She's picked Bachelor No. 2, folks!
March 7, 2010 9:04 PM   Subscribe

Dating Etiquette - gently letting a suitor know someone else has been picked instead of him, without burning the bridge.

Met two great guys online around the same time and was emailing them both decently long messages starting two weeks ago. Both professionals, pretty cute and quite intelligent, either one I would consider a great catch considering what I know about them thus far.

Bachelor #1 was sending very well thought-out and interesting emails before he was radio silent for a few days earlier this week, later sending a short message saying he's swamped at work, and on the weekend he finally emailed me back with another nice long letter as usual.

Also this week, Bachelor #2 stepped things up with chatting online, a nice long phone call, a first date a few days ago and a second date last night. Things are definitely going well, he's been pretty vocal about liking my personality and finding me very attractive, how he's lucked out. I feel quite the same way about him.

I'm about ready to stop communication with Bachelor #1 and focus on #2. But I know #2 and I have only been on a few dates, and I don't think I should get my hopes up quite yet. So I was going to word a reply to say something a little less harsh than "thanks for the email, but I've kind of hit it off with someone during the last week, and I want to see what comes of that"

So regarding that,
1) do I reply to the rest of his email in there as well (given that it was a well thought out letter again and took time for him to prepare), will he want to read it?
2) how do I eloquently convey that if things don't work out, I'd like to see if he's still available?
3) any better ideas out there on how to tactfully write this one?

Thanks!
posted by lizbunny to Human Relations (31 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
1) Reply to the rest of his email, but don't ask him any questions if you don't want to continue the conversation.

2) "I have started seeing someone and I'd like to see where that goes." Don't specifically say anything about keeping your options open. It's implied, and it will be up to him if he is still interested if things don't work out with the other guy.
posted by amro at 9:19 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let's see if I understand this. You really want "Bachelor #2" but you want "Bachelor #1" to hang around (sort of on the hook but not being reeled in at all) until you see how things work out? Looks like what you are looking for are the right words to say, "You're in second place, but I'm willing to settle for you if I have to. Wish me luck!"

I think you need to make a decision and have the good grace to let the "other one" off the hook.
posted by Old Geezer at 9:25 PM on March 7, 2010 [25 favorites]


1) I would thank him for his reply and answer briefly but cordially, perhaps hinting that you've been busy in your own life, then let contact fade out for the time being. Personally, I am inclined to think that after a brief period of (non-exclusive) getting-to-know-you emailing, no engraved announcement officially ending your informal acquaintance is necessary. You could just drop the thread for now, and if circumstances should result in both of you wishing to pick said thread up later, well, fine. If you and Bachelor #2 have decided to enter into a relationship at this point, however, then say so; you could also tactfully mention that you've started seeing someone new, but have enjoyed getting to know him (Bachelor #1) and hope that you can remain in touch--as friends.

2) I am sorry to say this, but I don't believe there's any eloquent--or gracious--way to inform a gentleman that, while he isn't your first choice, you'd like to keep him on stand-by just in case things don't work out with the man you've decided you'd rather date. Ouch. While I see what you're going for here, any way you say this is going to sound indelicate. I would omit this part altogether.

Best of luck.
posted by teamparka at 9:28 PM on March 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


Great answer from Amro. Good point that I would not have thought of, that your preference is implied, and perhaps a disadvantage in stating it openly.

However, I think Bachelor #2 has sent you a big red flag which you have wisely headed. And if he treats you this way when he's still trying to impress you, what do you think he'll do when he thinks he "has" you? If #1 blows it (best to you on that, wouldn't it be nice if he didn't???), I would still be way of #2, regardless.
posted by SociologistTina at 9:30 PM on March 7, 2010


I'm just wondering how you tactfully recross the bridge back to #1 if #2 doesn't work out.

Do you necessarily have to focus on just one of the guys at this stage in the game? I was listening to an old Savage Love podcast just this morning and it was mentioned that it used to be considered normal to date more than one person at a time. Why not spend some time getting to know both guys better before you choose one to focus on?
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:31 PM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


Addendum to part 1 of my last comment:

Do not express your wish to remain acquainted as friends if you are not actually interested in platonic correspondence. If the point is to keep this guy around on the back burner as a spare while you make time with Mr. Maybe, it isn't fair to either fellow for you to be maintaining that connection.
posted by teamparka at 9:31 PM on March 7, 2010


Is it possible to go out with Bachelor #1 and then make your decision? Maybe that will be the true test and you can let him go with confidence, knowing even if things don't work out with #2 you wouldn't want #1 anyway.

