Stuck at Cuddling

Q: I've known this girl I go to college with for about a year. We've become very close friends, talking everyday, whether online, on the phone, or in person. Also we hang out at least twice a week, usually watching TV and cuddling. I really want our relationship to go to the next level, and I recently expressed this to her. She told me that she had feelings for me, but she did not think she was ready. She also brought up that classic response that she did not want anything to happen to the relationship that we already have, which I could not agree more with, but I think the chances of that are slim to none. She also told me that she's afraid of commitment, though she did say it was a definite possibility. Given that she's scared, what should my next step be? -- Harold, 21

Dr. Susan: When you say you want to go to the "next level," what do you actually mean? Do you mean you want to get to know more about her inner life? Engage in extensive kissing? Sleep with her? Date her exclusively? She's obviously enjoying where the two of you are right now, being close friends with erotic tension. Unless the tension is all on your side, and she's merely cuddling with you the way she would with her teddy bear. You need to respect her unreadiness, but it would help if you understood what she's afraid of. Perhaps she's got a messed-up relationship history that is getting in the way. Plus, you're so sure that there is little chance your relationship would be lost if you got more deeply involved, but that's exactly what happens when such deeper relationships don't work out in the long run. Pfooof! You can't go back to the old innocent friendship and sweet cuddling.

Meanwhile, it's too soon to be talking of commitment. You're both young and haven't yet been through very much together. Chatting and watching TV aren't enough to base a commitment on. So what's your next step? Without talking about long-term commitment, offer to be hers exclusively until such time as you both need to move on. That will help her feel secure. Promise you'll always be honest with her. Move slowly in the physicality department. Shake up her comfort level just a tiny bit by getting away from the TV and doing new stuff together that will help you get to know one another better.

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