Jealous? Moi? No way!
February 23, 2015 6:22 AM   Subscribe

I recently met someone online and although we have not yet met, I'm feeling jealous because they asked to me wait while they finished off some side business.

I met someone online two weeks ago, and we've been talking and texting several times a day every day since then. That person lives in another town a couple hours’ drive from where I am and we have not yet met. We get along well, agree on many levels and I was looking forward to meeting them in person later this week. I told them that if we were to start something, it'd have to be an exclusive affair. Otherwise, we should just stay platonic friends. They agreed.

Then out of the blue, they tell me this morning that an old flame of theirs has just resurfaced, that they would be spending this week together and that I should just sit out patiently until the old flame leaves.

I'm feeling annoyed and yes, jealous, but wonder if I have any right to be. After all, we've never met and I don’t even know if things were going to work between us. The reason I’m not shutting this down right now is because I like the honesty (they could have not told me the truth) and also the fact that we’re not an item yet so I’m not owed anything at this point.

Am I right to want to wait until they come back to me?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't think this is the right relationship for you. You're already way too invested. Step back.

In general I think it's a bad idea to get into daily talking/texting relationships with people you haven't met yet.
posted by mskyle at 6:26 AM on February 23, 2015 [32 favorites]

I think that the first few weeks of any relationship are a good indicator of how the rest of it will go. If this person is putting you off to see an ex, I would probably walk away.
posted by xingcat at 6:28 AM on February 23, 2015 [15 favorites]

an old flame of theirs has just resurfaced, that they would be spending this week together and that I should just sit out patiently until the old flame leaves.

Are they just hanging out together while the old flame is in town, or are they trying to rekindle the relationship? It's not clear from the way you described it which it is.

In any case, it's reasonable to feel annoyed - everyone wants someone who really wants to be with them. Your feelings are your feelings. But you haven't actually met in person yet - you may be totally incompatible. They can't really "come back to you" since they've never been with you.

I would meet later if I still were interested, but try and pull back your investment a bit. You really don't know this person at all.
posted by pantarei70 at 6:30 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

You have the right to feel the way you do! Yet, reign it in and be realistic.

I agree with mskyle about being too invested. Online relationships are tricky that way- our online selves are restricted. This person may seem perfect on so many levels, but the most important level hasn't had a chance yet.

I'd say to meet for coffee at a later date. Connecting is wonderful and you can be friends at the least.
posted by maya at 6:31 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Whoa. This person abruptly changed the "rules" of your interaction. And in a really gross way. DTMFA.

First of all, this person is a complete stranger to you. Second, you should not have been in daily contact with someone you don't know. Thirdly, this is some serious game playing on their part, and you want NOTHING to do with someone who acts like this.

This person is not what they were pretending (available for an exclusive relationship) and now you must adjust to this new fact. DTMFA.

I'm not sure why this person was courting you, then abruptly changed course, but what's done is done. DTMFA.
posted by jbenben at 6:43 AM on February 23, 2015 [18 favorites]

OP, I'm assuming you met on a dating website. My advice comes from the expectation that this person was specifically persuing you romantically.

If the interaction was more casual and the initial connection was not made on a dating website, then maybe you can get to know this person down the road?

Nah. Either way it sounds like drama. If you reconnect proceed with caution. You don't know this person yet. Be cautious.
posted by jbenben at 6:57 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've watched many shows on catfishing and the reason why it is so easily done is that it does fill a need. You get to feel all the fun bits of a relationship without any of the risks. Now, with many people, it ends up being a scam that they pay for, but, they are getting what they pay for. They are getting the story.

You have managed to get this service for free. Enjoy it for what it is.
posted by myselfasme at 6:58 AM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


This person is not on the level. So he's moved you to the back burner pending the outcome of a week with his ex? In what way is that even remotely okay?

Also, as others have noted, you aren't in any kind of relationship if it's all by text and on-line. You've invested all this emotion and time into someone you don't really know anything about.

