Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Life...in general => Dating => Topic started by: lisen on January 09, 2012, 09:38:21 AM

Title: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: lisen on January 09, 2012, 09:38:21 AM
Hi EHellions,

Question from my sister, Maja, today.

"I have known "Lawrence" for about two years. We are both part of a religious community that believes in courtship, or very intentional relationships with an end-goal of marriage. About four months ago, Lawrence and I started spending time alone together rather than meeting in groups, and having serious discussions to get to know each other better. A few days ago, we had a discussion about the nature of our relationship. He told me that he thinks we are perfectly suited for one another, have all of the right things in common (eg. perspectives on religion, family, finance, careers, etc.), he could see himself having a happy marriage with me, and he is very attracted to me. He then told me that he doesn't want a romantic relationship, but hopes we can continue on as  friends, because he is afraid adding a romantic element to the relationship will ruin it.

I am understandably very hurt. I do not ususally get so emotionally involved with men unless there is a potential romantic relationship on the table. I do not want to be that girl who is in love with a man who has made his desire to "just be friends" known. I want to convey to Lawrence that I think he has been duplicitous in his behaviour. More importantly, though, I want to know how to politely tell him to 'back off' the relationship if there is not a commitment behind it. For example, now that he has expressed that he does not want to be in a romantic relationship, I will not go out for dinner with him, have him over 'to visit', etc. How do I explain that all the things he likes about our 'friendship', the things which he does not want a romantic relationship to 'ruin', will be going away anyway? And how do I politely decline his invitations? (I think it would look bad to say "I'm sorry, unless you ask me to be your girlfriend, I will not be available for brunch on Saturday. hee!)

Thanks,
Maja"

My sister is interested in advice from an etiquette standpoint. We all know that she has chosen to be part of a more unusual religious group, so comments about the 'oddness' of her lifestyle are not necessary. As I understand it, Lawrence, as a member of this same community, is aware of all the rules of relationships and should in theory be living by them.

Also, because she doesn't say it, I wanted to add that my sister is absolutely smitten with this guy. She is in love with him and wants to marry him.

I advised her to continue to be friendly to him in group situations to convey her continued interest in him, but to stay more distant in all other contexts. I guess this would have the effect of making him change his mind if he is that attached to the relationship and misses her, or it would help her gain some emotional distance and perspective.

Thoughts?

Thanks,
Lisen.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: cicero on January 09, 2012, 09:43:23 AM
because it does sound as if he is saying two opposite things - is it possible that what he is saying is: " i really like you and see you as wife material. I don't want to *ruin* the marriage possibility by bringing in *romance* and would like to continue developing our relationship toward marriage"??

(let me say that i am not sure what the courtship entailed. is this a strictly 'hands off' [as in some jewish religious sects] or everything but scrabble?)

Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Shoo on January 09, 2012, 09:51:09 AM
OP, your sister should run for the hills.  There is something very off about this guy.

She needs to break it off with him unless and until he is ready to commit to the kind of relationship SHE wants.  There is absolutely nothing rude or impolite about telling him that she is not willing to settle for less than her ideal of what marriage is.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Yvaine on January 09, 2012, 09:52:28 AM
From what I understand of these communities, sometimes people are actually discouraged (by the religious authority figures) from marrying people they're strongly attracted to, because it is a sign that they're acting out of "lust" rather than guidance from deity. To me, this would seem counterintuitive, but to each their own. He may be under strong pressure to break off the relationship.

On the other hand, it's also possible that he is giving a sugar-coated breakup speech that he doesn't mean.

Unfortunately, neither option is likely to be a happy one for Maja. I think your advice to her is good.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: ShadesOfGrey on January 09, 2012, 09:56:01 AM
I think she simply needs to decline any invitations to be alone with him, and not issue any.  She should say to him "Lawrence, I understand and respect your feelings. However, my feelings for you have grown and I am disappointed that you do not share them.  Thus, I will not be able to spend alone time with you any longer.  It's too difficult for me, knowing you dont feel the same way. I hope you can understand." She should say this, at a time when she has an 'out' (a prior engagement, a friend that will physically come to get her, where ever she is - and it should be in a public place).

Good luck to her.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: lisen on January 09, 2012, 10:03:37 AM
(let me say that i am not sure what the courtship entailed. is this a strictly 'hands off' [as in some jewish religious sects] or everything but scrabble?)

Yes, it is like that. They practice Shomer Negiyah relationships, which, as I understand it, mean no touching. (I am not Jewish.)

Lisen.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: LadyL on January 09, 2012, 10:06:21 AM
Is it possible that he is under pressure to court and marry but isn't actually ready (emotionally or otherwise) to do so? How old are these two? 4 months is not a lot of time to make an informed decision about marriage.

I am of the mindset that anyone who claims to know a good thing when they see it but doesn't act the part doesn't deserve your time or attention. She should be relieved that she only wasted 4 months on him.

