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!)
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.