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December 14

Flirting with disaster

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:07 am

Friendly warnings on September 7, 1998

Dear Breakup Girl,

Okay, this is the last (hopefully) installment in the Jo R. Heavy Opera Company’s production of “I love you, Come here; I hate you, Go away,” otherwise known as the Ring Cycle of Numbing Depression and Futility.

Quick recap: I met him 7 years ago; I was attached when he was single, then he got married when my relationship broke up; he claims his marriage is dreadful, and he’s been “on the verge of divorce” for 5 years now (I’ve never bought this, since he’s still married and they’ve had 2 kids). He and I have flirted heavily ever since we met, but never had sex. Two years ago he moved to Chicago; he started writing to me shortly after, always with the flirtation thing going on. In February he told me his marriage was definitely *over*, and I had said, “I’m so sorry but YIPPEE — when can I visit?” He then lapsed into complete silence for 3 months, at the end of which I wrote you to ask what I should do.

You put my name on the Breakuplist — although there was never an “up” to be broken in this case — and I wrote to him and told him that since he wasn’t interested, we should scotch all erotic impluses. After this brief recess, our amiable “what I did today” newsy e-mails continued; after all, we’ve been friends for years.

Last week, though, after I mentioned that I’m booked to give conference papers in Florida and Ann Arbor this fall, he asked if he could come. I promptly whipped back that he could *not* come, since when I’d suggested the same sort of thing he’d run like a hare, and told him that it was rude and unkind, when he didn’t want to sleep with me, to pretend that he did. He apologized abjectly and declared that we should simply forget about flirting, since he “valued our friendship so highly.”

This whole thing may seem very innocuous, but we’ve had this conversation before, both in the flesh and virtually. I know it’s only a matter of time (time frame: three months or six e-mail exchanges, whichever comes first) before I get sappy emails labeled Re: I Love You So, My Marriage is a Sham, and My Wife Doesn’t Understand Me, Would That Things Were Different. And then I’ll have to go through this nonsense *again*. And *again* and *again* and *again*.

As I’ve wailed before, my situation (single, 37 and oddly unapproachable, if attractive) means that I can’t just say “F you” and walk into the waiting arms of the nearest charming male, charming males not being in season this lifetime. This does two things; one, it means I’ll be single in 3 months time, as I have been for the last 5 years, and two, it makes his holding out what looks like hope of possible affection (sex! love! in this century!) actually tempting, although it *always* turns out to be a sham. I feel more and more rained-on the longer this goes on.

So my question is twofold, with the first section being more significant:

A) What is *up* with this nimrod? Why would anyone want to play this particular game? I can understand someone wanting an affair, since the pleasures of sex are probably enough to offset the annoyance, guilt, awkwardness and tension of the situation. But he doesn’t *want* sex — at least with me — he wants the annoyance, guilt and tension without it!! He wants to take up my time and emotional energy without the slightest hope of a relationship or even an orgasm, yet he doesn’t want to ask for the kind of affectionate support I’d give a friend — he wants to behave like a lover without giving love. I DO *NOT* UNDERSTAND THIS, AND IT’S DRIVING ME CRAZY. This is, really, the core of the question, and if you can answer it, I’d appreciate it. Please, please, please. Please??? I know this is as nothing next to the distressed teenager who has just had her heart broken for the first time, or the 20 year old whose boyfriend just tried to kill himself, but it distresses me, and I feel squashed.

B) How do I end this thing for good? “Hello, our seven year friendship is over because you simply can’t be trusted not to play bait-and-switch with me” will lead to me being peppered with denials and distress. Is there no way to stop this short of cutting all contact, for good?

— Jo R.

Dear Jo,

I think you have it mixed up. I think that in this case, adding sex into the mix would for him be the cause of — not the cure for — annoyance, guilt, awkwardness, etc. It’s the opposite of rebounding. He’s just getting out of an icky relationship — getting into something as volatile as, say, sex, may not be something that he wants to do right away or, for that matter, that he trusts himself not to screw up. And he especially doesn’t want to get all clumsy and complicated with someone he’s been friends with for so long. How’s that?

And about B). No, don’t attack or accuse. And yes, cut off all contact .. for a while. I know it doesn’t look or feel like the “charming males” are lining up. But I betcha that’s partly because they can tell your mind is — or was — someplace else. I’ll bet you’re attractive, but less so when “rained-on” or “squashed.” Take (1) hollow solace in the first paragraph, (2) my advice in the second, and then (3) on feeling “refreshed” and “bouncing back.”

Breakup Girl


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