Do You Want to Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too?

How to Open Up Your Relationship

This week, I was on the phone with a client who came to me eight weeks ago with no dating prospects whatsoever.

But armed with a new perspective on dating, online dating, and understanding men (not to mention a new online ad campaign), this woman found herself in a new position: the object of desire to a thoughtful, considerate man.

Tara, 39, went out with Ted three times. Each time, he called her in advance, made the plans, paid for her, followed up the day after, and let her know that she was a priority in his love life. Without being over-the-top smothering, Ted made it clear that he wanted to be her boyfriend.

Yet even though Tara invested a lot of money with me to ostensibly find herself a boyfriend, suddenly, when confronted with the prospect of focusing on one man, she found herself pulling away emotionally.

You know that the guy who is casually “seeing” you once a week for three months NEVER becomes your husband.

Even though he’s a great guy. Cute, smart, successful, kind.

Even though he’s done everything right.

Even though she wants to be married one day and this man is on board — Tara just couldn’t help but feel that she needed more time being single.

“More time than 39 years?” I asked.

“It’s more that I’m not sure I’m ready to commit to HIM,” she continued. “So what I’d like to do is continue to date Ted casually for the next couple of months, put my profile up on, and see what happens from there. He IS a good guy, and I don’t want to throw things away. I just want to explore my other options right now.”


Tara’s proclamation sounds eerily like the thoughts of the man who played with your heart in the past. Like your heartbreaker, she came on strong, she made a real connection, and now she’s silently backing away… sort of.

Because Tara — like your heartbreaker – doesn’t want to actually break up — she just wants to keep her distance and downgrade Ted from “future boyfriend” to “one of three men I’m seeing right now”.

Which means that, whether Tara likes it or not, Ted’s going to be on pins-and-needles, wondering where the spark and momentum went.

He’s going to be wondering what happened, what he did wrong, and how he can turn things around again.

Essentially, Tara wants to have her cake and eat it, too.

Not because she’s evil and malicious and doesn’t care about men, but because continuing to date Ted casually while exploring her other options maximizes her selfish desires.

So she gets to keep the door open for Ted, experiment with some exciting, unpredictable men on Match, and make her decision down the road.

Except that’s never how it goes.

You know that.

Because you’ve been in Ted’s position more times than you’d care to admit.

And you know that the guy who is casually “seeing” you once a week for three months NEVER becomes your husband.

How do you know this?

Because if he wanted to be your boyfriend, he’d have tried harder from the very beginning. His very indifference and ambivalence to you — shopping around for other women while keeping you in the loop — tells the entire story.

I don’t have to stick around to see the end.

Neither should Ted.

Every second you’re with the wrong guy is a second you’re not looking for the right guy.

And neither should you.

Your takeaway from this blog post should be twofold:

First, realize that men and women are no different. And although it’s easy to berate men for being selfish, for using you, for not telling you their true intentions, the real truth is: this isn’t a man thing, it’s a people thing.

I just told you Tara’s story, but I literally have THREE clients right now going through the exact same thing.

Three women with no prospects 8 weeks ago; now, all three are putting OFF having a boyfriend because they want time to date and explore and maximize.

I would probably quibble that they should consider the devoted guy instead of looking for a more exciting, unpredictable player on the Internet, but that’s neither here nor there.

All you need to know is that you have two choices: act with integrity and let your man go find a woman who’s into him, or give up on any sense of moral high ground that you might maintain when complaining about non-committal men.

You can’t have it both ways.

The second takeaway I’d like you to have is to internalize the idea that the guy who is keeping you at bay for more than 6-8 weeks is probably never going to step up to the plate to be your boyfriend.

So dump him NOW and go out and find yourself a man who is EXCITED about you.

Every second you’re with the wrong guy is a second you’re not looking for the right guy.

Join our conversation (92 Comments).
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  1. 1
    J0hnny S

    Maybe they’ve become infatuated with the thought that they are now desirable and want to experience what it’s like to actually options after years of rejection. That power of choice is intoxicating for someone that hasn’t been in that position before.  

  2. 2

    Excellent way to make the point Evan. 🙂

  3. 3

    Excellent advice as always Evan: you’re right, it’s not a man thing, it’s a people thing. The sooner we stop seeing the other gender as an entirely different species the better! I have been in both Ted’s and your client’s positions.

