I recently engaged in a long-distance, friends-with-benefits relationship with an acquaintance. After contacting him regarding a business question, he poured his heart out about ending his relationship, and I consciously decided to support him in his time of need (he was also dealing with frustrations and stress at work). He eventually proposed visiting me and we decided to take it to the next level (physically) but agreed to stay casual and friends only. From that first day, we were in contact daily for six months. We traveled across the country to visit each other multiple times and we talked about everything in our lives. And then it just stopped. I tried to talk to him about it but he said we agreed to be “just friends” and that he just got busy with life and it didn’t occur to him that I would be upset by his sudden withdrawal. He volunteered that he had been selfish and said he was sorry. Then — and this is where I’m really confused — he said he considers me one of his closest friends and didn’t want that to end just because he pulled away.
What does the male mind think about this? I don’t want to be his girlfriend because I’m not into long-distance and we are not compatible in the long-term. But I don’t want to invest any more time or emotion into supporting him and caring about his well-being if he is just being cruel and playing with my feelings. Should I cut my losses and discontinue contact? — Friend with No More Benefits
JMagic: The Male mind thinks like this: 1. She’s a cool girl; 2. Very cool girl, might be compatible physically; 3. Yep, physically it’s there and she doesn’t want anything serious. Score; 4. Plus she lives in a different city, makes the friends with benefits part easier; 5. I like talking to her on the phone regularly and there’s no pressure. This is good; 6. Things are bit hectic, can’t call her like I used to. That’s cool though because it’s just casual; 7. Oh snap. This seems to be more than “just friends” for her. Let’s salvage something. “Oh, you’re one of my closest friends, sorry I neglected you.” 8. Whew. Dodged a bullet. I’ll keep in contact, but on a limited basis since she wants this to be all formal and serious now.
Your mind: 1. Yeah, this is fine, he’s a good guy; 2. Oh, I’m so happy we’re talking all the time; 3. I mean, not like a boyfriend, because I swear I’m not into long distance; 4. But, if he were to propose something more serious, I would consider it; 5. He’s not calling any more. What the hell?; 6. “Closest friend”? What does that mean? Why is this so weird?; 7. Ugh. Whatever, I wasn’t really into him anyway.
Cliff’s Notes: He was serious about being casual. Maybe you weren’t as into it as you initially thought and in the back of your mind were hoping/expecting something more to develop. When it didn’t you reacted with your “Oh, I don’t do long distance and besides we aren’t even compatible long term.” I think if you’re as ‘over it’ as you want to portray, simply drop it and move on. If not, be honest with yourself and don’t lay all the blame at his feet.
Jarek: Men, and by men I mean at least me, tend to act on what we know, and he was likely just acting based on his perception of the relationship. As such, I do not think he was playing with your feelings on purpose and I do think he was being genuine when he said he sees you as a close friend and did not want that to end. In all fairness, you did take a relatively passive approach in setting the boundaries since you let him determine the level of contact. If you never pay attention to how much gas is in your car, you can’t get upset if it runs out one day.
Who knows why he stopped calling. He really could have been busy at work or he may have met someone else. The more likely reason is he just ran out of things to say and since you two are not exclusive, he didn’t really feel obligated to keep calling. But whatever the reason, as long as the ball is in his court he is going to act how he wants to for reasons of his own. If you want that to change, take the ball to your side every so often. If, after equal effort on your part he still gets more distant, than you may want to reevaluate whether or not this is something you still want.
JOE: There are many possible explanations. I’m going to pick one and run with it. I think that he was and is truthful with you about his feelings of friendship but that he has found someone else (probably closer to him) for the romantic/physical side of things. That would explain the loss of contact — he probably stopped contacting you when he got involved with her, then you didn’t reply much or at all (because you were letting him set the pace), and then he became more focused on her and neglected to call or write to you. I’m sure he intended to at first, then it became less and less prominent in his list of things to do. Since you both considered it a “friends with benefits” relationship, he was free to decide to remove the benefits without assuming he’d lost the friend, but he absolutely should have been more communicative about things. I don’t think he’s intentionally being cruel, just very self-centered. I think that you should stop thinking of him as anything other than a friend, and not a close one at that. A close friend — a good friend — would have been more responsive.
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