“Don’t be afraid to lose him, because if a man truly loves you, he’s not going anywhere.”
~ Steve Harvey
Are you being strung along?
In other words, are you investing your dating energy on someone who is treating you like a place holder, an after-thought, a date du jour or a for-the-moment companion?
As a professional matchmaker, I’m careful not to judge or criticize a man or a woman too quickly based on his or her dating status.
There’s a time for casual, playful, non-committal dating and then there’s another time for a serious search for lifelong partnership.
What’s absolutely critical is for you to know who you are and what you’re truly interested in and then to choose carefully whom to invite into your life and whom to send packing…
One of the common mistakes that I see being made by both men and women in today’s complex dating culture is to get “stuck” on someone because of this person’s overall desirability and romantic appeal before knowing whether or not there’s a chance for true compatibility.
If you’re truly seeking long-term relationship, then simply keep your pants on —
Do not have sex together until you know you’re in alignment about what sex means to each of you.
And until you know that you are both in alignment as to what type of relationship you are each seeking and until you know that this person indeed wants to have a monogamous relationship with you.
Otherwise, you are setting yourself up to be strung along as the for-the-moment companion.
The secret? Keep your pants on and your options open, extending and accepting invitations from all who meet your critical criteria AND whose primary dating purpose is in alignment with your own.
Be playful, receptive and accessible as you explore possibilities with those who are making the cut.
And don’t make the mistake of committing all of your dating energy to one person until you know that you have his/her undivided attention and commitment to longevity together.
Julie Ferman, B.A. – www.julieferman.com
Being strung along is a conjoint effort.
By definition once you’re aware that you’re being strung along, you have to be cooperating in the process.
Why would you do that?
Maybe you think that if you hang in there long enough, he will change and really want you. While I suppose that’s possible, let’s think about what kind of person strings somebody along. This is a selfish person. This is a person who is willing to exploit your affections for his own gratification.
Maybe his needs are for affection, sex, someone to have some fun with; whatever his needs are, stringing you along means that he’s not into you enough to make any kind of commitment.
Unless the explicit nature of your relationship clearly states that it’s casual for both of you, he’s lying to you.
I do want to differentiate between a relationship where you are at different levels of commitment, from one where one of you is lying. Unfortunately there is never a guarantee that the person you are attracted to will feel the same way about you.
Even when there is mutual attraction, there are many factors that can affect the outcome of the relationship.
And then there’s timing. People move along at different paces. All of this is normal relationship process that people have to go through.
When do you know that you are being strung along?
When things don’t add up. He doesn’t call when he’s supposed to; he’s late; he cancels at the last minute; you realize that you’re working a lot harder at it than he is.
If you start making excuses for him, you’re probably in trouble.
Remind yourself that denial doesn’t change anything; it just prolongs it. There is somebody out there for you, but if you’re wasting your time with Mr. Selfish, you won’t be available for Mr. Right.
Sally Leboy, MS, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
Being strung along is no fun, but keep in mind that it has more to do with you than it does the other person.
- What makes me hold onto this relationship?
- How is this relationship defining me?
- Am I honoring or dis-honoring myself by remaining in this relationship?
- What am I supposed to learn about myself as a result of being with this person?
- Am I more invested in being in a relationship with someone else than honoring or creating one with myself?
We get and stay in relationships for all sorts of reasons.
However, behind all of these reasons are key opportunities to learn, most importantly, about ourselves. When we engage with others we inevitably stir our fears, insecurities, and discomforts. What we do with these stirrings makes the difference in how we develop relationships with ourselves and others.
While being strung along, we can use the discomfort of these stirrings to evaluate who we are, what we want and don’t want, and what kind of foundation our relationship is built upon.
If a relationship starts out with insecurity, it will no doubt end with it as well.
As you evaluate whether you are being strung along, consider
a) who you would be without this person,
b) what your life would be like without the ambiguity, and
c) what hopes or fantasies you are maintaining simply to be in the relationship.
