Putting people on "layaway"

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Post by Ron Ritzman on Sat Oct 25, 2014 11:55 am

I can't seem to find it now but last year there was an "ask Dr. Nerdlove" column from a guy in a platonic relationship with a woman. At first it looked like the typical "nice guy in the friendzone" story we see a thousand times or so but one thing that was different about it was that she was would try to sabotage his attempts to date other women even though she didn't want to date him herself. She apparently wasn't dating anybody else either and the LW mentioned that she had some "ish".

What I think might have been happening is that the woman, for whatever reason, felt that she was "not ready for a relationship" but wanted to be in one with him when she was "ready for a relationship". In other words, she tried to put him on "layaway". This can also happen if someone is in a relationship that they expect is about to end (or plans to eventually end themselves) or it can happen if someone is pursuing the people they really want to date but wants to keep someone "free and available" as a "backup option".

So have any of you ever had a situation where someone didn't want to date or be in a relationship with you but also didn't seem to want you seriously involved with anybody else?


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Post by reboot on Sat Oct 25, 2014 12:01 pm

I have never been in that situation and never heard of any of my male or female friends being in that situation. I have had friends involved in relationships with men destined for arranged marriages but everyone knew the score and knew the relationship had a "sell by" date and there was no sabotage. That is the closest I can get to what you describe.

EDIT: Have you ever run into a situation like that?
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Post by Mel on Sat Oct 25, 2014 1:51 pm

I've experienced a version of that. My second boyfriend broke up with me saying that he still cared about me a lot and hoped that we could get together once he had some things in his life sorted out. I took that as politeness and was fully prepared to simply cut ties, but he pursued a continuing friendship with me across the next year, which at times became more FWB-ish (fooling around), and he'd make comments like how he saw himself marrying me someday, how when he was ready to date again we'd be together, blah blah blah. I was still attracted to him and cared about him, so I went along with it albeit cautiously. He ended up starting to date other women after a while, and I was like, okay, fine, obviously the romantic talk was BS but we can still be friends, and then when I started dating again, he'd ask about who I was talking to (on OLD) and meeting and making fun of them and generally try to make them out to be undesirable options. He'd also backed off of the romantic/physical stuff (mostly) once he'd started dating other people, but as soon as he found out I was back to dating he ramped up the physical affection and romantic comments again. He tried to do it in an "aren't I so charmingly jealous?" kind of way, but it became increasingly obvious that he wanted me around as more than just a friend, he just didn't want to officially have me as more than just a friend or to stop seeing other people as well.  Razz

It's a shitty thing to do to someone--big surprise, he was also manipulative and emotionally abusive in general!  In his case I think it came out of wanting to have a girlfriend who was totally under his spell and wouldn't challenge him, and I'd already seen too much under the facade and shown I'd resist certain manipulations, so while he wanted to keep some parts of our relationship going, I wasn't enough either.

I had a friend in high school who had a similar thing happen--a (few years older) guy she'd had a crush on for years ended up making out with her when they hung out together one time, but then went on about how he wasn't ready to commit to a relationship/couldn't be a good boyfriend to her right now/some such, and she gave him a while and when he still wasn't ready, she started dating someone else and he got all pouty about it. In his case, I didn't actually know him, so I don't know enough about the situation to judge whether he honestly did want to be with her eventually or whether he was stringing her along in case he started wanting to later.
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Post by Ron Ritzman on Sat Oct 25, 2014 2:16 pm

reboot wrote:
EDIT: Have you ever run into a situation like that?

I may have. I have a female friend who I used to date who is in "not ready for a relationship" mode and has just gotten out of an abusive relationship with somebody else. She got a little upset when I came out as poly and started an open relationship with somebody else. (two somebody else's at this writing) What's ironic about it is that in the past she has tried to set me up with other women. It's like she wants me to "play around" but doesn't want me to get too serious about someone so I will be single and "mono" when she's finally "ready for a relationship".
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Post by eselle28 on Sat Oct 25, 2014 3:38 pm

I've seen this a few time before. I tend to associate it with exes who claim to want to be friends and also to want to keep the door open for dating at some point in the future. I don't think I've ever seen the request made in good faith, though, and it seems like at least some of these people think it's okay for them to date others while their ex remains single and waiting for them to figure out what they want.
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Post by reboot on Sat Oct 25, 2014 3:45 pm

eselle28 wrote:I've seen this a few time before. I tend to associate it with exes who claim to want to be friends and also to want to keep the door open for dating at some point in the future. I don't think I've ever seen the request made in good faith, though, and it seems like at least some of these people think it's okay for them to date others while their ex remains single and waiting for them to figure out what they want.