If he is being honest it seems like maybe he's afraid or just not ready to settle down, despite the conventions of their religion. If he's making up an excuse, well that's an unbecoming thing to do. Either way I think your sister should seek her own happiness apart from him and trust that the right person will come along - whether it's a more mature Lawrence or someone else entirely.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Bethalize on January 09, 2012, 10:08:25 AM
Pod to DigitalPumpkin. Lawrence doesn't get to have his cake and eat it. He certainly doesn't get to have all the Maya goodness without any of the supporting base. In fact, if he doesn't see the supporting base as the best bit Maya definitely shouldn't give any of herself to him, not her time or attention or anything. Simple but consistent is the way to go. "I'm sorry, Lawrence, but we weren't "just friends" and it would be inappropriate of me to continue our relationship." Denying any emotional involvement is a nasty control trick IMHO. "Ruin it" similarly. Make sure he knows that the relationship is "ruined" and over because he has declared himself not in love.

The only time I ever heard anything similar was from a man who was actually gay but who hadn't admitted it to himself. There are all sorts of other reasons why such an announcement might be made, but that's my anecdote to throw into the mix. In the case I was privy to the man wanted to enter into an arranged marriage to please his family and community. He didn't actually love my friend as a man loves a woman. Whichever way you slice and dice it, Lawrence doesn't sound like he's in the right mental place to love Maja. Eventually my friend married a man who was prepared to fall in love with her as well as respect her as his wife - as it should be. I hope Maja finds someone similar.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Reason on January 09, 2012, 10:08:47 AM
From an etiquette standpoint, the polite way to refuse an invitation is "Regrettably, I will not be able to attend. Thank you for inviting me."

When this is done enough times, the man in question is very likely to get the point that the relationship is fading very quickly. This may be what he wanted in any case, because no man in his right mind will insist on remaining friends if he wants more. Most men do not play hard to get.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: TurtleDove on January 09, 2012, 10:09:52 AM
I do think that the particulars of their religion play a major role here.  I am not sure how romance factors in if there is no touching.  If the idea is no touching of your romantic partner anyway, I do not understand why he would have specifically said he wants no romance.  What does your sister want from him that he is not already giving her?
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: RingTailedLemur on January 09, 2012, 10:09:57 AM
I think she simply needs to decline any invitations to be alone with him, and not issue any.  She should say to him "Lawrence, I understand and respect your feelings. However, my feelings for you have grown and I am disappointed that you do not share them.  Thus, I will not be able to spend alone time with you any longer.  It's too difficult for me, knowing you dont feel the same way. I hope you can understand." She should say this, at a time when she has an 'out' (a prior engagement, a friend that will physically come to get her, where ever she is - and it should be in a public place).

Good luck to her.

This is good.  Maybe she could also explain to Lawrence that she does want romance and marriage, and that she must spend time with a man who is looking for the same thing.  It might look unseemly to be visiting/courting another man if she continues to meet with Lawrence.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: lisen on January 09, 2012, 10:18:13 AM
How old are these two?

Maja is 23 and Lawrence is 22.

I do think that the particulars of their religion play a major role here.  I am not sure how romance factors in if there is no touching.  If the idea is no touching of your romantic partner anyway, I do not understand why he would have specifically said he wants no romance.  What does your sister want from him that he is not already giving her?

What she wants is to have verbal/public acknowledgement as his "girlfriend" (I am quite sure they don't use this term.), rather than as his "friend". The romance would come from her status as "his" girlfriend, as well as bringing them to higher levels of emotional intimacy. Essentially, it would make her feel like she was in a protected, sanctioned relationship, rather than just being 'a friend'.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Seraphia on January 09, 2012, 10:23:18 AM
I think she simply needs to decline any invitations to be alone with him, and not issue any.  She should say to him "Lawrence, I understand and respect your feelings. However, my feelings for you have grown and I am disappointed that you do not share them.  Thus, I will not be able to spend alone time with you any longer.  It's too difficult for me, knowing you dont feel the same way. I hope you can understand." She should say this, at a time when she has an 'out' (a prior engagement, a friend that will physically come to get her, where ever she is - and it should be in a public place).

Good luck to her.

This. He's afraid adding a "romantic" element will ruin it? Especially in a hands-off setting, alone time and deep conversations about the future IS romance. Effectually, he's said that the primary element of their time together is the one he's afraid of/doesn't want anymore, and he wants things to go back to the easier previous level. However, there's no way to rewind a relationship back to its previous state. It will always grow and change, but it will never go backward.

If she wants a polite way to decline invitations, I'd suggest something like: "I'm afraid I won't be able to hang out tonight/go to lunch alone with you/etc. Those are things I do with people I'm pursuing a romantic relationship with, and we aren't doing that. I will see you at [large group meeting]." It might feel a little harsh, but the harshness comes from truthfully stating intentions, not meanness or cruelty. If he dislikes it or complains that he still wants to be friends, she can point out that she will see him in group settings, but one-on-one time is reserved for romantic relationships, which he has specifically said he doesn't want.