Relationships provide the best opportunity to learn about ourselves, but only if we take the time to explore our own motives.
Consider whether remaining in a “strung along” relationship is enhancing or hindering your growth…. then take the next step in securing your evolution, even if it means to say “adios” to the one who has you hooked.
Dr. Katherine T. Kelly – www.drkatherinetkelly.com
1. Be honest.
Be honest with yourself first, and also be honest with the man who is possibly leading you on. If you aren’t ok with the way you are being treated, don’t convince yourself that you are.
Address it directly, both within yourself and with the other person.
Often if we are feeling “strung along”, we engage in uncharacteristic behavior ourselves while we are trying to analyze the situation. Isn’t it funny how when someone we are interested in is being indirect or inconsistent, it makes it harder for us to be direct and consistent ourselves? Fight that. This leads us to #2…
2. Stop trying to de-code the person’s behavior.
The moment you catch yourself trying to decipher, read into, or “figure out” the other person’s behavior, you are leaving the present moment and neglecting your own feelings, and instead going into a place of endless speculation, confusion, and frustration.
The answer to “What is he thinking?” only comes from that person, so trying to find it in your own mind will have you going in circles.
3. Instead, use this time to focus on more deeply understanding your own feelings and behavior.
Sometimes the fear of being rejected is what keeps us from being direct with both ourselves and others, and this possibility of rejection can feel very daunting. However, avoiding directly addressing what you think and feel is often what leads to the over-analyzing (#2, above), and the allowing of behavior (from others and ourselves) that is not acceptable to our true selves (#1, above).
Make some quality time for yourself, during which you consider what you need and want from a relationship, what your boundaries and limits are, and how you want to move forward.
If possible, turn to a therapist or trusted mentor to help you process these things and help you find your answers. At this point, it will be easier to be clear and direct with another person (also #1, above), if you choose to be.
I believe that the answer to “How much is too much?” and “What does this relationship really mean?” will never truly come from the other person.
An answer must come from within yourself. Even if the other person does start to be more attentive and direct, it is still up to you to decide what your needs and boundaries are, and to make those clear – through your actions as well as your words.
Then, you can have a relationship with someone in which questions like
“What does this relationship really mean?” can be discussed between the two of you and a shared feeling and connection can thrive. You deserve the happiness that you desire, and it’s up to you to begin to access that happiness now.
Kristine Tye, M.A. LMFT – www.kristinetherapyla.com
Whether you’re in a relationship, business partnership or friendship-no one wants to be “strung along”.
2 main reasons people will string others along is for personal gain or avoidance.
Personal Gain – When this technique is used intentionally for self-gain you need to take extra caution. Emotion is being used as a weapon of control.
Avoidance – When someone says they don’t want to “hurt someone’s feelings” they are generally more fearful with being seen as a “bad guy”.
Stringing someone along hurts more at the end of a relationship then if given the truth in the beginning. So if the person’s feeling were the true objective then there would be no stringing along.
The bottom line is that whether they are fearful of a bad image or making poor choices-it should not happen.
So if you feel you are being strung along then you’re probably right. Generally you have a “gut feeling” part of you that gives ideas and cautions for a reason. You may not know the reason but if you trust yourself and expect to be treated how you would treat others, then you will do well.
Ask questions and stand by your beliefs.
The level of confidence you display will fend off those not wishing to treat you well. They prefer to prey on those with uncertainty, less defined self-worth and uncontrolled fear.
So you define who you are and ask questions of others politely and forgive those that make poor choices.
Remember we all have good and bad, what you see of them is only a slice of life in that moment. Knowing why someone is take this path creates no obligation to be misdirected or mistreated. Stand tall, trust yourself, forgive and move on with or without that person in your life.
Katherine Woodworth, LPC, CRC – www.fairwaycounseling.com
One of the most frustrating things in dating can be the feeling of being strung along.
