Do You Have a Guy On the Back-Burner? You’re Not Alone.

Do you have a guy on the back-burner? You are not alone

While this post was precipitated by the recently discovered love letters from President Warren Harding to his mistress, it really is about the proliferation of social media and how it impacts modern relationships. Simply put, humans have always had back-up relationships – friends to whom they’re attracted, ex’s that still linger, unrequited crushes that have been buried for years. But these days, we now have the capacity to easily keep in touch with all of them – discreetly.

Enter a study of 374 young adults (averaging 21 years of age). Turns out that both men and women, whether they were in a relationship or not, had a number of potential dating options (hereby known as back-burners) with whom they kept in touch, just in case. “This group of young people used text messages, Facebook, and sometimes cell phones to maintain contact with their back burners. As a group they reported having an average of five-and-a-half back burners, more of whom they communicated with in a platonic rather than romantic way.”

We ALL have some of these people in our past/present – but everyone deals with these relationships in different manners.

That sounds about right. When I was dating online prolifically from 25-35, many of those women turned from hook-ups into friends. Hell, I had a dinner party last month with two former hook-ups who brought their husbands to my house, ten years after we dated. Everyone moved on. And that’s what’s interesting about the back-burner concept. Sometimes, your back burner is a former flame. Sometimes, it’s a person you’ve always found attractive. And sometimes, it’s benign and you’ll never take action on it. We ALL have some of these people in our past/present – but everyone deals with these relationships in different manners.

“The researchers hypothesized at the outset that individuals in an exclusive romantic relationship would report having fewer back burner relationships than those who were not. It didn’t turn out that way: The average number of back burner relationships for the two cohorts was about the same. Further, the total number of back burners remained consistent regardless of how committed these men and women felt to their primary relationships. Finally, high-quality back burner relationships seemed to correlate with having more such relationships.”

This back burner phenomenon is nothing new, but social media allows us to do it better – without a paper trail.

Yep, if you’re someone who can be platonic friends with members of the opposite sex, without getting angry, depressed or sexually frustrated, you’re bound to accumulate some back-burners (or maybe just friends). And if you’re someone who gets jealous that your partner maintains such relations, you’re bound to freak out when you learn that – on average – there’s 5 people that he/she is considering if you ever break up. The study, however, “does NOT indicate that individuals in exclusive romantic relationships will necessarily cheat on their partners.”

It is always full trust or no trustThe author of the Psychology Today piece draws the same conclusion that I would: this back burner phenomenon is nothing new, but social media allows us to do it better – without a paper trail. That’s why it’s really important to know the character of your partner and to carry yourself with full trust. The alternative means checking his texts and Facebook messages, and no one wants to be in a relationship with someone who does that.

So, do YOU have any back-burner folks that you’d call if you were suddenly single?

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Stacy

    I honestly without a doubt can say that I have absolutely no back burner relationships – relationships with men that I can potentially be with.  I tend to have very clear lines drawn in my relationships. Either we are friends or we are dating and if we are no longer dating, we simply don’t keep in contact much. And if we are in contact, it’s very casual and certainly not consistent.  I think the study is about right because the average age in the interviews were 21 year olds.

    Regardless, I think it is healthy to have other platonic relationships with friends of the opposite sex.  But, I think as a woman, it is most difficult because as you get older, rarely do you make new friends of men who don’t have their designs on you.  Every man who has tried to be my friend has wanted more with the exception of a couple of men that I grew up with from childhood who are already married.  I would love to find platonic friendships with men who aren’t interested in sex with me but it’s like finding a needle in a haystack.  

    1. 1.1
      Dina Strange

      Am with you on that. I had to stop talking to most of my back burners because they kept pushing for sex, and its annoying as hell, when you tell a guy you just want to be friends, and he keeps on pushing.

  2. 2
    Julia

    Yes, I have several back burners. They are exes, friends that I am attracted to, etc. My boyfriend also has a few, all exes for him. One of them stayed with us for 3 nights while she was visiting home from Japan. I wouldn’t ever consider breaking off a relationship with someone completely unless the relationship was toxic.

  3. 3
    Alex Lanz

    Yup! When i first started to read this article i immediately thought of my boyfriend (Oh now he has back burners OMG) Then I remembered that so do i! lol! So it’s okay. And I am guessing it is natural to have them. I counted 5 in my life as back burners. I talk to them daily and we maintain a really good relationship. I do not tell my boyfriend, but i also do no cheat on him with them. They are simply a “just in case.”  

    It’s just fun.  

  4. 4
    sp

    Wow, I am quite surprised with the flippant attitude about this.  I have no back burners and would not be interested in having any.  If I would break up with my amazing boyfriend tomorrow, my thoughts would not go to going to guy on List B, it would be to grieve and heal.  I think it would be disrespectful to treat those other guys like they were somehow on a “waiting list””.  So like I said, wow, talk about shallow and adolescent.  When I was younger and I noticed other women do this, I coined a phrase “slots and sluts” (placing would be back ups into their slots).  Well the phrase worked for me then and it still does now.  Sorry for not jumping into the category of treating people and relationships as disposable goods.

  5. 5
    Henriette

    I’m a wee bit confused about the nature of these Back Burners as it seems as though that rather disparate relationships that fall under the one heading. 
     
    I have several ex-boyfriends and guys I’ve dated who I now count as trusted friends.   These are not men with whom I have any interest in revisiting romantic relations and I am transparent with any boyfriend when I’m in touch with these fellows.   I would be perfectly content with a boyfriend keeping similar positive relationships with past love interests; to me that seems a sign of maturity and sound judgement. 
     
    In my mind, developing and maintaining purely platonic friendships with exes/ former dates falls in one category.  But discreetly connecting with men I’m attracted to/ interested in while I have a boyfriend ~ even if I’m not currently pursuing any kind of sexual/ romantic relation with them ~ seems different and less benign.  I don’t think I’d appreciate it if a boyfriend kept in touch, privately, with a woman who he hoped to date if things didn’t work out with me.   Also, I suspect I’ve been a “Back Burner Girl” for a few men I’ve known through the years and it made me feel like he considered me Second Best, a fall-back in case what he Really wanted didn’t come to pass.   No bueno.

    1. 5.1
      JennLee

      The problem, Henriette, is that many affairs happen even when the husband/wife knows about this “friend.” My belief is this. If my boyfriend or husband were uncomfortable with one or more of my “friends,” I would talk to him about it and find out what is making him feel insecure, or bothered.

      I did this with one of my past boyfriends. While we were together, we would often run into one of my ex’s who I considered a good friend. Well, he would always come up and give me a big hug, and thinking back, he was always very animated about it. My boyfriend took a quick dislike of him, and made it known to me. After while, I asked him what was bothering him so much. He said that when the ex would hug me, he would give him a smirk, sort of a “I could have her any time I wanted,” look. So I asked one of my friends to watch and see what he did when I saw him at the next party. She confirmed that he in fact was doing that.

      So at the following party, I put my hand in his chest and held him off. I told him that I didn’t feel comfortable having such intimate contact with guys I had no romantic interest in. The look on his face was priceless. So was the look on my boyfriend’s face when I turned around and gave him a hug. His smirk was huge, and it was obvious he appreciated what I had done. For me, it was easy because the ex was never going to be anything but an ex, and if he was trying to cause friction between me and somebody I was in love with, that was a huge problem. So I really didn’t care if he no longer wanted to be a friend. I’m not sure he was really interested in friendship anyway.

      1. 5.1.1
        lynn

        That you would do that for a loved one speaks volumes about how much you care about their feelings and the relationship.  Although one could counter that your boyfriend “failed” a test of security in that he exposed himself and his emotional neediness.  I just hope it never comes back to haunt him.

  6. 6
    Rose

    Hm.. I am curious about my ex boyfriends.  I will check out their facebooks and social media and wonder what they’re up to.  But I don’t have contact with them really and I don’t entertain them as possible relationships.  And the people that I have had crushes on are all taken.  So if my current relationship breaks up I won’t have anyone to call. 

