Today’s article is in response to a question from a reader (via Ask Melissa!) about how to tell if you’re actually together or “just friends.” In my response, I provide guidance on how to find out what he’s really thinking:
I’ve been seeing a recently divorced man (he’s been married 22 years, we met 2 months after his official divorce) and I’m not sure what we are. Friends, dating, nothing? I’ve been divorced for 2 years. We’ve been seeing each other for 6 months.
He typically initiates dates, returns texts and calls, even when at work. We took a day trip to the beach, he came to my 40th birthday party as my date. He met some of my family and friends (I’ve met none of his). He checks in SEVERAL times a day, mostly text and occasionally phone (I always end the conversation first via phone). I’ve been to his house once. He’s been to mine twice. Recently I let him briefly meet my 7-year-old daughter. He agreed to come to my church w/ me.
Still, he’s never made a move, not even a kiss, and clearly no sex. I’m okay with that, I just don’t know what it means. I think he is pretty religious/spiritual. I am too, but much more of a “work in progress”.
I don’t need him to start getting all handsy with me if he’s abiding some moral doctrine, but because he WON’T say ANYTHING about our status, I just don’t know if we’re just friends.
His personality is such I don’t think he would initiate this conversation, but I don’t feel I should. Isn’t it true that men “mark their territory”? Wouldn’t he want to make sure I knew what was going on if he was “into me”? I’m sooooo confused. And how embarrassing would it be if I initiated the conversation and he’s like, “oh we’re friends”?
I’m too old for this. Sigh. The only thing I’m not getting from him is a title and I guess that bothers me more than a 40 year old should admit.
What do you see looking in from the outside?
Dear Poor Perespone,
I feel your confusion! I know that must be really frustrating to see a guy for six months and yet still not know where your relationship stands.
I’m hearing several things from your question:
- You’re feeling confused about the status of your relationship.
- You sense that he’s rather religious and might be abiding by some moral doctrine.
- You sense that he’s not likely to initiate a discussion about the status of your relationship.
- You don’t feel you should initiate the discussion because you feel it might be embarrassing if it turns out that you’re “just friends.”
- And you’re wondering why he wouldn’t want to know the status of the relationship.
You Suspicions Could Be Right
You could be right on all these things you mention.
He might indeed be religious and abiding by moral doctrine.
He might indeed feel uncomfortable with initiating a conversation about the status of the relationship.
And to your question about why wouldn’t he want to know the status of your relationship…my first thought was: How do you know that he doesn’t know?
Maybe all this time he thinks you’re just friends, or maybe he thinks you’re his girlfriend.
Or maybe he is feeling as confused as you are.
One thing is clear, though: Whatever he thinks or feels about the status of your relationship, he is choosing not to articulate it.
And there could be many reasons for this.
Maybe he’s scared to tell you.
Maybe he thinks you already know or have figured out what the status of your relationship is and so he may feel that he doesn’t need to tell you.
Maybe he’s just as confused as you are and doesn’t know how to talk to you about it.
The Ball is ALWAYS in your Court
Here’s the thing: we don’t know what people want or what people think unless we really observe their behavior and/or ask them.
But, sometimes we can’t always discern what someone means just by observing their actions, so we have to ask.
And if you’ve been seeing each other for six months, have met friends and family, and are in communication with each other as much as you are, I think it’s totally fair to have that conversation asking him about his intentions (as well as sharing your intentions).
Ideally, that conversation would have happened a while ago because it sounds like you feel strongly about knowing whether your relationship is a friendship or something more. (For future reference, the earlier you can have this conversation, the better!)
The Importance of Being Intentional in Our Relationships
The question that really matters is: What kind of relationship do you REALLY want?
We can speculate all day about what his intentions are. But the only thing that you’re going to be able to know for sure, is what YOUR own intentions are.
So I would encourage you to think about: are you dating right now to find/be in a committed relationship or are you dating right now just for fun and recreation?
Neither kinds of dating is better than the other.
It’s all about CHOICE and INTENTION.
When you’re super clear on what your own intentions are, whatever is happening on the outside is MUCH easier to deal with because then you can make decisions based on your intentions; you can more clearly see the next step (and you’re less likely to spend time feeling stuck).
For example, if you’re looking for the man you want to grow old with…How long are you willing to be in this state of limbo and confusion?
Also, if a committed long-term relationship is what you desire, I encourage you to take a look at my article, What is Commitment in Dating and Relationships as it says a bit about what it means if you and your man have differing opinions about the status of your relationship.
