“Rori, Thanks so much for this blog and your tools! I am currently involved with a man (six months into the relationship) and he has asked for sexual exclusivity and well as asked that we both wear rings he bought. (The rings are nothing fancy, just nice silver rings.)
I have asked where he stands on the issue of future plans such as marriage and he says he is “living day to day and trying to get by” but also tells me he would like to “see us get together in the future” and that marriage is a possibility.
It is so confusing to me.
Do I go with this or do I Circular Date? (he has told me that he will not see me if I see anyone else.) I don’t know what to do but I do know I do not want to be strung along forever or end up as a girlfriend with benefits indefinitely. Katie”
Katie, You don’t say how old you are, and that makes a difference. If you and he are in college, or in your early twenties, and you’re not anywhere near your threshold for being serious about “marriage,” you’ll want to go with the more experimental options, up to a time limit of your own choosing – but making sure you are always sharing with him exactly how you feel, and not just “going along.”
Here are your options:
1. Basically the “No Girlfriend” speech (If you’re ready to be married in your life, and you’ve been Circular Dating or wanted to do it to help yourself get emotionally in the best place to encounter Mr. Right):”It feels great to be with you…and I’m not looking to be a girlfriend, I’m looking to be married, and I feel a bit uncomfortable shutting down all my options unless marriage is sort of on the table…”
(By the way, I’ve heard this before – a man who says will not date you if you are “seeing someone else.” This scares you into compliance – it works most of the time.)
The only claim a man can possibly justify along with his “living day to day” plan, is the worry that you will be sexually involved with another man, and not being willing to tolerate that.
However – how any man can get upset by you having lunch with another man, or coffee with another man, or flirting with another man because you will not commit yourself to him without what you want – and I hear that what you want is marriage – is beyond my ability to tolerate.
I really don’t care if he “doesn’t want to date you because you will feel free to have lunch with another man.” Because he isn’t offering anything.
Now – that said – go ahead and experiment:
2. The – “Yes…and…” speech WITHOUT the ring: “I feel torn. It would feel great to be exclusive with you and to wear your ring…and I feel a bit uncomfortable because it feels kind of open-ended, and I’m not looking to be a girlfriend, I’m looking to be married. I don’t want to push you, so it’s important to know it’s okay to keep talking about this, and whether or not I should be keeping my options open…”
Go ahead and say you’ll try not dating other men (if he’s talking about lunch and coffee – you can ask him) for a few months and see how that works, but you don’t want to wear a ring unless it’s an engagement ring.
3. Take the ring. Smile. Be happy, and see how you do over the next few weeks or months. If things are great and moving along, and you can keep your head about you and hang onto yourself – great. And if not, if you find yourself feeling tense and waiting for him to call – then you have something to talk about with him, which will take things deeper, too.
As long as you set a time limit for yourself (without making an ultimatum to him) and don’t go on forever with the exclusivity – holding out hope and pining - and as long as you know how to say the Truth to him – you’ll be fine.
4. The Truth. I saved this for last, but consider it FIRST. and – you’ve already got the basics of the speech down…
I don’t know what to do but I do know I do not want to be strung along forever or end up as a girlfriend with benefits indefinitely.
This goes just fine with ANY of the other 3 options – But…we have to tweak it. Here’s the TRICK:
There is no reason to suspect, at this moment, that he’s “stringing you along.” The huge mistake we women make is in taking our old baggage from an old relationship into what’s happening now with a man.
We assume he’s going to do the same crummy thing the last guy’s did.
So when you’re sharing what you DON’T WANT – I do know I do not want to be strung along forever or end up as a girlfriend with benefits indefinitely – how can you do it so he doesn’t pick up fear, accusation, old baggage that just the SOUND of some of those words bring up?
“I feel very excited about this, the rings are beautiful, I feel amazing…and I feel concerned, too. I feel a bit uncomfortable with the open-ended-ness you’re saying…about not knowing how you feel about me and marriage…and I don’t want to be pushing you or always talking about it. There are words like ‘strung along’ and ‘friends with benefits’ that keep coming up for me, and I know you wouldn’t ever intentionally hurt me – and yet I feel like I need to be protective of myself. Is this something we can keep talking about, so that I feel comfortable? What do you think?”
In your own words, of course…
This is a learning experience above all else, and an experiment in trusting yourself, and in trying things out so you can find out how you really are, how you really feel, and learn to express yourself.
Katie, let me know what happens!