For her own peace, I hope she sticks to that. Compromising boundaries for the sake of romantic feelings just makes the romance feel uneasy.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Yvaine on January 09, 2012, 10:24:25 AM
What she wants is to have verbal/public acknowledgement as his "girlfriend" (I am quite sure they don't use this term.), rather than as his "friend". The romance would come from her status as "his" girlfriend, as well as bringing them to higher levels of emotional intimacy. Essentially, it would make her feel like she was in a protected, sanctioned relationship, rather than just being 'a friend'.

I think there's the issue, right there. I don't think they really have "girlfriends" in this setting--it goes from friend straight to fiancee by way of the serious talks you mentioned , and for whatever reason (whether it's in his own head or it's external pressure from the pastor, parents, etc.) he has decided he does not want to marry Maja. I definitely think dialing back the relationship to the friend level is what she needs to do; the "serious talks" have for whatever reason not worked out for them.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: anonymousmac on January 09, 2012, 11:05:13 AM
He then told me that he doesn't want a romantic relationship, but hopes we can continue on as  friends, because he is afraid adding a romantic element to the relationship will ruin it.

[...] I want to convey to Lawrence that I think he has been duplicitous in his behaviour. More importantly, though, I want to know how to politely tell him to 'back off' the relationship if there is not a commitment behind it. For example, now that he has expressed that he does not want to be in a romantic relationship, I will not go out for dinner with him, have him over 'to visit', etc. How do I explain that all the things he likes about our 'friendship', the things which he does not want a romantic relationship to 'ruin', will be going away anyway? And how do I politely decline his invitations? (I think it would look bad to say "I'm sorry, unless you ask me to be your girlfriend, I will not be available for brunch on Saturday. hee!)

Honestly, I don't necessarily think Lawrence has been duplicitous; I think he's trying very kindly to tell Maya that while she's very nice, after getting to know her more closely he's decided that he's not interested in marrying her.  He's telling her honestly that he doesn't want a romantic relationship with her, and she should believe him.  If I'm right, she won't have to find ways to decline his invitations, because he's already telling her that it's not going to work out.

If for some reason he's saying one thing, and then doing another by continuing to invite her to get together one-on-one, she should simply treat him as a friend with whom she's not courting:  group get-togethers are fine, but just decline any one-on-one invitations.  No long explanations are necessary.  "I won't go out with you unless I'm your girlfriend" sounds weird, yes, but how about "Sorry, you told me you don't want to pursue this relationship anymore, so I'm not really comfortable spending time with you one-on-one."

It hurts terribly, I know, but I don't think there's anything to be gained by trying to tell him how hurt she is by his not pursuing the courtship further, or how much he's missing out on by choosing not to be with her.  If he actually thinks he's still going to get the benefits of hanging out with her, simply let her actions show him otherwise.  If he's actually confused or conflicted, her best bet is still to believe what he's telling her and consider the courting relationship over, withdraw with dignity, and let him realize he's made a mistake and pursue her again.

My sympathies to your sister.  It hurts, but she also deserves to find someone who really does want to be with her, and I hope that she finds that person.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: AlephReish on January 09, 2012, 11:45:13 AM
I want to convey to Lawrence that I think he has been duplicitous in his behaviour. More importantly, though, I want to know how to politely tell him to 'back off' the relationship if there is not a commitment behind it. For example, now that he has expressed that he does not want to be in a romantic relationship, I will not go out for dinner with him, have him over 'to visit', etc. How do I explain that all the things he likes about our 'friendship', the things which he does not want a romantic relationship to 'ruin', will be going away anyway? And how do I politely decline his invitations? (I think it would look bad to say "I'm sorry, unless you ask me to be your girlfriend, I will not be available for brunch on Saturday. hee!)

In terms of expressing how she feels he's been duplicitous (which, by their rules, he may have been), this is when she should talk to her rabbi/rebbitzen and discuss it with them. In those communities, 4 months of that level of interaction is seen as the step before an engagement. She may not be able to tell him that she feels wronged, but a community leader would be able to have a talk with him about the right way to go about courtship.

Talking to her rabbi/rebbetzin may also help her to clarify what she wants and how best for her to get it within the rules of the community as well.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: RingTailedLemur on January 09, 2012, 11:52:51 AM
I want to convey to Lawrence that I think he has been duplicitous in his behaviour. More importantly, though, I want to know how to politely tell him to 'back off' the relationship if there is not a commitment behind it. For example, now that he has expressed that he does not want to be in a romantic relationship, I will not go out for dinner with him, have him over 'to visit', etc. How do I explain that all the things he likes about our 'friendship', the things which he does not want a romantic relationship to 'ruin', will be going away anyway? And how do I politely decline his invitations? (I think it would look bad to say "I'm sorry, unless you ask me to be your girlfriend, I will not be available for brunch on Saturday. hee!)

In terms of expressing how she feels he's been duplicitous (which, by their rules, he may have been), this is when she should talk to her rabbi/rebbitzen and discuss it with them. In those communities, 4 months of that level of interaction is seen as the step before an engagement. She may not be able to tell him that she feels wronged, but a community leader would be able to have a talk with him about the right way to go about courtship.

Talking to her rabbi/rebbetzin may also help her to clarify what she wants and how best for her to get it within the rules of the community as well.