Question Your Own Motives
However, I’m also sensing that there must be a reason that you’ve stayed connected with him for this long, six months, despite not knowing where the relationship is going.
So I would also encourage you think about: What is keeping you in this relationship? What is driving you to stay in contact with him even though the ambiguity of your relationship frustrates you?
Do you get the sense that there is a romantic element to this relationship? Or is it purely platonic?
If he isn’t taking the initiative to make it clear what the status of your relationship is, think about what other choices you have.
- You can ask him directly
- You could wait for him to talk about it (though how long would you be willing to wait?)
- You could let go of the need to know and stay in the relationship (what do you gain and what does this cost you?)
- You could let go of the need to know and leave the relationship (what do you gain and what does this cost you?)
- What other choices might you consider?
Something you could say to spark conversation about the status of your relationship could be: “I really like spending time with you. But I’ve been feeling confused. We’ve been spending a lot of time together and I’m still unsure what this relationship means. It would really mean a lot to me to know what this relationship means to you because…(you can mention why it’s important to you) What’s your vision for your life? What kind of relationship do you want right now? Are you looking to remarry?”
Feel free to put it into your own words and say what’s true for you.
Don’t Be Hard on Yourself
And to answer your question about “how embarrassing would it be if [you] initiated the conversation and it turns out you are just friends”…
Sure, it might be uncomfortable to find out you’re wrong about your suspicious, but I encourage to not be hard on yourself.
Clearly it bothers you that you can’t discern the status of the relationship.
But you’re not a mind reader.
And no one should expect you to be.
It’s ok to be confused.
And it’s ok to say you’re confused.
Not everyone interprets verbal and visual cues the same way.
You might interpret day trips to the beach, texting and calling every day and meeting friends and family as dating, but he might interpret that behavior as friendship and purely platonic.
Be Willing to Take Risks to Have the Relationship You Truly Want
I know this is difficult to navigate. But I want to offer this perspective that you could try on:
While talking to him about this might be uncomfortable, it would also give you the info that you want (potentially. There’s always a chance that he might not be forthcoming even if you ask him directly).
And if you do get answers, what is that knowledge worth to you?
How is not having that knowledge keeping you stuck?
What is it costing you to not know the status of this relationship?
Having “the talk” is uncomfortable, but is it more uncomfortable than being in a state of confusion for months on end?
Are you willing to risk being uncomfortable to find out the status of the relationship?
Standing in our truth can be scary.
When we declare and take a stand for what we really want, when we make our needs and our dreams known, there’s always risk that it’s not going to be well received.
But is that a reason to not voice our dreams and not go for what we really want?
Are you willing to take risks to have the relationship that you truly want?
Whatever the issues are in your relationship, if you find yourself agonizing over questions like…
Is this relationship worth it??
Should I give him a chance or walk away??
I totally get you. I felt the same way when I was dating, which is why I created a free guide to help you get clarity.
In my free guide you’ll discover:
- 30 questions to ask yourself to help you decide if you should give him a chance or if you’re wasting your time
- 22 red flags you should be aware of if you want to avoid heartbreak and painful surprises
- How to assess your compatibility with your partner to know if your relationship has long-term potential
Want to avoid wasting your precious time? I hear you! Download my free guide Should You Stay or Go? Relationship Choice Assessment ↴
Heal Anxious Attachment in Romantic Relationships
If anxious attachment has been a problem for you in your romantic relationships and you want to feel confident and secure (and make conscious relationship decisions) so that you can have a deeply fulfilling life and love, I can help.
I invite you to apply for a free Anxious to Secure Breakthrough Visioning & Strategy Session.
This session is for those who feel ready to do deeper work on this and are considering working together to overcome painful relationship patterns so that they can free themselves anxious attachment, have fulfilling love, and live an authentic Soul-led life.❤️
Poor Persephone says
Just wanted to update you on the post above. It’s officially 10 months today since me and my friend ( spoiler alert) started hanging out. In my message to you I was irritated and confused about the status of our relationship. The confusion continued. As we approached our 10th month I finally had enough. I texted him at work and asked the dreaded question ( yes, i punked out and texted:). He answered right away and said he would call me that evening.
Later that evening we finally talked. I told him that I wasn’t sure that his response would change anything for me, but I needed to know. He revealed a couple tidbits:
1. He knew he should have clarified things earlier
2. Since his divorce he has been the happiest he has been his entire adult life-and not wanting/afraid/not ready for a relationship
3. He admitted that he was casually going out on dates with 2 other people, since we’ve been together. And has told both of those people that he’s not ready for a relationship upfront
4. And finally, he knows he should have shared this info with me too, but was afraid. He afraid that I would leave….”we’re good together… It’s exciting… We have so much fun…blah, blah…” Lol.
