Ask Amy: Friends with benefits might have a love match
Dear Amy: I am a 26-year-old woman in a “friends with benefits” relationship with “Paul” (age 28).
Paul and I had clearly agreed on casual sex and a no-strings-attached formula, but it seems like I have fallen for him.
He is the perfect man I had always imagined my partner to be.
I think he also has feelings for me, but maybe he is too scared to show his affection and to tell me how he really feels.
He often talks about how much he likes me and at the same time brings up his other love interests. This puts me in a very confused state.
I do not know if he really loves me or is just playing games with me.
How do I know if this man really loves me? — Confused
Dear Confused: Your question illustrates the idea that — for some people — expressing honesty and emotional intimacy seems to be more challenging than tolerating the uncertainty and other related risks of having casual sex.
The storyline that you and “Paul” are currently enacting is age-old. It is the stuff of rom-coms and romance novels (“Bridgerton,” anyone?).
If you are bold enough, you could undertake the important developmental experience of jumping off the emotional cliff by simply telling the truth. After doing so, you will inspire either a delightful and surprising expression of same, an upsetting (but brief) confession that your feelings are not reciprocated, or an expression of a muddled in-between where he tells you that he just doesn’t know how he feels.
Telling the truth about your own emotions is lovely and liberating, as long as you understand fully that cannot control the outcome.
No matter what Paul says in response, pay attention to what he does. Because sex does not automatically translate into love, you should observe whether he wants to spend time with you doing non-sexual things: Walks, talks, coffee dates, and watching movies. If he doesn’t choose non-sexual friendship and companionship, then you have your answer.
Dear Amy: After my husband’s recent unexpected death, I learned about his longtime affair with a co-worker (conducted while they traveled for work).
I found emails, letters, and enough proof to want to make any spouse beyond angry.
I am struggling with dealing with grief and anger at the same time.
Should I tell my adult children about their father, or take this secret with me to the grave? — Angry Widow
Dear Angry: You are experiencing the earlier cycles of grief, compounded by your understandable anger regarding your husband’s affair.
You see this as an either/or: Tell, or take this secret to the grave.
However, when you have just experienced a huge loss, the wisest thing to do is to ... wait. If at all possible, you should wait several months to make any huge decisions. What you choose to do during these earlier days will help to set the course for the rest of your life.
For now, table your decision about disclosing this to your children. Remember that they are grieving, too. I believe that you will eventually want to tell them about this, but if you do this later, you will be much more intentional, calmer, and more emotionally available to help your children through their own reactions.
I urge you to seek grief counseling. Although hospice organizations offer grief groups, because your grief is complicated by betrayal, you should seek individual counseling. You would definitely benefit from disclosing this to a professional, and sorting through your own feelings of both loss and anger.
Dear Amy: My kids love my cooking and often give me gifts that support my hobby.
This Christmas, one son gave me a recently published cookbook. It is a niche gift, and I know he put a lot of thought into choosing it for me. While I was very happy with it, I had bought the book for myself about a month before.
What do you do in a situation where you get a gift of something you already own? Do you say thank you and not mention that you have that item already or do you tell them you do? — Etiquette Challenged
Dear Challenged: In this case, I think you should tell your son, “Well, this shows that you really do ‘get’ me, because I had already purchased the same book, and I love it! Would you mind if I returned it for a different cookbook? I’ll do so with you in mind and promise to make you a dish from it.”