  7. 7
    JennLee

    I see nothing wrong with having friends, but too many people seem to have little concept on how to act with these people, when they are in a committed relationship with somebody else. Most people have very weak/nonexistent boundaries. And then they wonder why their otherwise sane partner gets upset.

    I heard a great saying. “Never make them trust you on faith alone.” In other words, if I were to dress up all sexy, go out to the club with my friends, and then spend the night at a friends, while my boyfriend is back at our place, that’s wrong. He has to just trust on faith, that I did not spend the night in the bed of some guy I met at the club. Anyone who says that it would not bother them if their significant other did that, is not being truthful in my opinion.

    I had a friend who got into a big fight with her husband. One of her past boyfriends was going to be visiting our city and wanted to meet with her and have lunch. This was a guy that she had been very very serious with at one point. She wanted to meet him for lunch, just her and him. She saw nothing wrong with it, but her husband had a fit over it. It’s easy to say, “Well she was being honest about it.” but the fact is, it is likely that somebody would have seen her with the guy so she really didn’t have a choice but to clear it ahead of time. But I think many people would see it as inappropriate for somebody to meet up privately with an ex. Like it or not, many affairs start that way. And in my opinion these relationships can put an unfair stress on a relationship because it is very easy to be that perfect guy, or girl, when you are just the emotional affair. It’s easy to be perfect when you aren’t living with the person, and have no real obligation to them. So I see a lot of other women carrying on with emotional affairs with these back burner men, and they think the guy is perfect. Well it’s easy to be when he is just somebody you talk to, or even meet up with for occasional sex. I’ve also seen friends have these affairs, thinking the guy is perfect, and end up with him after leaving the guy they were with. more often than not, Mr Perfect turns out to be very very average when she is now living with him. So I think we often build these back burner guys up into more than they really are.

    1. 7.1
      Julia

      I heard a great saying. “Never make them trust you on faith alone.” In other words, if I were to dress up all sexy, go out to the club with my friends, and then spend the night at a friends, while my boyfriend is back at our place, that’s wrong. He has to just trust on faith, that I did not spend the night in the bed of some guy I met at the club. Anyone who says that it would not bother them if their significant other did that, is not being truthful in my opinion.

       Wait, its wrong? What? Living your life and enjoying time with your friends is not wrong and its not cheating. I am so glad I am a trusting person, it must be awful to get upset at such benign things.

      1. 7.1.1
        Androgynous

        Your comments made me think of the film Entrapment (starring Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta Jones) and the saying “First we try, then we trust”. This was what the Sean Connery character said to the Catherine Zeta Jones character when she told him to “just trust her” based on nothing but her word alone. Honestly I don’t believe people get upset for no reason at all. There must have been a pattern of behaviour which suggests that the other party is untrustworthy. Why stay in relaionship with a person like that ? good question.

      2. 7.1.2
        JennLee

        Julia, this isn’t a zero sum game. All situations will not be the same. For example, my current boyfriend told me about a situation. He said that he ran into a girl he went to high school with. She was a Freshman while he was a Senior. While he went into the Navy, she graduated and married a classmate of his. Later she divorced and he then ran into her after getting out of the Navy. He said they started a relationship and he loved her little boy. Then one day, she let him know that she would be taking a 1 week vacation. Long story short, he found out he couldn’t go. Turns out her and her ex had come up with this agreement to go on a vacation every year with their son. They would all be sharing a hotel room for a week. My boyfriend offered to go with them, pay for an extra room and stay out of their way during the day. He was told no. In effect, he was asked to just trust on faith while she shared a hotel room one week every year with a man she had been in a sexual relationship for many years. It’s easy to find reasons he should not worried, but it is also easy to find reasons he should have. Often marriages don’t end because of sexual incompatibility, but other reasons, like the man cheating, or money problems, and on and on. It’s also easy to see that maybe he wouldn’t have had to worry the first few years. But what about when they hit a period where things are in a valley instead of a peak. Would she decide some fun on the side with this man was OK? Imagine how stupid people would have thought my boyfriend would look if it got around that something was going on in that hotel room? Even if it weren’t true, wouldn’t people assume it was, at least possibly, and think my boyfriend was stupid and gullible?

        Nobody is saying that you can’t go have fun, but I know for a fact most people would not think it is OK to meet an ex who is coming to town. And why must it be just the two of them? Why couldn’t the spouse/BF/GF go along?

        Bottom line is that many people do have affairs, and they do so within the confines of trust given to them. So excuse people if they don’t like to be put into situations where something just feels off to them. I know for certain that if my boyfriend told me an ex was coming to town and he wanted to go have lunch with her, just the two of them, that wouldn’t feel right to me. Why must I stay away? If they truly are just friends and never intend anything more, why couldn’t I go along? In fact, wouldn’t he want to have me with him, for his Ex to see that he was happy with somebody else? I know that’s how I would feel. I would want my ex to meet my boyfriend/husband. If I were looking for a way out of a relationship, then and only then would I want to meet an ex without my significant other included.

    2. 7.2
      lynn

      it is very easy to be that perfect guy, or girl, when you are just the emotional affair. It’s easy to be perfect when you aren’t living with the person, and have no real obligation to them.

      This is so true.  I had a friend who I was attracted to who I believe was being intimate with another person.  My friend and I were accountable in a wider social environment, unlike the person who my friend was being intimate with.  Whether or not my friend would have been intimate with me is one thing but the person who was being intimate with my friend had an advantage I did not have, in that the 2 of them did not have to exist in the same social environment together.  This caused me a lot of anger towards my friend because I felt I was in the “trenches” with my friend and the other person was just a “party animal” that existed only in private without scrutiny.

    3. 7.3
      Clare

      With respect, JennLee, I disagree with you.

      Someone who has never done anything wrong IS entitled to trust “on faith alone”. Are you seriously trying to suggest that people should go around justifying why the things they are doing are not cheating?

      I trust my boyfriend… because I trust him. He can go out with the guys. He has female friends. He can tell me that he is spending the night at his parents’ place. And without any back-up evidence whatsoever, I trust that he is doing just that. Why? Because he has integrity. Because he has principles. Because cheating is abhorrent to him. Because he loves me and doesn’t want to lose me. And mostly because, why would I go around assuming that my boyfriend is lying to me?

      I am not forcing him to stay. If he wanted to go and be with some other woman, I wouldn’t stop him. And if something WAS going on, I am sharp enough that I would get to know about it. Or it would come out all on its own. I do NOT need to make him justify to me why his devoted boyfriend behaviour would not suddenly turn into all-out whoring just because my back is turned. That would be MY insecurity, and my problem, not his.

      Try choosing and assuming trust – I can assure you it is a much more enjoyable  way to live. By the way, I expect to be treated with the exact same level of trust. Any guy who got pissed off because I hugged some other guy, whatever the expression on his face, would be gone.

  8. 8
    Noquay

    I have a number of back burners. However, my “primary” relationship is not much better than a platonic friendship, despite really trying to make it work. Great human being, just a combination of emotional/physical issues and widely differing lifestyles. Until I can afford to retire and leave here,
    finding someone truly compatible is not in the cards. These are all platonic and out in the open; no one is being used or treated as disposible. This is common here as many have to look far away to find
    someone who meshes with ones values. Generally
    folks that come to my town to train for races who live many hours away. I get discuss what matters to me with these folks and they get a place to stay. Making the best of a less than ideal situation.

  9. 9
    Jenn

    Being more conservative than most people who post here, I tend to believe that “back burner” people really should not exist if you are honestly trying to find The One. Why waste any time, energy and thought on someone who likely would not be the right fit for you anyway? There is a reason why that person is not with you. Every second you waste on someone who’s not quite right for you is time and energy you could be spending looking for the right one. I have also been back-burnered in the past, so I really dislike the notion that a guy would only be keeping me around until someone better comes along. Or if he was dating me, I’d hate to think he was just waiting to break up with me so that he can hook up with one of his current back-burners (which would be doing me a favor, so not much complaining there, I admit!).
    As for people who wind up as friends after they break up, I get it, but I could never do it. I have no male friends because I will admit, I can’t really relate to men other than romantically. I can talk to coworkers and such, but I can’t have male friends because they (or I) would likely want more at some point. I know my limitations and as such, I would hope I don’t end up with someone who has dozens of female friends. Sure, there are good points to that – he can relate to me better, etc. But I’d always wonder why he wasn’t with one of them instead of me. It would really eat at me even if I knew I could trust him implicitly. It’s the same reaction I have when I see a guy’s profile online is filled with pictures of him with beautiful girls. I’m like, “Why are you here? If you like them so much, why not date one of them?”

