Back burner beaus

Dating Goddess reader Dale wrote:

I recently jointly decided to be exclusive with a man I’ve been dating for a little while. However, I’d been multi-dating and although I’ve told the others I’m going to focus on one man right now, several are interested in my letting them know if it doesn’t work out.

How do you deal with dangling men who are waiting in the wings? Do you still respond to their calls, emails, IMs and/or texts, even though they have dialed back their flirting and wooing? Am I cheating on my guy if I stay in touch with these guys who are now somewhere between friend and suitor? I’m not sure where the line is between appropriate pal contact and kinda dating? I’d be mortified if my guy thought I was two-timing him.


This is a very good question. I’ve run up against this myself, and it is hard to know what is right.

You have to ask yourself why you want to keep in touch with these guys. Are they your spares in case your #1 guy doesn’t work out? Do you harbor some desire to see if they are better than the guy you’ve decided to focus on? Might you not give your current guy as much of a chance if you know you have fallback options waiting a phone call away?

If your decision to keep in contact is as insurance, then it’s not really being fair to anyone. They keep some hope alive that you may give them a second chance to earn your attention. Your guy doesn’t get your full focus as you know you have others waiting in case he doesn’t meet your every need — which nearly no man will ever do.

That said, a dozen or more of the men I’ve gone out with have kept in contact with me even after we’ve decided we aren’t a good match. However, none of them (to my knowledge) harbor any hope of our getting together again as sweethearts. It is clear we are just pals now, and enjoy enough of the other to want to stay connected.

But I draw the line at doing anything date-like with any of them. If we have lunch together, it is Dutch treat. If we go to the movies or a hike, there is no hand holding, romantic touching nor smooching. If there were, that would be unfair to the man I’ve sworn exclusivity to as well as sending mixed signals to my pal.

You may also want to discuss this with your guy, as he, too, may have women he was seeing who want him to stay in touch. You should come up with a solution that feels right to both of you based on how you would feel if the situation was flipped. Would you be upset if you knew your guy was still in contact with women he was seeing before you and he decided to be exclusive? Most women would. But he may see nothing wrong with your continuing to pal around with these jilted guys, especially if they like to do things he doesn’t (e.g., tennis, hiking, opera). However, he may not like it any more than you’d like him hanging with those he rejected for you.

Readers, what do you think?

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4 responses to “Back burner beaus”

  1. Loving Annie Avatar

    I had a man keep me on the back burner for three years, acting like he was too loyal and a good guy to cheat, but that there was really a connection and chemistry between us, he just couldn’t act on it yet.

    All he was was a player and a liar and a manipulator. He used me as food for his ego, and never delivered on his promise after he and his long-term girlfriend broke up.

    Platonic friends are one thing. But someone who hopes for more eventually ? It is just cruel to lead them on.

    And for the person doing it, you’re being an assclown to your partner, who wouldn’t like it at all if they knew what you were doing behind their back. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t had sex with them – you’ve toyed with their emotions and it’s wrong.

  2. bookyone Avatar

    Hi DG,

    I agree with Annie; if there has been a promise of exclusivity, then that promise should be kept. Otherwise both parties are free to date whomever they wish, whenever they wish. IMHO, this is why promises of exclusivity should never be made too early into any dating relationship, as it’s all too easy to wish them gone once a partner has revealed aspects of him/herself that we find objectionable in a long term mate. I believe it’s better to wait and allow the relationship to unfold gradually, then exclusivity is the natural byproduct of a deepening commitment between two people and not a desperate attempt by one of the partners to hold onto the other and/or to play around at his/her partner’s expense.

    Just my two cents…

    Hugs from bookyone 🙂

  3. Mike Avatar

    I still keep in contact with a few women I dated. Just like you said both know we are not a match, but do make good friends. I think if this is the situation it is good. However if either one still hope that it will work it out it won’t.

  4. Devon Avatar

    Six months ago I become exclusive with a wonderful man. There were a few others I was fond of and had kept in touch with through e-mail. It didn’t seem fair to any one to keep those relationships alive. I let them go and feel good about it. If you’re going to be exclusive, things have to be clear. Trust and honesty are important if things are going to work.