I’ve been seeing a guy for six months now. When we first met, he had just found out that his girlfriend had cheated on him and so he broke up with her. This was the second girlfriend he’s had cheat on him, so I knew from the beginning what I was getting myself into. But now, I spend most every night at his place, all of his roommates and friends know that we’re a thing, we regularly go out to eat together and he’s okay with PDA when we go out to parties. Yet, we had a talk last night, and he says he’s still not ready to be in a relationship. We agreed we’re exclusive, but he says he’s not ready to deal with the pressures of a relationship and, since he’s been in a relationship most of his college career, he can’t handle anything serious. I know he really likes me, but I don’t know how much longer I can handle this situation, and I feel like I should maybe just let him be single and figure things out. Should I continue to do what I’m doing or cut my losses now and just stay friends? — Questioning the Labels
If you’re exclusive, but he’s telling you he’s “not ready to deal with the pressures of a relationship,” that’s code for “This could end at any time, so don’t start thinking we’re going to, like, move in together after graduation. Also: I might want to sleep with someone else.” If you want more than that, MOA. If you enjoy his company and are OK with being temporary enjoyment for each other until something/someone else comes along, then relax and enjoy the ride. (Just don’t expect anything more than a good time).
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katie March 17, 2014, 3:12 pm
“so I knew from the beginning what I was getting myself into” — what in the world does this mean???
Lucy March 17, 2014, 3:23 pm
“I knew he was buried under a shit ton of baggage, but I thought he was hot, so I went for it anyway.”
landygirl March 17, 2014, 4:43 pm
It means “If I could show him how different I was from all the others, he would change his mind and want to be with me forever.”
thatgirl March 17, 2014, 3:17 pm
WWS…there is something to be said about temporary enjoyment in a short term, this isn’t forever, kinda thing. Hang out, have fun! Sounds like you are both still in college, so stop trying to make it more than it has to be…unless you want it to be more. Then you really have to MOA…
katie March 17, 2014, 3:23 pm
ok, real advice though- im assuming you are in college too- just have fun! tell him that you are actually fine with this, and that you thought about it and dont actually want to do the exclusive thing either, and then just live your life.
ps. if you dont want to have sex with multiple people, dont. i never did and when i was in college at one point i had three boys that i hung out with/made out with/flirted with/had dinner with/whatever. it was amazing. its fun! you could either keep having sex with only him, or go to using condoms with everyone everytime, or whatever else options there are.
pps. if you are looking for a long term, serious thing, this plan will serve you very well because then you can still meet that longterm potential guy who is lurking around your college somewhere…. because this guy is shouting loud and clear that he is NOT THAT GUY. please listen to him.
ktfran March 17, 2014, 3:28 pm
Oh my gosh, Wendy got it perfectly right.
This dude likes the comfort of having you around, but he doesn’t want to commit to you. He wants the option to date other women. But he also really doesn’t want you to date other men. And he’s making it so you’ll look like the crazy girl if you get mad at him for playing the field, because, you know, “he already told you that the two of you weren’t serious.”
mylaray March 17, 2014, 3:28 pm
So you’ve agreed to be exclusive, but he doesn’t want a relationship. I mean, you’re in a relationship of sorts. It’s all just semantics. It’s pretty clear he wants something casual though, which is fine, but it sounds like you want more. And if you do want more, don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll be okay with something casual and temporary. It’ll only hurt you more.
Also, I don’t think staying friends is a great idea if you do move on (if you have feelings for him already). Honestly, I don’t see the point in trying to be friends in this situation where it’s a short relationship. To me, it makes more sense in a longterm relationship, but maybe that’s really backwards.
LlamaPajamas March 17, 2014, 3:41 pm
I agree a million percent. You’re exclusive and spend tons of time together but he doesn’t want a relationship? That’s totally semantics. The fact that you’re not sure how much longer you can handle this situation makes me think you do want a relationship (I’ve been there – there’s nothing wrong with that), but he’s clearly playing the field. I mean, he TOLD you that. I’d quit while you’re ahead and not even bother being friends.
