Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to email@example.com.
In May I started dating a guy I will call Orrin. We really seemed to hit off at first – we both work in IT, and we have a lot of the same interests. I didn’t want to say anything too soon, but recently I mentioned the idea of being exclusive to him. He told me he had been seeing other girls before we met – he didn’t want to stop or end things with me, but he valued another relationship as well.
I responded by asking when would he know which relationship he wanted to pursue. He said he wasn’t sure and didn’t want to put a timeline on it. By the time I got home my head was spinning and my hair was in three phases of the moon.
When I am with Orrin, there is so much affection between us and we always have a great time. Thinking back on our moments together he never appeared to be thinking about anyone else and I stupidly assumed I was the only one on his mind, I feel kind of dumb and I’m not sure where to go from here. Help?
For future reference, it is best to put a small addendum early on in your relationship with any man that you would want to know about this sort of thing. Otherwise, you are giving a weird kind of silent permission to this long after it is appropriate for irroin to disclose it to you. After a few dates, there should be committment that precludes seeing other people, but after a month or two it is clear he waited too long.
There might be good and valid reasons for that. Actually valid is a stretch, but he likely figured something would destroy one of the relationships he built and then the field would be narrowed without making any really tough decisions about what he wanted.
You don’t want to lose Orrin, but I presume you don’t want to lose him to his other girlfriend Angela who smells like a barbershop and has a uncle who won Powerball. One strong move is to contact him and “confess” that you were doing the same thing to him. Explain that you had decided to make the hard choice and really focus on one person, and reject Orrin from there.
This accomplishes two things – it stops you from being a pawn in his game, and makes him a pawn in yours. Letting him know that he is not the only bro in the world for you is likely to have a substantial emotional effect on him.
However, if you sense that he wanted you to end things to avoid feeling bad, this course of action played into his dirty little hands. If you think that he will just move on, then it is better to agree to his arrangement and try to improve the relationship to the point where he will choose you.
Common interests hold a lot of sway with guys, although it would be best to know what kind of competition you are up against. As per his dictum, you can spend this time exploring other possibilities as well.
As to whether you really should do any of these things versus moving with your life entirely… If you really care, don’t give up.
Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.