Too close for comfort

dilemna's
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Ann's long-term boyfriend wasn't ready for commitment so they split up. Recently, however, they met and continue to meet - but on his terms. He wants to be intimate and close, but doesn't want them to be an item. He won't plan their next meetings. Will she be able to cope with the closeness without the commitment, and anyway what does he want?

What does he want? What does he want? Surely Ann's girlfriends have already pegged him as a swine, a man who just wants a sexy mum with a big bosom and a huge lap who's always there when he wants her, and who won't make any demands on him.

And, of course, they might be right. But even if they were, bad behaviour usually takes two, one to use and one to be used, and since when it comes to her ex, Ann appears to be putting "Doormat for hire" signs above her door, it's small wonder he takes her at her word and pops round whenever he feels like it. He would be a fool not to, in fact.

But it's also small wonder, though the loyal girlfriends may not want to tell Ann this, that he split up with her in the first place. Doormats are there to wipe your feet on, not to marry. No man worth his salt would want to commit himself to someone like Ann, who sounds a woman with only one ambition, to subjugate herself and her own personality to someone else.

The question Ann should be asking herself is not what he wants but what she wants. ("A man, any man, who'll put a ring on my finger!" is not the answer.) Once she has even the faintest grasp of a life for herself, once she perceives herself like a tree, standing alone, rather than a piece of mistletoe leeching on to someone else, then and only then will this man become remotely interested in her as a lifelong companion.

Why am I so harsh on her? Because I've been there, spent part of my life with "Welcome, I'm desperate" emblazoned all over my door and I always remember the start I got when I read Anna Raeburn's tart answer to a reader who wrote into her agony column with a similar problem: "You are a doormat! Get up and give yourself a good shake!"

Ann has willingly put herself into the position of victim. And my guess is that her boyfriend may well not be the creep that it would be easy to brand him. I think one of the reasons he gave her up was because he felt uncomfortable with what was putting him into an over-powerful and almost abusive role. By relating to her now as a complete equal, not making any future dates or any promises, he gives Ann the chance to be her own woman - but she refuses to take the opportunity he is giving her. If she's not happy with the situation as it is, she should either take the initiative for once and give her boyfriend up, or give as good as she gets, ring him occasionally for the odd sexy date and, equally, sometimes refuse to see him when he rings because she's doing something more interesting.

I don't think her boyfriend is using her. I think he loves being with her, but hates the octopus-like tentacles she stifled him with when they were together.

A real friend is selfless

All this "making plans for your next meeting" is leading you back to the old relationship. If this guy is going to be your lover again (which I think you'd like), he has to put a certain amount of commitment into it. If he is to be a "close" friend, his friendship has to be more selfless and unconditional. I think you are going to get neither from him. Drop him.

Phil Hennem

Chamonix Mont-Blanc, France

He'll abuse your affectionate nature

If it's commitment you're after, you must forget this man. He doesn't miss your company, he is taking advantage of your feelings for him.

This man will accept everything you offer and give you only heartache in return. Listen to yourself - "all our meetings are on his terms", "he doesn't want us to be an item again!" No, believe me, because I speak from experience, it will not get better, you will never recapture the intensity you miss because as soon as he realises you are prepared to accommodate his lack of commitment, his coldness, his conditions, then he will abuse your affectionate nature for as long as it suits him. Don't waste your love on this man.

I ended my similar "relationship" when I realised I deserved better. So do you. Good luck.

Jane

Runcorn

Drop him and forget him

Ann asks what does this man want from her?

Much the same as he wanted before by the sound of it!

Will she be able to cope?

Not unless she wants to have her heart broken all over again.

I think she should get out while the going is good and definitely, most definitely, forget he exists.

Mrs HM Howard

Kent

He's found a mug - or has he?

Remember that you have a choice! You can continue to be a regular "leg- over" for this piece of wonderful masculinity.

In fact, you could improve your culinary skills, always be beautifully turned out, be sympathetic, understanding and always be there for him.

Never give him hassle. Never expect to share your problems or concerns - just concentrate on being exactly what he needs.

He will then continue to use you for the purpose for which you have, to date, allowed yourself to be used OR you could point out that you deserve respect as an equal being and that if he wants a doormat he should go elsewhere for a receptacle for his bodily needs.

He ought to be congratulated: he's found a mug - or are you going to "turn"?

Johanna Poynton

Southampton

I colluded in his behaviour

Be careful. I was in your situation for nine years with a man who behaved just as you describe.

I think you need to look beyond the obvious mutual attraction and question what this man is recognising in you. Is he choosing you because he recognises you as a person who will always he willing to consider his needs over and above your own? Do you want to be chosen for this reason?

I eventually understood that because I found it easier to meet his needs than to assert my own I was, in fact, colluding with his behaviour.

I think you should ask yourself honestly why you have chosen someone who is asking so much of you.

Claudine Mortimer

London

NEXT WEEK'S DILEMMA: THE TRAINEE TEACHER WHO CAN'T KEEP CONTROL

Dear Virginia,

At the age of 35 having done quite a bit of remedial teaching, helped out at playgroups and taught a few adults to read, I was sufficiently inspired to take a teacher training course. I'm now half-way through and feel I'm really not cut out to be a teacher. I'm just unable to keep discipline and feel very low about the whole thing. My tutor thinks I should finish the course because I've got this far, although she agrees I have lots of problems, but my instinct is to cut my losses before my esteem drops to zilch.

Part of me thinks I should be strong enough to tough it out; part of me thinks I should be strong enough to chuck it in. What should I do?

Yours, Moira

All comments are welcome, and everyone who has a suggestion quoted will be sent a Dynagrip 50 ballpen from Paper:Mate. Please send any relevant personal experiences or comments to me at the Features Department, the 'Independent', 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL (fax 0171- 293-2162), by Tuesday morning. And if you have any dilemmas of your own you would like to share, let me know.

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