Excellent idea.  Just talking through her feelings with someone who understands but isn't going to get upset or offended on her behalf might help.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: TurtleDove on January 09, 2012, 11:59:16 AM
Talking to her rabbi/rebbetzin may also help her to clarify what she wants and how best for her to get it within the rules of the community as well.

POD.  I think this situation is outside the norms of etiquette.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: MommyPenguin on January 09, 2012, 12:14:06 PM
I think she needs to be upfront with him that, if he isn't interested in continuing the courtship, she isn't going to be able to continue spending all that time with him.  She'd rather invest it in somebody who is considering marriage.  It might be that he took four months to decide that she wasn't right for him, and that's the point of courtship, but she should also make it clear that  courtship is intended to lead towards marriage, and if he isn't interested in taking it there, then she's not going to let him have his cake and eat it too by being his convenient friend.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: strangetimes on January 09, 2012, 01:15:13 PM
It sounds to me like he's behaving inappropriately.

If he's not ready to get married, he shouldn't be leading her on and interacting with her in a way that makes it seems he was interested in her. And now that he's made it clear that he's not interested in marrying her, he needs to leave her be.

And to a previous poster- Attraction is considered very important in Jewish marriages. They would be discouraged from getting married if they were not attracted to each other.

She needs to speak to her Rav or Rebbetzin and in the meantime- she should stay away from him.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Yvaine on January 09, 2012, 01:17:04 PM
And to a previous poster- Attraction is considered very important in Jewish marriages. They would be discouraged from getting married if they were not attracted to each other.

Sorry, I missed the part about Judaism and thought it was part of the Christian patriarchy/Quiverfull movement.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Shoo on January 09, 2012, 01:17:24 PM
I have a question.  If they were to get married, would he be intimate with her, or would they have a completely platonic marriage?
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: LEMon on January 09, 2012, 01:25:11 PM
I'm still a little confused about what he said.  It sounds like he both said 'I could see myself marrying you' and yet then said 'no romantic relationship'.  I think she needs to ask him if he sees this relationship progressing toward marriage in the future, or does he just see her as a friend.

(It may be he wishes to keep the emotions down while they continue to move forward toward marriage, and it maybe that he was trying to go back to just friends.)
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: bopper on January 09, 2012, 01:45:36 PM
Lawrence may like the idea of courtship because one does not have to be romantically attracted to the other person before starting courtship. Maybe he feels he doesn't have the skills or desire for that.  Perhaps he wants the social status of a wife and a wife who will do things around the house for him, but he doesn't want to be "romantic", whatever that means to him.  Maybe he is just socially pressured into getting married, but doesn't really want it. Maybe he really isn't attracted to your sister but does not know how to call it off.

So your sister should realize that the point of courtship is to see if you would be compatible...she has found out that she is not compatible with Lawrence. They have different views on marriage and what it means. She wants a partner.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Bexx27 on January 09, 2012, 01:46:09 PM
He then told me that he doesn't want a romantic relationship, but hopes we can continue on as  friends, because he is afraid adding a romantic element to the relationship will ruin it.

[...] I want to convey to Lawrence that I think he has been duplicitous in his behaviour. More importantly, though, I want to know how to politely tell him to 'back off' the relationship if there is not a commitment behind it. For example, now that he has expressed that he does not want to be in a romantic relationship, I will not go out for dinner with him, have him over 'to visit', etc. How do I explain that all the things he likes about our 'friendship', the things which he does not want a romantic relationship to 'ruin', will be going away anyway? And how do I politely decline his invitations? (I think it would look bad to say "I'm sorry, unless you ask me to be your girlfriend, I will not be available for brunch on Saturday. hee!)

Honestly, I don't necessarily think Lawrence has been duplicitous; I think he's trying very kindly to tell Maya that while she's very nice, after getting to know her more closely he's decided that he's not interested in marrying her.  He's telling her honestly that he doesn't want a romantic relationship with her, and she should believe him.  If I'm right, she won't have to find ways to decline his invitations, because he's already telling her that it's not going to work out.

If for some reason he's saying one thing, and then doing another by continuing to invite her to get together one-on-one, she should simply treat him as a friend with whom she's not courting:  group get-togethers are fine, but just decline any one-on-one invitations.  No long explanations are necessary.  "I won't go out with you unless I'm your girlfriend" sounds weird, yes, but how about "Sorry, you told me you don't want to pursue this relationship anymore, so I'm not really comfortable spending time with you one-on-one."

It hurts terribly, I know, but I don't think there's anything to be gained by trying to tell him how hurt she is by his not pursuing the courtship further, or how much he's missing out on by choosing not to be with her.  If he actually thinks he's still going to get the benefits of hanging out with her, simply let her actions show him otherwise.  If he's actually confused or conflicted, her best bet is still to believe what he's telling her and consider the courting relationship over, withdraw with dignity, and let him realize he's made a mistake and pursue her again.

My sympathies to your sister.  It hurts, but she also deserves to find someone who really does want to be with her, and I hope that she finds that person.

