The waiting is the hardest part
October 1, 2011 9:05 AM   Subscribe

Little voice that tells you to date more than one person? How did that work for you?

Four months ago, I met a guy whose company I really enjoyed. From the beginning, I told him I wasn't ready for a serious relationship (recently ended a 15-year marriage) and that I'd like to date other people. He said he understood and it was okay. I continued to occasionally go out with other people, and if he asked, I told him the truth (though never shoved it in his face). Now, he wants more and he says he doesn't understand why I'm not willing to try something exclusive with him. I hate to lose him because, if things were different, he is definitely someone I'd want to be with long-term, but I know I am not ready to commit to one person. At that same time, I'm finding it hard to articulate, even to myself, why I can't give this relationship the old college (committed) try. Have you found yourself in this position? What reasons did you tell yourself or your partner that made sense as to why an exclusive relationship wasn't what you want(ed) at that moment? I know what I feel is authentic, I just need a better way to verbalize it. Thanks for any help you can provide.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (10 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
When I was in very similar circumstances, I decided specifically to avoid all long term relationships for at least one year after my divorce. I could date all I wanted but no exclusivity. I did this because I feared that I my emotionally wounded self might be attracted to the first thing that came along. This worked out wonderfully for me as in retrospect the women I was dating were not as ideal for me as I thought at the time. A few years later, I met a woman whom I didn't know during those recovery times. We married in 1998 and now have two kids and are living happily ever after.

Please, for the next year or two, listen to your head instead of your heart.
posted by Jamesonian at 9:19 AM on October 1, 2011

Have you found yourself in this position? What reasons did you tell yourself or your partner that made sense as to why an exclusive relationship wasn't what you want(ed) at that moment?

You may have different feelings. But in the past, when I've felt that way, it's because being in a committed relationship is work, and some risk, and I just wasn't ready to do that at that point.

Also, being a relationship requires you to give up part of yourself, and when you get out of a relationship, there is a period of rediscovering and redefining who you are. That can be exciting and fun. If you're still in that process - and I think of it as a sort of grieving - the idea of committing to someone else sort of implies a risk and impedes that process. You just don't know yet what you will be like at the end, and you want to find out.

As you've surmised, feeling these things doesn't make you a bad person. He may not understand - not everyone feels or has felt that way.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:19 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You just don't like him that much. That's it. If you did you'd want to give it a try. You don't have to hunt for reasons - people can be perfectly great and even perfect in themselves but not perfect for you. You should tell him it's been great, but you're not a good match. Don't hang out as a friend and taunt him.
posted by meepmeow at 9:21 AM on October 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

Because every great relationship only works when you are in the zone: that place where you're standing smack in the middle of a triangle of right person, right place, right time. Right time can be a stand in for 'right' mindset. If one of those things is off, it doesn't happen. It's why all sorts of people are in the right place and time (mindset) to be exclusive (they've identified what they want in a partner and want the work that goes into commitment), but they can't find the right person. So they are single, but looking.

You're in a slightly different boat. It's the right (type) of person, and the right place (they are close), but not the right time. You're not in the right mindset, which probably means you either want to revisit what you are looking for in a partner, or don't want the burden of the work that goes into commitment right now. Maybe you want to just 'keep it light'.

I know I used to think that the 'right person' would trump the other two factors (right place, right time). But they don't. And that fact often offends the right person. True love, and all that.

I think it's like seeing the most amazing slice of pie in the window of a famous bakery, but you're just not hungry right now. You can try to talk yourself into it (when will I be by this bakery again? I'd be crazy to turn down this taste of something fabulous from a world class pastry chef, etc., etc.) You can talk to yourself all you want, but if your stomach is full, your body just isn't going to go for it. So, let it go. You'll be hungry later. You're not hungry for the work involved in a committed relationship (and after a 15 year marriage, I'm sure you know what that is) right now. So you'd be silly to try to try to force yourself, which you're not, so good on you. :)
posted by anitanita at 9:24 AM on October 1, 2011 [23 favorites]

I think it's smart for you not to want to be exclusive right now. The thing that you need to get across to him is that it's not because of him, but because of you.

You recently came out of a long-term relationship and you need recovery time. I think Pogo_Fuzzybutt said it well: a relationship is a risk, and you're just not willing to take that risk. It's tough because most people who are coming out of a big relationship tend to displace their fears onto potential new partners. Also, you are used to having someone who's always there. The easy thing is to jump into another relationship to replace that "empty" feeling. It's better for you in the long run to not have someone there. It allows you to fully heal and be more emotionally ready for a relationship at some point in the future.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:40 AM on October 1, 2011

You're not wrong to feel the way you feel.

But he's not going to understand. You're not going to be able to articulate this in a way that makes it okay with him because it's been long enough and he likes you enough that he wants to start a relationship with you.

It might be time to move on and call it a good run.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:51 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Committed and monogamous are two different things.

Committed: in it for the long haul, willing to work on problems, willing to be there for the "unfun" stuff, planning with the other person in mind.

Monogamous: only sleeping with one person

Our culture tends to smush the two together (most notably with marriage) but they are not the same thing!
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:53 AM on October 1, 2011 [11 favorites]

If I were dating someone in your position, I'd be willing to stick around if I knew that there was a reasonable chance of it turning into a committed relationship eventually.

Even better would be some sort of time frame. Could be "No promises, but if we're still together by 20XX we can start getting more serious." Could be "I promised myself I wouldn't get into a committed relationship for N years after the divorce, but after that I'm available." Could be as simple as "It's probably gonna be a matter of days / weeks / months / years / decades before I'm ready to commit to someone again." Just a general sense of what to expect in the future if things keep going well, even without any promises to stay together if things don't.

Waiting let's say a year for someone is tolerable if you can spend the whole time telling yourself "It's just a year." If you spend the whole time thinking "Shit, I could be in limbo like this forever," then waiting a year for someone is absolutely unbearable, even though it's the same amount of time either way.

(And on the other hand, if you think you'll never be open to the idea of a committed relationship with this guy, then it sounds like y'all want incompatible things even if you're compatible as people. Sucks, but that's probably reason to break up.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:24 AM on October 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you found yourself in this position? What reasons did you tell yourself or your partner that made sense as to why an exclusive relationship wasn't what you want(ed) at that moment?

You have to be willing to lose him permanently.

posted by Ironmouth at 10:25 AM on October 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Date other people unless he can give you the same terms of a relationship as you enjoy with the advantages of dating more than one person. That is his commitment to you if you commit to exclusivity with him. It will test you both and you have the chance of seeing what a long-term relationship with this man will feel like early in your relationship. Good luck making it work.
posted by parmanparman at 3:37 PM on October 1, 2011

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