Question: I am fairly young, 23, and I've been hooking up with this guy for 7 months now. When we started hooking up he stated that he didn’t want a girlfriend, and he still feels the same way. Recently I told him that I was developing feelings for him. To protect me from getting hurt he decided that we should end things, saying that he didn’t want to hurt me in the long run (which he believed was inevitable). Knowing that he said that and that he was capable of doing such a hurtful thing, I asked if maybe he just wasn’t interested in me. He never gave me an answer, but a couple days later he was back trying to get with me. I’m a bit confused. Could it just be that he's being guarded? ...Briana
Answer: It appears that you have a classic “friends-with-benefits” relationship, and that’s the way he wants to keep it. It seems he started to feel a little bad when you expressed that your feelings were beginning to deepen for him (since obviously his feelings for you had not changed), and he broke it off so as not to mislead you…and to relieve himself of any associated guilt. The trouble is, he liked having sex with you, and doesn’t want to give that up. This is typical behavior for a young guy in this situation, and is in no way reflective of anything except his desire to have sex with you without any commitment or exclusivity imposed. As to whether or not he’s being guarded – yes, I believe he is. He’s guarding his freedom – the freedom to have sex with you…and anybody else who’s willing.
While this undoubtedly works for him, it sounds like it’s less satisfying for you, particularly because you’ve developed deeper feelings for him, and (I’m guessing) would like to move this relationship into a more romantic boyfriend/girlfriend arrangement. As long as his feelings for you have not changed, however, it is likely this imbalance of emotional interest will lead you to feel frustrated and sad. Thus, I think you have three reasonable choices: 1) Stay in this situation, knowing that his feelings do not match yours - and continue to be unhappy; 2) Stay in this situation, but resolve that you’re only in it for the sex, and meanwhile keep your eyes open for another, more satisfying relationship; and 3) End this relationship now, then actively search for one that more effectively meets your needs.
Remember: You are the one in charge of protecting your heart from being injured. If any relationship brings you more pain than pleasure (and you’re not a masochist), do your heart a favor – and end it. The longer you put that off, the more painful the eventual break-up will be.
© 2011 David M. Matthews. All rights reserved.