Email/text him back, "No thank you, I'm no longer interested." Then block him completely.

This is a trifling, sorry excuse for a man and him, you don't need.

There is someone wonderful out there for you, and HE will move heaven and earth to meet you in person and to get to know you better because he is honest.

In the future, don't equate constant internet contact for building a relationship. This is how people get catfished, defrauded and horribly used. Seriously. Do a better job protecting yourself.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:59 AM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

Of course an old flame showing up is a higher priority than someone who they haven't even met yet. Wouldn't it be crazy for them to say to their flame, "I can't hook up with you because I've been messaging with this person off OKCupid?"

It's reasonable for you to feel sad/ impatient because you were excited about this person. But I don't see why you wouldn't give them another chance if their current thing doesn't work out. I also think you should be looking as actively as you were two weeks ago however. I sort of get the impression that you go monogamous as soon as you start messaging with someone, which is unusual.
posted by metasarah at 7:20 AM on February 23, 2015 [37 favorites]

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like you want to be exclusive starting with your first date. That's pretty quick. Sounds like the guy you're talking to doesn't feel the same way, but is fine with it if there is no one else if he is interested in pursing. (Note: I don't think this doesn't make him a "player"; he may be fine with being monogamous, but just further along than the first date.) Now he's saying, wait, I am interested in someone else as well, and I need to see this out before I meet with you, given your rules about being instantly monogamous.

This is off putting, no doubt. You're seeing a pretty naked calculation and it isn't pretty. But it's really, really honest. Given that many people consider "dating" to be a step before exclusive relationship, he could see you during the week he's seeing his ex and probably still conform to his idea of faithfulness. But he's not doing that, because it doesn't conform to your idea.

I'm not saying he's being valiant, just that he's being an honest broker with you, despite you guys barely being more than strangers. Someone up thread is talking about an amazing man who will move heaven and earth for you. That guy is out there, but he's probably not going to do that after just a few online chats. Maybe this guy will be that guy one you have a substantive connection.
posted by spaltavian at 7:36 AM on February 23, 2015 [18 favorites]

It depends on what they mean by “spending time with an old flame”. Is this an old friend that they dated ten years ago and want to spend the week catching up or are they hoping to romantically reconnect?

They do get points for honesty but this would be a major red flag for me. What happens in three months if you guys are dating and the old flame comes back into the picture again?

You can choose to wait but at best you’ll feel annoyed that he put you on the back burner and at worst you’ll never hear from them again and your time will have been wasted.
posted by Diskeater at 7:39 AM on February 23, 2015

metasarah is so right. From the perspective of this person, who is likely using the internet the way most online daters do (casually, nonmonogamously), you are probably a compelling stranger who s/he might like to get to know someday soonish. They don't owe you anything, and you don't owe them anything--not yet, anyway.

For what it's worth, I put a mostly-online relationship on pause for a little bit (the guy was seeing other people, so it's not like he was waiting by the phone) while an old flame came to town. When he left, I called my guy, and it was all good. And now, two years later, we're still together.

I totally understand your frustration, but I disagree that their behavior is unacceptable or disrespectful. Early dating, especially with internet origins, is just kind of a free-for-all.
posted by witchen at 7:40 AM on February 23, 2015 [11 favorites]

I think standard advice is to waste as little time as possible before meeting in person. A lot of times it collapses right there.

To me, what's interesting about this guy is he actually told you he would be seeing his ex. He didn't have to do that at all. A lot of people you're meeting online are going to be dating around or whatever. I dare say some of them will respond to your thing about monogamy with, "Sure, sure" and then just do whatever they were doing. This guy actually seems more willing than some to get with your program.
posted by BibiRose at 7:40 AM on February 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

Then out of the blue, they tell me this morning that an old flame of theirs has just resurfaced, that they would be spending this week together and that I should just sit out patiently until the old flame leaves.