ITA. It sounds to me like he has decided he doesn't want a romantic relationship with her, for whatever reason. In his attempt to be "nice" and let her down easy, he's sending mixed messages. I am inclined to interpret "you would be an awesome wife, but let's just stay friends" as a version of "it's not you, it's me." It's time to write him off and move on.

If he does ask her to get together one-on-one, she can just say she's not comfortable with that now that she knows they're not heading toward a romantic relationship. She might even say directly that she needs to distance herself from him to work through her feelings and is not interested in being "just friends."

I won't say anything about whether she should talk to the rabbi because it's not clear to me whether he violated the norms of their community. In mainstream dating, there's nothing wrong with changing one's mind and it doesn't necessarily indicate leading someone on. In any case, it's better to find out his true feelings now than later.

(((Hugs))) to your sister. The situation sounds heartbreaking.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: DavidH on January 09, 2012, 01:52:26 PM
I think DigitalPumpkin and others have made great suggestions.  I wouldn't approach it as he's been duplicitous or I'll only go to dinner with you if I'm your GF, instead just let it go.  It takes time to realize that someone is right to marry and it sounds like they both invested the time with good intentions and that when he knew it wouldn't go in a romantic direction he told her.   Similarly, the I'll say yes if I'm your GF seems like it encourages hiim to misrepresent what's happening in the relationship.  Instead, just saying, I'm sorry you feel that way, but I want to devote my time to meeting someone who I'll eventually marry and since that won't be the case here, I must decline is more fair.

I must say, the combination of saying I could see us happily married, but I don't want the relationship to become romantic seems very conflicted.  I'm not sure how I'd interpret it.  In other circumstances I would think it meant I don't want to become physical until after marriage, but doing so is inconceivable in this setting. 

One alternative is for her to be equally candid and say that he is sending a very mixed message, is he saying he wants to marry her but not have a romantic relationship or that he doesn't want to marry her or that he wants to marry her in the future, but just not now.  If he is just confused, she might suggest that he talk to the rabbi to help him clarify his feelings and then proceed from there.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: NyaChan on January 09, 2012, 02:04:58 PM
I was actually in a similar position to your sister - we have a similar system of courtship in my religion, and I had been in a courtship of sorts for almost a year.  At that time, we had been talking so long that by our system, we should be able to tell whether we would get married or just part ways.  That was when the guy basically pulled the same lines as the one you described here.  My family was more upset than I was, but it was particularly bad because the length of time he had continued to speak to me implied that this would end in engagement and if it wasn't going to go that route (which judging by the reasons he gave he would have known it wasn't) - there was absolutely no reason why we should have been speaking or meeting alone.  I also found out after the fact that he had been engaging in a similar courtship process with another girl whilst talking with me. 

Now I'm not saying this guy is a jerk like the one I met.  But he knows how things work in his community - meeting with a girl alone implies that you are interested in a marriage one day.  Perhaps for him an ideal marriage doesn't include romance, but if he wanted a marriage without romance, he could have said that.  Instead he implied that he just wants to remain friends.  For him to continue trying to see Maja without the intention of marriage is taking advantage of her and prevents her from having the opportunity to wholeheartedly pursue other relationships that might actually go somewhere.  I lost a year in that process which I could have used to get to know other people, and she shouldn't have to miss out on that time.  I think she should explain that as their relationship is not going to end in marriage, there is no reason for them to meet alone and that she feels it would be inappropriate.  If I were her, I'd attend group settings even if he was there and act as if nothing bad had happened.  If he regrets having closer access to her, then you have to give him the opportunity to miss that access.  If he doesn't care at all, then she gets to save her pride a bit.   
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Searcher on January 09, 2012, 02:11:12 PM
Yeah, this seems to me to be a variation of "It's not you, it's me."

Regardless of his intentions, Lawrence hurt Maya and I think it's totally reasonable for her to want to convey that in an acceptable way and also express her desire for distance between them.

She could say, "Lawrence, given this disclosure, I'm afraid that there needs to be some boundaries and distance between us because unfortunately, I developed feelings for you which you claim you don't share and I find that hurtful.  We can't go back to being 'just friends.' With that in mind, I have to require that X between us cease and desist."
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: JoyinVirginia on January 09, 2012, 02:58:29 PM
He is not going to marry her, for whatever reason. I agree with pps that sister should not.be alone wwith him, and decline any invitations. He is still young at 22
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Editeer on January 09, 2012, 03:05:17 PM
Perhaps she can express it to him in terms of the religion's definitions of courtship.

"Lawrence, since you've made it clear that you don't see our relationship leading to marriage, I will no longer engage in courtship behavior with you. That means no dinners alone, no long private talks [or whatever]."
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: strangetimes on January 09, 2012, 04:52:14 PM
He then told me that he doesn't want a romantic relationship, but hopes we can continue on as  friends, because he is afraid adding a romantic element to the relationship will ruin it.

[...] I want to convey to Lawrence that I think he has been duplicitous in his behaviour. More importantly, though, I want to know how to politely tell him to 'back off' the relationship if there is not a commitment behind it. For example, now that he has expressed that he does not want to be in a romantic relationship, I will not go out for dinner with him, have him over 'to visit', etc. How do I explain that all the things he likes about our 'friendship', the things which he does not want a romantic relationship to 'ruin', will be going away anyway? And how do I politely decline his invitations? (I think it would look bad to say "I'm sorry, unless you ask me to be your girlfriend, I will not be available for brunch on Saturday. hee!)

