How Does He Back Out of Being Her Boyfriend?

Name: Christopher
Comment: I’ve been seeing this girl for about six months. We have not had “the talk” about being exclusive, but we have been seeing each other a few times a week recently. I really enjoy the time that I spend with her, and we get along great. However, I just don’t think I am ready to be exclusive yet. While I have not cheated on her, I have been approached by other women about going out, and I am interest In doing so. She will text or email me every day. It does not feel nagging or needy when she does so, but it is clear that she is into me.

However, I don’t want her feelings to get hurt. Part of me knows that it is her responsibility for how she feels, but I am aware that the actions I take have repercussions. I am 41, and she is in her early 30s. I am divorced, and do not want kids. We have not talked about anything serious like that, but she knows that I went through a painful divorce several years ago, have repeatedly gotten “too serious, too quickly” in the past, and I don’t want to make that mistake again.

I started to bring up the conversation the other night, but her job was just cut, and she just gotten the news, so I did not want to pile on to the emotional drama that she was experiencing. Part of me says that that was just a copout for not telling her, but the other part says I was being sensitive to her needs.

I know what to do, I just don’t know how to do it. I want to keep seeing her, but I just want to back off a little bit until I am ready to get more serious, whenever that may be.
Age: 41
City: Boston
State: MA


If you’re not exclusive then you’re not doing anything wrong by dating other women. My advice to you is to go out with these women that intrigue you and see what else is out there. You might realize that the woman you’ve been seeing for the past 6 months is the one to whom you’d like to commit. If she is assuming you two are exclusive but not expressing that belief to you, that’s on her. I’m sure some people will say that you need to be upfront and honest from the start with the women you date. In an ideal world, that would be nice. However, that’s not really in your best interest. It should be understood by now that someone who does not express a desire to commit doesn’t want to be committed at that point or at all. The onus is on the person for whom commitment or exclusivity is a priority to bring it up. However, if this woman has given you signs that make it clear she thinks of you as her boyfriend or that you and she have long -term potential, then you need tell her that isn’t the case and give her the choice to stay or leave.

I know some of the female readership will take issue with this, but I would just pull back a bit and wait for this woman to speak up and ask what’s going on. Let her bring it up. When she does, you don’t have to tell her you’re dating other people. In fact, don’t tell her that. That’s unnecessary. Use this inquiry to gently remind her that you and she are not exclusive. If she says that she would like to be monogamous then you need to be clear about where you stand. Until then, there’s no need to go looking for problems where there are none. Scale things back so that you and she aren’t seeing each other – and therefore growing dependent upon each other – so frequently.

She’s not bringing anything up because she probably doesn’t want to rock the boat. It’s even possible that she likes things exactly as they are. I have said this before: women her age aren’t anxious to settle down with men your age. If she knows you don’t want children, and she does, then she’s either hoping you’ll change your mind or has no intentions of having children with you.  If you clarify anything with her it should be the subject of having children. That’s only fair.

If you want to back off then back off. There’s nothing preventing you from doing that. Now let’s address something else that you said.

but she knows that I went through a painful divorce several years ago, have repeatedly gotten “too serious, too quickly” in the past, and I don’t want to make that mistake again.

It takes two to tango, Christopher. Whether you’re expressing a willingness to commit verbally or through actions, you’re still communicating an interest level that may or may not be genuine.  If you’re not looking for commitment, then don’t see a woman three times a week. It’s not that you don’t want a relationship. You clearly do. What you don’t appear to want is to be exclusive to just one woman.

Going forward, should you find yourself back out there again, be mindful of your tendency to allow things to spiral out of control and take on the form of a committed/serious relationship. Make sure your actions align with your intentions.


Sometimes the love of your life is the love of your life. (R)


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23 Responses to “How Does He Back Out of Being Her Boyfriend?”

  1. Tadpole Says:

    Where I’m from (in the middle of nowhere) seeing someone a few times a week for six months would just mean you’re in a serious relationship even if you haven’t had the talk. I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as the talk until I started hearing about it online, but again I’m in the middle of nowhere and the people that usually bring up the talk about exclusivity are from a city. It makes sense though, because in a city there’s a lot more options for people to be looking into. However, I do think that Moxie is right. Regardless of the location he’s seeing her too often for too long for it to feel like anything less than a relationship to her. If he’s not wanting to be in a committed relationship, then he’s not showing it. By all appearances he wants one.