  10. 10
    Karl R

    I’m not surprised by this article. Back when I was dating, I frequently had someone on the back burner. In my experience, I was more likely to have someone on the back burner when I ended up dating a woman more seriously or for a longer period of time.

    When I wasn’t in a relationship, there was no reason for me to postpone dating a great woman. If I was in a relationship, I wouldn’t end it just because I met another woman who I liked. I would let the current relationship run its course.

    sp said: (#4)
    “If I would break up with my amazing boyfriend tomorrow, my thoughts would not go to going to guy on List B, it would be to grieve and heal.

    If you are in a long-term, serious relationship, that’s normal and necessary. If the relationship lasted six weeks, and you were seeing problems during the last three weeks, you probably don’t need an extended recovery period.

    Henriette said: (#5)
    I’m a wee bit confused about the nature of these Back Burners as it seems as though that rather disparate relationships that fall under the one heading.

    As someone who deliberately maintained some back burner relationships when I was dating, I would say that there aren’t clear distinctions.

    My father-in-law is 85 and married. At this point, it appears likely that he will become a widower (again) in the next year or two.

    He’s still active and in good health. My wife and I agree that it’s likely that he’ll get married again. We also think it’s likely that he already knows the next woman he’ll be involved in.

    There’s a woman that he and his wife have been friends with for years. They became friends because all three of them are passionate about social dancing. They’ve spent numerous evenings out together (with other friends from the dance community). For the last decade or so, I’m sure my father-in-law viewed her as being one of their friends.

    Years later, he’s facing the (unexpected) reality that he’s going to outlive another wife. When he’s ready to start dating again, I don’t think he’s more likely to start dating women he’s already friends with, rather than complete and total strangers.

    He hasn’t been keeping this woman (or any others) around on the back burner for years. They’re the friends and members of his social circle that he’s known. The distinction between the two can be expressed as, “Am I likely to be back on the market in the near future.”

    When I started dating my wife, neither of us expected the relationship to last. There was another woman that I had been considering dating (before my wife and I started having a fling). We were in the same social circle. In order to keep her on the back burner, I remained friendly, but I made sure she knew I was dating someone.

    As my wife and I became more serious, having someone on the back burner became increasingly unnecessary. My outward behavior to her didn’t change. My intention to eventually ask this woman out in the future disappeared, though.

    My wife is 16 years older than me. I expect to outlive her. Probably by a number of years. However, it’s also likely that she will be around for another 20 to 35 years. There’s no reason for me to keep anyone on the back burner. By the time I’m back on the market, my female friends might no longer be part of my social circle, or they may be off the dating market.

    Henriette said: (#5)
    “I suspect I’ve been a ‘Back Burner Girl’ for a few men I’ve known through the years and it made me feel like he considered me Second Best, a fall-back in case what he Really wanted didn’t come to pass.

    That sounds like your ego and/or insecurity talking.

    When I met my wife, she was occasionally dating a man she’d known for decades. (He’d become a widower a couple years earlier.) Based on her description of their occasional dates, he just wasn’t that into her. When we first started dating, she was still hoping that she’d end up with him.

    Even though we were just having a fling, she quickly realized that I treated her far more like a girlfriend than he ever did. Initially, he was her first choice. It didn’t stay that way for more than a month or two.

    She was hoping for a fantasy relationship with someone she’d had a crush on for decades. If I’d gotten pissy about it, I wouldn’t be married to my wife. Instead, I didn’t let it bother me, and she eventually concluded that what she thought she wanted (him) wasn’t what she really wanted (a great relationship with a great guy).

    When it comes to dating, ego is an obstacle, and insecurities are toxic. Try to leave both of them behind.

    JennLee said: (#7)
    It’s easy to say, ‘Well she was being honest about it.’ but the fact is, it is likely that somebody would have seen her with the guy so she really didn’t have a choice but to clear it ahead of time.
    Evan said: (repeatedly)
    “It’s always full trust or no trust. There’s nothing in between.”
     
    My wife sometimes has lunch with her exes. She doesn’t necessarily tell me about it in advance.

    It doesn’t bother me. I trust her. They’re her exes for a reason.

    If your friend’s husband thinks she’s only telling him about the lunch because she might be seen by someone else, their marriage is doomed already. I live in a city of several million. I’m sure my wife could arrange a dalliance without me ever finding out about it. I trust her not to.

    Here’s the secret about trust:
    Trusting my wife has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with me.

    If you don’t believe you can implicitly trust your partner, then you need to find a different partner. If you don’t believe you can implicitly trust anyone, then marriage probably isn’t for you. 
     

    1. 10.1
      Chance

      “That sounds like your ego and/or insecurity talking.”

      Actually, I was thinking that the folks who keep relationship prospects on the back burner are often acting, at least in part, out of insecurity.  I don’t think it’s always a case of hoping for someone “better”, but rather it’s a defense mechanism to help the person stay cool.  I think these people get some amount of comfort out of feeling like they could quickly fall back to another option (or several possible options) if the primary relationship doesn’t work out the way that they hope.  It’s probably worth reiterating that the average age of the people in this study is 21, and let’s face it, insecurity often dictates the behavior of people in relationships at that age.  
       

      1. 10.1.1
        JennLee

        I think you made a great point, Chance. Often times I’ve seen friends who don’t like to get out of one relationship until they have another one going.

    2. 10.2
      JennLee

      JennLee said: (#7)
      “It’s easy to say, ‘Well she was being honest about it.’ but the fact is, it is likely that somebody would have seen her with the guy so she really didn’t have a choice but to clear it ahead of time.“
      Evan said: (repeatedly)

      There’s also propriety and impropriety.

      “It’s always full trust or no trust. There’s nothing in between.”
      We can all agree that there are people who have huge insecurity issues and so they try to lock the other person down. However, there are also times when you have a right to be insecure.

      Part of the problem is that this society has forgotten that there is such a thing called impropriety. I gave an example in another post I just made where one of my boyfriend’s ex girlfriends was clearly asking for too much trust. When after many months, nearly a year, she let him know that he is just going to have to stay home while she goes on a week long vacation every year with her ex and their son. And to top it off, they are going to share a hotel room. Sorry, but people carry this, “You just have to trust me,” thing too far.

      Around 30% to 50% of people have affairs. If you were doing business with somebody, and it was known that without a contract, there is a 30% to 50% chance you aren’t going to get paid, would you still enter into the agreement without a contract? Would you just trust?

      See, I reject this notion that if you love somebody you must just trust them 100% no matter how they act, or how much their actions change, or no matter what they do. No, there is such a thing as impropriety, and I think expecting your significant other to just trust you while you go off and have lunch with an ex. Especially if you offer, or ask to go along. That is going to raise red flags for anyone who isn’t stupid.

      The idea is for you to act in such a way that makes your spouse feel safe, and the more you do that the more they will trust you.

      Let me illustrate just how wrong Evan’s statement is. If your friends and you go on a vacation every year without your wives, but it has always been to some national park out west, to go camping, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, etc.. Then one year it turns out that a few of the single guys want to include going to Reno to visit the bunny ranch, would your wife have a right to insist you not go? The plan is for everyone to go to Reno for a couple of days end then go camping in the surrounding desert. What if you intended to inform her, but one of the other wives finds out first and tells her? This of course would make it even harder for her to trust. Even if a woman wants to trust, the mind can and will work against that. While you in Reno, she would have moments of worry. And this would continue to surface.

      I agree that your default should be to trust the other person. Yes, there are some people who have such strong issues with trust that they can’t trust at all in any situation, such as when the other person just wants to go to a friends house. But there will be times when the situation lends itself to making the other person worry. Sometimes that is unavoidable, but there are times that it is, and I think this is what my mother was talking about.