You really feel like you connected with a guy and it is so exciting to be with him. You drop whatever you are doing to take his call or answer is text.
It feels like true love… for you.
Unfortunately his calls and texts are not as frequent as you would like, but just often enough to stay in the game.
I remember dating a guy that I was just nuts about.
He lived in another city, but we managed to stay connected by phone and email, and I visited a couple of times and was able to stay with him for a week here and there. Suddenly he started talking about moving to a neighboring state and described the house that he was going to design and have built.
He even drew a diagram for me explaining where the fireplace would go etc. It was obvious that I was NOT to be included in his plans. I was just a convenience for him, someone that was there to flirt with and have sex with when I was in town.
But I hung in there, hoping that I would one day be asked to join him.
It was obvious that I was being strung along and would be dumped eventually, but I was bonded to him physically.
The signs are always there if we just open our eyes to the reality.
The only thing that we can do at that point is to get out there and start dating other people. Get the energy flowing and send out a signal to the universe that you are ready to meet the right guy! Extricate yourself from the stringer alonger, you deserve better.
Marla Martenson, Matchmaker – www.marlamartenson.com
The urban dictionary (urbandictionary.com) defines “stringing along” as “the act of dragging out a relationship with someone while having dishonest intentions”.
Over time being strung along breaks trust, erodes intimacy and creates a power imbalance–all destructive forces in a healthy relationship.
So what should you do if you realize you are being strung along?
While it is tempting to focus on getting the other person to change or forcing a commitment, the reality is you can only control yourself.
It takes two people for one to be strung along.
It may be time to ask yourself the hard question: What do I gain by staying in this relationship?
Perhaps it’s an attempt to feel special, to avoid being alone or feeling rejected.
These are powerful underlying reasons. Talking with a counselor or supportive, non-judgmental friend can help you gain perspective and understand the reasons you stay stuck.
Remember, when finding yourself in a self destructive pattern, there is usually a reason lying within you.
Taking a deeper look at yourself and nurturing self love outside the relationship is vital towards finding the healthy relationship you deserve. When feeling good about yourself, you do not allow others to treat you with dishonest intentions.
Being strung along creates feelings of helplessness and frustration.
It becomes important to know your limits and expectations of the relationship and to clearly communicate them to your partner. Assertive and direct communication helps set the stage for being taken seriously.
Responding with passivity, manipulation or getting back at the other person decreases your self respect and perpetuates being strung along.
Sometimes partners are not intentionally dishonest but feel ambivalent or confused about the relationship. While tricky to discern intentions, this situation still calls for your own deep self examination to determine if you are getting want you fully deserve out of the relationship.
By focusing on what you ultimately have control over–yourself–and participating in activities that nurture self love and self worth, you will grow to only accept healthy, congruent and committed relationships.
Megan Logan, MSW, LCSW – www.meganloganlcsw.com
While I realize this site is dedicated to intimate relationships, I think it is important for this column to point out that being strung along happens not only in our intimate relationships but also in friendships and families.
All are equally destructive, disrespectful and painful. Also, to clarify what it means to be strung along, for my purposes it is when there are not equal efforts to nurture, maintain a relationship from all parties involved.
First it is important to realize when we are being strung along.
Sometimes it is obvious we are being treated badly and other times we are so deep into a relationship it is difficult to recognize we are being used. Yes, used! When we are being strung along we are being used in someone’s conscious or subconscious game of power and control.
Recognizing that we are being strung along is key to helping ourselves and changing the dynamic.
Start by asking yourself some questions.
- Do you feel drained by the relationship?
- Do you feel disrespected?
- Is your partner, friend or family member genuinely interested in you?
- Do they put as much effort into the relationship as you do?
If you answer “no” to any of the above questions, this is not an equal, respectful relationship and is harmful to your emotional and physical health.
If you recognize you are being strung along and want to try and salvage the relationship, sit down with the person and have an open, honest, direct and respectful conversation.
Tell them how you are feeling and see if they listen and are willing to reciprocate, to work on the relationship.