    I think Moxie has given him the only real option he has. He should back off and just wait for her to ask.

  2. SB Says:

    For future reference, I always thought this talk should come up at least by month 3. The first 3 months are the trial period, and if a couple makes it through that, then it’s usually presumed both are pretty into the other one *unless* there was a discussion by month 3 that this is strictly NSA, casual, etc. If that hasn’t happened, however, then this is one place you, OP, are going wrong.

    Bring up your exact goals for each “relationship” by month 3 at the latest, and you’ll find you’ll have less of these situations that spiral out of control.

    I have only ever dated one person who didn’t seem to intend on having The Talk. So, I brought it up when it came time for me to decide to fish or cut bait. The Talk can simply be a question: Hey, are we exclusively dating? What are you thinking? In your case: I’m having a lot of fun with you, but I am also interested in dating others while we continue to have what we have. What do you think?

    You’ll likely know before she says a single word. Boom. Done.

  3. Mandy Says:

    For some people, an ideal serious, exclusive relationship involves seeing the other person once or twice a week, and for others it’s spending 7 nights/week together and every waking moment doing all of life’s mundane chores together. You really never know what constitutes a “relationship” to the other person. That’s the point of the talk.

    OP, you haven’t had the talk and you want to date other people, so date other people. This will likely cause you to naturally “pull away”. You’ll have other plans on a day she wants to hang out, or you won’t respond to her texts right away (because to do so on a date with another woman would be uncooL). Use the time to figure out what you want.

    When/if she brings it up, just be honest. “I really like you, I like spending time with you, and I’m open to exploring the relationship further. But I’m not in a place where I’m willing to commit to exclusivity. I apologize if that wasn’t clear previously.”

  4. BostonRobin Says:

    “I just don’t think I am ready to be exclusive yet. While I have not cheated on her…”

    You know perfectly well that she assumes you’re exclusive. Why else would you use the word “cheated.” And I assume that a few times a week is more than three, since most people would say a couple of times when it was 2-3. If you don’t want to be with her, why are you all over her like this? And still keeping up the illusion after six months?

    I’m saying this because if you do end up having the talk about how you’re not really her exclusive boyfriend, she’ll probably throw these fun facts at you. And more, I hope.

    • fuzzilla Says:

      Yup. This is why you shouldn’t be afraid to look clingy or whatever and just bring up the “define the relationship” talk at approx. 1-3 months. Sure, maybe it won’t turn out like you hoped, but if you want a relationship, you’ll declutter your life of time wasters like the OP sooner rather than later.

  5. mxf Says:

    The exclusivity talk is becoming increasingly important because of situations just like this. I mean, I understood that no one did anything technically wrong here, but it sounds like the woman in question thinks of this guy as her boyfriend, rightly or wrongly. And it seems like the OP is experiencing a slight shift now that things are settling into a relationship groove that is making the situation less than ideal for him. If I wanted to keep my dating options open, I probably wouldn’t let it get as far as six months before establishing the necessary boundaries to date others. At this point, if he says he isn’t free on a given Friday night, she’ll just ask why or what he’s doing. In the earlier stages it’s much easier to keep private about your calendar and plans so it doesn’t get awkward if you are both dating others.

    I don’t know. Moxie seems more optimistic than I do that this is going to result in anything other than some hurt feelings. But if he’s not ready for commitment, he should honor that, even if it means they part ways. It sounds a little like he’s hoping for the stability of a relationship with the excitement of dating. I think that’s a touch greedy, but maybe I’m too cynical.

    • Robyn Says:

      “It sounds a little like he’s hoping for the stability of a relationship with the excitement of dating. I think that’s a touch greedy, but maybe I’m too cynical.”

      No, you’re not cynical at all – you’re spot on IMHO.

      After reading this post, my first thought was “This guy wants his bread buttered on both sides”. Clearly he enjoys the benefits of a “steady” relationship where he’s getting primary attention from the lady involved (by the sounds of it, she isn’t dating anyone else), but is still wanting to keep his options open in case something better/cuter/”hits more boxes on his check-list” comes along.