You will never hear from this person again. They have let you go and this is their bizarre, cowardly way of doing it.
posted by desjardins at 7:48 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Wait, you asked for exclusivity before you've even been on one date with this person? Honestly, I think this is so outside the norm for online dating (or any sort of dating), that I don't know what context to put the other person's reaction in. Could be he's just being honest -- of course someone he has a real relationship is going to take precedence over someone he's never dated. Could be he's using this as an out because your weird behavior freaked him out. In any case, I would back way off and uninvest from someone who is essentially a stranger. If he contacts you again in the future, meet him for coffee (or not) according to how you're feeling in the moment -- if he still seems worth getting to know, go for it, if it feels like too much drama lamma over a stranger, then say no.

And, in the future, absolutely do not put yourself in this position again!! Don't get overinvested or pretend that you have a right to ask for monogamy from someone you are not dating and do not know. I recommend meeting up with people right away so you can see if that chemistry is there and if there is something worth pursuing. Only then, after you've established that there is a real connection and really gotten to know each other would you want to ask about exclusivity.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:54 AM on February 23, 2015 [11 favorites]

It's possible nothing in the story you've received is true. The "old flame" might be his wife. His real, actual, current wife. He's got cold feet about meeting someone else.

Wave bye and move on.
posted by zadcat at 8:05 AM on February 23, 2015 [6 favorites]

Came back to address the whole monogamy thing. Unless you're actually dating in the real world, this strikes me as a weird thing to ask of someone you don't know. Dating is just going out with someone to see if you'd like to know them better. So many people conflate dating with being in a relationship and I'm firmly convinced it's because all this internet immediacy gets mistake for intimacy. So if you're dating, there comes a point, usually before sex becomes part of the equation, where you talk about monogamy, actualy going steady.

Now, if we're just talking monogamy versus polyamory as a relationship more, then that's different. But making going out on a first date predicted on agreeing to be monogamous BEFORE YOU EVEN MEET, that is beyond strange!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:40 AM on February 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

You haven't even met yet - you're far from exclusive. Neither of you owes the other anything. Sounds like he's being honest with you and his circumstances changed. I don't see how this makes him a game player or a jerk or anything else. I'd just write him back and say, "thanks for letting me know. If you're free again later, let me know and we'll meet up." No big deal.
posted by sunflower16 at 8:53 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Here is what should have happened: you message with this person, you like them, you agree to meet on a date. You go on a date, it goes well. The person's old flame shows up and they hang out for a week and have sex or whatever. The person does not tell you because you are not exclusive and therefore it really isn't your business who else they are dating/seeing. Flame leaves. You go on another date, and maybe at some point you decide to become exclusive.

Instead, you say you won't date unless it's exclusive. So, he tries to work within those parameters and tells you he needs another week. This is kind of tacky and gross, but I don't think it automatically makes him a monster; the parameters on the relationship at this point are kind of peculiar and he could very well have been trying to work within them in good faith.

If I were you I think I would be inclined to write this off as a learning experience: don't bring up exclusivity until AFTER you have actually started dating. This thing with the old flame would make me feel shitty and would make it impossible for me to go forward mentally. Even though I don't believe he has the obligation to tell you about his other dates at this point, it's also knowledge that, once you have it, you have every right to hold against him if you don't like it. It's one thing to know generally that they are seeing other people, but it's quite another to basically be told they are sleeping with their ex for the next week. Bleh. Some people have the emotional fortitude to deal with that, but I'm not one of them.
posted by gatorae at 9:04 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have no idea why they felt a particular need to share that the reason they will be busy is due to spending time with someone they previously had a relationship with, unless chatting about prior relationships is something that's been important in your interactions.

