Friend with Benefits is ILY’s newly launched bi-weekly advice column, spearheaded by Rae Witte. If you’d like to submit a question, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet your question to @raewitte with the hashtag #askily.
Entry 02 | February 23, 2018
Q: My boyfriend isn’t the romantic, affectionate type. He doesn’t say that he’s opposed to it or doesn’t like it. He says he’s just not used to it. Me, on the other hand, I am very affectionate. I love romance. I love to give and receive it. How do you think I should go about talking to him about it? We briefly mentioned it, but I didn’t know how to go about it so I just dropped it. What are some of your tips to have an effective conversation about this? I’d like us to reach a common ground. I definitely don’t want him to think I’m nagging or trying to change him, but it is something that means a lot to me. I know he loves me so it’s not really like I need it to validate our relationship, BUT it would be very nice.
I think the most valuable thing you have going for you here is that he isn’t opposed to it and hasn’t said he dislikes romantic affection. However, as it is something you want, I think it’s important to go into this with patience and expecting to compromise.
If it’s spontaneous romantic acts you’re looking to receive, you should probably not hold your breath for I think physical affection is not something you should live without, particularly if it’s important to you. It it will come off as nagging if you are looking for flowers for no reason and surprise weekend trips from someone that doesn’t inherently operate so thoughtfully and giving, but I think people (men, specifically) can learn to give and receive physical affection even if they’ve never been the type.
That said, I also think this is much less of a formal “let’s sit down and have a talk” type of thing at first, rather than something you’ll want address over time as situations and opportunities arise. Most importantly, your actions and your words in reaction to his actions will guide the conversation. I think verbal affirmation of the things you’re looking for on the rare occasion he does them is a great place to start. By pointing out and praising the desired actions, it will hopefully turn into something he will want to replicate with you. Using statements like, “I like when you…,” “It makes me feel good when you…,” or “I appreciate it so much when you…” will affirm the natural (albeit rare) romantic or affectionate actions.
If they are so rare that these opportunities to give affirming feedback are few and far between, try offering the affection you’re looking for and pointing out how good it feels to be able to give that to him. If you’re a naturally very affectionate person, as you mentioned, you won’t need to do it all the time, but try to remember to say things to point out how happy you are to be able to do it with him. Although it may seem obvious, it will be verbalizing what you’re already feeling. “I like to be able to do this for you,” or “I’m glad that you’re the one I get to give this to” can show your appreciation for him and how much you like to be engaged in these things with him without coming off condescending or pushing him outside of his comfort zone with statements like, “See how I do this” or “I wish you did this for me like I do for you.”
I think after you try this, it could be very worthwhile to have a conversation about it by acknowledging what it is your looking for using examples of things you appreciated that he’s done and how it has made you feel.
Entry 01 | February 9, 2018
Q: A couple months before I moved to a different state in December, I met a great guy after breaking up with the man I thought I’d marry. Obviously, I took things very slow as it was my first time “dating” in my adult life after a long term relationship. We saw each other at home over the holidays (our parents are from neighboring hometowns), and I just got back from my first weekend visit.
The weekend went well until the day I was leaving when we started talking about the future. Long story short, he says since it would have to be him who moves in the next year or so to make this work, he’s not sure he could commit to that.
Either way, I don’t know when I’m going to see him again. I bought tickets in December to this festival where he lives that takes place in March because he always talked about going. I didn’t tell him about it, because I wasn’t sure what was going to happen when I moved. So either way, I have these tickets. We haven’t officially broke it off, but I’m not totally optimistic, so I was just going to give them to him. How should I say that?
Although you haven’t officially ended it, it seems you’ve made your decision on what’s going to happen which is half the battle. Leaving your fate in someone else’s hands is where a lot of us get it wrong. If you are dead set on giving the tickets to him, I recommend utilizing a “less is more” approach.
Leaving your fate in someone else’s hands is where a lot of us get it wrong.
Where offering them with a multiple choice of options for your not-boyfriend to choose from may seem the simplest and most efficient way to get his answer, we all know that titleless other halves look at this type of thorough communication as an ultimatum. Whether it’s via text or over the phone (because let’s be honest, if you know it isn’t going anywhere and you had this talk IRL, a text will suffice), I think you should go with direct, to the point, and nice rather than the multiple choice question.
Craigslist is less the hassle than trying to communicate with a man about where and when the demise of the relationship will come.
Instead of saying, “I bought these for you want me to join you or not?,” I’d go with, “I bought these for you because I knew you’d like them.” Because you are so clear headed on the reality of the relationship and where it’s headed, I think it’s worthwhile to simply just offer them without desire to use the tickets as test to where he stands on the relationship. You already had that discussion. Believe him. If he changes his mind, that’s an entirely other discussion. He might ask if you are going to come, then it’s on you to choose whether or not you want to prolong the relationship another travel weekend only to have another Sunday night conversation about what you two are doing.
Sell them on Craigslist. Craigslist is less the hassle than trying to communicate with a man about where and when the demise of the relationship will come.