I’m currently hanging out with a man I work with, “Steve,” and while at first it started out romantically, it felt forced and I didn’t feel comfortable at all. I explained to him that I’m aromantic, and while he still seems somewhat confused, he’s been ok with toning things down. I’m really enjoying what we have now and have realized that I just want a close friend to have sex with. Ideally, I would like one sexual partner if possible.
The problem is that I’m afraid that Steve wants more but is settling for what I can give him because he likes me so much. I’ve tried discussing it several times, but he usually dismisses it (he’s younger and may not think this is an issue for now). I’m also afraid of what my family and friends will think if I “come out” as aromantic. Should I tell my family and friends, all of whom I’m very close to, or is it my business to keep? And would adult men really just want a friend with benefits situation with one person? Is it fair to ask a man to be sexually monogamous but stay friends? — A Newly-Minted Aromantic
It’s always fair to ask for what you want and what you’re looking for in a relationship (and, yes, of course there are men, like you, who want monogamous FWB situations). It’s more than fair to state up front what you know about yourself — in your case, that you’re aromantic — and what your needs and desires are (and they may change, and that’s OK, too, as long as you are honest with whomever you’re intimately involved with). But just because you are honest about what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to give in a relationship doesn’t always mean that a potential match will be as honest with himself or with you about whether he can meet your needs and whether what you are offering of yourself best meets his needs. And that’s why it’s important to trust your gut and to continually “check the temperature” of your relationship.
It sounds like you are trying to check the temperature by your multiple attempts to discuss the status of your relationship with Steve, and he is continually blowing you off. His dismissal — and outright rejection — of your attempts to get on the same page, so to speak, is not a blanket acceptance of your relationship. It is an avoidance of getting on the same page. And if someone is actively avoiding being on the same page as you, it’s because… well, the two of you simply aren’t on the same page.
Trust your gut on this one. It almost always has your back. (And not for nothing, but it’s always a wise idea to avoid relationship drama with co-workers…).
As for “coming out” as aromantic to friends and family, I would do so only if you feel moved to share that bit of information about yourself. It sounds as if you have a sense of relief over “solving this life-long question” as you put it, and it would seem natural that you would want to share that relief — and maybe excitement? — with those closest to you. And that’s fine. But I would start with the people you think would be the most supportive and the least judgmental about your newly-defined identity. This might eliminate, say, your parents, who could have their own biases that might limit their enthusiasm for you. For example, they may have a long-held desire for you to marry and have children and might find your identifying as aromantic to greatly reduce the odds of that ever happening. Their initial reaction to your news could be sadness or expressions of grief, so tell them the news when you’re in a position to better deal with that. If you want the initial reaction to your news to be more supportive or even celebratory (“Yay! You figured out what you’re looking for!”), choose carefully whom to “come out” to first. And if you don’t feel moved to share the news with loved ones, you, of course, are under no obligation to. This is your business. Share it only if and when you want to.
I think for as much as you wish Zach’s dad respected Zach’s boundaries, you need to respect Zach’s boundaries, too, and that means not communicating with his parents. I’m sure that feels uncomfortable for someone who comes from a respectful and loving family with normal boundaries, expectations, and behavior, but for whatever reason that is not Zach’s family, and it’s not your job to make it like yours (or to “fix it.”). What IS your job, as Zach’s girlfriend, is to support him and to continue building a relationship based on trust, shared values, and common goals for the future.
Support Zach by respecting his boundaries and STOP communicating with his parents behind his back. De-friend them on Facebook (send a quick note if you want telling them that while you hope to one day meet them if that’s something Zach wants, until you do you aren’t comfortable being connected over Facebook). Discuss your values with Zach and what you want in your future, for yourself and for your relationship. Hopefully, in time, Zach will open up about his childhood and his relationship with his parents, but until he does, you have to ask yourself whether enough trust, shared values, and common goals exist between you to continue moving your relationship forward. You certainly don’t have to have all the mysteries of a person solved to love him and build a future together (if a shared future is what you even want), but it does help to know why a person would have so little interest in maintaining a relationship with parents who seem to very much want a relationship with him.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.