Congratulations! You’ve found yourself someone to whom you can really commit. This person makes you laugh, shares your interests, challenges you, smells nice, and is a dynamite kisser. Time to get this on lockdown.
One problem: your paramour isn’t quite as eager to settle down as you are. There are wild oats to be sown, and you, my dear, are simply not enough. It’s not personal, you’re just “in different places right now.”
Unfortunately, you’ve already started falling pretty hard, which puts you in a bit of a pickle. Do you continue dating someone who won’t choose you (yet) in the hopes that maybe someday it’ll turn around? Do you bail on someone you really like just because you might find someone more willing to commit?
You are in a tough position, and you have to make a decision. You have basically 3 options.
1. Keep doing what you’re doing.
If you have patience and fortitude, you can wait it out. Stick around, hold on to that non-relationship, and wait for the day when you are enough. Try not to think about the possibility the day will never come. Tell yourself no one else could be a better match than you, so it doesn’t matter who else is in the running. Block your love interest on OkCupid, and distract yourself with meaningless dates.
With a communicative partner, you may be able to have conversations about other dates. Or you may not want to know.
Regardless, the key component of this scenario is that you both carry on in a romantic, relationshippy fashion. You go on dates and have sleepovers and allow your feelings to continue growing, unchecked. You will become increasingly invested in this person, and you will likely feel a fair amount of jealousy and confusion about why you’re not enough.
Aside from the obvious risk of being replaced by someone better, you also risk establishing a relationship dynamic that makes commitment impossible. If someone can have your love and support while also dating anyone else who comes along, what’s the incentive to ever stop?
Yet along with enormous risk, this option also has the greatest potential reward. If you stick around long enough, you’ll be there, ready, if and when your partner wants to commit. And having patience pay off is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world.
2. Walk away.
Get out now. The chances of getting hurt are high, and no one would blame you for shutting the door. Well, except the partner in question.
In this scenario, your partner will be sad to see you go and will try to convince you to stay. Your leaving represents a closed opportunity, and life right now is all about keeping open as many options as possible. Your decision will be questioned, making you feel weak, but following through requires a great deal of strength.
Walking away will clearly communicate your needs, and it will likely hurt your partner just as much as staying would hurt you. On the one hand, this will feel validating. On the other, you’ll deliver a blow that will fuel resentment, and that door will likely remain closed forever.
If you walk away, you’re cutting out pain but also potential.
Redefine the terms of your relationship. Rather than dating this person, you become a friend. Keep some elements of physicality if you like, but make it clear that this is no longer a “dating” scenario.
Rather than nights out and sleepovers, you have lunches and occasional “hangs.” You talk about everything, including whom you’re both dating, because that’s what friends do. Instead of making plans in advance, or discussing future fun, you can expect texts along the lines of the ever eloquent “Sup?”
At first, this setup will feel strange. You’ll be sitting across from someone you adore, who would likely rather be naked with you than slurping pho from a plastic bowl, and you’ll have to force yourself to keep your feelings in check. But after a while, it will begin to feel natural. You’ll ease into a comfortable rapport, and you’ll become desensitized to the little jealousies and yearnings that come with a romantic relationship.
Plus, you get a lot of the same benefits of both Options #1 and #2. This person remains in your life, you’ll be around when and if a relationship ever feels right, and you have clearly communicated your needs. You also get to avoid the fallout of losing this person entirely or deluding yourself into thinking the relationship is something other than it is.
Of course, you run the risk of deluding yourself anyway, and it takes a great deal of self-control to manage your emotions in this scenario. This is not an option for the faint of heart, but it does hold some substantial payoff if done well.
Obviously, none of these options are ideal, and they each require certain strength. In any case, you have to accept you want something you can’t have, and the best you can do is choose an appropriate consolation prize.