Hi Evan,

I am a 34 year old woman living in Canada. My first and only boyfriend six years ago pretended to be committed to me, used me for sex because he wanted to be with a virgin, and then he dumped me one month after taking my virginity. As a result of this awful relationship, I have some pretty major trust issues, and find it hard to accept the notion that a man might be genuinely interested in me.

About six months ago, I befriended an extremely good looking man in Puerto Rico through a flirting application on a social networking site. While he initially flirted quite a bit with me, I didn’t pursue anything since he had about a million female friends on his page, and that would make him out of my league.

For the majority of the time I’ve known him, we would chat occasionally, maybe play a game or two of chess online. However, about two weeks ago, things suddenly changed, and it seems that he is really pursuing me. We have both talked about wanting to pursue PhDs, and he talks about how we should attend the same university. Or, how he would like to “rent” a room from me if the job application I submitted to Ottawa comes through, since he could then study at the university in that city. And once I began taking a Spanish course, he has appeared online every night, under the guise to help me with my homework. One other thing, he has removed all his friends from his page as well as all of his own photos.

So the thing is, I don’t know what to make out of all this. What is going on with him? I am definitely attracted to this guy, physically, and intellectually, and I have sort of hinted to him that I think he’s a nice fellow and good-looking, but he never directly comes out and says he’s interested in me. But he hints around a lot, asked if I would ever consider moving to Florida or the Caribbean, and said I should visit Puerto Rico. Is he just being friendly? Is he just interested in helping me with Spanish and nothing more than platonic friendship? Or is there possibly more to it?

Renee

Dear Renee,

There’s ALWAYS something sexual underlying the motives of men. If you’re ever debating internally, “Why did he call me out of the blue?” or “Why did he offer me a ride home after work?” or “Why did he compliment my hair?” the answer is always that he wants to sleep with you.

Men and women can be friends if: a) he’s not remotely attracted to her, or b) he’s already hooked up with her and determined that he’s no longer interested.

This friend vs. more-than-friend concept has gotten a considerable amount of airplay, notably in “When Harry Met Sally”, wherein it was determined that men and women couldn’t be friends.

I have an addendum to that: Men and women can be friends if: a) he’s not remotely attracted to her, or b) he’s already hooked up with her and determined that he’s no longer interested. Without either of those conditions, it means that he’s physically attracted to her, the relationship has not been consummated, and therefore, there’s going to be sexual tension.

So even if you haven’t been actively flirting, Renee, after six months of emailing, there’s going to be, at least, a lingering curiosity. Our imaginations are fertile, and we can project whatever we want onto a stranger. Thank god for fantasies. But beware: it’s easy to confuse fantasy and reality. Your fantasy is that this sexy Puerto Rican guy will want to meet you for a hot fling in South Beach. The reality is that it sounds like he just wants to use you to get cheap room and board in Ottawa.

Listen, I believe in the good of people. In most of our hearts, I think we all know the difference between right and wrong. But, when you get right down to it, we’re all acting out of self-interest. You might continue to use him for Spanish lessons even though you’ll never reciprocate anything. And that would be well within your rights – you’re taking advantage of his seeming generosity. However, most people aren’t purely altruistic. We even donate to charity or volunteer because it makes us feel good. So while it’s humanly possible to imagine a universe in which people offer hours of online Spanish lessons free of charge just because verb tenses are fun, it seems more likely than not that he’s come to the conclusion that you’re his meal ticket. Now it’s no longer chess once every few weeks; he’s making the full-court press to show you what an amazing guy he is, and what a perfect roommate he’ll be.

I’ve got no trouble with your crush on him, but let’s be clear: it’s all a game between you and you.

There’s a lot going on here, Renee. But it’s all fantasy. You’re wondering if he’s for real. You’re wondering if he’s interested. You’re wondering why he’s tutoring you in Spanish. You’re wondering why he’s making such an effort. You’re wondering if he’s a friend or a potential partner.

Here’s a crazy idea: why don’t you ask him on the phone?

I know: because it would kill the fantasy and burst the bubble with a hard dose of reality.

I’ve got no trouble with your crush on him, but let’s be clear: it’s all a game between you and you. When you’re ready to know what he wants, you can pick up the phone and ask him.

Which is probably a good idea anyway before he moves in with you.

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