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Love Letters

Strung along and then ghosted

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Q. I met this guy online and we decided, mutually, that we wanted a friends-with-benefits kind of deal. The first couple of months were fun; we went out to dinner, cuddled while watching TV, and had some sex. It was all good. He’d call or text during the week.

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But then, something changed. He was suddenly busy all of the time. He never had time to see me, and the calls and texts tapered off.

I’d ask him to call, and he’d say “right after I finish this” . . . but then no call. Eventually I texted and said that I thought we’d been on the same page. I told him I wasn’t sure what had changed. I even said, “If you are no longer interested, just tell me and I’ll move on.” Super simple solution! He texted me back asking if he could call me after work. Then he explained that a bunch of things were going on in his life, and he was sorry for not letting me know.

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For a few days, he went back to texting again — but then nothing. I don’t mind that a friends-with-benefits thing is over, but what annoys me is that he would string me along. What’s the point? I gave him an easy out; all he had to do was say he wasn’t interested, and that would be that. Why string me along and then ghost me?

Strung along

A. Some people — many people — are not good at ending relationships. They’d rather disappear than say uncomfortable, hurtful things.

In your case, it’s extra confusing because you guys decided to call this a friends-with-benefits relationship even though you’d just met online. The FWB label implies that there’s some real F (friendship). People who’ve been friends for a while are better equipped (in theory) to talk to each other about difficult issues — including when to let go. You guys don’t have that kind of history.

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I’m not excusing his method of breaking up; he should have told you it was time to move on. But from the beginning, you weren’t clear about what this was and how you were going to keep it casual. You’re upset because you started to see real potential — until it went away.

Know that his method of ending this means he’s not the kind of communicator you need, and that he’s better with the B than he is with the F. Now you know.

Meredith

READERS RESPOND:

Very few women can do the FWB thing well. Most start having feelings and want more. You are one of these women. He never wanted more, and still doesn’t want much except to string you along so he has a booty call when his other plans fall through. Don’t be that booty call, just say no and move on. BETTYMCBOOPFACE

Doesn’t “Friends With Benefits” mean you have some kind of prior relationship with someone, and then you both decide to have no-strings-attached sex? It seems you just started having sex with a stranger and now you want more of a relationship from him. See how those two things don’t match? ROTTERDAMSTAN

Perception is everything. Where you see someone stringing you along most people would see someone letting you down easy. TRUTHFUL-POSTER

I mean, even though letter writer and her “friend” weren’t technically “real friends,” as Meredith pointed out, he probably liked her enough as a person that he didn’t want to outright reject her and do something that felt hurtful. Also, he possibly wished to avoid an awkward argument/“please don’t leave” encounter with the letter writer and, like a lot of guys, thought just backing away slowly and avoiding her invitations would give her the hint. Letter writer, however, is a little slow on the uptake. URKIDDINGME

It’s not “letting her down easy” if he doesn’t have the backbone to actually let her down. Ghosting is for cowards and stringing along is even worse, which is for cowards who don’t mind wasting other people’s time. The letting someone down easy rationale is for people to avoid admitting their cowardice and instead convince themselves that they are being nice. NUM19

An FWB relationship is never one about actual interest, it is about opportunity. You have a friend, and since there is the opportunity and availability for the intimacy you kind of take it there. There’s something far more intimate and special about the actual relationship where two people are interested in making something special and exclusive. Not sure why you expect a FWB guy to call and text you. Those are behaviors one could reasonably expect from a boyfriend, not a FWB. He owes you actually nothing if you both agree to be FWB. KIND-GUPPY

“Bunch of things going on in his life” is codespeak for he met someone else and doesn’t know how to break it to you. PATSFAN79

You wanted casual, this is as casual as it gets. FWB means no strings, no expectations, and minimal relationship. You had expections, and wanted strings and lots of contact. Most likely, he got a better offer. Stop demanding explanations and just move on. WIZEN

I’ve been in similar situations several times. Unfortunately, we are both fools for being there. Generally speaking, Friends With Benefits will not work without an established friendship. People have different ideas on how much friendship is in these relationships. I’d probably call this “[expletive] buddies” where friendship isn’t really included. By defining it as something casual, you let him know he didn’t owe you anything. HARAJUKUBARBIE3

I do share the letter writer’s confusion about why men are such cowards when faced with a simple yes/no “Is this over?” question. WHY are they incapable of just admitting the truth? This happened to me once, before a rendezvous with a long-distance guy. My “female intuition” said something was up, so I asked him point-blank (just like letter-writer): Did you change your mind? Because it’s OK. He assured me everything was fine, and I flew 3,000 miles just to be cruelly dumped in person. STILETTOSONCOBBLESTONES

Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Send letters to meredith.goldstein@globe.com.
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