambient2 at 1:55 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

ambient2 - no, hes not. i thought i could handle it, its not his fault i cant.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:34 AM on August 20, 2009

I've been in a similar situation. I really recommend you stop sleeping with him. It might be hard at first, but if you can't date him, keep it platonic. If you continue to sleep together your feelings are just going to get more and more jumbled. I learned this the hard way.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 3:33 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think the problem is that you are identifying him as "the one."

I think there's this idea floating around that there's one and only one person out there, for you, that you could ever possibly love. That gets your engine going.

This is inherently not true. Take a break from him. You still want to talk to him? Fine, limit it to once a week.

In the meantime, go find hot guys, shy guys, cute guys, or what have you. Go have an adventure. A night with the girls. Do you have girlfriends? If not, go make some. Then go out. Go flirt. Go HAVE FUN. It may take a while, maybe even a few months, maybe even a year, but you're going to end up finding somebody who is COMPLETELY HOTTER than the guy you are thinking about right now. It might turn into something serious. It might just be a fling. It might just be an oh well, "he's completely unavailable, but damn, wasn't he a dream".

Please use protection and birth control, if it comes down to that. But you know, it doesn't even have to come to that. You just have to go flirt, really, and interact with different boys. Zero in on the ones that intrigue you.

It's strange that when you find a new cutie, your buddy will suddenly seem not as interesting. And you can't imagine it right now, that you'd ever feel this way, but I will guarantee you, it will happen.

The caveat is that you have to get yourself out there, and you have to stop moping over your friend.

Otherwise you'll find that you spent a sad chunk of your single youth having the opposite of fun.
posted by thisperon at 3:37 AM on August 20, 2009

FWIW - I do not believe in soul mates or "the one." But emotions are damn crazy. I am, at the very least, going to try get out more and meet more people. Thanks
posted by stillnocturnal at 3:42 AM on August 20, 2009

But emotions are damn crazy.

Absolutely. Positively. Totally.

I am, at the very least, going to try get out more and meet more people.

Good for you. I wish you the best, as I, and my countless married friends, wistfully think about our twenties.
posted by thisperon at 3:58 AM on August 20, 2009

I can hardly read minds, but there's something of the situation as described which smacks just a teensy bit of the Narcissicist/Borderline couple. You sound like a planet in a highly elliptical orbit, trapped around a dark, wandering star. You seem tormented by extremes of heat and cold even as you follow him about.

Do some reading regarding that particular dynamic and see if any of it sounds familiar.
posted by adipocere at 4:30 AM on August 20, 2009 [2 favorites]

Here's what I find most worrying:

Not speaking to him again is not an option (repeated 2x)

in conjunction with

Its not a relationship because as soon as he gets himself a sexy girlfriend, im going to come second. Its a "only while im single" sexual thing.

While it is good that you are aware of the second fact, I don't think you are thinking it through. When he gets his new girlfriend, it is quite likely you'll never speak to him again. You won't be coming "second" - you'll be out of the picture entirely. First, his attention will be diverted. Second, since the sex is out you will drop off his radar fast. Third, when new girlfriend finds out you are an ex-partner the pressure will be on to drop all contact. Since you are in separate cities, it's not like you'll fall into the same social circle and somehow transition into just friends sans benefits. Phone calls will be the first thing to stop. Emails will become infrequent and impersonal, then they too will stop coming.

What's good is that you aware that there is a problem and you can take initiative instead of waiting around until he finds a new girlfriend and then being forced to do so. Follow some of the good advice in this thread, build your local friend network and consider counseling/therapy.
posted by mikepop at 6:06 AM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

i thought i could handle it, its not his fault i cant.

So you tell him: "I can't handle a temporary, non-dating but sexual relationship with you. I don't want to be your friend with benefits until you find someone you actually want to date. I thought that a FWB arrangement could be fun and healthy for me, but it cannot. I'm letting you know now that I want to be your friend, or your girlfriend, but not something in between."

And then, if he says "OK, so we're just friends" that'll be one kind of pain (the sort your friendship might be able to weather), and if he says "But--but, what we have in our friendship is so amazing, and I just want to hold you when you're miserable, and blah blah blah," then that'll be another sort of pain (the sort that comes from knowing definitively that someone doesn't care about your feelings or well-being).
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:07 AM on August 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

Like others, I've been in this relationship. For years. We never dated, it was never legitimate, so all the times he broke my heart, it was like it didn't matter. Years later, I still believe he loved me as best he could, but it was Not. Good. Enough. Once, after I visited him in his new city for a week where we slept together every night & he refused to hold my hand in public, I found out that he immediately brought another girl out to visit him, that they were in love & going to get married. He told me that our relationship was perfect but that there was one thing missing, & it was "love from [him]." I printed out his email & taped it to my wall & read it every day & STILL HOPED HE'D CHANGE HIS MIND. I told my best friend that it'd be easier for me to cut off my own arm than stop talking to him no matter how emotionally damaging it was for me.

