Jennifer asks:
My boyfriend is a flirt with other women and isn't publicly very affectionate with me. I am not unattractive, but his actions leave me feeling as if he is embarrassed to be seen with me. When we are in a restaurant together, it is the waitress that gets his undivided attention. His father cheated on his mother for the entire length of their marriage and his mother put up with it. I don't know how to explain that his flirting is destroying my self esteem. It is making me feel like a freak for saying anything about it, as if I'm the one in the wrong, but I come home from every outing together feeling like a dope for watching my boyfriend flirt right in front of me. What should I do about my flirting boyfriend?

Dear Jennifer,

A young boy first learns how a man should treat women by watching how their father treats their mother. Sadly, it appears your boyfriend's father may not have been a particularly good model for his son. Your boyfriend may well be following the example set by his father, that is, being more attentive to other women, rather than the woman in his life. Since you mentioned his father in your letter, I suspect this is not news to you.

Your boyfriend may honestly see absolutely nothing wrong with flirting with a waitress, since he may have seen his father do the same thing a hundred times. You may think he is flirting and he may think that he is only being friendly. The real question is, would he be just as friendly to a male waiter? If he is just as friendly to a male waiter, I would say that he is just a very friendly and social guy.

It terms of not expressing his affection for you publicly, this could just be how his parents were when he was growing up. On the other hand, he could also not be expressing his affection publicly because it is his way of keeping his options open. If he is not holding your hand or kissing you, it is pretty easy to later play your relationship off as "just friends" to another woman.

Regardless of why your boyfriend acts the way that he does around you, you clearly are not happy with the current situation. So, what do you do? Well first of all, I think you need to think long and hard about what you are looking for in life.

In the short term, it sounds like you want a boyfriend that makes you feel he is happy and proud to be with you. One way he can demonstrate that to you, is by being focused on you during your dates and being openly affectionate with you in public. From my perspective, that doesn't sound like a lot to ask for in life. So the question is, can your current boyfriend be that guy for you? If you don't know, you might decide to ask him. Here is how I would do it:

1. Pick a time and a place to talk to your boyfriend. It should be a place where it is quiet and you will have some privacy.

2. When you are talking with your boyfriend, stay calm and talk softly. You are not looking for a fight. You are looking to calmly and quietly share what is on your heart.

3. Tell your boyfriend what you want out of a romantic relationship and ask him if he can do that for you.

Here is a sample of what you might say:

Kevin, I want to talk to you about something that has been on my mind. I have been spending a lot of time thinking about what I want out of life. One of the things I have decided I want is to be and feel wonderfully loved. Love is very important to me and I want to feel loved and adored. I want to feel loved and adored by you.

Unfortunately, when we are out on a date, I don't feel like I am the focus of your attention. I have often felt like the waitress gets more of your attention than I do. That may not be right, but that is the way I feel. I also feel like you are not very openly affectionate with me in public. That makes me feel like you are not that excited to be with me or, worst yet, embarrassed to be with me.

I want to be and feel wonderfully loved. I want us to take romantic walks in the park holding hands. I want us to kiss, hug and cuddle while we wait in line for a movie. I want us to snuggle close outside on cold days. I want us to hold hands across the table at the restaurant. I want us to share a deliciously sweet dessert after dinner. I understand that may not have been how your parents were when you were growing up. I understand that may not be how you are wired right now, but that is what I want. I want to be and feel wonderfully loved. I want to be and feel wonderfully loved by you. It doesnít cost any money, but it is what I want more than anything in the world. Can you do that for me?

4. Once you have said that, be quiet. You have asked him a question, so let him talk. Whatever he says, stays calm and talk softly. If the conversation wanders off, you might want to return to your question.

Handling the conversation as I noted above accomplishes several things:

1. You come across as a confident woman who knows what she wants in life.

2. You let him know that you want certain things out of your relationship.

3. You leave the decision with him as to whether he can fulfill the desires of your heart.

Your boyfriend will then have a few options:

1. He says "Yes".

That is the simple answer and a happy answer for both of you. When he does one of the things you asked of him, let him know how much you appreciate it. That will encourage him to do it again. Is he going to backslide? Absolutely. When he does, try to give him a gentle and loving reminder of how much you appreciate his affection.

2. He says "No".
It may not feel like it at the time, but telling you "No" is a gift. He is telling you, flat out, that you are not going to get what you want with him. You are with the wrong guy. If he tells you "No", it tells you that you don't need to waste any more time with him. It frees you up to start looking for that man that will want you to truly feel loved and adored.

3. He says "Maybe".

What I mean by "Maybe" is that the two of you negotiate some middle ground. You might want to walk in the park once a week, but you both agree to go once a month. You want to hold hands in the restaurant. He says ďFineĒ. He wants to spend an occasional Friday night playing poker with his friends. You say ďFineĒ. If in the end, you feel like his heart is yours, "Maybe" is a great answer.

In the long run, I think you win in any scenario. Good luck!


Comment by Jennifer April 25th, 2008 6:21 am

I really appreciate your advice. I think it is great advice. I have already approached him but not exactly in this manner. I am going to go home tonight and do what you recommend... wish me luck...

Comment by Jennifer April 25th, 2008 6:22 am

Thank you so much. I think you are right even if I hear no, I won't be wasting my time and I will have that confirmation. Thanks again.

