Dear Ms. HeartBeat:
I am so confused about my man and it’s gotten to the point where I think I may not even know the definition of a relationship anymore.
To give you some background, we met and I wasn’t really feeling him on an intimate level and just enjoyed being friends. He had gotten out of an abusive (she was verbally and sometimes physically abusive) relationship and was focusing on moving forward. I more we hung out, the more I liked him until I could not ignore the feelings.
After about a month we hooked up, meaning he spent the entire weekend at my place. Right away I had “the conversation” with him. I let him know that while I am all about getting to know a man and taking it slow I am not at a place in my life where I do flings and that if he is up in my bed then my bed better be the only one. He tried to tell me we were friends and I stopped that right away by telling him I do not sleep with friends and if he isn’t trying to get to know me then we can go back to being friends (hanging out once a week outside of our homes). We then came to an agreement to be exclusive.
Well, it’s been about five months now… five months of us being exclusive, getting to know one another, opening up to each other, and seeing each other regularly (one the weekends and maybe once during the week). He confides in me, comes over when I have a bad day, calls me up to hear my opinion on his work, is there for me when I need him, and I feel us getting closer emotionally every week. Most of his friends know about me as well.
The problem? He speaks about me as the woman he is dating. He refuses to call me his girlfriend because he says that he is not ready to throw himself into another relationship when his old wounds are still so fresh. This is understandable, but I don’t get it. What does he expect to be different when we are boyfriend and girlfriend? We are already exclusive, so what exactly is the hesitation? I am not asking for anything to be different, just respect in the role I play – the title of girlfriend as opposed to a woman he is dating.
Am I missing some magic meaning of the word relationship that only men can see?
Dictionary Assistance Needed
I see where the confusion lies, and it’s very simple. He gave you what you asked for, and ONLY what you asked for. Let me break it down.
You may be the only woman he is screwing, which means you two are sexually exclusive just as you asked. But you never asked him for a commitment. You never expressed a desire to be his girlfriend, nor did you request that he be called your boyfriend. You were very specific about him being the only man in your bed, and you being the only woman in his. He agreed to do that.
Now if you wanted to be a girlfriend and have a title, you should have asked for such a level of involvement. It appears you assumed he understood what you wanted and what you meant, which means you assumed that he was a mind reader! Understand this one thing right here – men operate under a don’t ask, don’t tell mandate, and they never volunteer themselves for a greater level of more commitment than they want.
If you want to know how a man thinks or feels about something in particular, you need to ask him a very pointed question. Your question of the day should have been “How do you feel about us being a committed couple – boyfriend/girlfriend, along with sexual exclusivity?” However, that is not what you did. You asked for sexual exclusivity not his heart; he gave you what you asked for.
For many men, the “role” as you call it of girlfriend implies a connectedness, a tie that an adult male knows will most likely put your relationship on the marriage track (at least in a woman’s mind). Since you know that he just got out of a relationship that wasn’t the best, he needs time to heal his wounds, figure out what he wants out of life, and determine in which direction he wants to go. Once he makes that decision, you may or may not be the person he ultimately decides to travel with. He doesn’t want to lead you on, which is why he doesn’t want to label you his “girlfriend.”
This is the chief reason I tell women all the time that y’all put the cart before the horse. All this “getting to know each other” stuff should have taken place BEFORE you ever hit the sheets. An open discussion about where he was emotionally and what he was looking for (relationship-wise) should have happened before you ever kissed him. No woman should have sex in an ongoing fashion with anyone when she is unclear about what kind of relationship they have or how he feels about her.
It’s like you ladies put more stock on securing a promise of fidelity than you do a confirmation of his love and adoration. You all are excited about wresting a commitment of sexual exclusivity from a relative stranger, but a few weeks later you find out he is a complete fool! Then you don’t want to break it off because you’ve had sex with him, so you stick around to try to “make it work.” What sense does that make?
I usually suggest that single women date (not sex) several men at the same time. It is my preference that relationships unfold slowly, without pressure or obligation. When you focus on just one fella at a time it becomes challenging to control your expectations. Most women get attached much too quickly when seeing only one man, and will rush things along seeking a premature commitment.
If you feel you really must have a title then sit him down and explain what you want and why. But I strongly suggest that you prepare yourself for the very real possibility that he will instead choose to end the relationship because he’s not ready yet for what you are talking about.