  4. 4

    well i had a friends with benefits relationship and i made it clear from the beginning that i wanted no relationship….after 2 months he fell for me and now wants me to be an official boyfriend. (it’s now the 3rd almost 4th months now)…
    i think guys take a lot of time to commit so maybe 6-8 weeks is still not a lot?

  5. 5
    Happy Person

    I think the sequence of photos here is funny. Having your cake: three cute tushes, propped up on elbows, gal in the middle. Single mom: three smiling faces, propped up on elbows, gal in the middle.   If the camera pans from cute tushes around to  the front shot of the single mom with smiling kids it would be an amusing commentary on  the  life cycle of  the gal’s  relationship. 🙂    

  6. 6

    Evan, you are most definitely correct here.

    However, I couldn’t help but think, when I read this, well, hey, we girls go through it ALL the time, and it was the story of my dating life, for months.   Of course the behavior is not nice, it’s cruel, it’s immature.

    But still, the thought ran through my head: “Well, maybe if guys experienced this, maybe they wouldn’t treat a woman like that, in the future, because they know how it hurts.”

    Now of course, I am not saying all guys do this.   And again, I am not condoning this kind of behavior.   I certainly do not behave that way towards men.   I let them know, let them down easily, and will not keep them on the hook.   And I do that because I know way too well, how much it hurts to be used, rejected, lied to.   I get it.   And I won’t screw up my karma by doing that to someone else.

    Just a thought here.  

  7. 7

    Thank you for posting this article, the way you articulate complex issues opens my eyes regularly and today is no exception.   In fact today you did more than open my eyes; I realized I am a ‘Ted’.
    I have been dating a smart, strong, and successful, not to mention beautiful, woman for the past  several months.   She came on strong, we had a connection, and then she backed away silently.   The spark and momentum disappeared completely.   I tried to talk openly with her about it but I could never get a straight answer, I only got just enough to keep me hooked. When her dating profile went back up my exact thoughts were “What happened? Where did I go wrong? How can I fix this?”
    The more I read, the more your story resonated with me.   Desperate for answers, I sent your article to her and without judgement asked ‘do you feel like Tara?’   I received defensive and hostile responses; until finally being informed that I had “no long term potential, but do I still want to get together Friday night?”  
    Being put on the back burner while your partner searches for something better is incredibly hurtful, to both sexes.   Without your help I may have wasted months in ignorance  debating  where I stood.  
    I think the greatest thing your site offers are the tools to quickly and accurately assess where you stand in the other persons eyes.  
    Keep up the great work.         

  8. 8

    So, Evan, please remind those of us who are being treated as an option- what are we supposed to say to cut the drama short ?

  9. 9


    There’s really not much to say.   If you know for sure that you’re being treated like an option, you can either continue to see them and live through that drama, or end it.   I realized a guy I was seeing, last summer, saw me as an option.   I accepted a date from another man, and guy number one who was treating me as an option, was cut off.   I informed him that I do not tolerate guys who disappear, or who make plans but do not follow through.

    I’ve unfortunately had this happen to me alot, and was really devastated over it, until I read some dating blogs similar to EMK’s and realized I have power.   I don’t have to put up with bullshit.   So I began cutting guys off if they mistreated me.   I told them to leave me alone.   I informed them that being mistreated will not fly with me and if that’s how they behave, that I certainly am not the girl for them.

    I received some hostile responses, but I stood strong.   Now I’m dating a nice guy with NO drama, and he says he respects how feisty and independent I am, and that I don’t put up with stupid stuff.

    Just get rid of the guys who treat you like an option.

  10. 10

    Great article! Evan, is the man! By the way, these are some very selfish women in this article…

    1. 10.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Thanks, Margo. But I still disagree with you. I don’t think these people are selfish. I think they’re humans with mixed emotions and desires.

  11. 11
    Katarina Phang

    Evan, is it possible that maybe she has reservations and isn’t entirely sure how she feels for him yet?   Or she’s just not that into him?

    I think timing varies from one person to the next depending on where they are in life and circumstances.   Sometimes it takes longer than a couple of months for two people to be sure they want to be in relationship.  

    When it feels right for both, it feels right.   Till then, I don’t think it’s wise to force it.  

  12. 12

    Jackson, I hope you don’t need any new information to know that you need to let this woman go on about her business especially since she became hostile. Don’t let her use you. Let her go, and find someone else more deserving of your time and attention.

  13. 13

    Evan says: Essentially, Tara wants to have her cake and eat it, too.”

    What would you call this if not selfish??

