Q. I have been dating a great girl for two years. For the past year she has been pressuring me to take the relationship to the next level. I really like being with her and we have a lot of fun together. But she is not marriage material, not for me. But I really like talking with her. She gets me. She has become my best friend and I do not want to lose that. How do you suggest I go about ending the romantic relationship but remaining friends?
A. You’re asking the wrong question. Try one of these: If she gets me and she’s so great, why am I afraid to commit to her? If she’s not marriage material, why would I even remain friends? When will I get some men in my life so I stop relying exclusively on women for my emotional support?
I don’t know how old you are or if you’re even remotely ready for a long-term, committed relationship. If you’re young, say, in your 20’s, you have plenty of time to feel the pain of loss, learn your lessons, and eventually find true love. If you’re older than that, and have gone through this a time or two before, it’s time to figure out what’s really going on.
If you’ve done your dual column, plus/minus analysis and she’s come out looking pretty good, then what’s keeping you from taking it to the next level? Is she pushing too hard? Have you spoken to her about it? Have you asked some mature buddies for input? Has anything else happened for you, or between the two of you, that you haven’t mentioned here or to her?
Perhaps there’s some behavior of hers that really gets under your skin and you’ve been afraid to talk with her because you don’t want to hurt her feelings. Maybe sex has become predictable, you’ve lost interest and you have no idea how to spice things up. Or could it be you want something else, aren’t sure what it is exactly, but are scared to let her go completely?
My experience working with hundreds of men has shown me that there’s usually something quite obvious lurking in the shadows. Take the time and ask for the help you need to get honest with yourself. That sort of introspection will most likely reveal the truth and point you in the right direction.
If she’s simply not the right one for you, why would you remain friends? Now, I know I’ll get a lot of flack for this from some women-and a lot of feminized men. But I have found that once men develop trusting relationships with other men, they realize they have no need for those friendships with women or old girlfriends.
Whether you’d admit to it without water boarding, there is a sexual component at play in most friendships between men and women. It may be innocent flirting, repressed mommy issues, or you’re playing with fire. But whatever it is, it affects how you are as a man and it affects the quality and content of the relationship.
When you’re with the men-and I’m assuming you’re straight-you are not thinking about getting into another man’s pants. You’re not trying to act charming (although it happens in group and the men learn some valuable lessons about treating men like men, and not treating them like the women they’re trying to seduce). You’re simply trying to help, get help, build trust, or have fun. It’s simpler, cleaner, and just what men need.
If you decide to end this relationship, end it. Be straight up. Be honest. Be a gentleman and then move on. And then take this opportunity to rely on men for your emotional support. That way, the next time you’re conflicted about a relationship with a woman, you’ll have the men around to help guide you to the truth. Because when you find the right one, you won’t want to let her go.
Wayne M. Levine, M.A., mentors men to be better men, husbands and fathers. See how you can become a better man.