      I think it has a lot to do with your partner. You think it is just your choice, but something about your wife makes you trust her.

      This is not an uncomplicated issue. There are a great many variables. I don’t often have concerns, but if I do, I expect my partner to give me their attention and listen to my concerns, and then work it out.

      1. 10.2.1
        Evan Marc Katz

        “Around 30% to 50% of people have affairs.” False. Around 6% of people have affairs in a given year, and 20-25% over the course of a marriage.

        “I reject this notion that if you love somebody you must just trust them 100%”. I reject this notion, too. You can love lots of men. You’re going to marry ONE. You’d better FULLY trust that man, otherwise you’re going to have a very uncomfortable marriage.

        In your hypothetical, it’s not clear if they boyfriend is going to Reno with his guy friends, or going to the Bunny Ranch with his guy friends. If he’s going to Reno, while his guy friends are going to the Bunny Ranch, yes, you have to trust him. If he’s going to a whorehouse, no, you don’t trust him. All your excuses about your mind working against you is YOUR problem. If you trust your boyfriend, there is nothing to worry about. My wife trusts me implicitly, so any trip to Vegas without her would not worry her for a second. If you were my wife, and you got worried, and tried to berate me or dress me down for going to Vegas, you wouldn’t be my wife much longer, because I’m a trustworthy guy.

        Here’s the equivalent. Your boss checks your pockets every day before you leave work just to make sure you didn’t steal. How does that feel? That’s what it’s like to be a trustworthy guy with a jealous girlfriend.

    3. 10.3
      sarahrahrah!

      Karl R said:

      “When I wasn’t in a relationship, there was no reason for me to postpone dating a great woman. If I was in a relationship, I wouldn’t end it just because I met another woman who I liked. I would let the current relationship run its course.”

       This is precisely why I think it is unethical to keep and foster backburner relationships.  You plainly state that you would keep your new backburner in the loop while letting your “current relationship run its course. ”  Is that the same as meeting people and developing a romantic relationship while still keeping the safety net of your current relationship you’re not really interested in but don’t have the guts to end like a decent person?  Having been the person on the receiving end of that exchange, I”ll have you know that it hurts a lot to be continually reaching out to someone you thought you had a commitment with only to be given the “everything’s fine” speech while  they are emotionally absent.    I hope your wife never does this to you.

    4. 10.4
      Karl R

      Chance said: (#10.1)
      “I think these people get some amount of comfort out of feeling like they could quickly fall back to another option (or several possible options) if the primary relationship doesn’t work out the way that they hope.”

      I would call it practicality. Most of my relationships didn’t turn out the way I initially hoped. If there’s a 90% chance (or greater) that a current relationship is going to be over in several weeks/several months, what’s the most effective way to treat the person I might end up dating next.

      I found it effective to remain friendly towards them (so they liked me as a person), but let them know I was off the market (so they didn’t expect me to be more than just friendly). 

      JennLee said: (#10.2)
      “Part of the problem is that this society has forgotten that there is such a thing called impropriety.” 

      If your boyfriend believes that you are acting improperly, are you okay with him dictating to you what proper behavior is?

      Let’s say he thinks women shouldn’t wear makeup (because he believes they’re doing it to attract other men). His mother never wore makeup. His ex-girlfriends never wore makeup. He expects you to stop wearing makeup while you’re dating him.

      Is it your responsibility to adjust your behavior to match his description of “propriety”?

      If he doesn’t think your behavior is proper, it’s not up to you to do back bends to make him feel comfortable. The two of you ought to break up and find someone more suitable. 

      JennLee said: (#10.2)
      “I reject this notion that if you love somebody you must just trust them 100% no matter how they act,” 

      That’s not our notion. We said you have to trust them fully or not at all.

      If your partner decided that he wanted to take regular week-long vacations with his ex, share a hotel room, and you were not allowed to join them…

      Do you really want to stay in a relationship and trust that person 50%, or 30%, or 10%? I wouldn’t trust that at all. Sorry. Relationship is over.

      Why would you want to salvage that relationship? Even if you still trusted that person 70%, why stick with the damn relationship?

      JennLee said: (#10.2)
      “Around 30% to 50% of people have affairs.” 

      About 15% to 18% of married people have affairs.

      http://www.forbes.com/2009/06/28/sanford-ensign-affair-opinions-columnists-extramarital-sex.html

      I’ve been cheated on before. I’m quite aware that it happens. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that it could happen again.

      It was painful when I found out that my girlfriend had cheated on me. It annihilated my trust in her. The relationship never recovered from that.

      But I can think of one thing that would make my marriage worse than my wife cheating on me. That would be for me to spend the rest of our marriage spying on her and trying to make sure she wasn’t.

      Even with the girlfriend who betrayed me, I was smart enough to realize that I was either going to have to reach the point where I trusted her again, or I was going to have to end the relationship. 100% trust or 0% trust. The only other alternative (staying in a relationship where I didn’t fully trust her) was by far the worst option.

      If you believe there’s a 30% chance (or a 50% chance) that your current partner will cheat on you, get out now. (This may prevent you from having any relationships, but it will save your potential partners a lot of grief.)

      JennLee said: (#10.2)
      “I think it has a lot to do with your partner. You think it is just your choice, but something about your wife makes you trust her.”

      It has everything to do with my choice. If I couldn’t trust her, I wasn’t going to choose to marry her. (One of my wife’s ex-boyfriends decided that he couldn’t trust her. His jealously was the main cause of their breakup.)

      If  I couldn’t choose to trust the ex-girlfriend who cheated on me, then I wasn’t going to marry her. (I wasn’t personally capable of choosing to trust her again, therefore the next step was obvious.)

      Why in the hell would you choose to marry someone you can’t trust? 

      If you can’t bring yourself to trust anyone, do the sane thing and stay unmarried. 

      sarahrahrah! asked: (#10.3) 
      “You plainly state that you would keep your new backburner in the loop while letting your ‘current relationship run its course.’  Is that the same as meeting people and developing a romantic relationship while still keeping the safety net of your current relationship you’re not really interested in but don’t have the guts to end like a decent person?” 

      No. It’s the opposite of that. 

      If I was in a relationship that I was interested in, and that I wanted to work out, and while in that good relationship I met someone else who seemed like they had potential, I’d try to nudge the new person onto the back burner.

      If I had checked out of a relationship, why would I stay in it if there was someone interesting on the back burner? That seems completely backwards.

      The person on the back burner was most useful when I got dumped. I wasn’t stuck trying to find someone who I might like to date. After giving myself a little time to hit an even emotional keel, I would start courting someone who had been on the back burner.

      And the women on the back burner were not romantic relationships. They were platonic. I would make certain the women knew I was in a relationship, so they would not expect anything more.

      sarahrahrah! asked: (#10.3) 
      “I’ll have you know that it hurts a lot to be continually reaching out to someone you thought you had a commitment with only to be given the ‘everything’s fine’ speech while  they are emotionally absent.” 

      Your partner had emotionally checked out. He wouldn’t discuss the issue with you. The relationship was causing you pain.

      Why did you stay in the relationship? 

      Did you feel that your lousy relationship was better than no relationship at all?

      If there’s someone on the back burner, you don’t make the mistake of assuming that you have to choose between a bad relationship and no relationship.

      1. 10.4.1
        JennLee

        First, I think people see “back burner,” in two different lights. I think some people see back burner as just people they know that they would actually try to date if they become single. Others, myself included see back burner as something you are actually investing in. You put a little more effort into cultivating a relationship with them. Where with other people, you are just friendly with no real effort, these back burners you are trying to keep on a low boil or at least a very warm simmer. You send them a friendly text where with others you don’t. You go out of your way to bump into them. You converse on facebook with them and actually look or their posts, or visit their profile to see what they have posted. You call just to talk when you are bored, etc…

        I think that me and many others see it as somewhere between friends/acquaintances and an emotional affair. Some back burners may actually cross over slightly into being an affair.

