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Love Letters

Can they be friends?

Q.I started dating a guy back in the spring. We were only together a little over a month when he left for the summer for a trip across the country. I’d known he was leaving since I’d met him, and since we hadn’t been dating all that long, neither of us wanted to “officially” call ourselves anything, and we said we’d see where we were when he got back. In the meantime, he assured me that he would miss me and that we would be in touch for sure.

He definitely kept in touch this summer. Not as often as I had hoped at times, but definitely enough to fairly say that he kept his word, and enough to reassure me that he cared and was still interested.

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When I saw him upon his return, things were great at first, but by the end of the night, it felt awkward, which I stated, and he then told me he didn’t want a relationship, that he needed to focus on his career. He later called me to “confess” that he had actually started something with one of the girls on the trip shortly after they left. So for two months he kept in touch just because he said he would, making me think he cared and that we would pick up where we left off when he got back.

I was extremely hurt. I know we had not declared ourselves to be exclusive, but I was so hurt that he led me on all summer, and I felt it was a lie of omission in him not telling me that he had moved on to someone else. I could have moved on months before had he been honest at the time.

Fast forward three months. We had not talked at all until recently, but for some reason I wanted to be in touch. We talked some online, and I ended up suggesting that we get drinks and attempt to be friends, which he immediately said he would like. I kind of went into it knowing that I could be setting myself up to get hurt again, but surprisingly, I had a really good time and actually left feeling more at peace than I had all fall. I felt like I got reassurance that there are a few things that could keep us from working that I needed to feel in person, which I never got three months ago.

He also met up on Saturday night with me and some of my friends. Nothing happened, but part of me feels as if it could have. I don’t know if I wanted it to. I don’t know if he wanted it to. I just know that he met me at a bar at midnight. I genuinely do want to be friends, and if something were to come of it later, I feel as if having a friend base is important. I also don’t know if I can trust him again. We also have not discussed what happened three months ago, and if we really are just striving to be friends right now, I don’t know that we need to.

So where do we go from here? What is “friend” territory like when you have history? Can you be friends with someone you dated if you weren’t friends before? Or will there always be that underlying “something”? Am I ridiculous for even wanting to be friends with a guy that hurt me?

A.You’re probably not going to be friends. If you’re talking about developing a “friend base” so that you can have a better relationship later, you are not going into this with platonic intentions.

If you’re sure that he can’t be a boyfriend, run. If you’re not so sure anymore, ask. Is he interested? What happened at the bar? Does he really want a friendship? You’re allowed to have a real conversation about the confusion — and about the summer.

I don’t like that this is a big, blurry question mark. I don’t necessarily think that he’s a villain for what happened months ago (there was no commitment, you had only been dating him for a month), but you did get hurt and he knows it.

Ask him whether he’s interested in dating again, and if not, back off. You deserve real attention at midnight. Not the makings of a “friend base.”

READERS RESPOND

You want to be his girlfriend. For real. But he doesn’t want that. If he had wanted that, he would have made it official looooong before he left on this trip. If you seek anything from this man other than an occasional dalliance, you need to get gone and stay gone because he is taking up too much space in your head.

You had no “history” to speak of (as in a relationship). You dated one month. He was with another girl while he was away. He met you at midnight at a bar (yeah, wonder why he did that, huh?) And you wanted to be in touch with him again because YOU want him as a boyfriend, not a friendship.

Ugh . . . girls. Just move on already. He doesn’t owe you anything and if he was really interested in a serious relationship with you he would take the many opportunities that you’ve given him.

I often comment that you shouldn’t accept behavior from a lover that you wouldn’t accept from a friend, sister, or cousin. He’s evasive at best and perhaps completely untrustworthy at worst. He didn’t treat you in the way you’d like a man to treat you from nearly the beginning of the relationship. I doubt if he’ll make a good friend and I think it’s kind of manipulative of you to think you can friend him and then turn him into a suitable lover.

Hookups happen at midnight. Building blocks for awesome relationships rarely happen at midnight.

Oh, letter writer, you sound like me when I was in my early twenties! So take it from someone who has been there: Let this one go, right now! He may have led you on a little bit by not telling you about the other girl over the summer . . . but now YOU are leading him on by making him think you want to be his friend when you actually want something more. Don’t do this. Be honest with yourself. You want more with him, so no, you can never be “just friends.”

If you’re spending this much time thinking about it, you aren’t interested in being friends — you want to be more. Let it go.

This column and reader comments are edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/love
letters.
Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@
globe.com
. She chats online Wednesdays at 1 p.m.
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