Photo by Alex Nikada
We’ve all had reservations. You raised an eyebrow when leg warmers made a comeback and when Crocs found their way into mainstream fashion. And we’ve all made them, like for patio seating on Newbury Street or that regrettable bikini wax. But what about when a romantic interest puts you “on reserve”? I am referring, of course, to the all too common, but very hush-hush social practice of keeping one potential mate waiting on hold, while actively pursuing the affections of another.
The act of being placed “on reserve,” also referred to as “plan B," has been known to emotionally bench even the most sensible of bachelors, and can be spotted by its dizzying array of distasteful symptoms.
“If he 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, if he doesn't make an effort to keep in touch and doesn't seem to think about the future, he's probably not really interested in you or in commitment,” said Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (a.k.a. "Dr. Romance"), psychotherapist and author.
But, let’s be honest, you didn’t need a doctor to tell you that. So why is it that so many singles manage to keep someone waiting in the wings, and even more puzzling, why do so many smart and successful singles allow themselves to be second best? And if you are indeed his “Miss Right,” but not “Miss Right Now,” how do you get off that bench and get in the game?
The Methods Behind the Madness
Reason #1: Fear of commitment
With 30 being the new 20, your mother stopped nagging you to settle down and get married already. After all, this is the era of online dating, and with an endless array of options just a click away, it’s no wonder we feel no sense of urgency to commit to just one.
“Several men I dated in the past would tell me they found me attractive, had a lot of fun with me, but that I was the kind of woman to ‘take home to mom,’ and therefore could not get involved with me,” said M.B., a public relations executive. “The message is essentially: ‘I like you a lot and find you very attractive, but I am afraid of commitment, so instead of being with you, I am going to date some chick who I know I don't want to marry. She gets to go out and have fun with me, while you get to stay home and wonder what you might have done to make me not want to be with you.’”
Reason #2: Fear of being alone
“Singles who keep others ‘on reserve’ are terrified of being alone,” said Match.com’s resident advice columnist, Dr. Gilda Carle, Ph.D., adding that repeat offenders sometimes feel a need for control, or perhaps come from meager beginnings and therefore want to safeguard a secure future. “And it’s not just men. I have a client who always has someone she calls a ‘plan B’ waiting around the corner, just in case her current steady boyfriend disappears. One of her secrets is that she never gets too close and maintains the mystery, so they continue to flock.”
OK, so maybe your crush has a few emotional insecurities. You get it and are ready to move on, except for the fact that he keeps calling or texting you without provocation and confusing your sensible brain. So, what’s with all of the mixed messages?
“A woman ‘on reserve’ is like the ‘safe zone’ in a game of tag,” said Christine Agro, a clairvoyant and spiritual teacher. “He knows he can always go there and feel safe, be nurtured and loved, and not have to give much in return, and can then venture out to explore a relationship with more challenges.”
Reason #3: Filling a void
This rationale takes a little from column A and a little from column B, where a romantic interest may be in a committed relationship, but isn’t feeling entirely fulfilled and is unable to emotionally jump in with both feet.
“My ‘plan B’ fills needs that aren’t necessarily being met in my current relationship,” said Nick, a marketing manager. “A ‘plan B’ provides that excitement and thrill of the hunt; that fun, sexual tension I crave, without my having to actually cheat.”
Don’t Rationalize Second Best
Sure, intermittent communications and the occasional cancelled plans seem like minor offenses compared to other dating atrocities you may have suffered (which is likely why so many singles get away with it for so long), but it is a much more self-destructive act than it may appear to be on the surface.
“Being willing to accept the ‘on reserve’ position says as much about her as it does about him,” said Agro. “A woman who accepts this position either thinks she can change him, or isn’t valuing herself.”
“There are some women who won’t mind being ‘on reserve,’ because they themselves aren’t ready to commit. But most women will make concessions emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually,” adds Agro. “They get so hooked into this person that they neglect their own desires, wants and needs.”
Getting Back in the Game
This might come as a surprise, but only you have the power to take yourself off reserve status. The experts agree: Don’t wait around, take control and get a life!
Tip #1: “Women need to ask themselves: ‘What is it that I want in a relationship?’ I can guarantee you, for most, it isn’t waiting in the wings,” said Agro. “If you are sitting and waiting for Mr. ‘Not Right Now,’ you will never meet the man you can truly have a meaningful relationship with.”
Tip #2: “Don't look for the surface stuff. Handsome is as handsome does,” said Tessina. “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.”
Tip #3: “Stop depending on a guy to come around,” said Carle. “Go out and find your own adventure. If ever you’ll have a chance with a guy, it’s when you are seriously in love with what you do.”
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