Why Keep Your Romantic Options Open?

keep-romantic-options-openImagine a student who is uncertain about whether he wants to become an engineer or a journalist. If he wants to keep both options available, he has to keep taking classes in both majors until such a time that he is certain about what he wants to do. Dating is no different.

More choice = more opportunity and ultimately, better chances to find the right person…

Some people find it better to date one person at a time, and when that doesn’t work out, find another one to date; others find it better to date several people and when they find the one they like the best, they date that one exclusively. Personally I believe that neither is wrong; it’s a matter of personal preference.

Does keeping your options open make you more desirable? Yes and No.

Assuming you haven’t yet had the “We’re exclusive” conversation, putting all your eggs in one basket makes you not only vulnerable, but more likely to put pressure on the person to be exclusive or commit before he/she is ready. Most of the time you’ll find yourself easily becoming stressed, anxious, and desperate when you are not getting the attention you expect or things are not moving as fast as you’d like them to. You are also more likely to put unnecessary demands on the relationship and micromanage any and every interaction. This can create a lot of problems for the relationship.

From a purely statistical point of view, your odds are much better if you’re open to dating other people. The more open you are to dating other people, the more people you’ll date, and in the end the better your odds are of finding someone you feel is right for you.

Knowing that you have other options can also protect you from getting caught in a “commitments” when you haven’t fully developed enough of a real connection worthy of commitment.
But while keeping your romantic options open can get you more attention, or at least enough attention to stop you from becoming stressed, anxious, and desperate, keeping your options open has its own cost.

Just like double majoring requires the student to divide his time and effort and take classes in both fields, keeping your romantic options open requires you to invest extra time and effort to keep options available. Ultimately, it becomes too much work to keep everybody happy. You may even end up feeling like an opportunist — the very thing you hate about people who treat others like disposables.

Best case scenario is that narrow your options down to a very manageable size and hopefully something positive will come out of it…

But even this is not as easy as it seems. When you are pursuing two potential relationships, there is always the potential of spending more time with one person and neglecting the other. The neglected party may start to withdraw, causing you try to spend at least some of your time with him/her just to make sure you have more options. The back and forth between pursuing two potential relationships has its costs. First of it drains you to time and energy, and secondly you may find yourself unable to objectively tell which of the two relationships is genuinely promising.

If you are dating more than one person at a time, it’s good practice to tell him/her that you are dating more than one person at a time. Some people can handle it other’s can’t. Like all things in life it’s a risk you take. Even not telling him/her that you are dating more than one person is in effect, taking a risk. They may find out some way, and you still have to explain — first of all why you are doing it, and secondly why you never told him/her you were doing it.

My advice for keeping options open is to give yourself a specific number of months to date someone before deciding for or against a relationship…

The reason for this is that it takes time to get to know someone to make a conscious and well-thought out decision. You want to see what they are like when they are relaxed, stressed or tired, to see how they interact with various people in different situations, how they resolve various contentious issues in a relationship etc.

Giving each relationship undivided attention helps you weed out those who would never had made it for the long-term anyway or even a few months.
You may choose to date the person or hang out as friends, and spend time together before choosing to date them. This is a matter of choice than anything else. Every person and every situation is unique, so there is no hard and firm rule.

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