Honestly, I don't necessarily think Lawrence has been duplicitous; I think he's trying very kindly to tell Maya that while she's very nice, after getting to know her more closely he's decided that he's not interested in marrying her.  He's telling her honestly that he doesn't want a romantic relationship with her, and she should believe him.  If I'm right, she won't have to find ways to decline his invitations, because he's already telling her that it's not going to work out.

If for some reason he's saying one thing, and then doing another by continuing to invite her to get together one-on-one, she should simply treat him as a friend with whom she's not courting:  group get-togethers are fine, but just decline any one-on-one invitations.  No long explanations are necessary.  "I won't go out with you unless I'm your girlfriend" sounds weird, yes, but how about "Sorry, you told me you don't want to pursue this relationship anymore, so I'm not really comfortable spending time with you one-on-one."

It hurts terribly, I know, but I don't think there's anything to be gained by trying to tell him how hurt she is by his not pursuing the courtship further, or how much he's missing out on by choosing not to be with her.  If he actually thinks he's still going to get the benefits of hanging out with her, simply let her actions show him otherwise.  If he's actually confused or conflicted, her best bet is still to believe what he's telling her and consider the courting relationship over, withdraw with dignity, and let him realize he's made a mistake and pursue her again.

My sympathies to your sister.  It hurts, but she also deserves to find someone who really does want to be with her, and I hope that she finds that person.

ITA. It sounds to me like he has decided he doesn't want a romantic relationship with her, for whatever reason. In his attempt to be "nice" and let her down easy, he's sending mixed messages. I am inclined to interpret "you would be an awesome wife, but let's just stay friends" as a version of "it's not you, it's me." It's time to write him off and move on.

If he does ask her to get together one-on-one, she can just say she's not comfortable with that now that she knows they're not heading toward a romantic relationship. She might even say directly that she needs to distance herself from him to work through her feelings and is not interested in being "just friends."

I won't say anything about whether she should talk to the rabbi because it's not clear to me whether he violated the norms of their community. In mainstream dating, there's nothing wrong with changing one's mind and it doesn't necessarily indicate leading someone on. In any case, it's better to find out his true feelings now than later.


(((Hugs))) to your sister. The situation sounds heartbreaking.

With regards to the bolded part- It sounds, from the OP, like he hasn't violated the norms of the community by engaging in courtship behaviours with her, as long as was doing so honestly from the start. The biggest red flag to me, is that he wants to go on like he has and that sounds like it would be violating the norms. If he's changed his mind, then he needs to let her go and not ask her to keep seeing him alone, because *that* would violate the norms of their community.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: LifeOnPluto on January 09, 2012, 08:01:14 PM
I agree that he is sending very mixed messages. I think that Maya should be upfront. Let him know that she fancies him, but she needs him to clearly tell her whether he eventually wants to marry her, or whether he just wants to be friends.

If the latter, then I definitely think Maya should scale back her contact with him (and not do one on one activities, etc). Being close friends with someone you love, and who doesn't feel the same way about you, is a recipe for disaster.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: hyzenthlay on January 09, 2012, 09:52:10 PM
This sounds just shy of an arranged marriage where you seek out a compatible partner as best you can given all the various limitations.  Lawrence may be approaching this from that viewpoint.

If your sister is looking for real romance then she needs to move on and see Lawrence only in group settings and in a manner appropriate to males who you are not courting. Lawrence has made his feelings clear, and for your sister's sake she should take him seriously. He will not be a romantic partner even if they do pursue marriage.

But I would also suggest your sister think about exactly what she wants in a long term relationship. What is 'romance' and how is it different from how he acts on a regular basis? that might help her move forward and find a better match.



Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Winterlight on January 10, 2012, 10:19:36 AM
She needs to take him at his word. He doesn't want romance and she does. The best thing Maja can do is pull back, see him only at group events and get on with her life. If he asks her out, she should decline.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: hobish on January 10, 2012, 11:41:50 AM
I have a question.  If they were to get married, would he be intimate with her, or would they have a completely platonic marriage?

That is what I am wondering, too; I think it makes a difference. As others have said, it seems like he is saying two different things.
1. I could be happy married to you
2. I do not want a romantic relationship with you.
No matter what your religion or method of dating, they sound like cross-purposes, unless as PPs have suggested he is implying that he is interested in a completely non-romantic marriage.


Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Raintree on January 10, 2012, 02:45:49 PM
I have a question.  If they were to get married, would he be intimate with her, or would they have a completely platonic marriage?

That is what I am wondering, too; I think it makes a difference. As others have said, it seems like he is saying two different things.
1. I could be happy married to you
2. I do not want a romantic relationship with you.
No matter what your religion or method of dating, they sound like cross-purposes, unless as PPs have suggested he is implying that he is interested in a completely non-romantic marriage.

