‘Is it enough?’ (Picture: Neil Webb/Metro.co.uk)
‘I’ve been in a “relationship” for five years and my divorced partner made it clear from the beginning that he didn’t want to commit to us moving in together and I accepted this because of the love I feel for him.
‘I seem to be a friend with benefits because we only make love when it suits him since he is much older than me.
‘We laugh and thrive as a team but I feel it’s just me who has very deep feelings.
‘I know you and most people reading this will tell me to move on and that I knew what I was getting in to but I can’t find the strength.
‘He cooks for me, genuinely cares about me and has always been there in my times of need but is that enough?’
Someone who cares and who demonstrates their affection through their actions is valuable indeed.
‘Cooking for you sounds great, too,’ says James McConnachie. ‘But your letter contains a giveaway, the tiniest possible one. It’s those quote marks you’ve put around the word “relationship”.’
‘If your relationship requires scare quotes to indicate its irony then you should be cautious.
‘You’re trying to convince yourself that this is good enough and ticks your boxes but the reality is that you fear you could get nothing else if you left him,’ says Dr Angharad Rudkin. ‘This indicates very low self-esteem, a belief that you cannot cope by yourself and that you’re not good enough to attract another.’
If you really believed in this arrangement, you would pay no heed to convention or other people’s opinions.
‘You seem convinced that we and all reasonable people out there will judge and blame you. Is that a familiar response from parents, perhaps, or teachers, friends, lovers?’ asks Rupert Smith.
You’re in love, you desire that love to be reciprocated and you’re frustrated by a man who cannot fulfil those needs.
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‘I certainly don’t blame or judge you for that. Not only does it seem perfectly reasonable but it’s also a very familiar situation,’ Smith continues. ‘We repeat patterns formed in our early life so was giving love and being loved too much for some people and now you have chosen a partner who is re-enacting that frustration?’
Living a satisfying life alone is possible but you need to learn how to say no first.
‘It may help to get counselling to support the transition and find the strength you have but don’t feel confident in yet,’ says Rudkin.
It may also help to think about the long-term future, says McConnachie. ‘A woman with a much older man risks being alone at some point.
‘Will your future self be lonely? What would she say to you? Write a letter from her to your current self and give yourself the best possible advice.’
Rupert Smith is an author and counsellor
James McConnachie is the author of Sex (Rough Guides)
Dr Angharad Rudkin is a clinical psychologist
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