Right now, you're both single, not in an exclusive relationship, and haven't even met in person. To this person, you haven't yet started something, so that idea of exclusivity hasn't been breached, yet. You feel like you're already on the path to exclusivity with this person. They think you haven't even met in person yet, and want to see what options there are out there. That's where the incompatibility lies.
posted by mikeh at 9:05 AM on February 23, 2015

Alison, at the always sensible Ask a Manager, recently posted her old dating advice column and her Cardinal Rule:

"The Cardinal Rule of Online Dating

* You are not permitted to invest substantial time or emotion in someone who you have never met in person. You are not permitted to get excited about someone you’ve never met in person. No matter how much you think you know the person and no matter how compatible you are on paper, you only know bits and pieces, and your mind is filling in the blanks on its own, probably inaccurately. We’re not even talking about physical appearance; people can have mannerisms, energy, or other ways of being that you can’t pick up on via the phone or computer. (If you are mentally arguing with us right now, you have lost touch with reality and must ban yourself from online access for the next 48 hours.)

The Cardinal Rule means that you are not permitted to email for weeks or develop a phone relationship; you should meet as soon as possible to ascertain whether or not there is chemistry."
posted by Ideefixe at 9:07 AM on February 23, 2015 [18 favorites]

Demanding monogamy or nothing from someone you have never even met is pretty extreme. I could see you saying before things get physical I want to be monogamous, but before you even meet? Wow. Yeah you boxed yourself into a corner there. I give him props for being honest. You gave him and all or nothing proposition with zero wiggle room. And really he's being honest, respecting the rules you've made and countered with some conditions of his own.

Maybe I'm just cynical, but I've had too many extremely promising online relationships end up being total busts in person. You would both be unwise to make any commitments without so much as a cup of coffee first.
posted by whoaali at 9:24 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yeah, to be clear, I don't think the guy's a monster, or even wrong, but I suspect that what he should have said was "I am not going to commit to someone before I even meet them, because that is kind of nuts." Instead it came out as "uh, hey, look who's back in town! We'll catch up later." I almost guarantee that his next contact - if there is one - is to tell you he's getting back together with the old flame, so he doesn't have to make it about you.
posted by desjardins at 9:35 AM on February 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Wanting to be in a monogamous relationship is a great goal, but it usually happens a lot more slowly and organically than what you seem to be bending over backwards to do here. It's like you're trying to jump levels with this guy. You can't honestly say you "get along well" with a man you've never even met yet.

"The reason I’m not shutting this down right now is because I like the honesty (they could have not told me the truth) and also the fact that we’re not an item yet so I’m not owed anything at this point."

See the logical fallacy here? You're saying him being "honest" about pursuing his ex this week is the ONLY thing keeping you from "shutting this down right now." Huh? Think that through a bit more. And what if he said "Hey, today I cheated on my taxes, kicked my dog, and then littered!" Would you find that type of honesty attractive, too? Honesty, in and of itself, does not automatically equal healthy dating prospect.

"Am I right to want to wait until they come back to me?"

I wouldn't wait. Listen to his actions. If he truly thought you were awesome sauce, you would have at least met in person already. You are strangers.

"if we were to start something, it'd have to be an exclusive affair. Otherwise, we should just stay platonic friends"

He's not a "friend." You don't know him from Adam. You two have never even met.
posted by hush at 10:27 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

First, I would just kill this little thing, whatever it is, in the bud right now, because it sounds like neither you nor he, are ready for it.

I find it troubling to say the least that it's been two weeks, and you're already demanding exclusivity and monogamy from someone you haven't even met in person.

My strongest advice would be for you to sit down and have a Come to Jesus with YOURSELF.
Go back, get all Spock, and do an autopsy on the past two weeks and see how you might have handled it different, and maybe with a bit more aplomb and equanimity.

Sure, we all get all fuzzy when we meet someone that we think we might really hit it off with, but man, this sounds like a runaway train.

Take it easy, take it slow, calm yourself down, and move with ease and peace through the next one.
Also, really reconsider how a long distance relationship might negatively affect you.

