I find it difficult to befriend other females, so my friends are mostly male. The difficulty arises when romantic feelings begin to form. In the past few years, I lost many good friends because I was not romantically interested in them, but they were in me.

Two years ago, I met Oliver. Our relationship began as friendship. I had to move across country for two months. When I returned, the courting continued for a few months until he moved away for five months, during which we continued to talk and develop a strong friendship.

I visited him, and the flame was rekindled. Because the date of his return was up in the air, I left knowing I had to move on. When Oliver moved back to a nearby city, he was eager for a romantic relationship. I was uncomfortable with that and told him so. But we continued to talk and see movies on the weekend, and he became one of my best friends.

Oliver recently said our friendship cannot continue. I either must agree to a romantic relationship or nothing, as it hurts him too much wanting to be with me. This pains me, and I am unsure what to do.

I am going to be away for two months this summer. In the fall I finish my degree, and I may need to seek work in another country. The constant uprooting has caused me to try to avoid being romantically attached. I feel it is not fair to either of us.

Each time I lose a friend it hurts more. I do not wish to lose Oliver, and a romantic relationship is possible. I don’t know what part of me to listen to: the part that doesn’t want to let go, or the part that says it will hurt less for both of us if we end our friendship now.

~ Evie

Evie, what is an ultimatum? It’s a grocer’s coupon or a manufacturer’s rebate. This offer expires on such-and-such a date. Or think of an ultimatum as a call to action. Forty percent off if you act today.

What an ultimatum is not is love. If we answered Oliver, we would tell him, when you need to ultimatum someone, it’s over. As the receiver of the ultimatum, we would tell you the same.

Even more to the point, with Oliver you didn’t get struck by a thunderbolt. At most what you have is a little static electricity and the hope it might add up to more.

Take a step back. You are in school and do an unusual amount of traveling. You don’t know what country you will be working in. Your life is unsettled. How do you develop a relationship with everything up in the air?

Your basic lament is that men confuse your desire for friendship with romantic love. Unwittingly, you’ve uncovered what research has proven. Men and women friends tend to be in completely different relationships. Men are far more attracted to their female friends than the female friends are attracted to those men.

The men assume the romantic attraction is mutual, while the women assume their lack of romantic attraction to the man is also mutual. In addition, men generally want to act on the presumed romantic attraction.

It’s a little like this. Say the word “china” and a man thinks of a country. Say the word to a woman and she may think of plates and cups. That’s the problem with having only male “friends.”

~ Wayne & Tamara

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