In this article we are going to discuss the signs a guy is keeping you as an option, why that happens and what you can do.
Let’s be honest: Unless you’re playing the field yourself, you probably don’t want to be someone’s option. You want to be the priority — their first choice among all the people they could date.
But the reality of dating is that you’re going to start as an option. We all do.
It’s only after someone gets to know you that you get the shot at being a priority — and deciding if they could be a priority for you.
9 Warning Signs He Is Keeping You as an Option, According to a Former Therapist
Yet, there are people who will keep you as an option while exploring a relationship with someone else.
They’ll want you to stick around while they wait and see if the other option is going to work out. You’re still considered a choice, just not the choice.
And maybe you don’t want to be just another option they’ll think about when everything else falls through. So, here’s how to tell that’s how they see you.
Why listen to me? I’m Crystal Jackson and I was a master’s level licensed therapist. I worked with couples and families and specialized in trauma recovery and empowerment. I now write content about relationships and psychology. My work has been featured on large media outlets like Elite Daily, Your Tango, Positively Positive, Mamamia, and The Good Men Project.
1. He Claims He Doesn’t Believe in Relationship Labels
A man who claims he doesn’t believe in relationship labels is deceiving you — and probably deceiving himself. Relationship labels aren’t like yetis.
It’s not a matter of whether or not you believe in them. They exist. They aren’t mythological. If he doesn’t believe in labels, he’s not finishing the sentence.
He doesn’t believe in a relationship label with you.
Believe me when I say the man will update the relationship status with someone he actually sees as a priority. He won’t pull out the tired old line about how he’s not really into labels.
He will be more than happy to slap a label on the person he doesn’t want dating anyone but him. Take this as a clear sign that he’s just keeping you as an option.
2. He Says He’s Not Ready for a Relationship
He might also claim that he’s not ready for a relationship. He might say he just wants to keep it casual. So, you’ll be surprised when he eventually updates his relationship status with someone else.
But you shouldn’t be because this is a strong sign that he’s just keeping you around as a backup option, which is also referred to as partner insurance.
It’s entirely possible that he might not be ready for a relationship if he’s just come out of one and is still healing. If that’s true, why is he dating at all?
He could be working on himself and seeing a therapist, not swiping left and right on a dating app. It doesn’t matter if he has a legitimate reason. Know that you’re just an option if he says this to you.
3. He’s Still Dating Other People
Someone who is still dating other people is keeping you as an option.
To be fair, they aren’t doing anything wrong.
They don’t need to stop considering their options until the relationship gets serious.
When it’s exclusive, that’s usually when people stop dating others — with the exception of ethical nonmonogamy and polyamorous individuals.
But be aware that this means he hasn’t made up his mind about you.
If he had, he wouldn’t be continuing to explore other options. This might be a good reminder for you that you can also continue to date and see what options are out there.
4. He Dodges the Talk About Being Exclusive
Does he seem to ghost the second you mention being exclusive? Does he change the subject or veer off topic?
It’s interesting that he works so hard to avoid it. It’s a sign that he’s not yet ready to be exclusive with you but wants to keep you as an option in case he changes his mind.
He might be afraid that you’ll leave if he tells you he’s not ready for that step yet. It’s a risk he might not want to take if he’s still deciding if you’re a good match for him.
He might want a little more time to get to know you, so consider if you’re rushing the labeling or if he’s just dodging it entirely.
5. He’s Inconsistent with Communication
A man who is keeping you as an option will be inconsistent with communication. He texts back whenever he feels like it.
It might be immediate, but it’s likely not. You’ll notice that he comes on hot and heavy and then just disappears for a while. You’re never sure where you stand because he keeps you off-balance.
It’s unlikely that he’s playing games. He’s just got other priorities he’s pursuing, so you get less effort from him.
He’ll stay in touch just so you still see him as a priority, but all you are is another option to consider when others don’t work out.
6. He’s Secretive about Other Parts of His Life
Another sign that he’s keeping you as an option only is when he’s secretive about other parts of his life. He doesn’t tell you what he’s been doing or why he didn’t text you back that night.
He successfully compartmentalizes his life to the point that you don’t really know him outside of your interactions.
It’s not that he’s private about things. He just doesn’t want you to realize he’s seeing other people and pursuing those romantic interests.
He keeps that part of his life well under wraps so that you don’t go anywhere. After all, he might still need you if the person he’s pursuing evades his grasp.
7. He Only Gets in Touch When He’s Lonely
You might also notice that he only gets in touch when he’s lonely. If he doesn’t have dating prospects, he might suddenly call, text, or land in your DMs to see what you’re up to.
It’s a stroke for his ego, and it makes him feel better about himself.
But if you’re interested in him as a partner, this isn’t a good sign. He doesn’t see you as an option when someone else is around.
He only thinks of you when there are no good options available. It’s easy to call you because you’ve already shown interest.
He doesn’t have to establish a connection or do the work to engage your affection. You’ve given it freely, and he’s taking advantage of it.
8. He Breadcrumbs You into Staying Interested
Every time you start moving on, he starts breadcrumbing you into staying interested in him. He’ll turn up the heat, increasing contact and making sure you remember he’s around.
He’ll get jealous that you’re interested in someone else and want to turn your attention back to himself.
Here’s what you have to remember when this happens: He’s going to ease off the contact the second you’re all his again. He doesn’t really want you. He just wants to know that you want him.
9. He Avoids Evidence on Social Media
He’s not one to post selfies with a love interest. It wouldn’t be good for him. He doesn’t want his priority interest to see his other options — and the reverse is also true. He keeps it all off social media until he’s in an actual relationship.
Even then, he might keep it low-key in order to continue keeping some options around in case the relationship falls apart.
He’s always got options. He makes sure of it. He’s the man who cannot be alone, and he’s going to make sure that someone is on the hook.
He puts in just enough effort to keep you interested but not enough effort to keep you satisfied.
You find that you’re always reaching for him, and he’s always off doing his own thing until it’s convenient for him to circle back to you.
What To Do When He Treats You Like a Second Choice
It doesn’t feel good to realize that you were only ever an option to him. He never saw you as a potential partner. Not really. He only ever saw you as someone to see casually while he looked for someone else.
And he treated you like a second choice, not a priority.
It’s fine if you also want something casual. It’s also okay if you’re not yet exclusive and have time to assess your options.
But if you want a relationship and he just wants to keep you as his backup plan, you have to decide if you’re okay with the role he’s putting you in.
After all, you know you’ve got main character energy. You’re not the side chick. You’re not the contingency plan. You’re The One.
You’re just not The One for him. The sooner you realize that, the better chance you have of dealing with your feelings and moving on.
You can get mad about it and feel like it’s not fair, or you can admit that he’s not for you if he doesn’t want you. You can get out of your own way and stop letting this guy block other dating possibilities from entering.
You deserve to be more than someone’s last resort. You deserve to be the first-round draft pick. The first chosen on the playground. The One and not just someone.
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