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Stick to specifics, not the phrase of the day

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

We're just not that into that phrase anymore, so be direct

HJNTIY: "He's just not that into you": Do you feel that this phrase is overused? Do you think it has just been thrown out there to simplify relationships?

I recently told someone "You're just not that into me" because I felt it was true based on his actions/inactions. He didn't take it very well. I'm confused. If he really liked me, shouldn't he have tried harder?

Carolyn: If it's a phrase, then it's overused. I can say that much with confidence. And I think this one is thrown out there to simplify breakups, not relationships.

Even when people can be summed up perfectly by the phrase du jour — they rarely can — they resent being reduced to a cliche. It's better to stick to specifics: "When you (in/actions here), I feel (sad/angry/hurt/whatever)."

That's the answer to the phrasing question. As for the shouldn't-he-have-tried-harder question, that depends on who he is and how he shows affection. What you perceive as neglect could be the best effort of someone who is happy to be with you; some people are just less demonstrative. Since we can never be sure-sure what someone thinks or feels about us, your job isn't to pry the truth out of him. Instead, it's to figure out what you get from this relationship, whether it's right or enough for you, and therefore whether to stick around.

An affair of the heart, or something more innocent?

Baltimore: How does one tell the difference between a best friend of the opposite sex, and an emotional affair?

Carolyn: With whom would you rather be, the mate or the best friend?

Anonymous: For Baltimore: I've been the "best friend." Zero physical attraction, but he's one of the best guys on the planet. When he married, I cut the wedding cake. When he divorced, I helped to pick up the pieces. When he dated, I listened. When I dated, he did the same. When I was on bed rest, he sent me books and told me funny stories. When he remarried, I flew 2,000 miles to meet her.

We will never sleep together, and that's clear for both of us.

If I had to choose between my husband and my friend, I'd choose my husband. But I hope I never have to.

Carolyn: That certainly defines "a best friend of the opposite sex": as . . . a best friend! "Opposite-sex" is irrelevant. Thanks.

Anonymous 2: Re: Baltimore: I thought maybe Baltimore was asking how you tell if one's partner's opposite-sex friend is just a best friend or an affair. Any suggestions for that situation?

Carolyn: Ah. If your partner is present and accounted for in your relationship, then accept the best-friendship. If the partner is not present and accounted for in the relationship — meaning, you feel lonely — then tell your partner you are feeling lonely in your relationship. If you attack the best friend, then you risk missing the point, which is the deterioration of your bond with your mate.

Stick to specifics, not the phrase of the day 12/11/09 [Last modified: Friday, December 11, 2009 11:48am]
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