Author Topic: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)  (Read 7493 times)

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lisen

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Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« on: January 09, 2012, 10:38:21 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.

cicero

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2012, 10:43:23 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?)


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Shoo

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2012, 10:51:09 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.

Yvaine

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #3 on: January 09, 2012, 10:52:28 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.

ShadesOfGrey

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2012, 10:56:01 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.
Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning. - Maya Angelou

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou

lisen

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2012, 11:03:37 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.

LadyL

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2012, 11:06:21 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.

Bethalize

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2012, 11:08:25 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.

Reason

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2012, 11:08:47 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.

TurtleDove

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2012, 11:09:52 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?

RingTailedLemur

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2012, 11:09:57 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.
« Last Edit: January 09, 2012, 11:12:08 AM by RingTailedLemur »

lisen

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2012, 11:18:13 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'.

Seraphia

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #12 on: January 09, 2012, 11:23:18 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.
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Yvaine

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2012, 11:24:25 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.

anonymousmac

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Re: Maintaining Boundaries? (asks my sister)
« Reply #14 on: January 09, 2012, 12:05:13 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.