        I think the problem, in light of this is that it’s like texting while driving. Your focus should be on the driving and bad things can happen when you don’t. It is very easy for a back burner to develop into a full blown emotional affair. So I think the point, and what we should all be looking at is how much effort and emotion you are putting into these back burners. Nobody is saying that you cannot have friends of the opposite sex.

        15 to 18% is still high. Plus, we aren’t just talking about married people. How many in LTR outside of marriage do so? The point is that it does happen, and happen a lot. It is something that one must be aware is a possibility.

        You and I are also going to have to agree to disagree on the choice. yes it is a choice, but it is an informed choice. Why do you trust your wife where others you did not? I am not talking about uncontrolled jealousy, or unreasonable lack of trust.

        If your partner decided that he wanted to take regular week-long vacations with his ex, share a hotel room, and you were not allowed to join them…

        Do you really want to stay in a relationship and trust that person 50%, or 30%, or 10%?

        That’s the point I am getting at and some people are missing. I support my boyfriend ending it with that woman. My point is when something comes up in the relationship that causes you unease. What if they never did that, but let’s say you are married and your ex suddenly starts going to lunch with her son and his father? Then out of the blue they inform you that they have made the decision that they want to start going on vacations like that? Maybe she states that it is her son’s request. What if her son does not like you? This is all hypothetical of course, and before meeting my boyfriend, I wouldn’t have even thought of such a scenario, but I never thought a woman would tell her boyfriend that he has to be OK with her going on vacations with her ex and son and share a hotel room with them.

        There will be times that something seems off. You can just trust, but many people who were cheated on trusted and found out too late that it was misplaced trust. Some have lasting consequences such as Herpes or Aids.

        I 100% agree that you cannot act like a jealous, non trusting, raving crazy person, and hope to have a lasting relationship. But, there will be times when questions arise, and that is where relationships do require some work and compromise.

    5. 10.5
      Clare

      Karl R,

      ” My wife sometimes has lunch with her exes. She doesn’t necessarily tell me about it in advance.
      It doesn’t bother me. I trust her. They’re her exes for a reason.
      If your friend’s husband thinks she’s only telling him about the lunch because she might be seen by someone else, their marriage is doomed already. I live in a city of several million. I’m sure my wife could arrange a dalliance without me ever finding out about it. I trust her not to.
      Here’s the secret about trust:
      Trusting my wife has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with me.
      If you don’t believe you can implicitly trust your partner, then you need to find a different partner. If you don’t believe you can implicitly trust anyone, then marriage probably isn’t for you. ”

      Agree 100% 

  11. 11
    JennLee

    If your boyfriend believes that you are acting improperly, are you okay with him dictating to you what proper behavior is?

    Let’s say he thinks women shouldn’t wear makeup (because he believes they’re doing it to attract other men). His mother never wore makeup. His ex-girlfriends never wore makeup. He expects you to stop wearing makeup while you’re dating him.

    Is it your responsibility to adjust your behavior to match his description of “propriety”?

    If he doesn’t think your behavior is proper, it’s not up to you to do back bends to make him feel comfortable. The two of you ought to break up and find someone more suitable.

    Is it OK to dictate to me? No. Is it his right to ask? Yes. Make-up is sort of silly though because that is something that should have been discussed long before marriage, and in most situations I think it would. I can’t see a man having a problem with it (most likely over religious concerns) and not talking to you about it before getting married. If he did that, then it would show a serious character flaw that would cause me to wonder what I got myself into. If however, he came to me later and said that his parents, elders of his church, or other people he respects brought up and he has been thinking about it, I would at least listen to him. There might be a compromise. If I am going to church with him, maybe I could tone it down or not wear make-up at all, in the church.

    I noticed that people often want to talk in extremes here. Black and white. One side or the other. Life is not black and white, in most cases. It is shades of gray.

    I see in comments:
    *All men over 40 suck. No they don’t. Some do, some don’t.
    *Woman under 30 wants to date men over 30. Not true. Some do, and some don’t.
    *All women over 30 have a biological clock ticking and are desperate to have kids. No we don’t. Some do and some don’t.
    *All men over 40 are looking for a womb to plant his seed. No they aren’t. Most men I know over 40 don’t want more kids, even most who never had kids. But some do.

    And you can raise concerns with your spouse without it being dressing them down, or giving them the third degree.

    I’ve noticed that western cultures often want to act as if they are single when they are married. It’s this “independence” thing. Well when you get married you are no longer independent, you now have responsibilities to somebody else. If you don’t want that, don’t get married. If you can’t take the other person’s feelings, and yes insecurities into account, then why are you married. Do you really love them? Or are you just in it for what’s in it for you? I can tell you this, if for instance, I were enjoying a night out at the clubs with girlfriends, and my husband suddenly had a problem with it, I wouldn’t just dismiss it and say, “You either trust me 100% or you don’t.” That would be callous and selfish to do, because something is bothering him suddenly. His coming forward allows an opportunity to talk about it, and find out what is bothering him. I feel pretty certain that if your wife came to you with a similar concern, you would listen to her with an open heart. Would you not?

  12. 12
    SparklingEmerald

    JenLee@11 said  -  “I’ve noticed that western cultures often want to act as if they are single when they are married. It’s this “independence” thing.”



    Definitely a big mistake I made.  I was extremely independent and picked a man who was also extremely independent and it’s like we were living two parallel lives.  And that’s how I WANTED it at first.  He did his thing, I did my thing,  when we happened to be together we had wild and crazy monkey love, but it was more like we were room mates who were highly attracted to each other, rather than husband and wife.  We WERE crazy about each other, but we gave each other so much damned space that we became like strangers to each to other.  I started wanting more togetherness after our baby was born  (maternal bonding, hormones and all that jazz), but his need for space didn’t seem to change much.  I wanted to say something about it, but felt that I couldn’t, like it would be pulling a “bait and switch”.  I certainly didn’t want to be joined at the hip, and I didn’t want to imprison him and make him give up all his hobbies, etc., but I started to feel so lonely and isolated.  The few times I even tried to broach the subject it pretty much came down to “You knew I was like this . . .”  and yes, of course I knew he was “like that”, because I was like that too, but motherhood changed all that for me,  and not for him.  So when I tell people that we divorced because we “grew apart’, that’s kinda true, but in a way, it’s more like we weren’t really very together to begin with.  Except for our wild lovin’, and shared meals,  we didn’t relate much, and after many years when the chemical high wears off , and our son grew up and left home . . . we didn’t know each other any more.
    In the unlikely event that I ever re-marry, I’ll be d—ed sure that we each only need moderate amounts of space, and choose a partner who would mostly want togetherness, not space.  I don’t want to feel like an Inn Keeper ever again. 

  13. 13
    Karl R

    JennLee said: (#10.4.1)
    “Others, myself included see back burner as something you are actually investing in. You put a little more effort into cultivating a relationship with them.” 

    When I had women on the back burner, I put slightly more effort into cultivating/maintaining a friendship with them.

    It was a strategic decision. I wanted these women to see me as the kind of guy they wished they could get as a boyfriend. Therefore, if that relationship didn’t work out, they would suddenly be thinking, “Now I have a chance to get him as a boyfriend!”

    JennLee said: (#10.4.1)
    “I think that me and many others see it as somewhere between friends/acquaintances and an emotional affair. Some back burners may actually cross over slightly into being an affair.”

    That kind of behavior is unethical, and it’s counterproductive. I wanted these women to believe that I would make a great boyfriend. Therefore, they had to see my interactions with them as appropriate.

    If a person has an emotional affair with you, then he/she is likely to have an emotional affair with someone else while you’re dating them. I always behaved with a much higher degree of integrity with the women on my back burner.

    JennLee said: (#11)
    “Make-up is sort of silly though because that is something that should have been discussed long before marriage, and in most situations I think it would.” 

    Marriage? Where did that come from? Unless you’re expecting your marriage to end in the near future, there’s no point in having someone on the back burner. 

    I would expect a person to know whether their partner takes vacations with their ex(es) before getting married (to use your extreme example). 

    Evan and I are both big fans of taking your time and getting to know your partner before the wedding. If your partner has a custody arrangement with their ex, you should know it long before you get engaged. If your partner has a kid who doesn’t like you, that shouldn’t come as a surprise after the wedding.

