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Am I Stupid for Loving a Guy Who Only Wants Sex?

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Cede101 asks:

So there is this guy that I really really like. I don't know how to get to him without having to put myself out there. He says he cares but then when we are with our friends he won't even talk to me. When we are alone he is always by me but wants to do anything other than talk, it seems like he only wants sex. We messed around once but I don't know what to do now. Am I stupid for falling in love with him and pretty much doing anything so that he will stay closer to me?

Heather Corinna replies:

I don't know about you, but the times I call myself things like stupid are times I feel really bad about myself, usually for doing something I don't feel good about. Then I call myself something like that and I feel even worse, and have an even harder time making choices that are about being kind to myself, because I'm being really mean to me. So, I try to avoid calling myself that and when I do, work hard to walk it to the rubbish bin and throw that word away, recognizing that I'm not stupid and that putting myself down isn't anything close to helpful. I suggest you do the same thing.

I don't think you're stupid. I think the kinds of feelings you are having can be really confusing and tough to navigate, for all of us, but especially when we're new to them. The feelings we have for someone like this are also sometimes in conflict with the way they treat us: as weird as it can seem, sometimes we can feel really into someone who, when we check in with our heads, it doesn't make any sense to feel that into. Romantic or sexual feelings are often illogical and we don't always have them for people who feel the same way or, who do, but still aren't a good choice for us to try and have relationships with. Having certain feelings doesn't always make us, or anyone else, capable or enacting them in healthy or reasonable ways.

I want to start by making some distinctions. It sounds like, as you say, you really, really like this guy. It sounds like you have romantic and maybe sexual feelings for this guy. Okay. But I'm not hearing anything in this that sounds like love to me.

Love is a lot bigger and more complex than like or feeling in love, and involves things we have to mutually build like trust, respect and compassion. When we have love and share love, we're taking care of each other. When we feel love, we're wanting to care for someone else but also care for ourselves, not treat ourselves poorly or put ourselves in situations where we feel bad about ourselves or let someone else make us feel bad. We also have to know people deeply to love them, so it'd be difficult to have love for someone who won't even talk with us and really let us in. I can't say love is easy, because it can be really challenging, but it's not this variety of push-me-pull-me hard. Lastly, love tends to feel really good, not bad like this. I think it can help to make those distinctions because if we want to love and feel love, we need to know what it looks and feels like to find and nurture it, and this ain't it.

Usually, I'm the one who creates the titles to these pieces and adds tags, but you wrote out both yourself. You say this guy only wants sex, and you added some tags to this post: abused, discarded, hard, hurtful, used and wanting only one thing. That all doesn't sound like what he wants or the way he's been treating you has left you feeling very good. That certainly doesn't sound like anything resembling love, and those aren't words or feelings we'd tend to associate with healthy, happy relationships.

From the way you titled and tagged your question and from what you're saying here, it sounds to me like you know this person isn't available to you for what you want. It also sounds like this guy may want things that you don't and you may want things he doesn't. To boot, it sounds like this person isn't treating you very well sometimes and you're also not treating yourself very well.

You ask about doing "pretty much anything" so he will stay -- get? -- closer to you, and what I think about that. My answer is that it depends on what you mean.

You say you don't know how to get to him without putting yourself out there. Anytime we want to pursue something with someone else, especially an intimate relationship, and make clear what we want, we'll need to put ourselves out there. That's not unreasonable, since none of us are mind-readers.

If you mean doing things like telling him how you feel and what you want, I don't think that's stupid at all: that's what we will usually need to do with people. If you mean things like spending time with him if he is treating you with respect and care (not just saying he cares), asking him to talk with you, having any kind of sex that you also really want to have, on your own terms and not just because that's what someone else wants, or organizing a midnight ukelele serenade to demonstrate your affection, I think those kinds of things are just fine to do with or for someone who we have good reason to believe is or will be receptive to them and would also do the same kinds of things for or with you.

On the other hand, if you mean things like messing around and/or having any kind of sex you don't want, putting up with being treated like you don't exist when there are other people around, asking to talk again and again and having him only answer that by putting his hand in your pants, or jumping off the Empire State Building to demonstrate your feelings, I'd say that's not so wise (and also dangerous, especially that bit with the building). Those are not the kinds of things we should have to do so someone will be interested in us or spend time with us, and aren't the kinds of things that are going to net us anything positive. Those are things we do when we're not caring for ourselves and are allowing others to treat us with equal carelessness.

If and when you only want a sexual relationship with someone who wants that, that can be just fine. But when only one person wants that and the other wants something else, it's a recipe for heartbreak. I don't know if it's true that all he wants from you is sex. But some of the ways he's behaving make it seem that way, don't sound caring or respectful and -- no surprise here -- you're feeling pretty lousy. You're feeling bad and know you feel bad, but it sounds like you're not taking care of yourself by recognizing that and getting away from it so that you don't feel that way anymore.

