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March 15, 2017

Is There a Long Term Potential or Am I Permanently Stuck in the Friend Zone?

Q. 3+ months ago, I started a FWB thing with a guy I kinda sorta know in a work capacity. I am coming out of a marriage where affection has been withheld from me for years, and he was recently single. I’m a young mother of two, he’s a successful business guy. He knew about everything between me and my husband, and told me as long as he didn’t get in the middle of anything, he was very interested.

We had an exclusive FWB situation, but afterward he’d always be distant. Sometimes it was difficult to get him to respond to text messages, but other times he would show me intense compassion, he could be very sweet. I should mention, neither one of us had ever voyaged into hookup culture before. This type of arrangement was new to both of us.

About a month ago, he came to an event of mine, and then we went back to my hotel room to have our fun. As he was leaving, he was being super rude and it made me feel like garbage. The next day, I told him I wasn’t cut out for this type of relationship, I clearly needed more intimacy than he was willing to give, and he agreed he wasn’t cut out for it either, but become adamant about being my good, close friend. Even suggesting he become my writing partner.

I was thrown off by how sweet he was being. The next day, I felt confused again, so I asked him why he wanted to be my friend so badly when he was so distant during the times when we were having sex? He explained he didn’t want to create a false vail of intimacy and a death spiral of unmet expectations. We talked it out and left it on good, friendly terms. We had to see each other twice the next week, and he was so incredibly kind to me, it really threw me for a loop. Just insanely nice. A side of him I had never seen before.

During the last month, he’s continued to stay in contact. The problem is I realized I really started to like him, and I’m sad that the possibility of being physically romantic with him is over. As I said, we are in the same social circles due to work and I’m starting a new project that he has submitted to be a part of, making some level contact all the more unavoidable.

I’ve been severely scaling back on how much I communicate with him. In the past, I was the one chasing him, and part of me wants to see what would happen if I wasn’t always initiating contact. Another part of me just doesn’t want to embarrass myself. I have noticed that if I don’t respond to whatever he sends within a day or so, he will eventually start asking me specific questions (though they’re weird questions) to solicit my attention. Something he never really did before. I can’t tell if this is a tactic to get my attention, something to fuel his ego, if he is really trying to be my friend, or if I’m just reading too much into it.

I had a moment of weakness Saturday night and drunk texted him to join me at a bar, he didn’t see the message until the morning, and we had a brief exchange then. So Sunday morning was the last contact we had.

I want to know – is there any chance that I can use No Contact (or any other approach) so that he might consider me a viable romantic partner, or is the fact that we were FWB’s for a short time and it ended basically mean there’s no future there and I should accept that and move on? Is a former fling all he’ll ever see me as? Am I permanently in the friend zone?

A. You have described exactly why most hook-up situations don’t turn out well for women. Because of how we are fundamentally wired, we become emotionally involved through physical intimacy. Men don’t. They can be physically involved and never see it as anything more. However, men are wired to get emotionally involved through our nurturing.

There are some fundamental issues here that are big red flags.

One, you state that you both are recently out of relationships. There needs to be time, lots of time, between relationships so we can heal, examine what our 50% was in the break down of the last relationship, heal that, and then take time to get comfortable with ourselves. This fast food, drive through approach to relationships just does not work.

Another red flag is you said a couple of things that indicate emotional immaturity.

One that you are young and as hard as it is maturity comes with age. Two, by suggesting the No Contact you are proposing game playing as a means to get his attention. For the sake of your children I strongly suggest you sit out dating, hooking up and partnering up for a long period of time so that you can work on you. Otherwise, you will be teaching your children some very dysfunctional patterns in relationships. It also seems as if your neediness for attention is causing you to misread some social cues about someone being nice vs. being interested.

Lastly, it is NEVER a good idea to date or hook up with a work colleague.

Never! But you chose to cross that line and now you must learn how to go back to having a professional relationship. My main question is why would you give the time of day to someone who is running so hot and cold? There are so many mixed messages floating around here that it would be impossible to sort this all out and I don’t think either of you is mature enough to have a healthy relationship.

Please, for the sake of yourself and your children, walk away from this. I wouldn’t take him as a writing partner nor a coffee buddy. The mixed messages are just setting you up for a head game to which you seem all to ready to jump in and play. Take at least a year to heal from your divorce (I am not even sure that you are divorced so you aren’t done with that until the ink is dry), get into therapy and work on whatever is causing your lack of self-respect and neediness. If you don’t, you will have your hands full of behavior issues with your children and will be saddling them with baggage that they just don’t need.

I hope this helps and good luck!

About Cynthia Pickett

Cynthia Pickett

Cynthia Pickett is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) and a Licensed Addictions Counselor (LADC) with a thriving psychotherapy practice in Reno, Nevada. She assists in healing, adolescents, adults and families who are struggling with a variety of mental illnesses and environmental difficulties. She is an expert in drug/alcohol addictions, domestic violence and sexual trauma. Believing that psychotherapists can not provide viable solutions to clients in areas that they have yet to heal, Cynthia continues to seek guidance from Native American shamans and eastern monks to aid in her journey. In addition to her formal and informal education, Cynthia has been gifted a vision for accurately identifying emotional and behavioral patterns that are creating turmoil in individuals lives.

To know more about Cynthia, visit her website www.cynthiapickett.com.

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