If talking does not get results that feel good to you then it is time to end. In saying this, I recognize with friends, family and lovers it is very hard to do!
The key here is to look at your own self-respect,
- Why are you allowing yourself to be used?
- What are the hooks that are keeping you trapped?
- Are you afraid to be alone?
- Are you looking for acceptance?
- Do you have abandonment issues?
- Does your partner represent something to you such as safety, protection, or being lovable?
These hooks are baggage from the past that needs to be healed in order to break the pattern in future relationships.
By healing the hooks of the past it makes it so much easier to get yourself free! If we don’t heal the past it keeps replaying itself over and over until we deal with it once and for all. Give yourself a gift this holiday season, the gift of good emotional health!
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW – www.cynthiapickett.com
If you feel yourself being strung along in a relationship, I think the first thing to ask yourself is why?
What is it that is keeping him from moving forward, and what is it about this individual that allows you to wait for what you want (and likely deserve)?
In every relationship we have to accept the fact that we cannot control our partners.
So with this knowledge in mind, we have to remember that we cannot change someone else, or push them to be where we are in the relationship, we have to let them be where they are… but what if that brings up uncomfortable emotions in us? Or what if we have been waiting for a very long time?
It then may be a good time to take stock of who that person is, how you feel, and if there is a fit between the two.
Often people say things that they either don’t mean, or mean but cannot achieve, and so it is important to consider if what you want, and are waiting for is something this person realistically wants to and can give to you. Instead of going by a person’s words, look at their actions and values.
If it seems realistic for you to get what you want, then patience is key.
If it seems like this person may not mean what they say, then it is important to look to yourself and your reasons for being in a dynamic that may not live up to your needs and wants.
A quick discussion about what you want can clear up any miscommunication.
However if the person you are involved with is unable to express themselves, or gets defensive, sometimes knowledge about what to expect can be hard to achieve. Sometimes it takes a confrontation to help someone truly understand what you want.
Treat yourself well by making good decisions, respecting yourself, and by managing struggles as they arise (because they will be even in the most compatible relationships).
Lisa Resnick, M.A., EdM, LMHC, CHHC – www.lisaresnickholistictherapy.com
If you are asking yourself “Am I being strung along?” there is likely a reason.
Your intuition is kicking in. What to do next? You could take a few different approaches.
One would be to trust your gut and proceed with ending the relationship. Cut your losses and move on.
Another approach would be to ask yourself what is making you feel that way?
- Have you only been dating for a month but you are wondering why he doesn’t ask you to spend the holidays with him and his family? (Ask him. He might feel it’s too soon. He might not think you want to.)
- Has he said he’s focused on his career and that it is his priority vs. a serious relationship? (Are you really OK with that and for how long?)
- Or have you been dating exclusively for a year and he still hasn’t invited you to spend time with his friends? (Red flag!)
Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, sit down and talk face to face with him, not over text or email.
Are you on the same page with regards to what each of you wants in a relationship and when?
I always recommend that clients read the book The Hard Questions by Susan Piver as she tackles the tough subjects that couples need to explore: religion, career, family, and money for example.
If you can’t discuss these topics, the issues that make or break couples, then you might want to reconsider spending any more energy on the relationship.
I’m also curious why women stay in a relationship that makes them feel insecure.
- Is the fear of being alone in the short-term really more scary than being unhappy long-term? Why?
Ideally a relationship brings out the best in a person, not make them question everything or feel disrespected.
- What are the ideal qualities you would like in a partner?
- Does this person meet your criteria?
- If not, which of those are deal breakers?
After years of working with individuals and couples, I can tell you first hand that not being true to oneself will almost certainly create resentment and damage the relationship eventually. You deserve the best, but you have to believe it.
Megan Bearce, LMFT – www.meganbearce.com
If you are staying with your partner because they feel more comfortable than a great pair of yoga pants, it’s time to redefine what you want from a relationship.