Comment by Romance For Everyone April 25th, 2008 6:22 am

I am really glad you found my advice helpful. I must say I am impressed by difference in tone of your comments versus your original letter. In your initial letter, you sounded beaten down and very unsure of yourself. Your latest comments give me more of a sense that you are a woman who is in control, knows what she wants and she is going after it!

Comment by Dani May 2nd, 2008 8:29 am

If it really bothers you that much talk to him, don't put up with it. If he loves you he'd stop.

Comment by Jennifer April 25th, 2008 11:28 am

Well thank you so much for your kind words. I was really beaten down when I wrote that first letter to you. I still am but hearing your point of view, (a man's) and taking in what you said, I just realized you are so's my life, I need to be happy. Why wait on the heartache to come when I can just ask and get it over with now. I do take control of every aspect of my life but men. They seem to take control of me... especially the ones who aren't good for me.

Comment by Jennifer April 29th, 2008 9:53 am

Well. I printed off my question to you and your reply. I gave it to him to read. When he read the part from you where it comments on how a child learns from their father how to treat a woman, he busted into tears. Says he hates his dad and he's just like him but doesn't want to be. Then in the end he felt his answer is maybe he can change. He can work on the flirting but can't guarantee he wont take off with a friend when we fight and go bar hopping like a single guy. So we read the results of each answer, "yes", "no" or "maybe" together...I feel the answer I got was pretty much a "no". He thinks it should be a "maybe". He spent that entire night telling everyone he was in love with me and introduced me to everyone at the casino at each table we went to and many times at each table. He was drunk! I don't know what to do....I feel like I'm headed for a heartbreak and I told him that too.

Comment by Romance For Everyone April 29th, 2008 3:01 pm

When I received your first letter, my feeling was that unless your boyfriend was thoroughly discussed by how his father treated his mother, he was on the path to relive his father's life. I started to write about that, but decided instead to focus on what you were looking for in life. That being said, I think you boyfriend's show of emotion and his distain for his father's actions give him a reasonable chance to take a different path in life if that is what he decides to do.

In terms of his answer being "yes", "no" or "maybe", maybe you need to clearly state where the boundaries are. You could say that being overly friendly with a waitress is something that the two of you could work through, but hitting the bars every time the two of you have a fight is not. My sense is that his drinking may also be an issue for you. You need to decide for yourself what your limits are.

Comment by Jennifer April 30th, 2008 6:21 am

I just don't know what to do with my boyfriend, because he doesn't get it. I don't feel he is emotionally able to get it. Women are his idol, and friends are his most important thing. I am in the back seat. We are financially connected to each other, which I do not like. I make my own money but we spent all of mine on bills, and his was blown at the casino. I think I just want out but, on the other hand, I have never been more sexually compatible with a man nor have I ever had so much in common. I definitely never have been so attracted to one like I am him. Just want more attention, dedication, sympathy for my needs, and just flat out respect.

Comment by Rabia May 10th, 2008 3:55 am

Reading your messages, your story sounds so much like my own. I have just come out of a two-year relationship which began very much like yours did.

The guy I was with also had parents that are now divorced and he saw his father with other women. The guy that I was with just did not change, and chances are he will never change. I spent two years trying to explain to him that I was uncomfortable with the way that he was in public. It was not that he wasn't affectionate to me, but that he was also very attentive toward other women. I did not appreciate that. It would happen every single time that we went out.

The result is that you end up driving yourself insane, you become very insecure about yourself and your relationship and you can not trust him no matter how hard he tries to convince you that he isnít doing anything wrong. How can you believe him when you can see what is going on with your own eyes? You start questioning yourself. You start thinking that you are the one with the problem.

When things were good, they were absolutely excellent. In the short bursts of happiness that I did have, I had never been happier. I also was more attracted to him than anyone. I thought he was the most beautiful guy ever and sexually we were so compatible. But eventually, you start to hate him because you donít think of it as love anymore, itís just sex. You start feeling used and eventually the same person, who you thought was so beautiful, starts looking very unattractive in your eyes.

Jennifer, donít let it get to this stage. My advice to you is that itís just not going to work. Move away now and let him be. He will never change.

Comment by Joy May 28th, 2008 9:07 am

Dear Jennifer,

I am going through a similar relationship issue. The difference is that my boyfriend is addicted to pornography. The relationship has lasted six months and many things have changed me. The experience has left me emotionally worn down. I feel angry, desperate, hopeless, emotionally worn down and not loved at all.

He wants to be free from the addiction, but he refuses to get professional help and wants to do it by himself. We tried almost everything, but the problem kept coming back and has been exacerbated in other aspects. I have lost my trust in him. I often have emotional bursts that I had not experienced before. I feel like I am losing myself. I don't know who I am anymore.

On top of all this, I also feel that I have never felt more connected to anyone as I am to him. This is the main reason why it has been very hard for me to break up with him.

This morning, when we were eating breakfast, he suddenly said that he wanted us to just be friends. I went through another emotional burst, and could not take it anymore... so I let him go.

It was hard, but perhaps it is the correct decision to keep myself straight in my mind. I can understand your feelings, it is hard to take that step, but if the relationship does not make you happy, it will only be a burden.

I am going to seek help in counseling. It's been too much for me and I fear I will experience an emotional breakdown. Please take care.

So what do you think? Did I give Jennifer the best advice? Do you have some thoughtful advice for her? You can leave a comment using the form below.

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