This was the info I wanted. I totally appreciated how candid he was once he actually started talking. It really helped me measure the different places we are in. I am happy that a newly divorced man is actually taking his time and being honest with his readiness, still I won’t lie-I was kinda sad.
Oddly enough I didn’t feel foolish at all. A weight was lifted. In many ways I’m still processing and deciding my own feelings. I am open to seeing other people, but I’m still going to hang out with him. I’m not sure that’s the right choice or not, but for today I’m ok with it.
After my convo I cried a little, laughed a little and felt numb ALOT, but at the end of the day I knew where I was. I care about him and truthfully I have to figure out what I want to do. I see no need in trying to hang around until he wants a relationship, bc his words say he does not ( or at least not a relationship with me). I just have to figure out if I will emotionally hurt myself by staying friends.
The next day he invited me over and offered to make me a pie ( he knows I love pie). I think that was his “sorry”. We hung out, ate pizza, drank wine, watched movies, and I FINALLY met 3 of his 4 teenage children. It was a good time. I think I might be able to be friends with him. It really helped that there was no sex. You hear all the time that sex complicates things and this time I made a conscious choice to abstain. It was a great idea. I cannot imagine how ( much more) rejected I would feel.
The friendship might be salvaged and I’m free to move forward in pursuing a committed relationship with someone who wants one too. I’m not gonna lie though, it totally sucks that this super kind-hearted decent “friend” of mine does not want a relationship, or better yet-doesn’t want one with me. There’s a part of me that secretly wants him to totally regret and suffer for not wanted a relationship with me; the other part of me hopes we become BFFs. Again… I’m too old for this, lol…
Oh well…onward and upward. Hope this helps someone seeking answers. Don’t be afraid to clarify the relationship and thank you Melissa for your perspective!
[Still]Poor Persephone ❤️
Melissa Josue says
Hi Poor Persephone, Thanks so much for the update! Wow, it must have felt really good to get the info that you wanted, even if it was scary at first to make that text and ask him to talk. I really acknowledge you for stepping out of your comfort zone and going for it!
And I feel you. Of course, the news about his readiness was probably not what you really wanted to hear, but his being honest about his readiness helps you make that crucial decision about what to do next. And “a weight was lifted”.
Feeling sad, up and down and numb, especially after ending (or discovering this revelation) a 10 month relationship, is normal. It’s normal to feel loss.
As far as whether to be friends or not…I would start with taking a look at what friendship means to you. How does a friendship differ from a girlfriend relationship? How would you show up as a friend vs how would you show up if you were a girlfriend? And make those distinctions clear in your mind. The key is having very clear boundaries and managed expectations in the way that you show up in the relationship. It’s hard though, after you’ve already been “more than friends”, but not impossible. Tune in to se what your heart say is the right path for you.
And yes, absolutely. Sex does complicate things. Among other things, it deepens emotional bonding, which can make it really difficult to move on or become friends if you’ve previously been lovers.
I feel you, it’s hard. It sounds like you want to pursue a committed relationship with someone who is ready and who wants to be in one. It’s difficult when we really like someone who, for one reason or another, isn’t a good match for us at this time.
But another perspective to consider is: would you rather be single or settle? To get what you really want, you must say “no” to what you don’t want.
All the best,
Hi Persephone and Melissa !
I find it very helpful! It made me thinking about recently divorced guy I m kind of seeing.
When we met first time he said clearly that he is not ready for relationship and perhaps in 5 years will be… So i thought “OK we will be just friends, fine”
But then he started with kissing, we spent amazing weekend together, still as “kissing friends” , I preferred not to have sex as it complicates things, and I really feel like I m falling for him already 🙁 . I kind of thought that perhaps he has changed his mind, but now I know that is not a case. It is just great to have a pretty girl who is smart and funny and who will be happy with even little attention he is willing to give her.
I hope Persephone that you will find someone new to date, who will appreciate you the way you deserve and who will be there for you.
Wishing you all the best
Melissa Josue says
HI Anna, Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing your story! I feel you, it’s a slippery slope once you start being affectionate in that way with each other. But I really acknowledge you for your self-awareness and staying conscious in your relationship. It’s not easy to say no to short-term desires to make way for your long-term dreams, especially when you’ve fallen for him and it feels really good to be with him. Way to stand for what you really want!
Wishing you all the best,