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How to Strengthen Your Relationship/Friends with benefits... something more?


Hi Sharon,

I am 28, and really confused about a situation I'm in. I would love to hear your take.

About six months ago I started seeing a girl, 34, in what you could call a glorified friends-with-benefit scenario.  That is to say, it ended up being everything a relationship is without it being, for lack of a better word, official.  Just as a disclaimer - correct me if I'm wrong, but from what I've read I know you don't advocate sex before a relationship, and of course now I concur, but rather than focus on that I'd love to just see what I can do with what has already happened... if anything. I hope thatís okay, I'd just rather not concentrate on something I cannot change, and that I have already learnt from.

So anyway, this girl told me at the beginning of our 'relationship' that she was not looking for a relationship, because she had gotten out of a 7 year relationship the year before (I believe there was some abuse involved, I'm not certain to what extent, a friend of her told me this while appealing with me to 'stick around because you guys obviously love one another).   I was fine with this at the time.

Over the past few weeks, I've started to realize that I want more.  I wanted to be proud of us, and I guess I wanted to be made proud of.  So once I realized these things, let them really sit for awhile, and was certain of my intent, I talked to her.  I told her what I wanted.  She told me that she still couldn't do a relationship, that she felt she had nothing to give.  We cried, we talked, we spent another 'last night' together, we left, all the while kissing, telling each other that we loved each other. Aside from the primary reason she gave me, she also told me that the age gap was a concern, that she felt sometimes I isolated myself, and that she was afraid I'd leave her.  

I have empathy for her... I know I can never fully understand the hurt of her past relationship.  Because of this, even though in a way it doesn't make sense, I do respect what she wants; and the notion of convincing someone to want me has no appeal to me.  So I told her that I understand, but that it was really starting to affect me - that I loved her, but I needed to take care of myself, and that if she wasn't certain about me, then maybe I needed time to get over her.

So what I really want to ask you Sharon, is whether there is anything I can do...  or should've done. Or is this all I really can do, and sincerely just try to move on.  But I sometimes second guess myself.... we had made plans to go out of town to meet her family sometime this year likely, we were exclusive, we told each other that we loved each other, and I don't think she is the manipulative type in that regard.  But the lack of some type of firm commitment, it was really starting to get to me, and I couldn't deny it.

I really sometimes feel like maybe I should've done something more, like I should pick up the phone, talk to her. Be there.  But, on the other hand, I also know that this all sounds like I am making excuses for her. That if she wanted me, she'd let me know, and me pushing doesn't help.  Its just such a paradox - to know that maybe the best way to help someone you love is to not be there.  

Do you think I am doing the right thing? Do you think I should try to talk things over with her again? Not try and convince her of anything - just listen, talk.  But I really miss her you know. Yeah you know, I guess you've felt this, and probably hear it all the time.  I just don't know what to do or think, and I'd love to hear your insight.  

Thank you.

Dear Sam,

I am a firm believer in not assuming anything but doing all you can to find out what is happening in a situation. It is obvious there is something there between you and so I recommend that you ask her some questions and perhaps make a comment or two.

The first thing I would ask her is what she meant by your isolating yourself from her. When you ask questions make sure you ask several questions until it is very clear what the other person means by what they say. Usually, it is best to not make comments at that time but tell the other person that you would like to think about what was said and then take some time to assess what they say before you comment.

As to the age difference, that really is not a significant age difference at your age. Her being afraid you will leave her is her own fear.

So, I would ask her if you can ask her a question about something she said and then ask her about the isolation thing, then tell her you would like to think about it and get back to her.

Then I would write down a few questions you would like to ask her and then go ahead and ask some questions that might help her to think differently, or at least will giver you more clarification. I would tell her that you are not trying to convince her of having a relationship with you because that would never work but you really would like to ask some questions to help get things clear. Tell her that what she thinks is very important to you.

Perhaps something like these questions. (after she has clarified that isolation thing)

1. Since the age difference is not important to you how much does the age difference influence her not wanting to get into a relationship?

2. How long does she think that her ex will have the power to stop her from getting into a relationship or is that really the problem?

3.  What did you mean by having nothing to give?

4. What is your biggest fear in having a relationship with me?

Hopefully, this will reveal more to you. After that, you can decide if you want to settle for awhile longer to see how it goes. Usually, I recommend that you move on but am not sure about this one until I have more information. I suggest you talk to her and ask these questions and then get back with me with more input unless you figure it out yourself by talking to her.  

At the least, you will have learned how to communicate and really get to the bottom of what another person is thinking. Ask questions until you have your answers and this also makes her know that you really care how she feels

Hope this helps. Let's do a follow through

Sharon Crandall  

How to Strengthen Your Relationship

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Sharon Crandall


Over 30 years of working with individuals, families, and businesses. Teaching classes, private coaching--helping design individual life plans,, private personality assessment, group workshops, and training others to become Personality Consultants and Life Coaches.

Certified in two year program of Personality Science. Certified in secondary Personality Science program from a different institution. Trained in various workshops for Life Coaching, Self-educated from numerous books and programs, plus private training from Personality Science experts.

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Hundreds of people from all walks of life including private individuals, couples, families, and businesses--from homemakers to CEO's Worked with many groups in workshops and classes. Worked with businesses particularly in customer relations/service and sales.

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