We’re back with Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Romance Novels, where, with ample romance backlist and as much objectivity as caffeine can provide, I give advice. Today’s letter:
I am a long time lurker and I am in need of some advice. I have recently met a guy through an online dating site. We IM’d every day for 3 weeks (we also talked on the phone) and then met in person. That meeting lasted the entire day. We continue to talk almost everyday and have gone out again. I keep getting mixed signals from him. When we talk he sometimes references wanting a chance with me. But he is continuing to meet people on the dating site. Before we ever went out he told me he was a friends first and see where that goes kind of guy.
I am okay with that as that is how I operate. I just think that I would rather he didn’t reference dating me and telling me he is going on a date with someone else in the same conversation. I would be okay just being friends with him, but I have the feeling that if I let this continue I am going to get hurt. Am I just deluding myself? Should I tell him that I can’t continue this way? Should I just go with the flow and stop worrying? My feeling is if he really wanted a chance with me then he’s got it and why is he dating other people. If he doesn’t want a chance with me then why does he keep mentioning it?
-So very confused
Dear So Very Confused:
In a romance novel, it’s no secret or mystery that the hero will like the heroine and the heroine will like the hero, and at some point between them, lips and assorted other bits will meet. In real life, there’s that pesky lack of omniscience to deal with. It’s so annoying, especially when, as it seems from your letter, you’re not sure what he wants… and you’re not sure what you want, either.
I think there’s two problems here. First: his definition of the word “dating” and your definition of the word “Dating” may be two very different things. Does “dating” imply exclusivity or not? You seem to think you’d like it to, while his definition seems to be entirely different.
Second, what do you want? It sounds to me like you have a rather fun friendship with this guy, despite his mixed signals of “wanting a chance.” You talk often, you see each other. You’ve told me a lot about what he’s saying and what he’s doing, but what about you?
So answer this question: what do you want? What does “having a chance” mean? Is his referring to dating other women a question of manners and courtesy, or is it a question of your being unable to voice aloud that you’d like him to stop dating others and focus on you. Or, do you want him to come to that conclusion on his own?
If he’d like to have a chance with you and he says so repeatedly, you need to spell out what has to happen for him to have the opportunity to be your boyfriend. If you’d rather be dating-as-maybe-friends, that clearly means in his world, he will date other women and meet other women. If that bothers you, you need to speak up.
If you don’t really want an exclusive relationship, then ask him to keep the details to himself. You can set the terms of conversation. If he sees you as a friend, then he feels comfortable telling you about other women he’s seeing. But if he sees you as someone with whom he’d like a more meaningful relationship, telling you about other dates seems a strange thing to do.
If you want to stop worrying and wondering altogether, you need to figure some things out for yourself. First, ask yourself if you want an exclusive relationship with him. If you don’t, then let him do his thing and you do yours, and ask him not to dish about other chicks he’s dating as it bothers you a bit. If you do want that relationship, then speak up and tell him what you want.
He may keep mentioning the idea of being with you to gauge your reaction. He may be mentioning it because “having a chance” with you means getting you in bed. Who the hell knows? The only thing under your control is your actions and reactions.
So: make your signals clear, and see how he responds. Decide if he is the one you want to take your chance on, and then offer him that chance he’s been talking about – and explain the terms you’re comfortable with. If he is what you want, go for it. A little miscommunication never hurt anyone, except when it adds 200 pages of conflict when a simple conversation would have solved it. Being the heroine of your own happy ending does require that you ask for what you want instead of waiting for it to come to you. Sometimes, figuring out what you want before you act on it is the harder of the two.