      Of course he’s avoiding any conversation about this because no matter how he frames it, if she has half a brain she’ll figure out that she’s just being used as a convenient back-up bang until someone better comes along (and presumably would have the sense to dump him on the spot).

  6. Cooldude Says:

    Bro, you’re in your forties. The “not having the talk yet” thing is what people in their twenties do because most of them are not emotionally mature enough to actually about those matters. I know I wasn’t when I was in my twenties. Nevertheless, don’t keep her around just to have someone to bang if you don’t have any intentions of taking things further. It’s just not nice.

    • Bill Says:

      I’m agreeing with Cooldude, here.

      OP, at some point, you are “shoplifting the pootie” (Jerry Maguire reference). You have past that point long ago.

      Christopher, the bad feeling you are getting is you conscience. Be a real man, have the talk and stop “shoplifting the pootie.” She’s not a single mom, but given her age, you know what her priorities are.

  7. Yvonne Says:

    You’re 41, divorced, and dating a woman a few times a week for 6 months; that sounds like at least 2-3 times/week, probably spending all or part of weekends together, which sounds like boyfriend/girlfriend to me. As far as the age difference, that may be an issue, but it may not be, and I have a suspicion that it isn’t in this case, or the lady would not be dating you and texting/emailing daily.

    I agree with the person who wrote that while you may not have had the exclusivity talk, you did mention that you haven’t “cheated” on her, so clearly you’re aware of how she likely views your relationship.

    If you were really into her, I personally don’t think you’d still be looking at other women as serious dating prospects. It could also be that you’re not ready for another serious relationship yet. Be honest with yourself, and take stock of how you really feel about this woman and what you are looking for.

  8. bbdawg Says:

    If anyone wonders why women can be so touchy about the whole dating situation and are quick to want to “define a relationship” this letter is a really good example. It’s possible that the woman in question wasn’t interested in “commitment” but I highly doubt it since she is texting this guy everyday. If a man doesn’t go out and explicitly state that he wants to be exclusive after 6 MONTHS and wants you not to see anyone else … he’s not your boyfriend. You just have to keep dating others. Sigh.

    The guy is happy to get the sex and have someone available to him pretty much whenever and they have an implicit agreement that they are in a relationship. HOWEVER to the OP that is irrelevant. Because at the end of the day, since he has not verbally expressed exclusivity he is therefore not “committed”.

    It’s obvious to me anyway that the moment the OP brings that up the woman in question will “break up” with him. The OP is not a bank, he is not a computer or a calculator, he is an actual person and therefore has the ability to understand nuances. He should do the right thing and just tell her he wants to see other people, because clearly, the woman in question is probably not seeing anyone else. Personally if I were dating someone and knew I didn’t see him as my “boyfriend” and I felt like *he* acted as though we were a couple, I would tell him, just because…it’s human courtesy? Do unto others?

    From that book “attached” I can see that the OP thinks that his “Miranda Rights” speech (i.e. he told her he “had been through a painful divorce and was not ready to be too serious too soon”) is enough of a disclaimer.

    Like the majority of women she probably chose to see the positives and overlook the negatives:(

    • Beta Male Says:

      It looks like the OP is trying to ease off the relationship without looking like the “bad guy.” If she is as into the OP as he think she is there is no way to avoid that. He might as well put his concerns on the table and do what he feels is best for him. Yes, it is possible he will hurt her feelings and look at him as the “bad guy” but that’s a risk for any type of dating relationship beyond the first few dates.

    • mxf Says:

      Yeah, and in this case the positives were the things supported by actions, which *should* be more reliable indicators of commitment than words. Except when someone turns to you kind of guiltily after six months of dating and offers up, “well, we never actually *said* we were exclusive.”

      The good news is that early 30s is still a pretty decent pool to be dating in, so she should bounce back fine, and probably so will he. Either she doesn’t see him as serious either, or there’s a little learning sting about asking the right questions and then everyone moves on.

  9. RedNeckGeekGurl Says:

    To all of these comments – true as they may be…. Consider that there is no Emily Post total rule book on dating that daters are required to abide by! Those who are not ‘in the game’ for a long time and learned some of this the hard way – myself included! – are just trying to do the best they can for the most part.

    The OP realizes that there is confusion – which is what TALKING honestly to the person you are dating should resolve – for the time being.

    There is no hard right or wrong – it depends on expectations. Speaking yours goes a long way, but there is no binding contract on anything !