Now this I have seen. I just have never seen the attempt to sabotage new relationships thing. Which is not to say that it never happened, jut that no one brought it up, perhaps because it might feel paranoid?
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Post by eselle28 on Sat Oct 25, 2014 4:56 pm

reboot wrote:
eselle28 wrote:I've seen this a few time before. I tend to associate it with exes who claim to want to be friends and also to want to keep the door open for dating at some point in the future. I don't think I've ever seen the request made in good faith, though, and it seems like at least some of these people think it's okay for them to date others while their ex remains single and waiting for them to figure out what they want.

Now this I have seen. I just have never seen the attempt to sabotage new relationships thing. Which is not to say that it never happened, jut that no one brought it up, perhaps because it might feel paranoid?

I'd also say that sabotage might be the more extreme form of this, and that a lot of people who do this stop at the point of guilt trips or manipulation. Though, I wouldn't be surprised if it's something that's hard for people to talk about, too.
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Post by Ron Ritzman on Sat Oct 25, 2014 9:04 pm

OK I found the column in question. It's the second letter.

http://www.doctornerdlove.com/2013/12/ask-dr-nerdlove-go-away-wait-a-minute/

Here's a quote...

She doesn’t want me but she doesn’t want anyone else to have me. Actually broke down into tears one night when a younger woman said hello to me. She told another attractive single woman that WAS INTERESTED in me that we were dating. She has dated several guys that I know to be low lifes yet I’m not datable. She doesn’t have those feelings for me. However, get a little alcohol in her and she is all over me.

Now I'm not LW2 so the only thing I know about this is what he revealed in this letter. However, it suggest that perhaps she does have feelings for him and wants to keep him free and available until she makes up her mind about what she wants. What is obvious is that she has some weapons grade "ish".
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Post by Ron Ritzman on Sat Oct 25, 2014 9:56 pm

Mel wrote:I've experienced a version of that. My second boyfriend broke up with me saying that he still cared about me a lot and hoped that we could get together once he had some things in his life sorted out. I took that as politeness and was fully prepared to simply cut ties, but he pursued a continuing friendship with me across the next year, which at times became more FWB-ish (fooling around), and he'd make comments like how he saw himself marrying me someday, how when he was ready to date again we'd be together, blah blah blah. I was still attracted to him and cared about him, so I went along with it albeit cautiously. He ended up starting to date other women after a while, and I was like, okay, fine, obviously the romantic talk was BS but we can still be friends, and then when I started dating again, he'd ask about who I was talking to (on OLD) and meeting and making fun of them and generally try to make them out to be undesirable options. He'd also backed off of the romantic/physical stuff (mostly) once he'd started dating other people, but as soon as he found out I was back to dating he ramped up the physical affection and romantic comments again. He tried to do it in an "aren't I so charmingly jealous?" kind of way, but it became increasingly obvious that he wanted me around as more than just a friend, he just didn't want to officially have me as more than just a friend or to stop seeing other people as well.  Razz

So did this "pseudorelationship" start soon after this "it's not you it's me" breakup? How much time did he actually spend alone "sorting out his ish" before he started with all the "wink wink nudge nudge I might marry you some day" crap?
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Post by Mel on Sat Oct 25, 2014 10:49 pm

Ron Ritzman wrote:
So did this "pseudorelationship" start soon after this "it's not you it's me" breakup? How much time did he actually spend alone "sorting out his ish" before he started with all the "wink wink nudge nudge I might marry you some day" crap?

I don't remember the exact timeline, but a big part of the supposed issue was that he was temporarily living outside the city I live in, with his parents, and he found that inconvenient for having a serious relationship (especially since I was also living with my parents, so we had no private space to go to). He was planning on moving out on his own ASAP and had hinted that once that happened he'd be more available.

So, what I do remember is that within a few weeks of the break-up (when I was assuming it was final despite what he'd said), he started emailing me and wanting to get together to hang out here and there (I think we met up twice, though maybe only once, during this time) and telling me about plans like apartment hunting, and making more vague noises along the lines of once that happened we could work things out and he wanted to keep me in his life and so on. Which sounded somewhat plausible. Nothing physical went on until he did actually get an apartment in the city, which IIRC was 3-4 months after the break-up. I have a clear memory of him being all excited to have me over, making a big deal about how I was the first person he was going to show his new place to, and me going there not being sure what it was going to mean for us, and then him giving me a big more-than-friendly hug shortly after I arrived and saying something about a future together (this may have been when I got the first marriage comment, but I don't remember that part for sure), which again made me think maybe he did mean it.

But then the getting back together somehow never actually happened. innocent

Out of curiosity, is there something you're trying to figure out with this thread? You've mostly talked about the whole "layaway" idea in a descriptive way and wanting others to just tell their own experiences--I'm just wondering if there's an angle you're trying to go with it or a thesis you're wanting to test or some such.
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Post by nonA on Sat Oct 25, 2014 11:33 pm

reboot wrote:Now this I have seen. I just have never seen the attempt to sabotage new relationships thing. Which is not to say that it never happened, jut that no one brought it up, perhaps because it might feel paranoid?