    What intelligent person gets married like that?

    JennLee asked: (#10.4.1)
    “if for instance, I were enjoying a night out at the clubs with girlfriends, and my husband suddenly had a problem with it, I wouldn’t just dismiss it and say, ‘You either trust me 100% or you don’t.’”
    “if your wife came to you with a similar concern, you would listen to her with an open heart. Would you not?”
     
    I took the time to get to know my wife before we got married. She doesn’t care if I go out with the guys. She doesn’t care if I go to a happy hour with my coworkers. She doesn’t care if I go out dancing while she’s out of town.

    If my wife suddenly gets concerned, then she’s being bothered by something completely different. The two of us need to address that problem. Not monitor each other’s whereabouts.

    I can’t see why anyone would marry someone who is that insecure. If you don’t believe that you can trust someone, why marry them in the first place?

    JennLee asked: (#11)
    “15 to 18% is still high.”
    “Why do you trust your wife where others you did not? 

    I trusted all of my girlfriends. I trusted the one who cheated on me … until she did something to betray that trust.

    Do you believe that a cheater becomes more trustworthy if you monitor their actions, demand explanations for “suspicious” activities, and forbid them from going places where they could misbehave?

    You don’t create trust through those actions. Instead, you drive away trustworthy partners … because they know they don’t deserve that kind of mistrust, and they know they can find a relationship where they will be trusted.

    I would rather be caught by surprise by a partner’s infidelity (again), rather than make all of my relationships toxic through suspicion and insecurity. 

    I’ve seen a few studies which indicate that the more trustworthy someone is, the more willing they are to trust others. The less trustworthy someone is, the more suspicious they are of others. 

    1. 13.2
      JennLee

      @ Evan. Oh hush you! LOL

      @Karl R

      There you ago again with those extremes. Who said anything about monitoring anyone, or giving them the third degree, questioning their whereabouts. Next you’ll have me in some cheesy trench-coat hiding behind plants in his office, monitoring his daily activities. So let me use a more relevant since we are talking about back burner relationships. First, let’s not deny reality. While you in your infinite perfectness can turn on and off your human nature, not everyone does. For most people these back burner relationships aren’t even thought about consciously, it is subconscious. It is somebody you see as attractive, and you could see yourself in a relationship with them if only…so you simply act a bit different with them. Most people think of it as harmless flirting.

      OK, so whether it is simply a committed relationship, or full blown marriage, the same thing applies here. If the man’s woman isn’t totally stupid, she may catch on to one of his back burner interests. Now, maybe this other woman really is something special, maybe she’s not, doesn’t matter. The spouse/girlfriend may simply react emotionally about it. Something about it may just bother her. Maybe at a party she overhears the other women stating that if he ever breaks it off, she is going to pounce. This may be what sets her off. Unreasonable? Maybe. So what. Want logical, talk to your guy friends, or your former math professor. Women are often ruled by the heart, not logic. Sometimes we simply need reassurance and we may ask you to do so in a manner that isn’t totally fair. For instance, the next time they go to a party together, he spots the other woman and a guy friend conversing, and he says he is going to go say hi to them. Well the thing is, she now knows about the back burner. It’s not the same. I am not talking about something she dreamed up, or something she dug to uncover. It was revealed to her and now she can’t deny it. Now, I can assure you that many women, if not most women would request that their man no longer flirt with this woman, or even just “talk” because the cat is out of the bag, as the saying goes. The woman is very likely to simply say, “I know you fancy her, and I would appreciate it if you did not go out of your way to talk to her tonight. Not in front of me, please.” Unfair? Maybe. Unreasonable? Maybe. Should she just trust him and not say anything? Maybe. Life isn’t fair. relationships aren’t fair. It isn’t fair that Evan had to support his wife while she paid off her debts, but he did. And I assure you that if a man looks at his woman in that instance and blows off her concern, or turns it around on her and says she should just trust him, he is going to crush a small part of her heart. She’s looking for reassurance. She is looking for him to show that she mean more to him than the other woman. If he does this, it becomes so much easier to trust him. Then it becomes so much easier to trust him when they are going to Reno, because he so easily chose you over another quality woman, so why would he want a high priced skank? This is how a woman’s mind works. Sometimes we need to you to simply show us through actions that you love us, even with our unreasonable emotional requests. And when you make the right choice, you get a huge deposit in the trust bank. think about that if your woman ever, out of the blue, tells you that she doesn’t want you to talk to a certain woman. It may be totally unreasonable. But if you talk to her calmly and without accusation of being unreasonable, and in the end simply say, “if it means that much to you, OK,” you will earn a huge reward.

      As for the cheaters are the ones with trust issues. BS. Often times it’s those who have been burnt badly, and hurt very badly that have trust issues and they need a man strong enough to teach them to trust again. Simple little gestures can build/rebuild a woman’s trust and men seem so clueless about that fact sometimes.

      1. 13.2.1
        Karl R

        JennLee said:
        “As for the cheaters are the ones with trust issues. BS. Often times it’s those who have been burnt badly, and hurt very badly that have trust issues and they need a man strong enough to teach them to trust again.”

        If you’ve been so badly burnt that you have “trust issues”, seek counseling. It’s not your boyfriend’s job to “teach you to trust again”. He’s not going to be good at it. And if he has half a brain, he’ll figure out that fixing your problems is far more difficult than finding a woman who isn’t broken. 

        I was cheated on in my first serious relationship. That was part of my introduction to relationships. Yet I’ve managed to trust every single one of my girlfriends. If I didn’t think they were trustworthy, I didn’t start a serious relationship with them.

        Don’t wait around for a strong man to teach you to trust again. Be a strong woman who figures it out without a man’s help.

        JennLee said:
        “OK, so whether it is simply a committed relationship, or full blown marriage, the same thing applies here. If the man’s woman isn’t totally stupid, she may catch on to one of his back burner interests. Now, maybe this other woman really is something special, maybe she’s not, doesn’t matter. The spouse/girlfriend may simply react emotionally about it. Something about it may just bother her. Maybe at a party she overhears the other women stating that if he ever breaks it off, she is going to pounce. This may be what sets her off. Unreasonable? Maybe.” 

        Correction. That’s definitely unreasonable. 

        If that sets your partner off, I’m going to recommend that you dump that partner. If that sets you off, I would recommend that your partner dump you. Period.

        If it sets you off when you discover that another woman wants to pounce on your boyfriend/husband, I have a simple solution. Date pathetic losers that nobody else would ever be willing to date. Problem solved.

        I no longer need back burner women. While I expect to outlive my wife (I’m 16 years younger than her), I expect to be married for the next 20-35 years. The odds of someone remaining in my social circle that long are slim. The odds of a great catch remaining single that long are tiny.

        But I had a couple back burners while dating my wife. At the beginning, there was no guarantee that our relationship would last. The last one showed up about six months after I started dating my wife. (We were serious, but we weren’t engaged.) She started taking dance classes at the same studio my wife and I were taking them.

        On paper, this woman appears better than my wife. She’s younger than my wife (barely older than me). She’s brilliant. She’s in great physical shape. She’s an excellent dancer. She’s in a similar line of work, so she understands my job. And she has many of the amazing traits that I find attractive in my wife.

        I’m sure this woman has drawbacks. Everyone does. I haven’t dated her, so I don’t know what they are. But I’m smart enough to know that they exist.

        At that time, I had to make a decision. Was I going to ditch the best relationship of my life to pursue a relationship that had a very small chance of being better?

        I chose to stick with the great relationship, rather than rolling the dice.

        JennLee said:
        “She is looking for him to show that she mean more to him than the other woman.”

        He already did. If she means less, he’ll dump her and date the other woman. If he hasn’t done that, he’s already demonstrated his choice in the most concrete manner possible.

        If a woman (or man) needs constant reassurance, that’s a sure sign that they’re insecure.

        My wife knows that I’m friends with that woman. She knows that woman is one of my favorite dance partners. If my wife goes out dancing while I’m stuck at work, she’ll tell me which of my favorite dance partners I missed the opportunity to dance with  (including that woman).

