Dear Amy: I am a 26 year old female in a “friends with benefits” relationship with “Paul” (28 years old).
Paul and I were clearly in agreement on casual sex and an unattached formula, but it looks like I fell in love with him.
He’s the perfect man I had always imagined my partner would be.
I think he has feelings for me too, but maybe he’s too scared to show affection and tell me how he really feels.
He often talks about how much he loves me and at the same time talks about his other love interests. It puts me in a very confused state.
I don’t know if he really loves me or if he’s just playing with me.
How do I know if this man really loves me?
Dear Confused: Your question illustrates the idea that – for some people – expressing honesty and emotional intimacy seems to be more difficult than tolerating the uncertainty and other risks of casual sex.
The story that you and “Paul” are playing now is centuries old. That’s the stuff of romantic comedies and romance novels (“Bridgerton,” anyone?).
If you’re daring enough, you could take on the important developmental experience of jumping off the emotional cliff just by telling the truth. After that you will inhale either a delightful and surprising expression of the same, a heartbreaking (but brief) confession that your feelings are not mutual, or an expression of a confused in-between where he tells you he doesn’t know. just not how he feels.
Telling the truth about your own emotions is beautiful and liberating, as long as you fully understand that you cannot control the outcome.
No matter what Paul says in response, be careful what he does. Because sex doesn’t automatically translate into love, you should watch if he wants to spend time with you doing non-sexual things: walks, chats, dates with coffee, and watching movies. If he doesn’t choose non-sexual friendship and companionship, then you have your answer.
Dear Amy: After my husband’s recent unexpected death, I learned of his longtime affair with a coworker (carried out while they were traveling for work).
I found emails, letters, and enough evidence to want to put any spouse beyond anger.
I have a hard time dealing with grief and anger at the same time.
Should I tell my adult children about their father or take this secret with me to the grave?
– Angry widow
Angry Dear, you are going through the first cycles of grieving, made worse by your understandable anger over your husband’s affair.
You see it as either / or: Say, or take this secret to the grave.
However, when you have just experienced a huge loss, the wisest thing to do is… wait. If possible, you should wait several months to make important decisions. What you choose to do in those first few days will help set the course for the rest of your life.
For now, file your decision to disclose this to your children. Remember, they are in mourning too. I believe you will eventually want to talk to them about it, but if you do it later on, you will be much more intentional, calmer, and more emotionally available to help your children through their own reactions.
I invite you to consult for mourning. Although hospice organizations offer grief groups, because your grief is complicated by betrayal, you should seek individual counseling. You would certainly do well to reveal this to a professional and sort out your own feelings of loss and anger.
Dear Amy: My kids love my cooking and often give me gifts that support my hobby.
This Christmas a son gave me a recently published cookbook. It’s a niche gift, and I know he put a lot of thought into choosing it for me. Although I was very happy with it, I had bought the book for myself about a month ago.
What do you do in a situation where you receive as a gift something you already have? Do you say thank you and don’t mention that you already have this item or tell them you have it?
– The contested label
Dear Challenge: In that case, I think you should say to your son, “Well, this shows that you really understand me, because I had bought the same book before and I love it!”
Would you mind if I returned it for another cookbook? I’ll do it with you in mind and promise to make a fuss of it.