How Can I Take a Break From A Guy But Keep Options Open For The Future?

woman thinking of taking a break from a guy but keeping options open

I’ve been dating a man I met on Tinder. We’ve been steadily seeing each other for about a month and a half and we’ve been fairly casual. He’s in the process of getting a divorce and he’s not looking to jump into anything serious, which I completely understand. However, I’m slightly confused by his treatment of me…he treats me like I’m his girlfriend, but also wants to see other women. He tells me often that he doesn’t care if I see other men, yet he makes snide comments about me hooking up with the guy friends that I go out to dinner with, etc. I know that he is seeing one other woman at least and that he’s looking to meet other women. Though, he makes weird future plans with me like I’m his girlfriend. One other confusing thing that he does – and it’s starting to unnerve me – is that he constantly tells me that I’m too nice. I’m not exactly sure why he keeps pointing this out. Another key thing that he has pointed out is that he doesn’t like disappointing me, but I have never indicated that he has in any way.

I really like this man, but I don’t know if I can emotionally handle his baggage. How do I tell him that? How do I take a vacation from what is going on, but also keep the option open of seeing him again when he’s in a better place?


Such a short paragraph. So many red flags. Let’s recap:

    – Tinder.
    – Fairly casual.
    – In the process of getting a divorce.
    – Not looking to jump into anything serious.
    – Wants to see other women.
    – Tells me often that he doesn’t care if I see other men.
    – You know that he’s seeing one other woman at least and is looking to meet more.
    – Tells you you’re too nice and he doesn’t want to disappoint you.

Holy, shit, Dominique.

Do you need a beefy guy in an orange jumpsuit to wave big light sticks in front of your face and shout, “Turn around! There’s nothing to see here!”

Or are you seriously going to contemplate seeing this through and exploring where it goes?

I suspect the former, but I’m going to proceed as if it’s the latter.

Do you need a beefy guy in an orange jumpsuit to wave big light sticks in front of your face and shout, “Turn around! There’s nothing to see here!”

You think this guy is sending you mixed messages because he’s nice to you and makes plans with you sometimes. Yet somehow you’re ignoring all the negative bullet points listed above. So allow me to reiterate one of my favorite catchphrases that helps women like you break free of such “mixed message” guys: Believe the Negatives, Ignore the Positives.

Positives: Cute. Funny. Generous. Good in bed. Has a pulse. Nice to me when I see him. Occasionally makes plans in advance as if I was his girlfriend.

Negatives: Everything else.

There’s nothing terribly complicated here. He’s a normal guy going through a heartbreaking divorce who has no idea who he is, what he wants, or when he’s ready for it.

Honestly, Dominique, he’s just as shocked as I am that you’re still with him.

So he’s putting himself out there, he’s falling for you, he knows he’s damaged goods, he doesn’t want to hurt you, he doesn’t want you to pull away, he wants to have his cake and eat it too, and he wants to give you fair warning that this will probably not end well.

Honestly, Dominique, he’s just as shocked as I am that you’re still with him.

Tell him the truth: you’re not looking to date anyone casually. You want a boyfriend. And since he’s not in a place to be that man right now, you’re going to wish him well and cut him off. Then go back online and find yourself a boyfriend and let this guy flounder for a few years as he figures out if he wants to be anybody’s husband ever again.

It’s not your problem to solve.

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  1. 1

    YES. Succinct and honest.

  2. 2

    I am nodding in agreement. Funny how we can easily see such situations from the outside but frequently fail to recognize this dynamic when we’re a part of it.

  3. 3

    This seems to have been written for me. I am in a similar situation and I was on the fence about it but now I see what I need to do much more clearly. Thanks!

  4. 4

    “In the processing of getting a divorce” is the biggest red flag, honestly, and I know (sadly) from whence I speak- been there myself. Despite therapy, despite “it was over a long time”, despite whatever excuses one may use to pronounce him/herself fit to date with long-term intention, I’m here to say IT JUST AIN’T SO.

    Ok, maybe not 100% of the time, let’s not quibble over details, but 99.9% of the time.   It’s a P.R.O.C.E.S.S.   So, now when I meet someone divorcING or separated, I say ” keep my name and number and feel free to call me when it’s all over and the dust has settled, and preferable, a year out- and let’s see where I’ll be at that time, ya never know”.