The times I've had someone try to play the layaway/sabotage alternatives game, it involved a pretense of friendship and then finding all sorts of reasons why their "friend's" new interest isn't good enough for them.  If you're inclined to play along with the premise of friendship, it's hard to spot while you're in the moment.  And if you're not playing along with the premise (/have healthy boundaries), you don't get far enough along to have stories about it happening.


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Post by Ron Ritzman on Sun Oct 26, 2014 12:35 am

Mel wrote:
Out of curiosity, is there something you're trying to figure out with this thread?  You've mostly talked about the whole "layaway" idea in a descriptive way and wanting others to just tell their own experiences--I'm just wondering if there's an angle you're trying to go with it or a thesis you're wanting to test or some such.

It's just something I've been thinking about since reading the original column and other similar stories of iffy behavior. Did I identify a new dynamic or just a new interpretation of some old ones? In any case most of us can agree that one is not entitled to have the person if their choice (or a second choice as a backup) available to them at the snap of their fingers. Shit or get off the pot.
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Post by fakely mctest on Mon Oct 27, 2014 10:05 pm

I think it's also something that can happen with someone who's genuinely a friend but who's subject to friend-jealousy. Definitely ran into more of that when I was a lot younger and more immature. It's not romantic jealousy really, you just end up sad about the time that this other person is spending on dates/with a new SO and unable to handle it with grace. Probably exacerbated by the fact that it's common for some people to just utterly drop out of sight when they're in relationships.

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Post by UristMcBunny on Mon Oct 27, 2014 10:46 pm

Oh now the friend version of this I definitely have experiences with. My "best friend" for most of junior and senior school was someone who... actually almost never spoke or interacted with me, and had a large and diverse friend base amongst the popular kids. But twice in that time, she noticed me getting more than casually-friendly with someone on the same low-rung of the social ladder as myself and instigated a massive shit-fit of jealousy and rumours and tried to convince me said new friend was going to "take me away from her".

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Post by reboundstudent on Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:19 am

fakely mctest wrote:I think it's also something that can happen with someone who's genuinely a friend but who's subject to friend-jealousy.  Definitely ran into more of that when I was a lot younger and more immature.  It's not romantic jealousy really, you just end up sad about the time that this other person is spending on dates/with a new SO and unable to handle it with grace.  Probably exacerbated by the fact that it's common for some people to just utterly drop out of sight when they're in relationships.

Yeah, both I and my friend have experienced this with male friends. We become really good friends with a guy, and then he gets a girlfriend and drops off the map. We end up somewhere on the spectrum of vaguely annoyed to sort of upset, and get accused of being jealous that the guy has a girlfriend/we wanted him to ourselves/he was our emotional tampon, when the reality was... No, he was just our friend and we're really sad he's ditched the friendship. My friend said once that she felt as if she had been a substitute girlfriend without the sex... Like the guy had been indulging in her friendship until he found a girl who fulfilled both emotional and sexual, and so she got friend-dumped.

I hear about the difficulties of cross-gender friendships often, but it's never the "romantic tension" parts I identify with... it's always the "girlfriend thinks I'm stealing her boyfriend because I treat him like my best friend" that I struggled with. Whenever I started dating a new guy with female friends, I tried really, really hard to be friendly and inclusive to his gal friends and make sure he spent time hanging out with them without me*, because I hated how much my male friends disappeared once a girlfriend popped up.

*I ended up with tons of awesome female friends as a result. I've only stayed in contact with maybe 2 of my exes, but I met all of my best female friends through exes! My exes have good taste in gal friends.
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Post by fakely mctest on Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:17 pm

reboundstudent wrote:Yeah, both I and my friend have experienced this with male friends. We become really good friends with a guy, and then he gets a girlfriend and drops off the map. We end up somewhere on the spectrum of vaguely annoyed to sort of upset, and get accused of being jealous that the guy has a girlfriend/we wanted him to ourselves/he was our emotional tampon, when the reality was... No, he was just our friend and we're really sad he's ditched the friendship. My friend said once that she felt as if she had been a substitute girlfriend without the sex... Like the guy had been indulging in her friendship until he found a girl who fulfilled both emotional and sexual, and so she got friend-dumped.

I've had female friends in the past who are super terrible about this as well, so I don't think it's strictly one gender or the other. I actually had a couple of friend breakups instigated, in part, by these issues.