Oh, and since I’m in the mood to quote movies today, “stop trying to make fetch happen”. That’s my final advice.
Sisisodapop March 18, 2014, 12:37 pm
OT: Love that movie. I’m really excited for the 10 year anniversary reunion!
Ok …. carry on.
rieux March 17, 2014, 4:46 pm
Yeah I dated a guy like this. It was pretty clear he thought that even if we were de facto exclusive and spending all our time together, that I somehow “couldn’t” get mad at him as long as we weren’t officially in a relationship. He said if we were in a relationship he’d be “accountable” and he didn’t want to be accountable. Well, he learned his lesson quickly enough: if you’re dating a girl who expects to be treated nicely, she’s going to get mad at you for dicking her over whether you give her a label or not. Heh. (I, however, did not learn my lesson until much later: never date a guy who is constantly trying to weasel his way out of you getting mad at him ahead of time, because he is DEFINITELY going to be doing things that make you mad.)
SixtyFour March 17, 2014, 4:25 pm
I agree with what everyone else is saying that if she can be okay with casual since they’re both still young, then continue seeing the guy. But if she really does want more, she should end it now.
I do disagree though that some are saying this is just semantics or that he really just wants to sleep with other women. There are tons of other commitments that come along with a relationship besides being sexually exclusive. Like if they were in a relationship and he was going away for a last minute trip with his buddies, he’d be expected to call her and let her know. But not in a relationship? Then he just mentions it the next time they happen to see each other or talk. The parents are coming to town and they’re in a relationship – she meets them. Parents coming to town and they’re not in a relationship – the parents have never even heard of her so they’re definitely not going to meet her.
Sounds like you are Friends with Benefits. And you should make sure that he is really treating the first part of that seriously – the Friends part. Even if you’re not boyfriend/girlfriend, he should still be treating you with the same level of respect that he would a friend that he cares about. And that includes taking into account how his actions affect your feelings.
rieux March 17, 2014, 4:59 pm
“I do disagree though that some are saying this is just semantics or that he really just wants to sleep with other women. There are tons of other commitments that come along with a relationship besides being sexually exclusive.”
Awesome point!! The “he just wants to sleep around thing” is so lowest-common-denominator. There are plenty of ways and plenty of reasons for men (and women, but women don’t usually get this assumption this automatically) to avoid commitment.
LB March 17, 2014, 4:29 pm
MOA. It’s never a good idea to settle or compromise for what you THINK might happen a few months down the line. It sucks but sometimes you meet a potential mate at the wrong time.
landygirl March 17, 2014, 4:41 pm
Women need to start taking men at their word when they say “I’m not interested in a relationship.”
Also, doesn’t this dude let the body get cold before he goes out looking for another one? Geez, if you don’t want a relationship, stop dating.
Bittergaymark March 17, 2014, 5:02 pm
Newsflash! Honestly? You’d ALL be better off if you just fucking casually dated people while in college. Nobody I know that married their college partners is either still together or even remotely happy if they are still together by 38.
redessa March 17, 2014, 7:31 pm
Maybe this doesn’t count because you don’t know me in person but…. I’m 38. My husband and I got married in college. We’re still together and plenty happy. Same story with my best friend and 2 of my husband’s siblings (the other 2 married after college). In fact, a sizeable percent of our peer group met and married in college. We’ve seen a few divorces and I wouldn’t pretend to know the details of most of their marriages, but the vast majority are still together and seem to be reasonably content with each other.