        My wife is also friends with that woman. That makes perfect sense to me. They are both amazing women. They share a fair number of traits. They’re in the same social circle.

        JennLee said:
        “Should she just trust him and not say anything? Maybe. Life isn’t fair. relationships aren’t fair.” 

        We individually decide which unfairness we’re willing to accept in relationships, and which we’re not.

        A $40,000 debt is a one time problem that can be solved (which was incurred from an act of altruism). Insecurity is a lifelong recurring problem, and there’s no corresponding benefit. 

        JennLee said:
        “But if you talk to her calmly and without accusation of being unreasonable, and in the end simply say, ‘if it means that much to you, OK,’ you will earn a huge reward.” 

        The “huge reward” of spending a lifetime with an insecure partner?

        No thanks. 

        I would rather spend a lifetime trusting (and being trusted by) my mature, secure wife. 

        1. Clare

          Wow Karl R, you articulated beautifully exactly what I feel.

          I would say the biggest reason to trust your partner is that it makes you so much happier. I remember being caught up in the trap of mistrust – wondering if every little word, smile or friendship was something to be worried about. I was miserable, and it also a sure-fire way to stuff up your relationships, leading to more misery.

          Trusting people are happier. And, they inspire trustworthy behaviour in others, leading to more happiness. Agree wholeheartedly with the last sentence of your post about the reward of being with a trusting person being so much greater. Anyone who has been in the kind of relationship where trust runs through it like a golden thread, rather than one of those where there is constant bickering and negotiation over things that don’t mean anything, will attest to that.

        2. Fleur

          I feel compelled to stick up for JennLee’s reasoning. 
           ‘If you’ve been so badly burnt that you have “trust issues”, seek counseling. It’s not your boyfriend’s job to “teach you to trust again”. He’s not going to be good at it. And if he has half a brain, he’ll figure out that fixing your problems is far more difficult than finding a woman who isn’t broken.’

          I disagree. Whilst I think most people, whether their issues are overtly apparent or not, would benefit from some form of counselling. Trust issues a lot of the time, just require a good relationship to overcome them. It’s like making a cake. If someone tries making a cake , and it deflates, they are not going to have any confidence in a recipe until it produces a  risen cake.  Once the person has seen time and time again, the same recipe consistently produces is full of air they will realise – this is great, reliable recipe I can trust. Where as if, you just had someone else show you, how to make risen cakes, or just talk about the baking process, that may help to some extent, but it doesn’t replace the confidence gained by actually producing a risen cake. Also broken implies a permanent state, recovering is more accurate and you know how the, ‘if it doesn’t kill you’ saying goes… 

           ‘Correction. That’s definitely unreasonable. 
          If that sets your partner off, I’m going to recommend that you dump that partner. If that sets you off, I would recommend that your partner dump you. Period.
          If it sets you off when you discover that another woman wants to pounce on your boyfriend/husband, I have a simple solution. Date pathetic losers that nobody else would ever be willing to date. Problem solved.’  

          Correction YOU think is is unreasonable. I know plenty of people who think it’s perfectly justified to act a little less friendly when a partner discovers that they are fancied by a member of the opposite sex. If the situation was reversed  I’d be colder just to empathise that I was taken and thus not interested; some people take the smallest bit of friendless as a ‘signal’ when they are looking for one. It is sensitive and tolerant to listen to your partner, and not just dump them if what they are feeling does not make sense to you. If someone looks to me for reassurance, I would give it to them and expect the same. Again, why are you jumping to the extreme loser that no one else would want to date? It is fine for other women to fancy my boyfriend, I would just be uneasy if he was very friendly with one of those women. I keep people who fancy me at a distance when I’m in a relationship, if my boyfriend didn’t do the same I would  reflect if I wasn’t giving him something he needed in the relationship or if his need for attention was insatiable. 

          ‘ He already did. If she means less, he’ll dump her and date the other woman. If he hasn’t done that, he’s already demonstrated his choice in the most concrete manner possible.
          If a woman (or man) needs constant reassurance, that’s a sure sign that they’re insecure.’ 

          No, that’s how you’d act. You are a man of integrity. Plenty of men may ‘try the other woman on for fit’ before deciding which one to be in a main relationship with… or get a thrill of conducting numerous affairs. 
          I can guess your answer would be, well pick someone of integrity/ if you don’t trust them 100 percent don’t be with them. Well you can pick someone you trust and be wrong. You say you’d prefer that to live in a relationship without trust. I’d rather have neither – they are not mutually exclusive, you don’t have to pick one or the other. Also, being reassured at the odd party does not equate to constant reassurance.  I agree with JennLee’s assesment that you exhibit black and white reasoning.

          It is also my experience that most people tend to be insecure about something, whether it’s cheating or body issuses. I am yet to meet a person without hangups. The closest I got was one ex who didn’t seem to be insecure about anything apart from how I had a lot in common with his brother and every now an again used to joke I was going to leave him for his brother. However, it was specific to that person. He wasn’t insecure about me leaving him in general. Sharing your insecurities with your partner and having them respond positively actually provides the vulnerability for a couple to grow closer.
          As a psychology student I will, again, contest that someone suffering from low self esteem needs to simply work on their insecurities outside a relationship. Current thinking is their negative feelings are a gauge for social acceptance. Traditionally trying to work on your self esteem is like artificially inflating your gas tank from empty to full. It does sometimes work though because if you act confidently people tend to respond more positively thus an actual increase in esteem. The same can be gained by building a positive environment to share feelings with your partner. Jealousy is a normal human emotion and it is not in many people’s books a dumping offence to merely acknowledge it.  

        3. Karl R

          Fleur said:
          “Trust issues a lot of the time, just require a good relationship to overcome them.”

          You’re a psychology student. Do you have a source to back up that claim? I’m sure you can find a source that’s more authoritative than the ones I’ve found … which suggest that’s a rather naive view.

          Fleur said:
          “It’s like making a cake. If someone tries making a cake, and it deflates, they are not going to have any confidence in a recipe until it produces a  risen cake.  Once the person has seen time and time again, the same recipe consistently produces is full of air they will realise – this is great, reliable recipe I can trust.” 

          Great analogy. It proves my point.

          You spent your time making the first cake, and you had high hopes. At the end, you found out that it fell flat. Now you lack confidence in that recipe. 

          You start to make second cake. You expect it to fall flat, so you probably put in less effort. You’re certainly not excited about it. (You expect it to disappoint you.) It’s only at the end, when the process is over, that you realize that it was actually a decent cake all along. 

          You start to make a third cake. Based on your previous experience, you expect at least a 50% chance that it will disappoint you. Therefore, you still lack enthusiasm for the process. You probably still put in less effort. Again, it’s only when the process is over that you discover that it also was a pretty good cake.

          Being the boyfriend/girlfriend of a untrusting partner is like being the second or third cake. Your partner constantly expects you to disappoint them. They invest less effort into the relationship. If you’re still a great partner (despite their half-assed participation), they only recognize that you were trustworthy after the relationship is over (and they realize you didn’t betray their trust).

          At best, your ex-boyfriend has restored your faith in men enough that your next boyfriend will benefit. 

          What’s my incentive to date a partner who is damaged goods? If I’m self-sacrificing and put up with all the crap that comes from reassuring a suspicious partner, you might actually improve enough that you might make a decent partner for somebody else

          No thanks. That sounds like a lousy deal to me.

          Fleur said:
          “I know plenty of people who think it’s perfectly justified to act a little less friendly when a partner discovers that they are fancied by a member of the opposite sex.” 

          There’s no shortage of insecure, jealous and unreasonable people in the world. I’m sure plenty of them agree with you.

          They make lousy partners, however.

          My wife is an attractive woman. It’s quite obvious that most men in our social circle find her desirable. In her position, would you start being cold and distant to most of the men you know in order to reassure your insecure (and/or untrusting) partner? 

          If she did that to the men who like her, and I did that to the women who like me, we wouldn’t have many friends left.

