Dear Wanda and Wayne,
I am in this weird holding pattern with a guy I like and I don't know how to break out of it. We met at a bar on St. Patrick's Day. It was a crazy scene. Everyone was drunk, us included, but the chemistry was undeniable. We ended up hanging out all night. Turns out we have a lot of friends in common and probably one reason I never met him is he works on the Slope, so he's only here every two weeks.
Since we first met, we've developed this pattern. When he is on the Slope, we exchange flirty (sometimes dirty) texts. When he is in town, we meet up and end up back at one of our houses for the night. Sometimes we'll just meet up and stay in and make dinner, watch a movie and spend the night together.
But when we hang out with friends, we don't touch, hug, kiss or hold hands. Any observer would think we were just friends. In fact, the only time we are intimate with each other is when we are alone. He pays more attention to some of my girlfriends than he does to me. And I wouldn't say we ever do anything that is like real dating -- we don't go out to eat or go to the movies. It's all just very casual, and while that was cool at first, I want more at this point, and I don't know how to get us there. Any advice?
Wanda says: Turning the Friend With Benefits into a full-time boyfriend can be pretty tough, not to mention confusing. Imagine that your man has made you this chicken casserole dinner night upon night. He's quite proud of himself, as he thinks this casserole is quite good, and you've been devouring it without complaint. But suddenly you tell him, "No, honey, I don't want chicken casserole anymore. I want roast chicken with steamed vegetables and dessert and candlelight and cloth napkins." And the poor dude is looking at the casserole thinking, But what's wrong with just having a casserole? I thought she liked the casserole?
Without direct and frank communication, men look to us for clues on what we want and need to be happy. We're very mysterious, after all. So when we settle for casual meet-ups, don't make plans and approach evenings with a "let's see what happens" and "I'll text if I'm not busy" attitude, adding in no-strings sex to boot, the signal we're sending is, "I just want to have fun and I'm not looking for anything serious."
Now that you want more, have a grown-up chat. Tell him you've enjoyed getting to know him and realize you want to take this to the next level. If he's up for that, hurray. If he's not, then you're better off cutting ties now and moving forward. And the next time you meet a guy you're interested in, try offering different behavioral cues: go out on real dates, make plans and stick to them and introduce him to your friends. Asking for the things we want can be scary, but otherwise we'll never find what we're really looking for.
Wayne says: I love your casserole, Wanda! Can I get more casserole, please?
This lucky guy is getting his casserole and eating it, too. Even better, this tasty dish comes with no excess calories (commitment) or heartburn (communication). He can work on the Slope for a two-week hitch and have no worries that warm, welcoming meals will be waiting for him when he gets home, served whenever and however he wants them. And he will remain perfectly content with this arrangement until you close the kitchen.
Wanda is right -- if you want more, you have to tell him. Just be prepared for some tough responses or negotiations. Seems like he's loving his work-hard, play-hard lifestyle and so far, you've fit right in. He might not want to anchor down or slow down, or even have the energy or willingness to try to maintain a relationship given his routine. But you won't know until you ask ... Now if you don't mind, I need to check on my quiche.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.