Lindsay March 17, 2014, 10:06 pm
Anecdotal evidence is helpful, but a lot of reasons have been identified why statistically, people who get married younger often get divorced. Obviously, you and BGM have conflicting stories, which proves that not everyone has the same experience. But that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t proceed with caution when doing something that has generally been shown to be risky. (I typically make an analogy about hearing about a person who was saved in a car crash by not wearing a seat belt, and that not being a sign that we should stop wearing seat belts.) I’m glad it worked for you, but people need to be very careful, and lucky, when contemplating it.
redessa March 18, 2014, 12:21 am
Oh I agree. I was 19 when I got married. I now have teenage children and the thought of them getting married that young makes me feel kind of panicky. I thought I was so grown up and ready. In hindsight, it was probably pretty stupid. BUT, it has worked out.
BGM said he didn’t know anyone where that was the case and I was just letting him know there are some of us out there. I wasn’t intending to say it’s a good idea for everyone or even for most young people.
captainswife March 18, 2014, 3:58 am
BGM, I’m 44, married my college boyfriend at 21. We still completely have the hots for each other and have no interest in other people. Just FTR, although the LW’s situation doesn’t seem promising. And I do agree that casual dating is by and large better in the college years.
Jenn March 17, 2014, 5:16 pm
If a man says no, but his actions say yes… it means no.
If a man says yes, but his actions say no….it means no.
If a man says yes, and his actions say yes… it means yes.
Never try to read into actions if they don’t follow words. Never follow words, if they’re not backed by action. A guy who is ready says “I’m ready” and ACTS ready. There is no in between on this, and trying to make it happen will only lead to heartbreak.
Laura Hope March 17, 2014, 6:34 pm
My experience with college boys was that they were really immature and didn’t know what they wanted half the time. I had a similar experience in college. He was in love with me (clearly) but terrified that he’d get hurt again. So he pushed me away and when I broke it off, he was devastated but could only hint about it in secret code (lol). It wasn’t until he was 23 that he actually knew how he felt and could communicate those feelings. (Of course it was too late).
Morgan March 17, 2014, 7:19 pm
Well, he told you what he wants…what do you want? I know for the first part of college, all I really wanted was a regular hookup who I enjoyed spending time with sober occassionally but without any sense of obligation for anything other than to be his formal date. And it sounds like you have that right now. But if you want not just exclusivity but an actual relationship with a sense of commitment, then MOA. What he wants isn’t good or bad, you just need to figure out how it fits in with what you want.
Lindsay March 17, 2014, 10:02 pm
Wendy’s right. I went through this same situation. I chose to ignore it and just “enjoy what I had” and it was a poor decision. It would have been better for my quality of life had I just moved on earlier rather than later. Also, being cheated on or having other unpleasant things happen to you isn’t an excuse. Not that it’s wrong for him not to want more, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that if all this is tied to those incidents, he’ll just get over it sometime and decide to be with you. And don’t think that acting like a boyfriend means that’s what he’ll want.
GatorGirl March 18, 2014, 8:53 am
If you’re not happy, then you should definitely move on.
BUT I don’t think this is definitely the “kiss of death” for the possibility of a relationship. I’m having a hard time articulating what I want to say, but anecdotally my relationship started similar. We where sexually exclusive before officially “dating”.
FossilChick March 18, 2014, 10:14 am
Oh man, sometimes Wendy gets a letter that could have been written by my past self and it freaks me out! I think everyone’s given great points but one thing in the letter stands out to me — “I don’t know how much longer I can handle this situation”.
LW, I think you’re frustrated with how things are currently, and you take comfort that he acts like you’re in a relationship and then are hurt when he says that you aren’t in a relationship. I could get behind the advice to just have fun with this and make it casual, except that I do not get the sense that you want that. If you want a relationship, MOA. It’s fine to want a relationship! But staying the course with this and being with him casually on his terms is not going to magically transform him into the loving, committed boyfriend you seem to want out of this.
You seem very accommodating to what he can “handle”, so if the situation is reaching a boiling point for you and you don’t know how much longer you can handle it, please be kind to yourself and give yourself the same consideration you’ve already given him.