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Ask Dr. Norman Brown Your Own Question

Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 839
Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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I went out with a girl for a year or so, we broke up, then

Customer Question

I went out with a girl for a year or so, we broke up, then became friends. We talk all the time, no sex, no intimacy, but talk nearly every day. I need more and told her and she said she thinks of me as a friend only.

Obviously I need to move on, but stay friends with her? It's tough losing a potential mate and best friend at the same time.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.

Dr. Norman Brown :

How long did you know each other before your dating relationship began? How long after your breakup did you get your "best friends" habit started? did you have episodes of erotic tension during the early months of your "best friendship?"

Dr. Norman Brown :

What is the difference between sex and intimacy, and between intimacy and "talking nearly every day" as you understand these terms? The other two are quite specific, but Intimacy is vaguer. In the textbook I wrote (Love & Intimate Relationships) I used a list of 13 different types of intimacy, and sex & talking (as best friends will talk) were 2 of them; physical touch and closeness, such as massage, is a third. If you want I'll pull out my textbook and give you the whole list. But now my 10 additional years of research into the physical and emotional dynamics of love would add a 14th, namely "co-sleeping" or sleeping the night in the same bed. You might be curious to think about how many of these types of intimacy you actually have still with your ex girlfriend.

Dr. Norman Brown :

So there are 2 aspects of your question to focus on: 1. what is going on in your talking relationship now, and for how long? What intimacy do you have; and why might it be all she wants but not all you want? and 2. Why did you break up? Who drove that breakup? What were the reasons given?

Customer:

we only met a couple times before dating. Dated for 1+year, broke up both of us working too hard and living 1+ hour away from each other. A couple months after break up, we got together once in awhile for lunch, talked every few days on phone, friendship grew and grew of several years, became roommates with no sexual tension but now I have more feelings for her. I know limited chance of getting her back but if I stop seeing her as a friend maybe she would recognize she needs me? Or chance I lose my best friend too after she turned me down for more physical and permanent relationship.

Dr. Norman Brown :

You've written that she doesn't date anybody else and does treat you as her best friend, yes?

Customer:

yes

Dr. Norman Brown :

Please forgive me for asking lots of questions, but the more I understand about who you are and what she's all about, the more effective can my advice be.

Customer:

good, she doesn't really have other friends and really I don't either. I feel she's using me as a crutch because I'm safe and maybe if I stay away forawhile she'll recognize our need for each other. We haven't gone more than 5 days without talking in 10 years.

Dr. Norman Brown :

I take it that she rejected you, as you put it. Did she give any reason(s)? How old is she and how old are you? (Age and experience with romantic relationships usually makes a huge difference.) 10 YEARS?

Customer:

We're both 46. Both share same life ideas, etc. She's never been married or lived with a man until me (platonic). When we dated, years ago sex and intimacy was good, we just blew it working at careers barely seeign each other. Yes 10 years as friends. I've dated a little, she's had maybe 3 dates in 10 years and she's attractive, smart, etc.

Dr. Norman Brown :

10 YEARS sounds like she's got some huge conscious or unconscious issues with sexual relationships (such as molestation in childhood), or she's an adult child of divorce(I wrote my doctoral dissertation on their love relationships) and/or her parents had a very toxic relationship, or or lets see what you've written now.

Customer:

I only recently fell back in love with her. We really respect each other and care to spend time together. Problem is I want intimacy and potentially sex. She wants a friend only

Dr. Norman Brown :

something must be lurking in her history and unconscious mind that's big enough to crush sexual feeling--or she believes something horrible about herself would show if she let a romantic relationship happen again. Are you being eaten alive by your job? Is she being devoured by her job? Or might she be in love with her work, or perhaps her boss?

Customer:

no work, she's now semi-retired at 46. My work is very reasonable. I let us go on too long obviously and thought being friends was great. Problem is I need more and need to meet someone else. I know there is a small chance she could come around but it's going to be hard to lose my best friend while I try to find a girlfriend too.

Dr. Norman Brown :

You didn't mention whether or not you've had a more extensive relationship history yourself. If I want to help you find your way thru your "friend zone" to renewal of romantic love, I'd be helped if I could figure out why each of you, independently, either chose to never get too intimately involved or got hurt so badly once or twice that you didn't risk it again.

