Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I need advice. I've gotten involved with a guy who is sending really mixed signals and I'm not sure what to do about it.
First of all, I haven’t dated much, or at all really. I’ve never had a serious boyfriend. I’ve been on some first dates that didn’t really go anywhere. When I was in college, I was involved with one guy for a year, but it was really casual. He always said he was too busy to do a full-time relationship, and I understood. I mean, we were in school and really busy. We both had a lot going on, I guess.
I graduated last year and started working, and at work, I met "Chris." Chris is cute and makes me laugh and always paid a lot of attention to me. It started by going out after work for drinks as a group but then he asked if just I would go. He started texting me more and then one night he invited me over and I stayed the night. That happened a few times, and I finally got up the nerve to ask Chris if he wanted to date.
Well, just like the college guy, Chris said he really likes me and has fun with me but he is too busy for a girlfriend. I was sad but I figure hanging out with him a little is better than not at all? But then a girl at work said she heard Chris has a girlfriend. I thought she might mean me, but she said it’s some girl he’s been with off and on for a couple of years — so, definitely not me. I asked him about it and he said absolutely no, he’s single. When I tried to ask more about this mystery woman, he shut down and wouldn’t answer my questions.
Where do I go from here? I like Chris a lot and being with him a little is better than being alone, especially now during the holiday season. But I feel like there's something about this other girl he isn't telling me. And also, why can't I find a guy who wants a real relationship with me? Advice would be great.
Oh girl, where to start? OK, first of all, let’s acknowledge that the holidays can be an extraordinarily hard time of year for many people. Sure, there are those free-wheeling singles who relish in a quiet Christmas morning and the solitude of the solo life; but there are also many folks out there whose feelings of isolation and loneliness are absolutely amplified during holidays that emphasize things like family, love and togetherness. So even though Chris sounds like a complete tool who is just using you for hook-ups (more on that in a sec), I understand why it’s hard to walk away.
That said: walk away! Look, it’s hard to hear, but both Chris and that dude from college would have found time to date you if they wanted to. The bright side? These aren’t the right guys for you, and you can take all these clues and cues — refusals to commit, rumors of other women, inability to have in-depth conversations about your relationship statuses — as encouragement to walk away. You don’t want to waste time with someone who likes you just enough to text now and then but not enough to devote to you the time and energy you deserve.
You could argue being with Chris is better than nothing at all; I would argue that the longer you let the space in your life be taken up by his ungrateful user presence, you aren't leaving emotional or actual room to upgrade to a partner who will really give you what you need. So give yourself the gift of freedom this holiday season, walk away from Chris, and spend some time thinking about what you really want from a partner and from your life in 2020.
Those aren’t “mixed signals,” those are “red flags.”
You're pretty savvy for someone who hasn't dated much. And you’ve certainly experienced a lifetime of one of the more challenging aspects of dating: trying to survive or make the best of relationships with flakes, fibbers and philanderers. You’re like a magnet for these dudes!
From this point forward, you have to operate under the assumption that nothing Chris tells you is true and that he probably has a girlfriend and a few side hustles besides you, too. Busy guy.
Sorry to complicate already complicated matters, but there’s also an ethical element here. Are you fine being the side chick that he’s cheating on his girlfriend with? Bet you wouldn’t be very happy with his cheating if you were his girlfriend. And, yeah, he’d probably cheat on you, too, if he ever committed to being your boyfriend.
So if you can accept all of that, and you’re OK with the fact that he is probably just using you for his ego and for sex, then carry on. That goes for you, too: you can certainly use him for comfort and sex until the holidays are over, until you tire of his games, or until you find something better. Or you can move into a new year without baggage that is only going to get heavier and messier.