With Love Island back on our screens and already part of our nightly routines, the phrase "keeping my options open" is very much back in our consciousness. Islanders of all genders have been known to shy away from putting all their eggs in one person's basket and making it official, and instead commit to keeping things "open" (aka they want to see if someone fitter with more social capital comes into the villa...)
Keeping your options open is super commonplace in the dating lives of us norms, too though. Many of us have experienced the relationship grey area, where the person we're dating either isn't totally communicative about where things are going, or has told us they're not ready to commit or become exclusive/monogamous just yet. Sometimes that's fine and totally understandable. Sometimes they may want to pursue another relationship structure like polyamory. Sometimes they have commitment issues and are taking us for a ride - and we need to learn how *not* to let them.
So what should you do if the person you're dating says they want to keep their options open? Match’s dating expert, Hayley Quinn explains.
Is the person you're dating keeping their options open?
"To expect commitment after a first date might seem strange, surely you have to know who you're actually committing to?" Hayley asks.
"However, if you're further down the line, know that you only want a committed relationship, and the other person is a) dodging the question, or b) clearly communicating they're not on the same page as you, what do you do?"
Ask yourself what you want
"First of all, you should be asking yourself, 'is this what I want too?' Commitment is a big deal," says Hayley. "By choosing to focus on one person, you stop exploring other options, so don't assume that all relationships are destined to end at the altar.
"Take your time getting to know someone and figuring out who exactly you're committing to. There's nothing wrong with wanting a no strings attached relationship, as long as both people are on the same page about it."
If you only want to date one person at a time
If your first thought after hearing the person you're dating wants to keep their options open is that you'd prefer just to date one person at a time, that's okay!
"It's way better for you to be clear with yourself about what your own boundaries and limitations are than to try and convince yourself to accept a relationship style that isn't what you want," Hayley says.
"It can be understandably hard when you really like someone, but it’s important to remember that there are some things you shouldn’t be willing to compromise on – this being one of them."
If you want more
"The number one rule here is to listen to what they’re saying," Hayley says. "Take them at their word that this is what they can offer you - don't expect them to change. Also be wary if you are a couple of months into dating someone and they explicitly dodge the 'what are we?' question. Their inability to be open with you is probably communicating that they prefer to keep your relationship status vague.
"Secondly, you will need to swap your point of focus from, 'how do I make them stay?' to, 'what is right for me?' For some people it will mean taking the feedback that they are keeping their options open as them taking a step back from a relationship. In return, this may mean you give the relationship your 50%, not your 100%.
"Save that extra time and energy to foster independence and build your self-esteem. Go out with friends, do activities that you love, and keep your options open too."
Honour what you want
"While taking a step back can be a smart option, for many people it's not emotionally realistic. If you know that you'll find it inauthentic to play it cool and keep your own options open, don't attempt to do it," Hayley advises.
"It's so much more important for you to honour your own relationship preferences here, and if you like to focus on one person and give it your all, your best bet is to find a partner who has the same outlook on dating as you do."
What if you want to keep your options open?
"If you don't want commitment? That's allowed too, just make sure you clearly communicate your position, to give the other person free choice as to whether it’s a relationship style that could also work for them."
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