Q: I need some advice about an impending visit to my city by an ex-boyfriend.
I dated "Brian" in college for about a year. He had liked me for a while and kind of swooped in while I was in an incredibly emotionally vulnerable place and going through a rather traumatic breakup. He brought me coffee, was there for me, and within weeks was in my bed. He is incredibly smart and sweet and really liked me, but at the time -- honestly, he was kind of a loser. He was smoking a lot of pot (I went to a West Coast public school, so this was not anti-social behavior by any means, but still), was slacking in his classes, and generally not trying at any aspect of his life.
After about a year of dating, I finally got over it and dumped him. We were in the same group of friends and continued to hang out, and over the years we've developed a strong friendship. He got his act together, finally graduated college, and is now attending grad school and pursuing his dreams. I'm proud of him. Likewise, he's been really supportive of me through the years as well.
Last summer, I was back on the West Coast visiting friends. I had been single for a while, was not feeling particularly connected to anyone, and ended up sleeping with him. It was not expected but we had a good time. Since then, he's been texting me fairly regularly, and sometimes his messages are suggestive. I do text back, but typically am dismissive of the sexual innuendo. I haven't told him that the texts occasionally make me feel uncomfortable.
I've been living on the East Coast for a few years now and he's always talked about how he'd like to visit but can't afford it. Earlier this year, he started talking about visiting again, and I told him it would be great to see him, but I didn't really take his comments seriously. But then he let me know that he went ahead and booked plane tickets to my city -- for a full week in April (he is coming next week).
I am angry that he didn't actually consult me about when it would work for me to have him visit, or whether I was actually comfortable with him staying with me for that amount of time. I'm in school and April is a very busy time for me. I live in a tiny studio and don't have a couch or any other place for him to stay. I know he can't afford to stay in a hotel. I don't know if he has any other friends in the area he can stay with, but I know that he's assuming that he's going to stay with me. He's basically just coming to see me.
To be fair, I've slept on couches at his various homes over the years (and last summer in his bed). Despite my frustrations, he's a good friend of mine and I want to be a gracious host. But at the root of it, I just don't want to sleep with him. I feel guilty that I haven't stopped his flirtatious behavior before now, but I didn't see any harm in it given that we are on different coasts and not headed to be in the same place long term again. I care about Brian a lot and don't want to ruin the friendship. I know that I need to talk to him before he comes and tell him that I don't want to sleep with him and he shouldn't expect anything from me. Do you have any advice for me about how to go about having this conversation?
– how many times do you have to break a heart?, New York
A: Just be honest. It's so easy. You don't even have to be mean. Just say, "I'm excited to see you, Brian, but I'm really busy with school next week. You might have to entertain yourself a lot." Then add, "I want this visit to be platonic. I should have said something earlier, but I'm just not interested in more than a friendship. There will be no sex. I hope that's OK. I'll understand if you want to change your plans because this isn't the vacation you had in mind."
You've been so passive about this relationship. That's on you. You have every right to be annoyed that he booked a trip without consulting you (who does that?), but he has absolutely no idea that you don't like his texts and that you're stressed about his visit. It would be so much easier for both of you if you started telling him how you feel in the moment.
I have to wonder whether you've kept quiet about your feelings because you like having him around as a Plan B or C. Really, if you know he's not for you, you have to stop the flirting. Be clear about your boundaries. Don't leave him guessing.
Also, run out tomorrow and buy a really nice air mattress. This is why air mattresses were invented. There's no reason for Brian to get anywhere near your bed.
Readers? Can she ask him to cancel the trip at this point? What should she tell him? Why hasn't she been more honest? Can they have a friendship? What should happen here? Help her out.
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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.