Speaking from experience, I regret jumping into a one guy only situation when I had a few options. I'm not suggesting that you be deceitful or withhold information. But dating is meeting more than one person and experiencing different things.

In other words, there's no need to cut ties with #1 just yet.

IMHO.
posted by patientpatient at 9:32 PM on March 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think you either keep flirting with both or cordially drop No. 1 without hoping he's going to be hanging on. There's plenty of fish in the sea that if it doesn't work out with No. 2, they'll be another guy. If you really want to put him on the back burner, honesty is really the way you want to go.

Just put yourself in his shoes, would you like to be put there?
posted by Ironmouth at 9:45 PM on March 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Putting aside the issue of "is it appropriate for you to strategize to keep bachelor #1 in the picture in case bachelor #2 doesn't work out", here's the easiest and most straightforward way for you to deal with this: answer his long letter with a nice long letter of your own, talking about the usual things, but closing that you are going to be heads-down with work ("focusing all my energies on a project for the next several weeks" is a good phrase to use if you don't want to completely lie to the man) and you'll be incommunicado for the duration. That gives you several weeks to see if this guy works out for you, in a way that perfectly mimics what the other guy did to you (how do you know he wasn't trying someone out during that window, after all?)

Or, you know, you could just say "Hey, I met someone last week, we went on a date and hit it off -- I'm telling you up front because stringing you along would be rude and unfair." Then, if it doesn't work out with the other guy, you can call him back and (if he's still around) say "Okay, he and I both gave it a good honest try, but it didn't work out. Is there any way I can interest you in dinner, or did some lucky girl already grab you?"
posted by davejay at 10:25 PM on March 7, 2010 [7 favorites]


it was mentioned that it used to be considered normal to date more than one person at a time.

Oh, you know, I didn't think of that. It's very true, going back generations, and even my somewhat-old backside used to date more than one girl at a time (each knowing about the other) -- there's certainly nothing wrong with taking the approach of "I want to be open with you, and let you know I met someone else while you were heads-down at work. It's nothing serious yet -- it's very similar to where our relationship is right now -- and I wanted you to know about him. I'm also telling him about you. I'd still love to go on a date in person and see if we hit it off, even though I know dating more than one person at a time is (oddly enough) somewhat old-fashioned. What do you think?"
posted by davejay at 10:29 PM on March 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


Aww, thanks davejay. What a wonderful offer, but I'm taken! ;)

---

I don't think she's saying she wants to keep #1 locked in a cage in case she needs him. I think she's saying "there's nothing personal," and "I'll keep your application on file." He's not going to dangle like a fish on a hook.

To the OP, I'm still not sure you need to mention it. It might be too much information. I personally prefer davejay's first option, the three week "project." Does he really need to know exactly what's going on? And for you, do you want to start dating #2 while also making contingency plans? Does that spoil the magic for you? Assuming it doesn't, here's one possible email:
Hey, thanks for your long and thoughtful email. It was nice to hear about your sister's pet albatross -- what a funny story! And thanks for your thoughtful perspective on friendships and your family. It made me think through my own ideal balance between family and friends.

On my end, I'm sorry to have to tell you that I'm going to sign off for awhile. I've really enjoyed getting to know you, but I have gotten swept up into something that's going to take me away from online dating, for awhile at least. If the situation shifts, maybe we could reconnect?

In any case, I've appreciated all the thought and energy you've put into our correspondences. It's really been nice, and I wish you all the best.
posted by salvia at 11:13 PM on March 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, if it were me...I would arrange to meet bachelor #1 in person as soon as possible. You might even find that you are not that interested in him in person. I think it's hard to gauge your interest in someone when you have not met in person.

Also, I have rushed into wanting to be "exclusive" with a guy from a dating site only to find that he was still dating around....dating sites give people plenty of options and I personally just assume everyone is still considering options within the first few dates.
posted by bearette at 4:21 AM on March 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I was in the dating pool and had started to see more than one fellow, I wish I had been able to keep them both at arm's length for a few weeks instead of choosing the one I felt more strongly about right off the bat. Two dates in a matter of days is still very early on, and hitting it off from the get-go doesn't always last.

And when I was in the reverse situation, one of a few women a guy was dating, I really wish I had known that from the get-go. A guy I hit it off incredibly well with (who went so far as to say "I'm falling in love with you" on the second date) suddenly dropped me a few weeks later because there was another girl he was seeing and it started to get serious. I felt stung and betrayed. I don't think I would have hung my hopes so readily on that dude if I'd known I was still in the audition stage.