Customer:

not really. I've had sex with a couple brief encounters, but no intimate relationships and frankly didn't try for a long time. Just gave up. Now realized I need someone to share fun things with as a friend AND intimacy of a partner

Dr. Norman Brown :

But I like very much the way you've phrased what you'd be doing if you try to find somebody new to love. Because IF you keep talking to her every few days, and you start to date again, she could get jealous and start wanting you more. But something pretty big would have to come along to push her over the barrier she's erected for herself, because she's obviously very comfortable having a male friend but no male lover ever.

Customer:

I wonder if I cut her off from calls (nearly every day) sharing how the day went etc. she'll realize she needs more?? Problem is, I want/need those calls too. But, I've let it go for so long and ended up never looking elsewhere.

Dr. Norman Brown :

In 21years of teaching my psych of relationship class tocollege students, I watched hundreds of them have breakups and say "let's still be friends." They were just fooling themselves, by trying to get almost all of the closeness they had as lovers (just less frequently--and some even continued as "friends with benefits"). You're both hiding from the greater intensity of grief that you'd feel if you had to give up your verbal intimacy--because that's what you have. [That's why I asked what "intimacy" means to you if "talking almost every day" doesn't count.]

Customer:

I WAS satisfied with it obviously and she clearly is, but I want/need more. I'm trying to date now and signed up with eharmony so I'm going to, but in the back of my mind would give them up for her is she would come around. So, I'm trying, but question is do I date and still chat with her - keeps her very happy, me a little too, so I at least keep a friend, or try to cut her off to maybe get her to understand how much she'll miss me but with chance of losing her a friend forever

Dr. Norman Brown :

OK Here's a tentative approach, one you could try for several weeks and then report back about: YOU DON'T PULL AWAY from your friendship, unless and until YOU WANT TO. But you do start searching for a new love interest. I suggest you actually use an online dating source. From my limited experience eHarmony might have the best system for helping every client find a handful of people that could be very compatible, and who are pretty sure also that they want a serious and lasting relationship, if not also marriage.

Customer:

eharmony yesterday, asked girl out today (first time in years) so I'm trying. But we've still talked every day for months and think I may keep in touch with her until I find someone then start to wean off

Dr. Norman Brown :

So you're already on the same page as I am with your situation. Great. Yes, you do still chat with her as often as ever, as long as YOU want to. You DON'T HIDE that you want a real full love realtionship, so she knows you're going to find one, and sooner or later you're going to need to pull back from telling her everything and she's going to lose you [AND she's going to be very hurt by that. THAT might be what it takes to push her into dealing with whatever her deep-down barrier is. OR she might really sense that a sexual relationship with you isn't right for her. So a sexual relationship with someone closer by and more willing to compromise her self-sufficiency to have a real love is what you're ready to embrace. [I hope you realize that marriage provides "intimate friction"which means that you're so close that you rub each other the wrong way as well as the right way, some of each. But you love each other so much that you're willing to start growing beyond the self-sufficient ways you've been leading your life. I wonder if you might BOTH be adult children of divorce?

Customer:

yes

Customer:

I like the self sufficient comment.

Customer:

Thanks

Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 839
Experience: Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
Dr. Norman Brown and other Relationship Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Dr. Norman Brown replied 2 years ago.
It's wonderful that one of the keys to your liberation lying underneath what you were worried about is the legacy of having your parents divorce, and your clue was "self-sufficiency." I suggest you pay attention to the bumps and pop-it-into-reverse moments in your upcoming dating, because they will be related to grief&releasing your long attachment to your fellow-cold-feet-about-romantic-surrender best-friend-instead-of-spouse as well as your unconscious fears and conscious cluelessness about the processes of getting ever deeper in love. I'm excited about your prospects for a new start on love. I wooed my only wife beginning at age 41, marrying at 43, and I had a great burst of poetry-writing to celebrate the glorious dawning of my second half of life.(We're still chuggin & just preparing to move to E. Tennessee for Phase 4 of my long & exciting/hardworking career. I'd love to coach you on the process of your new relationship(s) or on reigniting your old one--tho I doubt that'll happen, and she might even not be well suited to you and vice versa. So give me a report in a couple weeks and ask for coaching and reality checks whenever your relations are lurching beyond your control, since that's the wildwild west where you do need to go, if you're going to get the girld/gold. Dial me up anytime, since the JA system sends specially addressed inquiries and report-backs straight into my aol inbox, so I'll notice.

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