          Fleur said:
          “Well you can pick someone you trust and be wrong. You say you’d prefer that to live in a relationship without trust. I’d rather have neither – they are not mutually exclusive, you don’t have to pick one or the other.” 

          You just contradicted yourself. 

          Fleur said:
          “Also, being reassured at the odd party does not equate to constant reassurance.” 
          JennLee said:
          “Maybe at a party she overhears the other women stating that if he ever breaks it off, she is going to pounce. This may be what sets her off.” 

          Fleur,
          I don’t care if it’s an occasional occurrence. If you are “set off” in public because a woman wants to date your boyfriend, and your boyfriend has to stop what he’s doing, come over, and “reassure” you….

          Wow. Talk about humiliating for the boyfriend. 

          To all the men,
          If you date a woman like this, never take her to parties … unless you reeeeally like drama. 

          To all the women,
          If you date a man like this … hell … you know the rest.

          Fleur said:
          “I’d be colder just to empathise that I was taken and thus not interested;”

          You might want to look up the definition of the word empathize.

          So you act “colder” toward someone in order to let them know that you’re taken and not interested.

          I have a simpler solution. I’m my normal, friendly self. At some point, I casually mention my wife. (Previously, I would mention my fiancée/girlfriend.) Everyone got the hint, and I didn’t have to treat anybody worse.

          Fleur said:
          “some people take the smallest bit of friendless as a ‘signal’ when they are looking for one. 

          Like you and JennLee

          Fleur said:
          “Jealousy is a normal human emotion and it is not in many people’s books a dumping offence to merely acknowledge it. 

          Jealousy may be normal, but it’s also irrational.

          I don’t dump women for acknowledging that they feel jealous. (Well … if they are “set off” in public, I might.) If they feel that way, and they know it’s irrational, that’s okay.

          I dump them if they expect me to change my behavior to accommodate their irrational jealousy. 

  14. 14
    Mrs Happy

    In a related topic, I flicked through a dating book 10+ years ago, title was something in the genre “reasons single women are not finding partners to marry and have children with”. One of the chapters hit me like a brick; at the time I had almost all male friends and didn’t know many females I was very close to (I’d travelled a lot, studied and worked in a more male field, had issues with my mother I’d projected onto other female relationships). The chapter outlined that women who have lots of/more male friends, are more likely to stay single through their 20′s and 30′s. The author hypothesized that when women partner up with men, they then start setting up their female friends with males, partly because they want their close female friends to be the same as they are now (e.g. married). But male friends do not tend to set up female friends with males as often. In fact, male friends can stymie their female friends’ romantic relationships. And after some thought and life experience on this stymie topic, I think it’s partly to do with a back-burner-like phenomena: my many male friends I was close to through my 20′s and 30′s were sometimes hoping to take things further, even if they were in a relationship (one shocked me to the core when he offered to break up with his partner if I would start a relationship with him now or in the future – he said he just wanted to check he and I had no chance, before he and she stated trying to conceive. Charming.). With most of my male friends, I’d assumed we had a platonic relationship. Maybe I was an unknowing back-burnee.

  15. 15
    Fusee

    I’m still confused about what is a “back-burner relationship”. If it is a platonic relationship maintained with a friend, acquaintance, or even an ex, in case the current relationship does not work out then President Warren Harding’s relationship with his mistress is not one of them. It was a full-on affair as confirmed by their love letters. Also being friends with an ex with whom there is no intention to reunite does not seem to qualify as a back-burner relationship either.
     
    To me having friends/acquaintance on the “back-burner” (meaning keeping them as future dating options) is only acceptable when dating around, before having entered a serious relationship leading to marriage. I’m of the opinion that those people must be let go once in a serious/long-term relationship. If you want to be successful in your relationship you have to give it your full attention, and take the necessary emotional risks involved.

  16. 16
    Fusee

    (Sorry for adding a second comment back-to-back but I wanted to separate the two topics.)
     
    About trust/boundaries:
     
    I agree with Evan and Karl R that “It’s always full trust or no trust. There’s nothing in between.” The thing is, for some people there is something in between but staying in a relationship with less than 100% of trust is going to involve a lot of suffering… Better to choose a partner that you can trust 100% rather than trying to make it on 90% while agonizing for the last 10%!
     
    I also agree that a large part of trust is a personal mindset and a choice we make as individuals. It will be impossible to trust someone however “perfect” they behave (whatever that means) if we do not have a trusting disposition to start with, and indeed it’s not the job of our partner to fix our past hurts. However I disagree with the concept that it has nothing to do with the other party. Certain behaviors will evoke trustworthiness, others won’t, and if that’s the case it’s indeed best to do a graceful exit.
     
    I think that a lot about trust has to do with having similar boundaries. People having similar boundaries will trust one another more easily. People differ in their boundaries, and I find unfair to label as “insecure” anything different than Evan’s or Karl R’s exceptionally accepting standards. You guys are on the very accepting side of the spectrum – and found compatible spouses who share the same values – but having stricter boundaries is equally compatible to a happy and healthy relationship, as long as these choices are not rooted in insecurity and mistrust and as long as both partners have the same preferences for their relationship. It’s about being compatible, rather than trying to change the other person or trying to tolerate something that does not work for you.
     
    I’m naturally trusting and I always assume the best from people. That’s my baseline. As I got to know a prospective partner I would observe carefully his behaviors and evaluate whether or not we had similar boundaries or if we could agree on a compromise if we were a bit different. I’m not just talking about how to handle male-female friendships, but about any other value I care about. If a behavior does not match my standards for me to trust 100%, I would do a graceful exit, and I indeed left guys who maintained too close friendships with other women but also guys whose ways of handling their finances did not show evidence that they’d be able to manage a joint account wisely.
     
    My husband and I are secure, trusting people. However we do not do close one-on-one friendships with the other gender, we do not keep in touch with exes, and we do not maintain “back-burner relationships” on the side. Not because we’re insecure or incapable of trust, but because it’s not part of our value system and what we believe would contribute positively to our marriage. I did not have to change him, I just picked someone whose natural behavior was in tune with my beliefs.

    1. 16.1
      Karl R

      Fusee said:
      “However I disagree with the concept that it has nothing to do with the other party. Certain behaviors will evoke trustworthiness, others won’t, and if that’s the case it’s indeed best to do a graceful exit.” 

      I think those behaviors have to do with values and boundaries, not trust. 
       
      Some couples have an open relationship (where sex with others is permitted). My wife and I don’t. That’s not the kind of relationship we want to have. We have set boundaries that match our values.

      But I make no special effort to ensure that my wife is staying within those boundaries. She makes no special effort to prove that she is staying within those boundaries. That is trust.

      But if someone’s behavior is demonstrating that you don’t share the same values, or that they can’t/won’t abide by the boundaries you have collectively established, then it’s time to move on.

      Fusee said:
      “we do not maintain ‘back-burner relationships’ on the side. Not because we’re insecure or incapable of trust, but because it’s not part of our value system and what we believe would contribute positively to our marriage.” 

      Not all values contribute positively to a marriage. SparklingEmerald (#12) and her husband shared a value (independence) and set boundaries accordingly. She now considers that to be a mistake.

      But that’s a separate issue from trust.

      I agree that back-burner relationships (at least as I define them) are not appropriate in a healthy marriage. I expect my marriage to last for decades. I don’t need to be thinking about who I’ll date next

      But there’s really no external difference between how I used to treat the women on the back burner (before my relationship with my wife got serious) and how I treat the same women now. Perhaps that’s because I put very little extra effort into those relationships in the first place. 

  17. 17
    Susan

    My question is why have them on the back burner in the first place? The recent demise of my LTR was directly attributable to my exes fervent need to have the admiration of other women. One of whom he has now left me to be with. I was deeply uncomfortable with the need to have women friends whom he would spend time with without me – and some of whom who were quite open in their want for him. As far as I was concerned it was playing with fire. Now one could argue that if he was happy with me he wouldn’t have felt the need to keep the backburners around – quite possibly this is true. But why even put yourself in that position. If you’re really truly wanting a relationship with someone then your time and effort should be directed to that pan thats right in front of you, not whatever is on the backburner. 

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