So I side with those who recommend you keep both bachelors at arm's length for now and telling both upfront that you're dating a couple people and seeing where things go before committing to either. You'll keep your options open and it'll keep you from getting too invested in #2 too early, in case things with him end up fizzling.

The cynic in me says that if someone is interested in you enough, you can follow other pursuits for a while and they'll still be interested in you if/when you come back... but that's manipulative and not really fair to them, and just not a good way to start any sort of relationship.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:36 AM on March 8, 2010


I think davejay provides the best answer to the actual question, leaving the moral aspect out of it. Something along the lines of his suggestion will buy you several weeks to see if #2 is going to be serious or not without closing the door on #1.
posted by the foreground at 4:38 AM on March 8, 2010


Please do not start telling this "project" story that bearette and davejay suggest. It would be a lie. You hope to keep #2 an option. Maybe this is possible, but do not do it by lying to him. This is dishonest, manipulative, and no way to start any kind of relationship, not even a backup one.
posted by massysett at 5:13 AM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


I was on the receiving end of a situation like this once. I met a guy from a dating system. We went out a couple of times and I really liked him. Then one day he called me (returning a phone call I'd made earlier in the day) to tell me that he'd met someone else shortly before he met me and they'd decided to give things a go, and, as he put it, "well, I can't do two."

I paused a second and my thought process went something like, "Hmm. It's a brand new relationship for him. There's an excellent chance it won't work out. Alternatively, if she should be the one for him, he could make a good friend. This guy has been honest and direct with me and I appreciate that, and I enjoy his company."

So I said, "Would you be open to just being friends?"

He said, eagerly, "Yes, that'd be great!" I knew even at the time that he was keeping me on the wait list, but I didn't blame him because I knew I'd do the exact same thing in his situation.

For the next six weeks, he and I kept in occasional touch via phone and email. I kept meeting guys from the same dating system, and would have gone for it if I'd found someone new I liked, but that never happened. Then he and the other bachelorette broke up. Then he and I dated for a bit. It didn't work out between us, but I did get the nicest New Year's Eve date I've ever had out of it.

So I recommend that you play it the way he did. Tell the second choice guy you've gotten involved with someone else and that you "can't do two". Leave it up to him to decide if he wants to stay in touch.
posted by orange swan at 5:37 AM on March 8, 2010 [6 favorites]


Please do not start telling this "project" story that bearette and davejay suggest. It would be a lie. You hope to keep #2 an option. Maybe this is possible, but do not do it by lying to him. This is dishonest, manipulative, and no way to start any kind of relationship, not even a backup one.
posted by massysett at 5:13 AM on March 8 [+] [!]

I didn't endorse the "project" idea and in fact, disagree with it. I said she should just date them both openly.
posted by bearette at 6:08 AM on March 8, 2010


There's nothing wrong with dating multiple people as long as you're honest and open about it. Then, if you decide that you want to date one exclusively, do so. No need to pick sight unseen, after all.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:17 AM on March 8, 2010


There's nothing wrong with dating multiple people as long as you're honest and open about it. Then, if you decide that you want to date one exclusively, do so. No need to pick sight unseen, after all.

It doesn't sound like she wants to, though. Personally, I'm mentally and emotionally incapable of dating two guys at once, perhaps the OP is the same.
posted by amro at 6:54 AM on March 8, 2010


Please do not start telling this "project" story that bearette and davejay suggest. It would be a lie.

Not everyone agrees that you have to be open and honest about every single detail of your life at every moment all the time. Some people were raised to put a premium on honesty at all costs, and others were not.

It's clear the OP is not looking for moral advice, the question boils down to how best to "say something a little less harsh than "thanks for the email, but I've kind of hit it off with someone during the last week, and I want to see what comes of that"..."

Saying she is busy in one way or another is an appropriate answer to the question.
posted by the foreground at 7:02 AM on March 8, 2010


Also this week, Bachelor #2 stepped things up with chatting online, a nice long phone call, a first date a few days ago and a second date last night. Things are definitely going well, he's been pretty vocal about liking my personality and finding me very attractive, how he's lucked out. I feel quite the same way about him.

Have you discussed being exclusive with Bachelor #2? Those things he is saying sound hopeful, but they don't necessarily mean he isn't dating around too.

