Sex + Dating

How to Tell if You're Being Kept Around 'Just in Case'

So you managed to sort through all the millenial dating BS and found someone you genuinely like. Only one problem -- the relationship seems like it's just sort of... stalled? Nothing concrete is coming out of the texts, the attempts to see each other, the obvious attraction.

Maybe this person is seeing someone else. Maybe they're casually dating multiple people. In other words, maybe you're being kept around "just in case" -- benched or serving as backup in case a front-runner doesn't work out.

If you've never been on someone's back burner, you're lucky. But odds are good you know someone else who has. I, for one, have suffered through the crappy position of "just in case" several times; and have decided to lay aside my embarrassment over that fact to clue you in on how to tell if you're being kept in someone else's reserves.

They rarely follow through

Making plans with a love interest? Good sign. Lack of follow-through? Bad sign. Sure, some people’s lives are truly busy and tough to work around. And there's no magic number of times you should tolerate being ditched before ditching the person you're so into. But if it's a regular thing, it's too often.

"Ethan" used to do this to me a lot. We’d run into each other and talk about how we should hang out. We were obviously really attracted to each other. But no matter how many times he said he would call me or meet me or come to my bar, he never did.

I found out later that it was because he "kind of" had a girlfriend. As in, HE HAD A GIRLFRIEND. Which is way less complicated to say than how busy he was.

If someone isn't making time for you but keeps you on the chain enough for non-committal flirting, you serve a very singular purpose: that of backup.

You haven't met their friends

This one is a red flag across the board for so many things. If the person you're spending so much time with hasn't brought you around their friends, get out. Same if they never want to meet your friends. I’ve grown to learn if a guy wants to meet my friends and invites me to hang out with his, he's well on his way to being a keeper.

Getting to know the people your partner surrounds himself with is essential for gaining insight into who this person really is. It matters -- and if it's not happening, you're spinning your wheels. Worst of all is making excuses for WHY this isn't happening. There's no excuse: you haven't met their friends (or they haven't met yours) because he or she doesn't want to.

Maybe because they bring someone else around their friends. Maybe because they don't want people to know about you. Maybe because they're not sure of you. Every reason boils down to the same thing: what they want from you is the option of a plan B.

You text more than you actually do things

Pen pals were great in second grade. And though consistent texts and phone calls might feel intimate, they're not there to replace actual intimacy. "William" did this to me for quite a long time, combining a manufactured, distant closeness with making plans and never following through.

You know why? Because he also had a girlfriend. And he liked keeping me around and available for the attention I gave him, the security that I'd be there if things with his girlfriend didn't work out, and the ego trip of having more than one person infatuated with you.

Yeah. What a stud.

They actually tell you

Yeah, this seems pretty obvious. But I've lost count of how many people (myself included) who, even in the face of the truth, spin things in our favor.

I had a crush on a guy once who we'll call Alex. The whole flirtatious thing was upon us, and we ended up going out a few times. Then he told me about another girl, let’s call her Jasmine, and that she was "finally single after all this time." Except instead of bailing right then, I kept seeing him. Even though he pursued Jasmine... and began dating her. Several weeks (OK, years) of him continuing to play games -- because he cheated on her a lot -- I eventually jumped ship and moved to Southeast Asia. Because sometimes you have to make big changes to move on from big heartbreak.

What was I thinking all that time? Well, I thought if he really loved her he wouldn't be seeing me. And if he was seeing me, he was wondering whether I might be a better partner. And I wanted to prove I was -- by being the cool girl, offering a shoulder, a lay... Listen, if someone you're into tells you they're into someone else, BELIEVE THEM.

Alex and Jasmine? Married now.

They constantly emphasize how busy they are

Similar to the points above, you can be reasonably sure someone is seeing other people (or at the very least, not committed to you at all) if he or she feels the need to constantly express how busy they are. Someone interacting suggestively with you through text and phone calls who can't be pinned down for anything more than late-night hookups or occasional happy hours is definitely not putting you ahead of anything.

I dated a guy I had been friends with for years. He always showed interest in more, and eventually we began dating.

After a short-lived romance, this man was suddenly awfully busy. He had too much going on to see me, or couldn't follow through on plans, but always texted to ask how I was -- and to remind me of how crazed his life had become. Translation? He liked the attention and the occasional meet-up/sex. But he wasn't all about me. And that meant I had to get out of the situation.

Because, quite simply: it's a waste of time to allow a priority to treat you like an option.

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Jennifer Hope Miller is a traveler, photographer, and writer who compiles lists of her failed dating experiments to use for profitable gain and notoriety. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter: @awkwardsoles.