    Not what anyone likely wishes to hear, but there you go…

    1. 4.1
      Yet Another Guy

      I am just curious, but do you happen to live in a state that allows a couple to divorce without having to endure a mandatory period of separation purgatory? In my state, a couple with minor children in common must live apart for a year before being allowed to file for absolute divorce. Your rule means that a man would have to refrain from dating for two years. As a fifty-something man who married and became a father later in life, there is absolutely no way that I would wait for two years before starting to date. Men my age drop dead without warning.

  5. 5

    I have to admit that I was Dominique a couple of gf’s ago.   The mixed messages will wreak havoc on a novice and send you into a tailspin that might take a long time to recover from.   We want to believe the good and ignore/deny/justify the bad.   The problem is, there’s a reason why the bad is present.   You might not know the reason, but you don’t need to.   All you need to know is that it is a very bad sign.   If your relationship confuses you, if you have to write to a dating coach for insight and direction,  it means there’s trouble and you generally need to abort mission.

  6. 6
    Elly Klein

    Heh heh. That was a slam-dunk, Evan! 😊

  7. 7

    I was dating a woman recently who went back to her ex. She dumped him and cut all communication with him. She’s quite a catch. She dumped him because he didn’t want to get ever get married. He called her and said he has changed in the past 60 days and would consider marriage. Unfortunately, she fell for his BS. The guy just does not want to lose her, but won’t ever give her marriage. I’ve seen this scenario many times. Too bad. I wished her well and let her go. I thought of the quote of Maya Angelou that went like this, “When someone shows you who they are,  believe them the first time.”  If a guy won’t marry you the first time around, run for the hills and don’t look back.

  8. 8

    MOATW! (Mother Of All Train Wrecks) . Never mind running, just reach for the handle labeled “Eject”, and pull! Some problems can be solved. This isn’t one of them.

  9. 9

    I’ve never been in Dominique’s shoes myself but I’ve dated people who just got out of serious relationships and I think the situations are similar enough. These people are not in the right headspace to date, and understandably so. How can he focus on you when he’s in the middle of a divorce or a painful breakup? One guy was a about year out when I met him — he was in a serious relationship for 7 years. He kept saying he wouldn’t be here if he wasn’t ready to date but on our first date, he talked about his ex 95% of the time (no exaggeration!). I was silly enough to keep dating him cos, well, he said he’s ready to date again so he must be ready right? So wrong. Of course, this ended with him running back to his ex after she sent him a “heartfelt” letter asking him for another chance.


    So yea, just don’t go there Dominique!

  10. 10

    Evan, i know a few marriages that started with a chat on Tinder, so that isn’t much of a red flag…

    Having said that, the rest of that list is blindingly crimson. OP, I have been exactly where you are. I dated a man who was basically the personification of my Dream Dude. Cute, literary, slightly famous, charming. The only part of the package that did not correspond with the dream package were the mixed messages (‘you are amazing’/’I am now going to talk about my ex wife for the umpteenth time this evening’) and being looked at as if i was the slightly disappointling second prize. Yet every time i tried to walk away he would throw out a crumb of a mixed message that would convince me i just needed to be patient.

    There are many more men on Tinder or wherever you choose to find a date, this man isn’t able to make you happy.

  11. 11

    Dominique, honey – I’ve been there. My guy (like yours), just separated/divorced, not wanting anything “serious”; he wasted 3 years of my life with his on/off/on/off behavior. Let me tell you what is really going on: he likes you, likes seeing you or being SEEN with you, but he has a major case of “something better around the corner”. It’s not that you aren’t good enough, he just wants to keep his options open for someone who might be better for HIM. Like someone who has a condo in Vail, has no kids, a fat bank account, or all this and still lets him “see other people”. Don’t do it! Show him how classy you are by throwing him out into that sea of desperate women, because YOU ARE NOT. You want someone who is genuine, appreciative, and grateful for you – and you WILL find that person. I did, and I can’t believe that I ever spent time on anything less. Trust me, you will be a total winner by staying classy, telling him you want (and are worth) much more, and cutting him off completely.

  12. 12
    Isaac Nunoofio

    Continue to keep the relationship casual. Tell the guy he is not your boyfriend yet and so he has no right to control your movements, or checkout on you. He is probably passing all those comments because he thinks you are naive. If you think he is not the right guy for you, I would suggest you break it off.

