He hasn’t told anyone about me

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Dear Meredith,

I recently got divorced after staying in a loveless marriage for more than two decades, and living separated for the last few years of it. My ex had mental health issues, which turned me into a very accommodating person, finding excuses to forgive or unsee unacceptable behavior. I live with my young adult son with autism who functions like a young child. I don't have any supportive family or relatives around. I own my home and I am financially independent. I feel like I lost 25 years of my life being a caregiver instead of a wife in my marriage. I want to find love and be in a committed relationship.

I met this man on a dating app six months ago. We are both in our late 40s, live in the same city, and have a lot in common. His kids are around same age with mine, and he is financially independent as well. We enjoy each other's company very much. He calls and texts me several times a day, and we meet once a week. He has been divorced for almost 10 years after going through a hellish divorce process. He had two relationships before we met, and has been alone the last few years. Question: Is it normal that he is still hiding me from his friends and children (youngest in high school)? Nobody knows that he has a woman in his life. I am 100 percent sure there is NOT another one. One day, out of blue, I asked him what I am to him. To summarize things, I am a friend-with-benefits, which hurt my feelings a lot. He immediately tried to rephrase it and said that I am more than a girlfriend, but I don’t see it in his actions. He is the only man I have been with other than my ex. I want to be in a committed long-term relationship (and not necessarily a marriage). I don't feel comfortable being treated like a secret affair.

I communicated this three times within the last two months without being pushy. He says he will tell them about me if it is important to me, but it still didn't happen. I am still a secret to his people, which makes me feel that either he is unsure about me or he is just using me. We both own a house and live with our kids. I am not asking to move in together or to meet his children, just not to be a secret anymore. Why is it too much? If I am disposable to him, I want to end it sooner than later to avoid getting hurt even more, and also to meet someone else before I am too old. I don’t want to ask him again. He sends signals saying that we are not in a relationship. For example, he did nothing for my birthday, not even a card. We rarely go outside and only if I ask. I am planning just to stop seeing him, or be a friend without any benefits and see how it will go. But I am afraid of losing him. What is your advice? By the way, we are from different races and different religions, but I don’t think it is an issue for either of us.

– Top Secret


The kid thing would have made sense on its own. If this was just about his own pace with his kids, I'd say hey, give it time. But if you feel hidden from his friends, and if he literally called you a friend with benefits before trying to make it sound nicer, I'd say it’s time to lose him. Six months isn't a long time, especially in a "we’re sort of readjusting after the first year and a half of COVID" world. But you want to know that this could grow. He doesn’t seem to want that.

"or be a friend without any benefits and see how it will go ..."

I'm going to vote against trying a friendship without benefits. He's not your friend, and there's no great reason to push for that kind of relationship when you want so much more.

Also, friends acknowledge a birthday. Just saying.

If you want more clarification, you can tell him what you want for your future (a fun, healthy relationship where lives are intertwined) and then ask what he sees for himself. If he's not even hoping for partnership, a shared community, or a plan, he's not for you. It doesn't mean he's a bad guy or does't find you interesting and wildly attractive; it just means you're on different paths. That happens a lot.

The good news is that you've pulled this off. You've had a new experience. You learned you can bond with someone, enjoy their company, and trust your internal compass when something feels off. You’re capable of so much. No matter what happens with this relationship, please feel good about that.

– Meredith

Readers? Stick around? Any need for another conversation?