Buzz, Love

Don't ever commit to being the back-up girl.

Dear Dr. Romance:

I've been with this man over thirty years back and forth. Something always seems to happen and we end up apart again. He ends up getting married and yet though living states apart he always ends up calling and we do the same thing all over again.

This time we got closer then ever before and—bam! He is now married and living in another state. I'm in the state where the two of us were to live happily ever after. After six months of him texting me and me not responding I answered him one night. He has now been calling me for eight months. He doesn't talk about leaving her. He doesn't really ever bring her up. He asks if I miss him and tells me he misses me. What's going on?

He truly is the love of my life. And I want him back! There is much more to this story but it's 32 years long.

Sincerely, Confused. 

Dear Reader:

I hate to have to tell you this, but you are his "backup plan."

This man won't make a commitment to you, because he doesn't think you're the one for him, but he knows you'll always be there when his more attractive options don't pan out. He makes you think he cares, but he's always got his radar out looking for someone else. You have to let go.

Sincerely, Dr. Romance. 

Do you recognize him in this description?

If your guy never wants to make a definite date (would you like to go out Friday night?) and just wants to come over to your house on the spur of the moment, or he doesn't make an effort to keep in touch (you should not be making all the effort) and he doesn't seem to think about the future, he's probably just using you as a reserve and isn't really interested (either in you or in commitment).

To create a healthy relationship, you need a different kind of guy.

  • Don't look for the surface stuff. Handsome is as handsome does. Find a guy with character, which you're more likely to find out if you are socially involved with him before you are personally involved with him.
  • Don't be too easily available. Your interaction should be like a tennis match. He volleys, then you do. Never send a lot of shots over the net in a row.

Having a backup girl is pure narcissism on the man's part, coupled with insecurity that he won't find his "Ms. right." (Yes, narcissists are insecure.) It's linked to a fear of commitment, but even more to a view of women as "sources of narcissistic supply"—women as ego-gratification. That's why one woman is never enough. These men regard women as possessions and trophies, not as people. The man is only looking from his own point of view, and has no empathy or real capacity for love or commitment.

If you're looking for a commitment, avoid these men at all costs. It's OK to date more than one man until you find one who is as willing to commit to you as you are to him. Keep looking around until you find a keeper. Be cautious when online dating. Men get the impression that the supply of women is endless and they don't have to earn a relationship. Instead, get socially active in groups and clubs, classes and sports, and meet people face to face. You're more likely to be able to tell the difference between a good guy and a good advertiser.

Most of these men don't want the woman to know she's a fallback, because they know if she knows her status, she'll probably disappear.

Some of them just don't want to be a bad guy, or hurt her feelings, not realizing that keeping her on reserve hurts worse. I think most guys are OK, they really don't want to be bad guys, they just also don't always want to step up to the plate. Most of the time women who engage with other men while the one who has them on reserve gets himself together improve in his estimation and become more valuable. He will respect her, and he may come back again and again, but he also may not change his spots. Some guys won't commit no matter how valuable they think the woman is.

"You Be the Judge" will help you learn to use better judgment when considering men as partners, and  The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty  shows you how to get your life in better order.

For More Commitment Advice from YourTango:

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.