A romantic friendship

He gives me the space I need, but sometimes he gives me too much!


Cary Tennis
January 16, 2004 1:00AM (UTC)

Dear Cary,

About a year ago I met and fell hard in love with an amazing, unusual man. He's fearlessly direct and honest, with immense emotional integrity and a clear sense of who he is. He's a prankster, and a gypsy, an avid athlete who approaches it in just the way that appeals to me, as play and as the essence of life itself. He doesn't want to take over my life and truly respects my autonomy.

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I am swooningly attracted to him physically. We're not a perfect fit, sexually, and he's less interested in it than I, but when he's with me that way, it's beautiful. He is also sweet and caring, supportive of my pursuits, and just as fiercely committed to his own. He loves me, he says, and shows me this in a million ways, when he's not off doing his own thing.

When we met, he said that after four years since the end of his marriage, he felt that he wanted a partner in his life. Now he says his feelings for me haven't changed, but he has realized he doesn't want a partner, doesn't want commitment or to be in a monogamous relationship.

He doesn't have anyone in particular in mind right now that he'd like to get involved with, nor is he particularly looking. He says he's not a playboy, so it's not like he'd be hopping in bed with someone new every week. But he says he could feel just as intimate with someone else, at the same time. And, he is clear that he'll keep seeing me for as long as that continues to feel like it enhances his life, but no longer.

He sometimes describes what we have as romantic friendship. Right now I'm his best friend. But there's a way in which his relationships take a back seat to his own interests and pursuits. I've referred to him as "the man who wasn't there," because though he's very sweet, he's not what I'd call either warm or deep. He listens attentively, but then moves on with whatever else is on his agenda for the day. To some extent, that's really good for me. It helps me learn not to wallow so much in my own travails and then to get on with my life.

I'm not all that traditional in my thinking about relationships, and a lot of his unusual ways are exactly what draw me. On the other hand, the moment I got to know him, I lost all romantic interest in others, stopped looking around. I'm not all that thrown by the non-monogamy thing -- [I might be] if it were clear to me that I was his one true love. But I'm not. And that is brutally painful sometimes. When he plans his future, he gives no thought at all to where I, or anyone else in particular, might fit in.

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I'm trying to figure out what I want out of life, who I am, what I dream of, at 40, with two kids. It isn't easy -- money is tight, time is short, I'm in a job I don't love, but need to support two kids and a mortgage. And I am working at shepherding my kids through the separation. What I don't need is some guy that falls head over heels for me and wants to swoop me up into his ideas of what a life together should look like. With my gypsy friend, I have the space to learn who I am.

I'm also determined that becoming a mother, and doing it well, doesn't have to mean relinquishing adventure, passion, and one's own development. Kids don't need their moms to cease having needs and desires of their own, and pursuing them. I believe that they need to see me value my own life, to know how to value theirs.

Do I stop seeing him? Or do I keep seeing him, for all the beauty and pleasure and learning he gives me, even though it leaves me so unsteady? I think I already know my own answer-- I will stay in. I will suffer, but I will stay in. Can't I find a way to stay in joyfully, just jettison the suffering? Cary, I need some help here because I'm confused as hell, have a lot on my plate, tears in my eyes, and can't quite see where I'm headed, with him, or in life.

Got What I Asked For

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Dear Got What I Asked For,

You do indeed seem to have gotten what you asked for, so your immunity challenge for this lifetime is to learn how to accept what you have asked for and be joyful about it. I know readers will have lots of ideas about what you should do and what he should do. Some will think he should stop fooling around and be your obedient boyfriend. Some will think you should dump him. Some will see things in your situation that I am entirely missing.

But when I read your letter I sense that you are a person much like myself, sometimes overburdened but ambitious and idealistic, whose life is rich but not perfect, who has brought much into the world but finds she can control little of it once it is here. Someone who gets what she asks for and then isn't ready for it or quickly tires of it or becomes disenchanted or upset with it, who wants the world to conform to her idea of it even as her idea of it constantly changes, and who in trying to wrestle the world to the ground finds the world sitting on her chest, laughing and bouncing up and down with glee. I see a person exhausted by the struggle, who doesn't need another idea, another bit of wisdom, another insight, but just plenty of rest, a meditative state of mind, and some room in her heart for simple, unadorned hopefulness.

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There's nothing awful or unusual about your situation. You just have to remember how small you are, how little you can control, how much you have to just gape at because you can't do anything about it.

Maybe it would help, too -- because most of all you just need some rest -- to realize that if you can find a way to stop trying to fix all this stuff, you'll find there are some extra minutes in the day that you can use to simply relax, meditate, stare out the window, go for a walk.

This is all going to clear up, but not through any effort of yours. It will clear up when it clears up. In the meantime, try to maintain a posture of grace, forbearance and good humor. Life is going to work out just fine.

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Want more advice from Cary? Read the Since You Asked directory.


Cary Tennis

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