TL;DR Cool your damn jets, reevaluate and move forward.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 10:50 AM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think people may be misreading the original post re: exclusivity. It says: "I told them that if we were to start something, it'd have to be an exclusive affair." It doesn't sound like the OP is demanding exclusivity from someone he/she hasn't met. It does sound like maybe he/she is simply stating a search for an exclusive relationship rather than an open one or a fling or whatnot.
posted by sunflower16 at 11:01 AM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

So here's how I see it. At the beginning of a relationship (or before the beginning of a relationship, in your case), our potential partner is a tabula rasa on which we paint our highest expectations. The purpose of "dating" or whatever one may call it, is to erase our watercolors and paint over them with oil in a brighter, clearer, and more realistic version of the person. Your jealousy is arising in part from the fact that, because you don't know this person, you have idealized them in your mind, no matter how hard you've tried to be realistic. And now this unknown person has shattered your view of them. Of course that's painful. Of course you're jealous of the old flame. Just understand that your jealousy has not one iota to do with either of them. You're still dancing with the person you've made up in your mind.

If you can understand that you're the one having the argument with yourself, and you're reacting to your expectations, not their reality, then you might be able to get past this and re-start the conversation. But yeah until you meet in person, you have never met this person. And until you know them for at least 6 months, you don't really have any inkling of who they are.
posted by janey47 at 11:25 AM on February 23, 2015

Him asking you to "wait patiently until the old flame leaves" just sounds to me like he wants to sleep with her one more time before getting into an exclusive relationship with you.

It's fine to be jealous over this. And jealousy in a relationship before it has even started? I would walk away.
posted by alligatorman at 1:16 PM on February 23, 2015

Then out of the blue, they tell me this morning that an old flame of theirs has just resurfaced, that they would be spending this week together and that I should just sit out patiently until the old flame leaves.

Many many years ago there was this guy I liked. Quite a bit--he was very nice, world-class cuddler, just generally a great bloke; we had many friends in common. We'd hooked up once, and it took me a couple of weeks to work up the nerve to ask him out on a date.

At which point he told me he'd just gotten back together with his ex girlfriend, but, quote: "I don't know how long it'll last, so don't go too far away." I refuse to be put on the back burner as a second choice, and any interest I had in him evaporated at that point.

Your question doesn't make it clear whether the ex is just hanging out in a friendly way or if the old flame is being rekindled. But either way, my advice is the same:

- Don't let yourself be someone's second choice--you're worth more than that
- Requiring exclusivity from the very first date is not likely to be an effective strategy, especially when meeting people online
- Walk away from this person. You're too invested in someone you've never even met, and there's no way the reality can live up to what's in your head
- When it comes to meeting people online, the best strategy is generally to meet in person as soon as possible
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:24 PM on February 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

The part that seems weird is that he TOLD you this. Before even meeting, he'd be justified in saying he got really busy and will be able to meet in a week or so. He doesn't yet owe you that information, and it raises the question of whether he's prone to drama. But it still seems to best to meet him and suss that out in person. No, seeing someone else at this point is not a crime, but this whole setup is strange.
posted by namesarehard at 1:35 PM on February 23, 2015

My former therapist used to talk about the importance of avoiding SICI (seritonin-induced cognitive impairment), which she pronounced sicky. She said you should never go on a 48-hour first, second, or third date, etc. You should give yourself many breaks from someone to whom you are attracted. Because otherwise you could easily develop limerence or some other highly unrealistic perspective about the person you just started dating and don't really know. I don't see why you should shut down a potential relationship. Maybe the guy will never contact you again. Maybe he will. Why not wait and see what happens while taking a big step back from your early over investment? Do fun things for yourself on your own or with friends. Contact him when enough time has passed and you are ready to make a date. Then meet him, if he's willing, and see what happens. What have you got to lose?
posted by Bella Donna at 1:56 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I feel something is amiss here. I agree with the commenter above who told you it's weird that this guy told you this. I have an intimation that he wants to seem in demand, enjoys the thought of making you jealous, enjoys thinking about you thinking about his steamy week with an old flame. This reeks, to me, of game playing bullshit. I think you should #next this guy with extreme prejudice.
posted by jayder at 5:31 PM on February 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Yeah. I'd throw this one back into the ocean. Just keep swimming!
posted by macinchik at 8:29 PM on February 23, 2015

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