Dear Thelma: Why do women just want to be friends with me?

PHOTO: The Star/Asia News Network

Dear Thelma,

I am a 28-year-old guy, a graduate with a professional degree. I had been working in my field for more than five years before deciding to step out and build my own business together with a few others.

During this period, my business partner introduced a lady, X, who is his best friend.

X is a year younger than me. She used to have a boyfriend and they got engaged last year, but then her fiance had an affair and they broke up.

X and I started chatting and texting frequently. Everything was going well between us and we started to go out. For several months, we shared a lot of stories and laughter.

Then out of the blue, she sent me a text to say she was more comfortable being friends. She said not to waste time with her or put any hope in a relationship with her. Her text was completely unexpected and I was shocked. I did not ask her why she was ending our relationship, and instead simply replied, "I fully understand and thank you."

I talked to my business partner and told him what had been going on between me and X. He told me I couldn't give her the security that she was looking for. As an example, he said she always thought I did not know how to say no when my boss asked me to work every weekend for a month. She felt that I was softhearted and wouldn't be able to protect her.

My business partner also told me how she felt about an incident I became involved in: I had helped her lodge a police report after her ex-boyfriend had threatened her as he suspected she had stolen his passport. She had insisted she did not have his passport and had suggested that he make a new one. Her boyfriend refused to listen and instead threatened to make a police report against her.

I advised her to lodge a police report after receiving those threats. But while the police officer was taking down her statement, she refused to tell him where the incident happened as she did not want to reveal where she was currently living (she was staying at a friend's house at the time).

I advised her to tell the truth, but she refused to listen to me. However, she did not say that she was unhappy with me.

My business partner told me that I should just have supported her even if I did not agree, and not to tell her that her action was wrong. Is that what I should have done? I felt hurt after hearing that.

After I spoke with my business partner, X realised that I was hurt. She texted an apology, and said that in the beginning she just wanted to get to know me as a new friend but I had become too involved in the relationship.

I have never ever been in a romantic relationship with anyone because the woman always rejects me. Do I lack experience? Does she not find my character suitable? We are still friends, but I really hope our relationship can progress further. - Moody

Dear Moody,

There is a lot happening here and it is important to break things down to understand everything. Sometimes, it makes a lot of sense when you look at situations as a sum of its various parts rather than as just one thing.

This is a young woman who has just ended a very serious relationship. She was contemplating and ready for marriage with this man. That is serious. It is fairly accurate to assume that had she not discovered her ex-boyfriend had cheated on her, she would be marrying him.

Now, she is dealing with what is looking like a rather bitter break up. With accusations like what the ex-boyfriend is making, it is likely that the dynamic between the two of them was a lot more complicated than what it appears to be.

In this complicated situation, it is not surprising that she finds that she may not be ready for something serious. She is dealing not only with the break-up, but also infidelity. It is very heartbreaking to know that the person you were about to commit to for the rest of your life cheated on you.

On top of all this is the fallout from the break-up. The ex-boyfriend is not making it easy for her. The fact that she feels that she needs to keep her address a secret, even from the police, is rather telling of the state of the relationship between the two of them post break-up.

Perhaps unexpectedly, she meets you. You seem nice and kind. You listen to her and show her the empathy and care that she needs. She likes it. It may be different to what she had known in her previous relationship. She may even have liked it because she needed to have that at this moment when everything else in her life seems to be crumbling. This does not mean that she does not like you. Neither does it mean that she used you.

You, on the other hand, were smitten. You really like this girl. The problem is, she may not be ready for what you want.

You turned to your business partner because he is her friend. He may know her well. But does he know her best?

Perhaps he is right. Maybe she feels all those things about you; that you cannot protect her or that you want things your way. You won't know that, however, unless you ask her yourself. Anything else is likely to be speculation.

She is hurt and she needs time and space to heal. Maybe she does not know how to articulate that to you. You need to talk to her directly. Be honest with her about how you feel. Let her know that you are willing to wait for her if she needs time. Ask her what she wants.

Relationships are all about giving and taking. It is not a zero-sum game. It is not about one person being right and the other wrong.

If all those things your business partner said she felt about you are true, talk to her about these things. Ask her what she would like and discuss if there are compromises, or give her your perspective. For instance, it may not be a fair expectation to want support for a decision that is obviously wrong. Does she want someone who would blindly support her or someone who would be a bit more discerning and provide her alternate points of view? Just because you gave a suggestion, which happened to be right in this particular scenario, it does not mean that you want to be right all the time. Does she feel like she should be right all the time?

The bottom line is to talk it out. It may not take one conversation, or even two. Relationships are all about giving and taking. It is not a zero-sum game. It is not about one person being right and the other wrong.

While it is important that the two of you are able to have conversations and share laughs, it is also important for you to understand her perspectives on things like this. To build a life together, it is these things that matter - their values and principles, how they view life, and how they view relationships. Work these out with her.

If you decide that she is the one for you, then talk to her about what she needs in order for her to feel that you are the one for her. Let her know that you are willing to wait for her and you do not view it as a waste of your time.

If she says no, you would have to respect that. You will be hurt. But, it is better that you know than not. All you can do then is to appreciate the friendship you enjoyed with her, learn more about yourself and take stock of what you have to offer to someone.

Before all of this, though, you would have to talk to her. Do not be afraid. It is something that both you and she will appreciate once it is done.