Now, I don't know why it is that you like this guy, since despite him saying he cares about you now and then, the way he's treating you in front of others doesn't reflect that. Someone who ignores me in public and will only make moves on me when I want to talk and be seen in a bigger way doesn't sound very awesome to me. But I'm sure you have your reasons for liking him. All the same, even if there are things about this guy to like and fall for, I think there is compelling evidence that trying to press on with him wouldn't make you happy.

There are going to be people in our lives we have certain feelings for and want certain kinds of relationships with. But having those feelings and wanting those relationships alone doesn't mean all those folks will be available for those relationships -- literally or emotionally -- or will be the right people for us to pursue those relationships with. One bare basic for them being the right kind of people is them demonstrating clear interest in sharing what we want. One bare basic for knowing they are not sound people to pursue relationship with is them showing clear disinterest in what we want, or us feeling clear disinterest in what they do. If you feel pretty sure this guy only wants sex and know that's not what you want, you've got a clear demonstration of disinterest on his part for what you want and a clear knowledge of your own disinterest in what he does. If he's refusing to acknowledge your presence with friends, that's another clear signal of disinterest in any kind of love or care for you.

Sometimes we can fall in love with falling in love. In other words, we can get so wrapped up in the feelings, ideas or fantasies of what being in love is or could be that we stop clearly seeing -- or never do in the first place -- what's really going on and who the person really is we're projecting those feelings or wishes unto. Even when those feelings really hurt, we can get a little lost in that hurt, because it's a powerful feeling, and maybe we just want to feel something powerful, even if it sucks. Some people also grew up with the idea that love relationships are only real if they hurt, a terrible idea that's also not at all true.

It's also easy sometimes to get caught up in the pursuit of someone who is resisting us or what we want: it can seem like if we can get them to change their tune, and fall magically in love with us, get them to start behaving like we want them to, then we'll have won and proven both our own worth and the worth of our wants and feelings.

Bzzzt. Loving and being loved is about honoring and celebrating who we are and what we want. Loving someone and being loved isn't about trying to get someone to act like a different person than they are or getting them to feel or want something they don't: that's actually just as ooky in some ways as trying to get someone to have sex they don't want to have. When a love relationship is right and is most likely to go well, no one will need to be dragged to it kicking and screaming, and no one will have to do things they don't want to in the meantime, or be treated like crap, in order to make a love relationship happen. If any of those things are going on, we can be sure that love was either never there in the first place or that its train has since left the station.

Who knows, maybe this guy has some maturity he needs to grow before he's ready for a relationship with you (or anyone) where he doesn't behave badly. Maybe he has troubles communicating and needs to work on that. If either of those things are true, they'll take a good deal of time and work he does for himself, by himself. They're not likely to happen in the next few days, weeks or even months.

Maybe he just doesn't feel about you how you feel about him and that's not going to change ever. Or maybe he's just a stinker and that won't change, either. Whatever the reason, it seems clear he's not ready for or interested in what you want and need now and clear that you feel crappy in this. You can fix that easily by letting this go and moving towards the kinds of people and relationships that you really want and that make you feel good.

I think you, like anyone, are going to be best served investing your heart and time in someone who makes you feel good right from the start and throughout, not bad, who treats you with care -- rather than just saying they care, while not matching those words with actions -- who wants the things you want and feels the way about you that you feel about them. It sounds like this isn't someone with whom you're likely to find any of that, so I'd suggest you cut your losses now and walk away. If you don't know of anyone in your life right now who makes you feel good who you have romantic feelings for, that's okay. There isn't always someone like that in any of our lives at any given time, but life goes on because romantic relationships are only one kind of relationship and one part of our lives. Better to hold out for the good stuff than make ourselves miserable with something substandard at best, and really awful or toxic, at worst.

One thing I'd suggest that you do to figure this out, and to have better luck moving forward in romantic relationships, is to take some time to think about what you really want. Obviously, you don't want to be treated like an object or a ghost. It also sounds like right now, one thing you know you don't want is a relationship that's only about sex. But what do you want? So many people get so frustrated with not finding or getting what they want in relationships, but when you ask what they want, they can only say what they don't want. It's hard to find and co-create what we want if we don't know what that is, and it's easier to get what we want -- and get good at ditching what we know isn't it -- if we can have a clear idea of what that is and then put that out there to others clearly. That way, we can ask if they want what we do, and if they say no or that they aren't sure (or won't answer at all), we can know to get gone before we get invested.

I'm going to leave you with a few links that I think might help you in that process and in sorting out if this deal with this guy is really worth any more of your time and your heart (even though I bet you already know the answer):

written 27 Jan 2011 . updated 27 Jan 2011

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