  10. Penelope Says:

    This guy wants his cake and to eat it too. What he’s really asking is how can he tell this woman in such a way that she’ll stick around as a backup now that he’s decided, out-of-the-blue some six months later, to try and bang some other hotties on the side? I hope she dumps him when he does.

  11. Steve From the City Next Door Says:

    I would not be surprised if the GF responds with something like you said ABCD so that meant we were a couple or similar we did XYZ.

    A girl I dated a long time ago decided we were an official exclusive couple because I went to a work function with her as the +1. As she explained it we had a made a public showing as a couple and had held ours selves out as a couple so we were a couple. I just remember a meh buffet and lots of dull speeches.

  12. Mark Says:

    Christopher (LW)

    What is it that you want? Seriously…. What?

    I mean that you say that you have been seeing this woman for several months and recently several times a week. By outward appearances it is bordering on exclusive.

    While technically I suppose you are not exclusive because you have not had that talk, there is arguably an implicit agreement as such. While you can argue that it’s not dodgy, it’s right on the edgy edge of the line. Particularly when you bring up the fact that several women have expressed an interest in going out with you. I mean what is it that you told these women about your relationship status?

    Sure she is communicating with you. Six months in and she is trying to get a handle on where you stand. From her end, an entirely reasonable thing to know. Just as she knows about your painful divorce and can probably understands your desire to take things slow, there is slow and then there is slow. Slow as in glacial. Given her age and she is appreciably younger than you this is a big factor in her decision making process.

    So are you asking what to tell her or are you asking how to tell her?

    Basically I’m suggesting that you man up and tell her where you stand at this point in time and tell her where you really stand. Let the chips fall where they may. Otherwise you come across as something as weasel rather than a straight shooter.

    • fuzzilla Says:

      Just a guess, but it seems like he was happy enough with this woman, but then some other women whom he perceives as hotter/more interesting/more whatever approached him and suddenly he wants to shake things up. A relationship-minded woman (or man) wants someone reliable who has their back, not George Costanza.

      Wanting a casual, non-exclusive relationship doesn’t make him a bad guy, it’s wanting all the perks of a relationship while shouldering none of the responsibility that’s just…yeah, weasel-y. Leave this woman to find someone who returns what she has to offer.

      • Mark Says:

        Good point about a casual non exclusive relationship not making someone a bad person per se. Totally agree on that score.

        Rather, it’s the feeling that comes across as “What I want want and what you want is negotiable” that just comes across as unseemly.

        There is a legal concept called Promissory Estoppel that comes to mind. While it might not be directly on point in this instance it’s the one party leading on, or at least the appearance of doing so that makes this shady. Hence the weasel on toast analogy.

    • BostonRobin Says:

      Also, seeing and/or communicating with someone every day is not taking things slow. If you want casual, you have to act casual. If you want to downshift from what looks like an exclusive relationship, then weasel–I mean, man up.

      I honestly cannot figure out what the LW is looking for, either with this woman or in the letter! Most people assume that if you announce that you want to start seeing other people, it means you’re breaking up. So… does he explain, “oh, no, I want to see other people but still bang you until I meet someone better.” That should go over great.

  13. Jesse Says:

    True or False: doesn’t his behavior sounf exactly like how a majority of women approach dating — hang on to that steady boyfriend unless something better comes along, and then its all sorry, out with the old …..

    O.K., he might like his bread buttered on both sides. Who doesn’t? The issue that is being missed is that after 6 months he senses its time to get out of the relationship.
    He’s not trying to butter both sides of the bread, he’s trying to tell someone he cares for in a kind way that she doesn’t do it for him anymore. You know, all you gals out there who wish you could be a man for one day, I only wish that if it could come true it would happen on the day you have to break up with your long term girlfriend. Thats something all woman should experience from the POV of a man

    • fuzzilla Says:

      From the OP: “I want to keep seeing her, but I just want to back off a little bit until I am ready to get more serious, whenever that may be.”

      • Jesse Says:

        Yeah, he does write that, and so yes, he needs to tell her that she’s not the one. How do you tell some woman whom you care for that she doesn’t do it for you? No woman wants to hear that, no matter how much they say they want their beau to be honest. Thats the real issue here. He doesn’t want to get hit with a plate.

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