Q: I met this guy about a year ago. He was a new student at law school. We became friends, and soon our relationship became quite flirty and intimate, physically and emotionally. At the time, I wondered whether he was just fooling around because he had just broken up with his girlfriend.
A couple of months later, longer after their break up, we started hanging out more often, having pseudo-dates. We go out for food, go for long drives out of town, talk for hours, and have drinks. And whenever we go out, we act like a couple. We hold hands, hugs and kisses, get intimate, etc. He's been dropping hints, so I'm pretty sure he has feelings for me, too. Seems like a good love story, right? Problem is, we haven't really talked about us. And our "relationship" is not in the open -- although we don't really intend it to be a secret. (But it helps because his ex has been jealous of me since we became close friends and there are still issues about it, rumors going around and stuff.)
He is also hot and cold, and I wonder whether I am just a rebound girl or something. On the other hand, he's close to my friends and he knows my family and I've met his too -- but not in a mom-dad-I'd-like-you-to-meet-this-girl way, unfortunately.
I am really confused right now. I don't want to push the relationship or rush it, but it would really help to know where I stand or where we stand. I don't want to ask him outright because I might put him off. I'm scared to sound like I want to rush things. I am also shy and quite an introvert when it comes to talking about personal things and emotions. What sound I do? Should I just wait? Or should I keep my options open? Do you think he isn't really serious about this?
– Confused Wallflower, San Francisco
A: You have nothing to lose by asking, CW. I know that it's scary to rock the boat, but it's time. You can try, "Are we dating?" Or, "Think we'll ever be able to go public?" Or, "Are we at the point where we shouldn't be dating other people?" Or, "What the heck is this?" Ask with a smile on your face. It doesn't have to be a big sit-down talk or an accusation.
My guess is that he'll answer with a big "I don't know." And that's OK. Just take that opportunity to establish the rules together. Explain your needs (that he be less hot and cold, that you make this public, and that you both agree not to date other people) and see how he responds. Up until now, this almost-relationship has been all about him. It's time to change that -- and you can't worry about being a burden. He'll either respond well because he wants to make you happy and doesn't want to lose you, or he'll continue to prioritize his own needs, which should fuel you to move on.
Honesty can be scary, but self-confidence is very attractive. He should want to be with someone who knows what she wants and asks for it. He's going to be a lawyer. He's trained to have this conversation.
Readers? Should she be worried about asking for too much? Should she just take it day by day without having a big conversation? Do you think they're in a real relationship? What should she say to him? Advise.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.