And often the friend-jealousy vs. romantic jealousy can look pretty similar to outsiders? Because they're similar, really, in terms of someone reacting badly to a perceived loss of attention or closeness or whatever. I know, for me, when I've experienced friend-jealousy, it was in part because I spent so much time in HS with literally zero friends so I kind of overcompensated as a result and it took me a while to find my equilibrium. And some of that comes from a place of selfishness when you want to be the BEST and CLOSEST, and some of that comes from a place of self-doubt because you know for sure in your heart that if the person meets someone else they will like them way better than you and, as a result, drop you like a hot potato.


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Post by IntelligentDice on Thu Oct 30, 2014 6:17 pm

eselle28 wrote:I've seen this a few time before. I tend to associate it with exes who claim to want to be friends and also to want to keep the door open for dating at some point in the future. I don't think I've ever seen the request made in good faith, though, and it seems like at least some of these people think it's okay for them to date others while their ex remains single and waiting for them to figure out what they want.

Is this different from giving someone time and space they might need? Someone I'm interested in, and is interested in me, is extracting themselves from a horrible, toxic, abusive ltr. As much as I want to date her, and she wants to date me, I honestly think she needs some time off from dating. I'd certainly be upset if after some time she started seeing somebody else. Not that I am trying to last claim or call dibs or something like that. I'd just be disappointed that trying to do right by her would result in that outcome. That's the closest I can come to layaway on good faith. Admittedly I'm a little biased Smile

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Post by Lemminkainen on Thu Oct 30, 2014 6:40 pm

@IntelligentDice: The way to make your situation okay is to explicitly talk about it and negotiate it with her. You'll be more able to best help your friend by asking her what she needs, respecting her judgment, and making plans with her to go out when she feels ready than by unilaterally waiting around for some chunk of time that you estimate is appropriate and then asking her out.

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Post by eselle28 on Thu Oct 30, 2014 6:49 pm

IntelligentDice wrote:
eselle28 wrote:I've seen this a few time before. I tend to associate it with exes who claim to want to be friends and also to want to keep the door open for dating at some point in the future. I don't think I've ever seen the request made in good faith, though, and it seems like at least some of these people think it's okay for them to date others while their ex remains single and waiting for them to figure out what they want.

Is this different from giving someone time and space they might need?  Someone I'm interested in, and is interested in me, is extracting themselves from a horrible, toxic, abusive ltr.  As much as I want to date her, and she wants to date me, I honestly think she needs some time off from dating.  I'd certainly be upset if after some time she started seeing somebody else.  Not that I am trying to last claim or call dibs or something like that.  I'd just be disappointed that trying to do right by her would result in that outcome.  That's the closest I can come to layaway on good faith.  Admittedly I'm a little biased Smile

I do see a bit of an ethical issue with the situation you described, though I don't know if it's quite the same situation as what was initially being discussed. I think it's sometimes unethical and generally unwise to do people favors they haven't asked for, especially if you think you may be hurt if they don't appreciate them. Now, if she's said she needs some space? That's a completely different situation and it's basically mandatory for you to respect her wishes. Likewise, if you two haven't communicated explicitly about this but one of your reasons for not suggesting a relationship begin now is that you don't think she will be in any shape to be a good partner to you for awhile, the ethical issue goes away as well. That's you making a choice based on what you want rather than what you think she wants.
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Post by Mel on Thu Oct 30, 2014 8:05 pm

Yeah, I agree with eselle. If you are deciding not to date her right now for your good, because you don't think the relationship will go well unless she has some time to recover first, that's just looking after your own needs. But in that case you need to recognize that the fact that she's interested in dating you now is not a promise to want to date you before anyone else in future. As soon as you say, "No," to dating someone, you are "freeing" them to date whoever else they wish, regardless of why you said "No."

If you would be happy to be in a relationship with her right now, but you think she might have some trouble with it, the respectful thing to do is to let her make that decision for herself. She is not your child or ward; it is not your place to decide what she needs for her, and trying to make her decisions for her instead of letting her make them herself is not actually "doing right by her."
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Post by IntelligentDice on Fri Oct 31, 2014 10:37 am

Mel wrote:Yeah, I agree with eselle.  If you are deciding not to date her right now for your good, because you don't think the relationship will go well unless she has some time to recover first, that's just looking after your own needs.  But in that case you need to recognize that the fact that she's interested in dating you now is not a promise to want to date you before anyone else in future.  As soon as you say, "No," to dating someone, you are "freeing" them to date whoever else they wish, regardless of why you said "No."

If you would be happy to be in a relationship with her right now, but you think she might have some trouble with it, the respectful thing to do is to let her make that decision for herself.  She is not your child or ward; it is not your place to decide what she needs for her, and trying to make her decisions for her instead of letting her make them herself is not actually "doing right by her."  

You're both right. This is a conversation I've been planning (dreading) having for a while now. It's the sort of talk that requires face to face conversation. Unfortunately, the earliest that can happen is a week from tomorrow.

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