Exactly. My thought was, "huh?" But I think that a lot. There seems to be an epidemic of men these days who behave like boyfriends but then state that they want to keep things the same, but "this isn't a relationship." I don't get it either.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Shoo on January 10, 2012, 02:49:25 PM
I have a question.  If they were to get married, would he be intimate with her, or would they have a completely platonic marriage?

That is what I am wondering, too; I think it makes a difference. As others have said, it seems like he is saying two different things.
1. I could be happy married to you
2. I do not want a romantic relationship with you.
No matter what your religion or method of dating, they sound like cross-purposes, unless as PPs have suggested he is implying that he is interested in a completely non-romantic marriage.

Exactly. My thought was, "huh?" But I think that a lot. There seems to be an epidemic of men these days who behave like boyfriends but then state that they want to keep things the same, but "this isn't a relationship." I don't get it either.

I suppose it's possible the guy in the OP is gay.  That might explain things.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Raintree on January 10, 2012, 02:57:11 PM
I suppose it's possible the guy in the OP is gay.  That might explain things.

That occurred to me as well. Especially if his religion doesn't accept homosexuality and expects him to suppress it and lead a straight "lifestyle." Hard enough even for gay people who don't follow any religion, in a straight society. He would still want close friends and deep conversation. Of course all this is mere speculation. He could just be flaky and commitment shy, but straight.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: JoieGirl7 on January 10, 2012, 03:13:00 PM
"Lawrence, I am not interested in spending time alone with a man who is not interested in me in that way.

Even if we were to remain friends, being close to you this way would interfere with me developing a close romantic relationship with someone else.

What you see as merely a friendship, I have seen as a possible romantic relationship.  I don't want to be "just friends."  And since you cannot give me that, I must end this relationship.  Please do not ask to spend time alone with me anymore."
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: MyFamily on January 10, 2012, 05:48:47 PM
If this is a Jewish relationship, my feeling is that he doesn't want to marry her, he just wants to be friends.  He likes her, but he is not able/ready to make the committment of marriage.  He may not have been lying to her, he may have only realized this at this point.  She needs to be talking about this with a rabbi/rebbetzin and not on an etiquette website (or any website to be honest, because this is not something that can be fully understood on-line - there needs to be a knowledge of the personalities involved).
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Gyburc on January 11, 2012, 05:40:14 AM
In a way, I don't think that the background about religion is necessary to reach a conclusion on the central issue (although it's good to have background!)

The situation seems to be this: Maja is looking for a serious long-term rel*tionship and nothing less. Lawrence is telling her that he likes her, but is not prepared to enter a serious long-term rel*tionship. Sadly for Maja, this does mean that they are currently incompatible.

I think Maja should be honest with Lawrence about what she feels and explain that it's better for both of them if they stop spending time together - because it is.

(((Hugs))) to Maja. And I think it might indeed be helpful for her to talk to the rabbi, if this is likely to be a community issue as well.

Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: TurtleDove on January 11, 2012, 08:11:04 AM
I think the religion issues matter because I didn't hear that the guy doesn't want a serious long term relationship with the sister - I heard that he does want that, just not a romantic one. And I don't know that we know whether the sister is okay with that. If she wants marriage, it sounds like this could work. If she wants romance, sounds like it won't.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: cicero on January 11, 2012, 08:53:03 AM
I think the religion issues matter because I didn't hear that the guy doesn't want a serious long term relationship with the sister - I heard that he does want that, just not a romantic one. And I don't know that we know whether the sister is okay with that. If she wants marriage, it sounds like this could work. If she wants romance, sounds like it won't.
see, but that's what is puzzling to me about the whole story and why my initial response was that maybe he actually *does* want to continue the relationship toward marriage but without it becoming "romantic" at this stage.

I am assuming (because i know how these courtships work in the very orthodox jewish world) that there is no *other* kind of relationship. You either have a "private" relationship with the intent being toward marriage (and, as verified by the OP, this means no physical contact) OR you don't. but you don't have friendships between man a woman under other circumstances.
ETA - which is why i think that maybe he *is* being honest. if they are both par t of this type of community, then it wouldn't make sense for him to "offer" *another* kind of relationship. just a thought. is OP able to enlighten us?
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Petticoats on January 11, 2012, 09:10:59 AM
I suppose it's possible the guy in the OP is gay.  That might explain things.

That occurred to me as well. Especially if his religion doesn't accept homosexuality and expects him to suppress it and lead a straight "lifestyle." Hard enough even for gay people who don't follow any religion, in a straight society. He would still want close friends and deep conversation. Of course all this is mere speculation. He could just be flaky and commitment shy, but straight.

My first thought was that Lawrence is gay and sees Maja as a great potential beard. All of the societal approval of being in a marriage with none of the icky boy-girl love stuff.

Either way, I feel sorry for Maja. In her position, I would feel like he'd been leading me on.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Twik on January 11, 2012, 10:52:19 AM
But in that case, he'd be willing to marry her.

