I am an adult woman who met a man 1 1/2 years ago through an online matchmakeing service. He lives about 1000 miles from me but comes into town often since he is an airline pilot based here in my city.After a couple of months of dating he stopped asking me out but would call me a couple of times a week for a long chat. I know he is not married, he has been divorced for several years, and he has spoken of a failed relationship that ended 3 years ago. It was a tempestuous relationship from what he has told me. He tells me he is a failure in the relationship department.We have wonderful phone conversations and enjoy each other. But it bothered me that he stopped asking me out and when I asked him to join me in doing things when he came in town, he would often decline my invitationSo, I asked him a year ago if he was interested in anything more with me other than friendship and he said he just wanted to remain friends and did not want anything more. Ouch. . . it hurt.But I did like our friendship so I started dating again and continued talking to him on the phone all of this time. We laugh a lot and have the greatest conversations.He through me for a loop about a month ago when he said, ‘You know we can admit it. We like each other–I like you and you like me. ‘It caught me off guard and I regret that I didn’t ask him to clarify what he meant by his comment. Instead I said, ‘Yes, I like you. I wouldn’t have been talking to you all this time if I didn’t.’But he hasn’t asked me out for a date. He just keeps calling. Any ideas what I should say? I do like him and would like to get to know him better but I don’t know how to approach this situation–especially since he rejected anything other than friendship a year ago.
I understand that you want me to come up with some choice phrases for communicating the fact that you want more than friendship. No matter how well we convey your desires, the fact still remains that this man doesn’t want more.He is quite capable of asking you out on a date, but he isn’t doing so. He is seriously gun shy or should I say gal shy. He has been burned and he doesn’t want to put his toe or any other part of himself in the water ever again.The real issue here is you, not him. He is what he is and he isn’t changing. He doesn’t move to the next level by asking you out. He isn’t asking for help and isn’t in therapy. For these reasons, it would be healthier to focus on you.Try to understand why you are so attached to a man who cannot return your affection. Believe me when I say, there is only one possible reason why you find yourself in such a bind. You must be replaying a relationship from your first family in which one or both parents was distant and unavailable. I have said many times in my columns that we recreate childhood history for two reasons: first, we tend to stick with what is familiar (familiar pain feels more comfortable than facing the unknown); and second, we recreate painful relationships from childhood in an effort to rework history and get it right this time around (I call this the Happy Ending). See my Advice Archives under unfinished business and repetition compulsion to understand more about why you are chasing after this distant pilot.I can certainly suggest words that you can use to open up a discussion with him. But, again, I think that we are barking up the wrong tree. This man is telling you in words and actions that he isn’t able to handle more than friendship.If you decide to talk with him, then you might say, ‘You know I have been getting mixed signals from you that I don’t know how to interpret. On the one hand you say you want to be just friends, yet you recently admitted to liking me. I know that you have had many failed relationships. Are you too gun shy to try again?That sure would break the ice!If he agrees to talk, then you could go on to point out that he is stuck. He isn’t healing and isn’t moving forward. Humans are social animals and hiding from any deep connection is a defensive posture designed to protect him from being hurt again. In his effort to protect himself he is losing out on one of life’s greatest gifts: a relationship. Rather than retreating and accepting a life of solitude, why doesn’t he actively work to heal himself and the wounds from past relationships? Why doesn’t he also take active steps to figure out what he needs to learn about himself so that he doesn’t make the same mistakes again?If he takes your bait and runs with it, that would be wonderful. But, I tell you, your prodding him to grow worries me. Your situation reminds me of a joke. A Buddhist is working at a fast food restaurant. A patron comes in and orders a bologna sandwich. The Buddhist gives the patron his sandwich, and the patron hands him a twenty dollar bill. The Buddhist takes the twenty, and doesn’t give the patron any money back. The patron exclaims, ‘Hey, where’s my change. To which the Buddhist replies, ‘Change comes from within. ‘My sentiments exactly.Your friend needs to want to change on his own. All the prodding and questioning is coming from us, not from him. If he doesn’t immediately take the bait and launch on a journey of self-growth, then redouble your efforts to work on understanding yourself and your attraction to a man who is as unreachable as a rainbow.You sound like a dear woman who is capable of lots of love and intimacy. You don’t need to choose a partner who hurls you back to your childhood. You can heal your childhood wounds in therapy and have a fulfilling relationship!