Is Living Together Without Marriage Still a Committed Relationship?
Dear Neil: I told a male friend I had sexual fantasies about him. At the time, he was living with a woman. I persuaded myself that if a man is a partner/boyfriend with a woman and not her fiancé or husband, he is actually available. I figured that if a couple isn’t married within two years of meeting, especially when they’ve spent almost every day together, that they aren’t going to marry—even though they are having sex and living together.
I was hoping he would drop her and be with me. I got swept up in lusty text messages, especially when he said he “wanted me.” But then he said he just wanted me for a physical thing. When I said no, he got angry at me and accused me of leading him on.
I wanted to be loved, and I loved the attention. I felt wanted. Yet his actions told me that he didn’t want me as much as his text messages told me. How do I go about getting love more healthfully in the future? How can I ask for what I need without pressuring someone, and how can I inquire what the other person needs?
Disappointed in Wellington, New Zealand
Dear Disappointed: Who said that two unmarried people living together are not in a committed love relationship? It is pure self-deception and self-sabotage to think that a man who is living with a woman is really available for another relationship, simply because they aren’t married. Although marriage is still very popular, it is less so these days than in the past, with more and more couples opting to live together—sometimes for decades—without marrying. If you make the assumption that they’re not really in love or committed to each other, you do so at your own peril. (Monogamy is a whole different discussion, however.)
Some people flirt with everyone, and it’s far less personal than you think. It’s a way of trolling, looking for what they might attract. (Fishermen sometimes throw a baited line in the water, accelerating their boat slowly just to see what might bite.) You cannot confuse flirtatious behavior with someone actually wanting a love relationship with you. Flirtatious is the package, not the product.
Here’s my advice: Don’t go after men who are taken. You’re likely to be rejected—or treated purely as a sexual object—because his real emotional connection is with the woman he’s built a shared life with, and therefore it’s going to be very hard on your ego. Find a man who is completely unencumbered and emotionally available. That’s your best chance for a happy, fulfilling love relationship. Then be direct and clear about what you want and need, and invite him to be just as direct and clear about his needs.
Also, perhaps telling a man you have sexual fantasies about him is not the best way to attempt to start a relationship, unless you just want sex with him. A man will think he’s being propositioned, and of course they’re going to interpret that as a sexual come on.
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist
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