It's A Pleasure

He Acts Like My Boyfriend But Won't Call It A Relationship

He also compared me to his ex in bed...

by Sophia Benoit
He acts like he's my official boyfriend and we're sexually exclusive, but he doesn't use the label.
Caroline Wurtzel/Bustle; Rob and Julia Campbell/Stocksy

Q: I got divorced about a year and half ago and I recently started dating a really sweet guy who is 5 years younger than me. We’ve now been “dating “ for about 6 months. I have twice tried to define what we are to get clarity, but he has stated he doesn’t want a relationship right now, he is working on his very specific financial goals, etc. He can’t get enough of me, he drives me to the airport, he helped me move into a new apartment, took me to the hospital when my mom got surgery, he drives me all over town, helps with groceries and cooking, he says I’m so special.

He’s honestly been incredible and complains when I pull back emotionally or sexually. I only started pulling away because I’m confused — is this how people date now? They act like they are in relationships just without goals or commitment? I’m not used to this. His actions totally look like a relationship but he says he doesn’t want it.

He’s said past relationships burned him, so he wants to go really slow before getting into a relationship with someone. I told him prior partners’ behavior is not my fault, just like anything my ex-spouse did isn’t his responsibility to bear. He has also compared me to an ex sexually; that threw me off completely and I explained it was disrespectful. He didn’t get it. Maybe he is just immature? I don’t understand how to operate with so much gray area! We’ve agreed to be exclusive sexually. It made sense to me as a confirmation of a relationship milestone, but now I’m reevaluating that decision. Please explain his behavior! He has a lot of good qualities but I’m also stressing out as more time passes.

A: Partnering up makes life easier. It just does. Life is alarmingly like trying to get a queen-sized mattress up a flight of stairs. Of course you want someone to take the other side! Being single is hard. It means that sometimes — when no neighbor offers to help, when your best friend is still at work — dragging that mattress on your own through sheer brute force. So I get the appeal of this guy. I do.

However! Uber will take you to the airport. Instacart will bring you groceries. Movers will help you move. (Friends will also do all of these things sometimes!) And they’ll do it without the headache of having to wonder what the sh*tf*ck is going on between you two. They’ll do it without comparing you to an ex! They’ll do it without baggage (except, well, your literal luggage in the case of the airport ride).

Yes, dating this guy seems to be making your life easier, but is it making your life better?

Frankly, you are not seeing him clearly. This man is not, I’m sorry to report, “incredible.” And there is no “gray area” here at all. He’s an a**. I have been trying to give people the B of the D lately, so I’ll say that perhaps he doesn’t know he’s being so frustrating. Perhaps this man is floating down a river of good intent in an inner tube, blissfully unaware that he’s leaving destruction in his wake. I don’t know, but at some point, one of you needs to recognize that you two want different, incompatible things.

As a general rule, whenever anyone describes themselves to me as “confused” about their relationship, I know it’s doomed. You are not confused. You’re being hurt! His behavior isn’t confusing! It’s bad! Sorry for ending every sentence in an exclamation point, but!

Continuing to date him would be like trying to order steak at an ice cream shop.

Another clue I have that things aren’t exactly va-ing bene? You are playing games. You might not consider it that way, but you have passed Go, collected $200, and now you’re about to buy Pennsylvania Railroad. Pulling away from someone just to test how much they like you? That’s a game. You should not have to test anyone you’re in a relationship with. This isn’t seventh grade science class. If you feel the need to pull away from someone, leave them for good.

I want to be clear, I am not against casual relationships. They can be lovely, especially when two people aren’t ready for or don’t want something serious. But you are ready! You do want one! Continuing to date him would be like trying to order steak at an ice cream shop.

He cannot and will not give you what you want or need. He has told you that with both his words and his actions. No amount of driving you around town changes any of this. He also doesn’t need a reason, exes or otherwise, to not want a relationship, or to not want a relationship with you right now. It does not matter if his reason is, “The day we met, I saw two racoons fighting and I took that as a sign.” He doesn’t want a relationship with you. He is very clear on this.

So you gotta go. You must leave. Right now you are looking at a 2x4 and hoping you can whittle it into a Ford Focus. Please, put the carving knife down and go to a car dealership. This metaphor is too long, I’m sorry. But you need to find a person who can actually give you what you’re looking for.

A relationship is like sex: If you can’t talk about it, you’re not ready to have it. I know you have tried to talk to him, so I don’t fault you for that. But when he has been clear about what he wants, you have not been listening, which is at least half of good communication.

You did not work so hard and long to get out of your marriage and figure out this new chapter of your life to end up here, begging a guy to be what you need. It’s time to end this unsatisfying semi-relationship and find people who can help you feel less alone right now. It’s time to ask for favors and speak up about what you need. Run errands with a friend! Visit your mom! Spend time with loved ones who do not perplex you with their displays of affection. Love is not confusing. It’s steady. It’s obvious. Otherwise? It’s crap.

It’s A Pleasure appears here every other Thursday. If you have a sex, dating, or relationship question, fill out this form.