Meet Joe Beige
I’ve been dating this guy for a month. Things with him are really average. However, we met through a mutual guy friend, and I’m actually really into that guy. Could my staying with the guy I’m seeing spark jealousy in the friend and lead him to make a play for me?
— Wrong Place
Sext your boyfriend and ask him to forward it to his friend.
Kidding, obviously. But at least that would end things between you. That’s the right thing to do — as opposed to staying with the guy and using his interest in you as bait to attract the dude you really want.
By the way, it’s probably unrealistic to think the other dude will swoop in, elbow his buddy out of the way and run off with you. Mate poaching — somebody “stealing” another person’s romantic partner mid-relationship — has likely been a common form of mate acquisition throughout human evolutionary history, explained evolutionary psychologist David Schmitt. However, it has its costs. Schmitt noted that mate poaching can lead to undesirable “social consequences”: violent retribution from the poached person’s partner, damage to one’s reputation (especially for a guy who poaches his buddy’s girl) and exile from one’s social world.
The relationships formed through mate poaching also tend to be less than dreamy. Research by social psychologist Joshua Foster and his colleagues found that “individuals who were poached by their current romantic partners were less committed, less satisfied and less invested in their relationships” than non-poached relationship partners. The sort of people who let themselves be poached (from their previous relationship into their current one) tended to have a wandering eye — paying “more attention to romantic alternatives” and cheating more often than the non-poached.
The moment you realize you’ve got the lukewarms for a guy is the moment you should break it off and move on. You’ll be that much further along in meeting somebody who might be right for you. Plus, your sharing any more than a date or two (and a chaste kiss, no nudity) with a guy you’re not that into is likely to make his dude friends classify you as off-limits. Of course, it’s also seriously unfair to the meh man (who also is a person with feelings) for you to slow-walk him off the plank. Sure, there’s this idea that a romantic partner will be your shelter, but that’s not supposed to mean they’re the bus stop where you wait till the guy you’re actually into picks you up.
Dawn of the dad
I’m a 36-year-old woman. I’ve had my share of men who shy away from commitment, so it’s a bit of a surprise that the guy I’ve been seeing for a few months really wants to settle down. He’s already talking about kids. While I really like him a lot, I worry that his rush to settle down is a red flag.
When a guy yells something out in bed, it’s a little disturbing if it’s, “You make me want to put up wallpaper in a house in the suburbs!”
It’s possible the guy suddenly had enough of the Tinder rando-lympics and began longing for a lasting bond with a woman. Clinical psychologist Judith Sills believes feeling this way causes a shift in one’s approach to dating. The push to find the perfect “right person” gets cast aside for finding a right enough person at the right time. What makes it the right time is “readiness,” which Sills called “an internal process that acts as a psychological catalyst for commitment.” This is readiness for true partnership — for intimacy (and the vulnerability it requires). It “does not mean being without anxiety or ambivalence,” Sills explained. But “readiness is a state of mind, an attitude of approach that helps you to push past the barriers created by these feelings.”
Whatever the reason for the guy’s rush to put up picket fencing, it’s important to take things slowly. (You might give it a year or more before you make any big moves together.) Research by psychologist Michael I. Norton and his colleagues suggested that the more budding romantic partners learn about each other, the more they see dissimilarities — clashes between them — and the less satisfied they can become with each other and the relationship.
Do something people newly in love (or at least newly in hots) typically don’t do: Seek out the clashes between you — all the areas in which you glaringly don’t want the same things, have habits that grate on each other, etc. If that stuff isn’t enough to break you up, tell him you two might have a reasonable chance of going the distance together — though not if he keeps talking to your womb on dates: “I’d like you to give me a male heir. How’s Friday?”
Amy Alkon is the author of the nationally syndicated, science-based “Advice Goddess” column. Contact her at email@example.com or @amyalkon on Twitter.