If this were a non-religious community, I'd say the "I don't want to ruin our friendship with romance" is a slow brushoff. It makes the brusher feel quite noble, and can be used to convince himself that he is not hurting the brushee any, because he's keeping the relationship, just redefining it on a higher plane. I think the same thing is going on here.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: RingTailedLemur on January 11, 2012, 10:54:48 AM
But in that case, he'd be willing to marry her.

If this were a non-religious community, I'd say the "I don't want to ruin our friendship with romance" is a slow brushoff. It makes the brusher feel quite noble, and can be used to convince himself that he is not hurting the brushee any, because he's keeping the relationship, just redefining it on a higher plane. I think the same thing is going on here.

Yes, it sounds like that old chestnut, "I don't want to get too attached".
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Twik on January 11, 2012, 10:58:15 AM
The appropriate thing in this situation, I think, is to respond, "I thank you for clarifying your feelings. Unfortunately, I am too attached to you right now to be content with friendship only. If would be easier if we avoid contact for some time."
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: nrb80 on January 11, 2012, 10:59:34 AM
I had this conversation with a friend the other day who is most definately not of a conservative religious background or a hands off dating approach, but quite the opposite.  It's the same scenario - the guy just isn't interested.  He may want to have his cake and eat it too, he might be a wimp and want to let her down "easily", he might be looking for someone better but wants a backup in the wings.  It's irrelevant - the only relevant piece is that each potential partner wants different, and mutually exclusive, forms of relationship.

Same advice I gave my friend - skip the drama, just decline, decline, decline, and don't invite him places.  Be polite, and cordial, but no more. 
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Xallanthia on January 11, 2012, 11:15:14 AM
He told me that he thinks we are perfectly suited for one another, have all of the right things in common (eg. perspectives on religion, family, finance, careers, etc.), he could see himself having a happy marriage with me, and he is very attracted to me. He then told me that he doesn't want a romantic relationship, but hopes we can continue on as  friends, because he is afraid adding a romantic element to the relationship will ruin it.

If he can't say the first part without saying also, "So let's make this official and start courting," he shouldn't have said any of it, and I'm betting on some level he knows that.  He needs to figure out what he's afraid of and either get over it, man up, and make it official, or back off on his own.  He does not get both.

Maya, I'm sorry this isn't working out, but the only thing you can do is back off.  Spend time with girlfriends and surround yourself with them in company, talk to your mentor if you have one, grieve the relationship and put it out of your head.  I'm sorry your hopes have been disappointed.

It's possible that as you back off he'll see what he's losing and change his mind, or that his mentor and male friends will smack some sense into him.  However, you can't count on this to make you happy, so go on as though you don't expect it. 

I wouldn't seek out the opportunity to tell him what you think, but if he asks, I wouldn't sugar-coat it either.  "I'm not interested in becoming close that way to someone who is not willing to commit to me.  I like you, but if you're not willing to move towards marriage, we can't continue the way we have been.  I wish you the best and look forward to seeing you at Group Event."
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Reason on January 11, 2012, 11:42:12 AM
The appropriate thing in this situation, I think, is to respond, "I thank you for clarifying your feelings. Unfortunately, I am too attached to you right now to be content with friendship only. If would be easier if we avoid contact for some time."

If she does say this, it will be a huge ego stroke to the guy. In fact he might easily assume that this means that when he comes around to being interested she will be eagerly waiting for him with open arms.

I am not sure that this is the message she would want to convey.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: MerryCat on January 11, 2012, 11:51:07 PM
The appropriate thing in this situation, I think, is to respond, "I thank you for clarifying your feelings. Unfortunately, I am too attached to you right now to be content with friendship only. If would be easier if we avoid contact for some time."

If she does say this, it will be a huge ego stroke to the guy. In fact he might easily assume that this means that when he comes around to being interested she will be eagerly waiting for him with open arms.

I am not sure that this is the message she would want to convey.

What if she modified it slightly to say, instead, "Thanks for clarifying your feelings. Unfortunately we want different things. I think we should avoid alone time so that I can find someone that I do click with romantically. Best of luck to you."
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: Winterlight on January 12, 2012, 08:10:32 AM
The appropriate thing in this situation, I think, is to respond, "I thank you for clarifying your feelings. Unfortunately, I am too attached to you right now to be content with friendship only. If would be easier if we avoid contact for some time."

If she does say this, it will be a huge ego stroke to the guy. In fact he might easily assume that this means that when he comes around to being interested she will be eagerly waiting for him with open arms.

I am not sure that this is the message she would want to convey.

What if she modified it slightly to say, instead, "Thanks for clarifying your feelings. Unfortunately we want different things. I think we should avoid alone time so that I can find someone that I do click with romantically. Best of luck to you."

Reason makes a good point, and I think your modification is the better way to handle it.
Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: hobish on January 12, 2012, 01:53:57 PM

Ooh, Reason, that is a really excellent point.

Title: Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
Post by: ShadesOfGrey on January 13, 2012, 07:42:18 PM
The words may be an ego stroke (though I don't see how, since she's saying she wants to avoid contact), but her actions -not inviting him anywhere and declining his invites, will be a huge deflation, so I don't think the wording is so important, as long as she sticks with her guns.