The tricky situation: Kim asks, I pined for a Mr Unavailable for months while he let me believe that we were essentially together. Same song, different tune, I know. Fast forward–after things reached a breaking point, we agreed to be friends. So, I worked on me and realised that he was an emotional disaster in the first place and not a good match for me anyway, but weve stayed really good friends.

We see each other every day, talk on the phone multiple times a day, and have met our respective families and friends. We easily sleep in the same bed (mostly naked, without sex), and I know almost everything there is to know about him. In essence, we live in each others back pockets. Any time we have argued, he makes himself sick with worry over losing me from his life. I seldom anger unless there is a very critical issue on the table.

Anyway, we have all these good things between us, but its still hard for me to feel so rejected and overlooked. I guess I feel kind of ugly because he’ll sleep with practically anyone except me and weve connected on so many levels but he can’t see his way to anything romantic. I have held it together thus far, and he really is a close friend, but I keep doubting myself and wondering why this man values me in every other way except romantically.  It’s really hard, and I am afraid that I cannot continue at this pace.

Am I doing the wrong thing by keeping him in my life? It doesn’t seem fair to punish a person because they do not view me romantically. I have been at the receiving end of that dynamic for most of my life. I don’t know what to think or what to do. Is there any way you can shed a bit of light on what my next steps should be?


In the words of Whoopi Goldberg’s character Oda Mae Brown in Ghost, “Kim, you in danger girl”. Your ‘friend’ is, as we say here in England, mugging you off. Imagine you purchased a car from me and discovered that it was faulty and not as described, and I said, “Kim, I’ve been an assclown. I’d hate to lose you. I’ll make things right–I’ll replace it”. You and I hang out in it daily. Sometimes we drive around naked without touching. And sometimes you park up while I mess with other women. I keep telling you how I’d hate to lose you. And even though the car is playing up, you keep pushing down your concerns and annoyance. Eventually you realise that I’ve done a superficial fix of the old car and spray-painted it a different colour and called it ‘new’.

You’re also screwing you over.

He’s enjoying all the fringe benefits of a romantic relationship minus the sex while getting to go and throw his willy about elsewhere. You don’t think that some of the other members in his harem wonder why he only sleeps with them but gives you everything else? This guy has it made! He’s play-acting at a relationship and playing you all off against each other.

The truth is, you know what’s going on here but you’re pretending that you don’t and attacking your self-worth. This is denial paraded as naivety.

He’s bang out of order. Until you own your part, though, you’ll be playing Girl Who Doesn’t Have A Cluenwhile feeling as if this is something he’s doing to you. This is a painful situation… in which you’re an active participant. You have a choice in setting the boundary lines of your friendship. If you’re 100% honest, you’ll see that you’ve seconded yourself to this ‘friendship’ in the hopes of eventually taking up a title relationship where you are the Good Girl Who Made Mr Unavailable Change His Ways. This is not a friendship.

You’re taking what you’re doing to you and calling it his behaviour.

You’re the one who’s rejecting and overlooking yourself by extension of your participation. You say that it doesn’t seem fair to “punish” someone because they don’t view you romantically. Kim, Kim, Kim, Kim, Kim, Kim, KIM.

Let me tell you something:

Out there right now, there are millions of women who sleep with people, hold their tongue, and continue in awful relationships. And that’s without getting into all the ones who’ve come and gone before us. Why does this happen? Because they’re afraid of not being ‘nice’ and ‘punishing’ that person for not wanting the same thing. “Ooh, you want sex and I don’t? Oh they’re there. I couldn’t have you suffering a hard-on with nowhere to put it just because I don’t want to have sex. Forget what I want.” Cue squeezing eyes shut, making noises in the right places (because we don’t want to ‘punish’ them by not acting as if it was the most spectacular sex ever), crying self to sleep, and being haunted by shame.

Here’s how romantic interest works: Either two people have it or it’s doomed. Like dating, romantic interest is guesswork initially. Romantic interest, also, has no bearing on how compatible you are in actuality. Interest is not a contract. Over time, one or both can acknowledge that there is interest but you each want different things. Both people are free to leave at any time. You don’t have to be friends with your ex.

Exes aren’t owed friendship as a consolation prize.

Your choosing not to be friends wouldn’t have been about punishing him. It would have acknowledged that logically (mostly) you know that he’s not the man for you but, emotionally, you’re still into him. Out of respect for him and yourself, you step away from friendship so that you have time to grieve the loss of your hopes and expectations and to gain perspective.

You’re also projecting your experiences. Ascertain what being ‘punished’ for his not being interested means to you?

If someone decided not to hang out with you after you didn’t reciprocate their feelings, that’s called respecting their and your feelings. We all need time to process rejection, to move on from that lack of interest so that we can be open to a more befitting relationship.

Ever been peeved about not being invited to an event that you don’t actually want to go to? Ever been annoyed about not being liked by someone who you don’t like?

You can see umpteen reasons for why a relationship with him is a bad idea but you’re insulted that someone ‘like him’ isn’t breaking himself to be with you. It’s, I Can’t Believe They Don’t Want Me Syndrome.

You’re also conflating romantic interest with purely sexual interest, so now you’re objectifying you and the other women. You haven’t realised yet that because you’re great, he would rather have you on some [manipulated] terms than none. Too scared and self-involved to be with you, too scared and self-involved to not be. Now he’s put you on layaway so that no one else gets near you. You do realise that you’re unavailable now?

Who’s gonna be cool with dating you while you have a Relationship But Not One with your ex?

Being friends with your ex does not require nude sleepovers, ego stroking, or acting as an alibi that absolves them from admitting their shady behavior.

He wants a Madonna beard (a woman he treats ‘better’ than all of his other women ‘The Whores’. I really feel for you all. The idea is that he can parade you around to his friends et al and reassure them (and himself) that he’s more okay than he is. You’re his alibi.

It’s not your job to make him a better person and you are over-feeling. You’re taking responsibility for his imagined potential feelings from exiting this faux friendship and fearing that his house of cards will tumble. It’s gonna tumble anyway. Stop throwing yourself under a bus for him.

Spend some time evaluating what you get out of playing Queen of the Harem and competing with other women. Look in to your past. Compare your angst now with other situations so that you can zone in on what this is really all about, including compassionately investigating, alone or with professional support, where you developed the habit of care-taking wounded partners.

  • Where did this pattern of codependency originate?
  • Who’s the person in your pattern that you’re really afraid of ‘punishing’?

You say you seldom anger. It sounds as if you have a pattern of disguising and denying anger with confusion and people pleasing.

Most of all, own your right to choose what you do and don’t participate in. Sure, he’ll be disappointed. If it’s a choice between loving you and catering to his ego, though, choose you.

Next step: End your friendship with compassion and grace and time for the self-care of No Contact.

Are you ready to stop silencing and hiding yourself in an attempt to ‘please’ or protect yourself from others? My book, The Joy of Saying No: A Simple Plan to Stop People Pleasing, Reclaim Boundaries, and Say Yes to the Life You Want (Harper Horizon), is out now.

The Joy of Saying No by Natalie Lue book cover. Subtitle: A simple plan to stop people pleasing, reclaim boundaries, and say yes to the life you want.
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