Dear Readers: This week I am running topical “Best Of” columns while I’m on book tour, meeting readers of my memoir, “Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things,” which is now out in paperback. I’ll be back next week with more answers and advice directed toward a fresh batch of dilemmas. Today’s topic is relationships.
Dear Amy: I’m a 28-year-old straight male. My best friend from childhood and I rent an apartment together. He came out to me when he was 18. I care about him as a brother (I’m an only child). We respect each other’s boundaries and I support and accept him.
A couple of months ago my girlfriend of four years ended our relationship. I was crushed. During that time, my best friend told me he needed to tell me a secret – that he had sexual feelings toward me. He wanted to know if I felt the same way. I told him I loved him as a brother only and did not share any sexual feeling toward him.
After that night, I thought everything was OK between us. Things went back to normal, but a couple of weeks ago he came home drunk. He crawled into bed with me and tried to be sexual with me.
I have been avoiding him. I don’t want to be in the same room alone with him right now. I’m not sure what to do. I really do care for him. I don’t want to lose our friendship, but how do I get the point across that I’m not interested in him sexually? What can I do about this problem?
Dear Sad: Crawling into bed and coming on sexually to a sleeping person is assault. Unfortunately, like many victims of unwanted sexual contact, you seem to be blaming yourself and wondering what you can do to repair the relationship with the aggressor.
But he is the one who has disrespected and violated you. An ongoing friendship between the two of you might be impossible. This represents a huge loss for you, which is why you would like to try to repair what he broke.
What happened is not your fault! It is his. You should think very seriously about whether you want to continue to cohabit with him.
If you want to try to have a friendship, you two will have to talk about it. He should apologize and assure you this will never happen again. If it does, the friendship is over, and you should consider calling the police. – September 2015
Dear Amy: I am an 18-year-old girl. I have been dating my boyfriend for nearly two years. My boyfriend means everything to me. Although I have made mistakes, we’ve always talked things out.
Last year we both went to university in different parts of the country, so it was like we were having a long-distance relationship. I was OK with it until I met another guy who gave me everything I have been missing. We were not really dating but I had sex with him many times.
Earlier this week my boyfriend found out and broke up with me. It was only after he was gone that I realized he has always been and always will be my everything. I still love him.
I want him back, but he doesn’t want to hear from me. Please help me, Amy.
Dear M: Perhaps you’ve studied the famous “marshmallow test” in college. In this study, preschoolers were presented with a choice – they could eat one marshmallow now or eat two marshmallows if they waited 20 minutes. (If you aren’t aware of this study, there is some wonderful video on YouTube of children suffering through it.)
This fascinating study demonstrates the relative ability of people to delay gratification in order to receive a larger reward later.
You have flunked the “marshmallow test” – big time. You were not willing to hold out long enough to receive a larger reward (staying in a loving, long-term relationship) later.
You sound as if you are a little surprised that your infidelity has had such an extreme consequence. Why is that? Breaking up is the foreseeable and natural consequence of cheating.
My take is that you are probably still too immature to bank your two marshmallows for later. You are 18; you don’t have the fortitude to be in a long-distance relationship. Let this be your wake-up call in terms of personal ethics. When you make an ethical lapse that hurts someone else, apologize and ask for forgiveness. – February 2015
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.