  13. 13


    You are better off alone than with someone who is in no position to start a relationship with you.

  14. 14

    I’ve been dating this girl for about a month, but due to [reason] I’d like to set her on the back burner and be able to pick her up again later if  I feel like it. How do I do that?

    Answer: How dare you treat a woman like that, you freaking misogynist!


    No hypocrisy to see here!

    1. 14.1

      Your little ditty, was nothing like the OP, because you didn’t specify the reason you would like to set her on the back burner.

      According to the OP, the guy she is seeing isn’t ready for anything serious.   So she owes him NOTHING, just like a man would owe a woman NOTHING if she told him she didn’t want anything serious.

      However, that being said, I don’t really believe in “back burners”.   If two people who knew each other for quite a while, didn’t agree to be each other’s “main squeeze”   (or only squeeze 🙂   ) then I don’t see how a they could have a successful relationship just because they happened to become single at the same time, and decided to settle for each other.   JM2C, YMMV


  15. 15
    Beriah Chandoo

    This is EXACTLY my situation and he just broke it off with me this past weekend when I asked to have exclusivity within our relationship (if you can call it that!)   I always feel like maybe I should give things a bit longer-at 36 most guys I’m dating are in their 40s and either divorced or divorced with a child/children-so I give them the benefit of the doubt that it’s more complicated on their end of things.   But yep-after 6 weeks I need to know if he’s going to emotionally invest and that’s just me!   When I said that to him he sounded like I was a crazy person and said that even at 6-9months it would be pretty soon.   I’m feeling pretty low and missing the good.   But this just helped me take hold of the negatives and I can breathe a little easier already!

    1. 15.1


      I’m always pretty cautious of passing my opinion on dating in other countries because I know most other cultures (especially the USA) seem to see exclusivity differently than we see it here.

      In my country, once you are past 3 or 4 dates and you are making plans to see each other and keeping in contact consistently, you are assumed to be exclusive. If you are caught dating someone else at this stage, it would be severely frowned upon and would probably cause you to lose the first person.

      What is the dating “etiquette” like where you are? My point is, I think it’s important to clarify what  he  thought you meant when you asked to be exclusive. Perhaps the way you phrased it made it seem like you were asking for a bigger commitment, and at 6 weeks, I would agree that is a little soon.

      Having said that, if I can give some advice that I have found to be virtually foolproof: let the man set the pace. In other words, let him initiate the conversations about where the relationship is going. From what you described of your conversation with this guy, it does not sound like you were on the same page, and this would have been apparent in his actions. Generally, if a woman gets to the point where she feels like she needs to have that conversation about “are we exclusive?” it’s not a good sign.

      1. 15.1.1

        I agree and I admit I have spent the past 12 years living in London UK and now in Vancouver, Canada and regardless of the cultural differences, I still feel it a fair expectation that after 4 or 5 dates a man stops messaging other women on apps and isn’t ACTIVELY searching or dating other women.   you pretty much nailed it on the head-this guy is completely self-sufficient-his own business, home, car, able to cook (he’s a Chef so that’s not a leap) and keeps his home really tidy and is a great father.   He has so many options and is clearly in a place to enjoy indulging in all those options.   Me I just want stability and a relationship.   I’m looking for a boyfriend not marriage and I admitted that.   It was a heartbreaking moment to realize I wanted something he couldn’t give.

    2. 15.2
      Yet Another Guy


      You need to say “adios” to any guy who needs 6 to 9 months to determine if he wants to date you exclusively.   I am assuming that you are a a seeking a relationship that leads to marriage.   In that case, you are dating the wrong men.   Self-sufficient men with options who have been married and have children are usually not in a hurry to remarry.   The keywords here are “self-sufficient” and “options.”   Men who are not self-sufficient need a woman to take care of there day-to-day lives.   A man without options settles for the first woman who gives him the time of day.   There is a lot of gray area in between these extremes.


  16. 16

    Sadly after he ended things with me, three weeks later his instagram account has a blonde woman and him smiling on a romatic island getaway with the caption of “with the woman I love”   I got played and I am more than hurt.   He clearly had no intentions to be with me and said all the right things but didn’t put in the commitment-now I know why ;-(

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