We often stay in relationships because they are familiar and we fear change.
I had an instructor in college tell my class the following “People will stay in relationships even though they feel bad about them and bad about themselves while in them. We do this because we know what to expect, even if that expectation is that we will continue to feel bad.”
Before you cut ties with your current partner, you need to take a look at yourself and ask:
- What assumptions did you have about what this relationship would look like?
- How are these assumptions being met or not met?
If you are telling yourself you will be happy when your partner changes, you are putting a great deal of power in their hands.
In essence, you are telling yourself you can only be happy when they stop stringing you along. You have the ability to change this dynamic, if that is what you want to do.
When I find myself judging my own partner and getting angry that he isn’t meeting my own needs, I have to begin looking at what’s going on with me and how I’m treating myself.
There is a saying that we teach people the way we want to be treated. This also means that we teach people what we will tolerate from them.
If you’re tolerating that your partner not keep certain commitments, you are teaching them they don’t have to follow through on their word in order to continue being in a relationship with you.
Laura Pryor, LIMHP, LPC, PLADC – www.laurapryortherapy.com
When we love someone, our emotions sometimes trump what is otherwise rational behavior.
If our friends were in relationships with a man who was stringing them along, we would likely encourage them to stop giving their passive suitors power, and instead encourage them to diversify their interest.
To put it simply, we KNOW we need to give our effort where it is being appreciated and valued, and in dating that is reflected by the effort that is being shown to us.
If you want a deeply connected, mature relationship, we need to put our effort in one where a man is showing the same, preferably more, effort for the same goal.
Otherwise, we are selling ourselves short, under-valuing ourselves, and thereby unintentionally manifesting half-hearted relationships.
Your actions have to match your desires.
Until Mr. String-You-Along is actually asking you on a date, don’t make his vague texts or emails a priority to return.
Fit it in where you can in your otherwise flourishing life. Even still, until he SHOWS up for the date and stops stringing you along, you need to continue to make yourself available to men who are not.
And if that doesn’t help you remain focused on your end-goal of a deeper, committed relationship, then you may need to ask Mr. String-You-Along straight-up after a few dates what kind of relationship he is looking for as you are looking for something committed, exclusive and evolved.
But you have to be ready to let go if you hear an answer that doesn’t match your desires.
Otherwise, you are equally responsible for holding yourself back from getting the love you want. And that’s okay too, until you are ready…which you may want to take a closer look at.
Jennifer Musselman, M.A., MFTi – www.jennifermusselman.com
Does this sound familiar?
You’ve asked your partner for a deeper commitment- exclusivity, a wedding date, a Facebook status change… and while he may agree, or give you a timeframe, the change that you are asking for just keeps NOT happening. Most of us have been here.
In being strung along, the first thing is to know it and the second part is to allow it.
A loss of power coupled with a fear of loss in relationships can create the effect of being a rusty can tied to the bumper of a doomed shotgun wedding Nova… a bumpy ride to nowhere. I’m sure the proverb “let go or be dragged” is not a new one to you.
When I first heard this, I assumed it was an instruction along the lines of:
“You must let go or you will be reduced to a bloody pulp.”
Now I read it more simply: “You may choose to let go, or you may choose to be dragged.”
Not as a judgement or a command.
Being dragged might be the better option for you right now.
The terrain might not be too harsh, or the ride might be exciting. Still, tune in to how it feels to be dragged, and how you imagine it would be to let go.
Not unlike the can on a bumper after hitting a massive sinkhole, flying through the air can be exhilarating, while scraping the pavement can feel abysmal.
My guess is that when closely observed, this stringing along is a spectral wave of positive and negative emotions.
So why is it that you are holding on, despite not getting what you want?
Consider what your hope is for your relationship, and whether it is founded. You may still believe in possibility for this partnership enough to keep trying. You don’t necessarily need to abandon it, simply work on being aware of why you are in it.
Here are four good questions to ask yourself every day:
- What is my biggest fear about letting go?