He ended up cutting contact with me for a couple months b/c his new girlfriend was jealous of me -- of course -- & then he moved back home & we saw each other all the time & it was horrible & I couldn't figure out how to break out of that really bad cycle. I would've started it all over if he'd asked me.

What ultimately happened is that I met someone else & I started hanging out with him as a distraction -- & it worked. I couldn't believe it, but it worked. This is why I'm telling you to PLEASE develop a social network outside of him so that you can work up the energy to stop talking to him for a while. It will suck but it's so self-destructive to allow yourself to be in a situation where you just feel like shit over & over & over & though I doubt I would've listened to the same advice when I was in your situation, I really should have.
posted by oh really at 7:06 AM on August 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

Kellydamnit said it: I have no doubt that you love him. However, not all love is good or healthy. Some of it just messes you up really bad and makes you miserable for a long time.

This relationship, as it stands now, while it feels SO GOOD and then SO BAD but then hey wait it feels SO GOOD again, is bad for you and most of you realizes that. Depression likes the status quo, and that's your biggest clue right there -- if it feeds your depression, it's bad.

You said, "i thought i could handle it, its not his fault i cant."

It's your fault for what? Having emotions? Expecting that someone you sleep with and tells you he loves you and that you're beautiful has capital "F" Feelings for you? No, that's not your fault at all. That's you being human.

The point of friends with benefits is that you have fond feelings for someone and you screw them and you go home. That's it. There's no talk of how much you love the other party. I can count on my fingers the number of people I know who are actually capable of this type of relationship. Most people aren't cut out for it, and it sounds like you definitely aren't.

Start talking to a therapist to get this all out in the open, start making friends that are not him, for gods sake STOP having sex with him, and maybe drop a line to one of the guys you blew off for him.
posted by crankylex at 7:07 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

i thought i could handle it, its not his fault i cant.

It's not your "fault" either. Because there is no "fault" involved. There is no "blame" involved here. You feel what you feel, and he feels what he feels, and that's just that.

And what you feel right now is that you are in love with him and want a full-on relationship, but you don't want to lose him altogether if you can't have that. And it also sounds like what you feel right now is that this sleeping together but then throwing your hands to your heads and saying "but I cannot be with you, alas" is completely messing with both of your heads and making you confused and miserable.

A lot of people in here have been saying you either have to be friends, or lovers. You need to either cut out the sleeping together, or you need to actually jump all the way in and have a relationship. I agree. He can't keep treating you like a girlfriend if he's not going to ACCEPT you as his girlfriend. That's not fair to you.

And the way it's making you feel is not your "fault" for not being able to "handle it". The way it's making you feel is simply the way it's making you feel, period, and he needs to respect that and take that into account. If he really loves you, that is, because that's what people who love each other do. Whether we're talking about them loving you as friends OR as lovers.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:15 AM on August 20, 2009

Well, for what its worth, we talked. He didnt realise he was hurting me, but no, he doesnt see us together ever. And sex is now off the cards, in fact he said it before i did lol.

Feels like my world fell apart. But i suppose sooner rather than later is better.
Thanks for everyone who commented. I guess ill close this thread now.
posted by stillnocturnal at 7:35 AM on August 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm late to the thread, but just wanted to say that I've been in a very similar situation and thought I would die, the world would end, etc. I totally empathasize. However, several years later, I'm happily married (to someone else) and I have completely lost track of That Guy. Best wishes to you - you will make it through this, I guarantee you - IF you keep strong and set the boundaries that you need between him and you to stay sane. (And then set them even further back.)
posted by desjardins at 7:59 AM on August 20, 2009

Good luck, stillnocturnal.
posted by orrnyereg at 9:28 AM on August 20, 2009

You'll make it through, as much as it hurts now - you will survive (sing it out loud if it helps :-)!).
posted by hazyjane at 12:18 PM on August 20, 2009

Best answer: Hug.
posted by Vaike at 12:27 PM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

I can understand it totally sucks right now stillnocturnal but I think this is the best way for you to be happier.

I recommend lots of Beyonce and strutting your stuff in front of the mirror! :)
posted by like_neon at 4:07 AM on August 21, 2009

You guys are all so kind. Thanks. Metafilter is awesome ^_^
posted by stillnocturnal at 5:03 PM on August 21, 2009

i'm soooooo late to the game... i can't even believe this thread is still open. but in case anyone is still reading, i am in almost this exact same situation right now and it is absolutely the worst ever. it's such a relief to know that i'm not alone, and that it will get better. i hope everything worked out for you.
posted by timory at 3:52 PM on February 7, 2010

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