January 3, 2016

Let’s Get Intimate: Friend or Lover? {Adult Q&A}

touching first date couple tension


 Do you have questions about creating intimacy or developing mindful relationships?
 Confusing questionsAwkward onesDeep, dark, scary ones?

I want them. Email your questions to [email protected].

Q. There is a man in my life to whom I feel so emotionally connected like to no other person in my life.

Let’s call him “Patrick.” We met a couple of years ago and spent the whole evening talking to each other. The connection was just there the first time we saw each other. At this time, he was in a relationship which was not really breaking apart, but he was still holding onto it.

I was really into him, but after a couple of months of “waiting,” I met another man and fell in love. Patrick and I still kept in touch. We didn’t meet often, but when we did I felt so close to him and felt I was just in the right place and could be absolutely who I really am.

At this time, his relationship was over and he was into me, but I was holding onto my relationship which was, well, not healthy at all. 

After two years I finally managed to end my relationship, and the first time I met Patrick again, he was telling me that he met someone who he really likes. We spent a couple of great evenings together, but I think we were both really afraid of losing this great friendship and connection by starting something serious. 

At the moment, he is in a relationship with this other woman. At the beginning, I was quite fine with that and tried to move on. But I really think a lot of him and it hurts me to hear about his relationship.

So, the question is: Is it possible at all to have a friendship with this man? Is he my soul mate and if he is, does it mean a relationship would work between us? Is this bad timing or are we just not meant to be together?

I understand that this is not my decision, he’s decided to be with this woman and I have to accept that. But I long for speaking to him and seeing him because every time I do I feel whole again. At the same time, every time after seeing him I realise that it’s not enough for me and I want more, but I’m still afraid to losing him as a friend. 


A. I do believe the situation you just described has been experienced by more of us women than we’d care to admit.

So, I’ll begin by thanking you for your courageousness. It’s hard to share the depth of our feelings, especially when they are for someone who does not return the feelings the way we need him to.

When there is a lot of emotion surrounding a situation, I like to back up and look at the facts. As you’ve laid them out in your post, this is what we’re looking at:

  1. You and Patrick enjoy each other’s company.
  2. You have a deep connection with/to one another.
  3. You have not been single at the same time.
  4. You both have been faithful (at least sexually) to your current partners over the years.
  5. You have romantic feelings for Patrick that cannot be expressed in full due to his current relationship.
  6. You understand that Patrick has chosen to stay in his current relationship.
  7. You do not want to lose the connection you have with him if you pursue your romantic feelings or abandon him outright.

I’m sure there are other nuances here, but this is the gist of the situation. Now let’s highlight the most important elements:

  1. You have a deep connection with/to one another.
  2. You have romantic feelings for Patrick that cannot be expressed in full due to his current relationship.
  3. You understand that Patrick has chosen to stay in his current relationship.

After reviewing this list, one thing that stands out to me is that you are actually the one to make the final decision in this situation. It may well be that Patrick has chosen to stay with his current partner, but it is you who must decide whether maintaining a friendship with him is possible for you.

You say you “feel whole” when you speak to and see him. Is this based on the conversations you have? The energy you share? Or is it rooted in the niggling fantasy desire to have him as your partner? In other words, when you and Patrick spend time together, are you present in the moment (and all the relevant truths therein), or are you secretly imagining you both having this conversation on the back deck of the bungalow home you share together in 20 years?

If you can be with him as he is today—relationship and all—then a friendship with him is not only possible, it’s a blessing you should give thanks for. You met someone who gets you! True friends share their lives and support each other through whatever happens in life, not really expecting anything else but mutual support.

Now, this does not mean you are wrong to want him as a romantic partner; he sounds amazing. However, by the rules of friendship, you must honor that he is being committed to his current relationship (an admirable thing). If what you want is more than a friendship and it’s eating at you, you do owe it to him—and to yourself—to make this clear.

It’s hard, I know. Sharing the depths of our feelings when it’s clear we may lose the thing we cherish makes us vulnerable, and vulnerability makes us scared. It’s much easier to keep the status quo and reap the benefits of our connection to that magical Other when we can.

This is why it comes down to your decision, and it’s a simple one: Can you meet him where he is and be his friend or do you have feelings for him that will not be satisfied by a friendship alone?

If it’s the former, enjoy your ongoing connection with Patrick. If it’s the latter, gather the strength and love you have and open yourself to the truth. Stand by your feelings, which are valid and real. Tell him how you feel. Nothing may change with his situation, but you will have released yourself from the uncertainty. More importantly, you will have acted with integrity by honoring your needs. That’s an attractive quality in a lover and a friend.

Happy loving!



Dear Friend with Benefits.


Author: Rachel Astarte

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Guian Bolisay/Flickr

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