    1. 13.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Everybody’s selfish, Margo. We look out for our interests first and others’ second. We don’t want to hurt people but yet people unintentionally get hurt. Men hurt women. Women hurt men, as you can see in this piece. Doesn’t mean they’re bad so I suggest you stop passing judgment on everyone who isn’t a pure altruist and is trying to maximize her happiness. It’s unbecoming.

  14. 14

    This is par for the course for most women.   Tara is clearly leading Ted on.   She has probably gotten a big ego boost because he is being “nice” and doing the right thing.   Well if he is that attractive he will give up soon and find a woman who appreciates him more.  
    At her age Tara is playing with fire.   How many great guys are going to want to settle down with a 39-year-old woman?   Most of those guys probably want to start a family but if she plays the field for much longer, she’ll miss her chance.    
    I honestly suspect that sometimes women assume that a guy is way more into them than he actually is if he treats her well from the start and it is better than she has been treated in the past.   I’ve met women before who made the same assumptions and tried to get away with certain things, yet were shocked when I told them I didn’t want to date them anymore because of their behavior.  

    1. 14.1

      Or sometimes the guy isn’t sure yet either, and it’s a good idea to keep other options open! I think it would be natural to worry about committing to someone too soon, especially if you haven’t dated too much.

    2. 14.2

      Oh, “most women.”   There are 3.5 billion women on the planet – why do we keep having to make or hear these silly generalizations.   Most women have two X chromosomes, and we differ significantly on pretty much everything else.   My experience, returning to the dating world at age 44, was that there are plenty of great men willing to commit to a woman over 39.   Trying to scare women into “settling” is bad for both the women who fall for it and the men they settle for.   And I’m using settling to mean deciding to pursue a relationship with someone you’re not genuinely excited to “settle down” with.

  15. 15
    Karl R

    Heather said: (#6)
    “the thought ran through my head: ‘Well, maybe if guys experienced this, maybe they wouldn’t treat a woman like that, in the future, because they know how it hurts.'”

    As a man who has experienced this, I developed thicker skin.

    Take responsibility for your own best interest. If you want someone who is interested in a serious relationship, dump the guy who isn’t (or at least start dating a second/third man).  If you think it’s his responsibility to dump you, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

  16. 16

    I have three first dates lined up in the next week and am feeling duplicitous even though I haven’t met any of them yet. This multiple dating thing doesn’t sit too well with me. In any event, I am a believer in treating others as we would want to be treated ourselves and we can’t really complain about how we are treated if we don’t.    There is nothing wrong with not being in to someone after 3 dates but stringing them along is just not on.

  17. 17

    Just a thought…….sometimes I think that we are so used to being kept as a option that we don’t recognize a WONDERFUL MAN when we see him. I know that I was so used to men who did not come through for me that when I met my fiancé, I was (almost) surprised by the lack of drama. Surprised by how easy and how wonderful it has been.   Still no drama from him – and we continue to have a phenomenal relationship.

  18. 18

    Self interest is NOT being selfish.

    I wonder, how much dating has this women done in general?    I’m thinking proably not much over her adult life since she’s hiring a dating coach and then at age 39?   If so,  perhaps the goals need not be to get a boyfriend, but rather than experience dating and experience dating different kinds of men so she learns what  she finds attractive or not.      There is  NO substitute for experience.

    Just a thought…     

  19. 19

    Ay, this article really resonates with me. I admit that I’m Tara and I appreciate Evan’s comment #11 saying that we’re not selfish but human beings with mixed emotions and desires. That describes me! Because I don’t want to be selfish, I did not put my profile back online after finding myself with a good man who seems loyal and true. But I find myself thinking that perhaps I wasn’t single long enough after ending a very long marriage. And I find myself wondering if I’m settling when I should be out exploring. I can’t help but think that I might be making a mistake. But I do love him and he’s so good to me. I just have second thoughts and mixed emotions and desires. But one thing is certain, if I’d be putting myself out there, it would be unfair for me to keep stringing my guy along while I explored. It is only sensible to either end the relationship or let it be an open and casual relationship which goes BOTH WAYS. If I explore, he should be free to explore, too.

  20. 20

    You’re right, Evan. Selfish was the wrong word for this woman in this situation. It’s her right if she wants to explore more guys before picking one, with the caveat that it’s only right to tell her man of interest what she’s doing so as to not lead him on.

    That is the only thing I would have issue with, not telling someone that you are dating/looking for others.

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