Welcome back to The Sex Column, our weekly advice series where we get the experts to resolve your dating dilemmas.
Last week we chatted to a couple who are maturing at different speeds.
This week we have a woman who is confused about her friend’s confession of love for her.
Does he like her? Or is she a Plan B? Or is she being just cynical?
Let’s get some expert advice.
‘A friend of mine has told me he has feelings for me. We’ve been friends for so long and I trust and adore him, but I’ve never thought of him romantically.
‘He was charming when he told me and I found that attractive, but I don’t know if I’m just flattered. I’ve been single for a long time and want a relationship.
‘I don’t know whether this is low self-esteem or not, but I’m wondering if he really does want to be with me or if he just wants to be in a relationship too.
‘He has no problem attracting women but they never last long. I worry I’m his Plan B.‘
What the experts say:
No one wants to be another’s second choice but we all change as life unfolds.
‘Plan A can be relegated to Plan Z and Plan B can become Plan A,’ says James McConnachie. ‘Don’t say no to life’s opportunities because of doubts and what-ifs.’
You say you trust and like him, and it’s clear he likes you. ‘But somehow you’ve interpreted his interest as an insult,’ says Rupert Smith. ‘That’s a pretty spectacular piece of emotional gymnastics.’
You wonder if this is low self-esteem: yes, partly, but it also says plenty about your expectations of intimate relationships.
‘It’s interesting how much you invest in the idea that having been single for a while, any relationship must therefore be fuelled by desperation and a lowering of standards,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin.
Many successful relationships evolve from platonic friendships that initially showed no sign of romance.
‘In fact, I can’t think of a better foundation for a relationship than the friendship you describe,’ says McConnachie. ‘But, of course, what you’re really concerned about is that he is your Plan B.’
Although you describe his interest as flattering, your initial reaction is a subdued one and this is the part of you to listen to.
‘Instead of awakening excitement and attraction, he has inflamed feelings of low self-esteem and worth,’ says Rudkin.
‘It might be that his multiple relationships are putting you off or it might be that you avoid being with others because you fear being abandoned by them so it would be worth reflecting on this as you consider his proposition.’
So is rejection, feeling overlooked or being made to feel second best an experience you’re familiar with?
‘Before you sabotage your chances with your admirer or others, it would be helpful to look at your experience of close relationships from your parents onwards to see what patterns can be explored and changed,’ says Smith.
Facing your fears and learning to let yourself go within a union will help you recover from any patterns or survival strategies you find – but it must be the right relationship, says Rudkin.
‘If you truly don’t think he’s the one for you, then accept the flattery and let him know that you value his friendship, but you don’t want to be his lover.’
Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor
James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)
Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist
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