I would check on this before you write Bachelor #1.
posted by Hiker at 7:02 AM on March 8, 2010


It doesn't sound like she wants to, though. Personally, I'm mentally and emotionally incapable of dating two guys at once, perhaps the OP is the same.

"how do I eloquently convey that if things don't work out, I'd like to see if he's still available?"

If you want to keep someone on the hook, you have to be honest about it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:18 AM on March 8, 2010


Optimus Chyme, you're talking about two totally different things. In your first post you told the OP that there's nothing wrong with dating multiple people as long as you're honest about it. I responded and said that she doesn't seem to want to date two people at the same time. That has absolutely nothing to do with keeping #1 available in case things don't work out with #2.
posted by amro at 8:34 AM on March 8, 2010


Bachelor #2 says he only dates one person at a time, and he knows I'm only dating him now and prefer to date one at a time when there seems real potential. We've also moved things into the bedroom, and he's been keeping in touch every day. So in my current situation, it doesn't feel right to set up a date with Bachelor #1 and test those waters - seems very foolish to put things with #2 at risk for something unproven with #1.

But if things hadn't progressed this far with #2 already, I would try to get a date with #1 in short order, and evaluate his potential. I don't like the idea of lying to someone unnecessarily, I wouldn't say I'm busy with work to disguise my social life. I also think he should know that he was too slow on the draw, someone else caught my attention while he was "too busy"... #1 might well have been seeing other girls and lying to me anyway, a point which just dawned on me.

Still not sure on sending a decent reply to his email along with the gentle letdown though. Thanks for the advice, this helps a lot :)
posted by lizbunny at 8:36 AM on March 8, 2010


If that's the case, a short email that says he was very nice but that you're seeing someone else will be fine. It's not a big deal and only a nutcase would be hurt or offended.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:43 AM on March 8, 2010


I have received the following (not verbatim): "OK, this is hard. You sound great! Unfortunately, I've just agreed to start seriously dating someone I met around the time/just before I started talking with you; otherwise I'd totally be interested! Best of luck, but a great guy like you won't need much to find a girl!" Only an insecure jerk could get insulted by this.

That message reels with compliments & leaves a door wide-open for me to reply: "Good luck! But, if it doesn't work out, please keep my email. I'd be interested in another chance."

Whether or not he replies, the followup (if the first romance doesn't work out) can be: "Hi, remember me? I think we clicked, but the timing was bad for me. That situation didn't work out, and I was wondering if the super guy I met is still available...?
posted by IAmBroom at 8:51 AM on March 8, 2010 [9 favorites]


My apologies bearette, I mixed your name up with someone else's.

Not everyone agrees that you have to be open and honest about every single detail of your life at every moment all the time. Some people were raised to put a premium on honesty at all costs, and others were not.

It's clear the OP is not looking for moral advice, the question boils down to how best to "say something a little less harsh than "thanks for the email, but I've kind of hit it off with someone during the last week, and I want to see what comes of that"..."

Saying she is busy in one way or another is an appropriate answer to the question.


I too agree that you do not need to be open and honest about every single detail of your life at every moment all the time. There are, however, steps that the poster may take which allow her to meet her objectives without lying about a "project." First of all, I don't see what is harsh about stating it the way you did in your boiled-down version. Second, even if the OP is not looking for moral advice, you are giving it now by stating that "not everyone agrees" about this and that and that "saying she is busy . . . is an appropriate answer." I disagree and think that lying in order to gain tactical advantage is by no means appropriate in this situation.
posted by massysett at 9:42 AM on March 8, 2010


Whatever you do, don't just go silent on Bachelor #1. That's what a lot of people do, and it contributes majorly to the negativity people experience in online dating! I like orange swan's response.
posted by greekphilosophy at 11:29 AM on March 8, 2010


I did the online dating thing for a quick minute and met somebody pretty cool before realizing I had some baggage to sort out first. I wrote him, what I thought, was a considerate email explaining the situation. Never heard back. I still think you should be clear and honest, but don't be surprised if Bachelor #1 moves on with his day.
posted by Raichle at 11:56 AM on March 8, 2010


I sent a reply email wrapping up the conversation, and went along the lines of what IAmBroom suggested. He's already replied back with "Thanks for the reply. I'm glad you found someone, that's what we're here for. I sincerely hope it works out for you because you seem fantastic and deserve it. But if it doesn't, drop me a line."

Perfect. Thanks, everyone.
posted by lizbunny at 1:15 PM on March 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


YAY!!!!!!
posted by IAmBroom at 9:41 AM on March 9, 2010


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