- What do I gain by holding on?
- What do I lose by holding on?
- What do I want to happen?
If and when it is time to let go, you will. As with all things, you know your road better than anyone else.
Elizabeth Baum, M.A., MFTi – www.elizabethbaumintegral.com
Feeling as though you are being strung along, taken advantage of, or lead on, is a justifiably uncomfortable feeling.
Every person has the right to feel appreciated, valued, and equal in their relationship.
If you feel as though your relationship is unbalanced and your feelings are not being reciprocated, here are a few suggestions to consider:
Define the relationship.
- Have you and your partner had an open and clear conversation about what your relationship is?
- If so, what does that mean to each of you?
- What does is look like?
- What are expectations that coincide with that role?
Express your needs and wants.
Do not expect your partner to be a mind reader. If you would like daily phone calls, ask for daily phone calls. If you want more quality time, ask for quality time and be specific.
It is quite common to have unmet needs in a relationship because every person is different and has different needs. Thus, it is important your partner knows what your needs are and how they can be accommodated.
Set healthy boundaries.
Acknowledge what you bring to the relationship and decipher what is appropriate for you to ask for, compromise on, or let go of.
If you feel as though you are the only one who is giving and you are constantly compromising your needs without reciprocation (and you’ve communicated this to your partner and changes are not made), it may be time to reconsider if this is the right relationship for you.
The key to any successful relationship is healthy communication.
If there is ambiguity in your relationship, the best thing to do is to effectively talk about how you feel with your partner.
Tara Gogolinski, MS, LCMFT – www.linkedin.com/in/tara-gogolinski-ms-lcmft-737b0036
First, how are you evaluating him?
- Is he less attentive now than he was before?
- Do his stories just not add up?
- Does he cancel plans at the last minute?
- Do his words and actions not match?
- Does he verbally profess more caring than he shows in behaviors?
- Do you feel sandwiched into his life?
- Are you allowed to plan relationship agendas or are you dependent on his input and direction?
- Does he minimize your concerns when you express them?
- When you ask for changes in his behavior, does he agree to put more into the relationship but then act exactly as he did before?
- Does he engage in what appears to be secretive behavior when he’s with you?
In other words, do you have actual data that leads you to believe that you aren’t as important to him as you’d like to be, how you once felt, or as he professes that you are?
- Would he agree that your unsureness is founded and legitimate?
- Would he even tell you if it were?
The partners in a quality relationship can address these concerns without threat of destructive anger, loss, or hurt.
It is perfectly reasonable to bring up any awareness of obvious changes in energy distribution, availability, and priorities, sooner than later.
People who care about each other don’t minimize each other’s observations or insecurities even if they don’t share the same reality.
Over time, many couples dilute their original importance to each other as they reconnect with chosen obligations they’ve temporarily abandoned.
Hopefully, they’ve established enough of a bond that their relationship isn’t threatened by understandable re-emerging priorities. But qualitative changes that are not explainable may herald a whole different underlying problem and both partners must be willing to address it when it occurs.
Now, let’s look at you.
- Do you tend to jump to conclusions too quickly when you feel insecure?
- Do you have a history of being with men who patronize you for fear you’ll be difficult if they tell you the truth?
- Do you settle up front for less than you know you’ll want later?
- Are you more attracted to men who are a little out of reach?
- When you feel your man is pulling away, do you become more clingy or re-balance yourself?
- Are you too willing to accommodate being slotted and suffer in silence until you can’t bear it anymore and then come out swinging?
- Have you been in this place before?
The answers to all these questions will help you define if there is a problem, and, if so, what it is.
You need to understand what you are dealing with before you can address it authentically and accurately.
Men are more likely to keep their woman, or women, in separate compartments, visiting them when their need for intimacy and companionship emerges.
Women, on the other hand, are more likely to make men the center of their lives and feel diminished if those desires are not reciprocal.
That difference sets many women up for a fall when their men prioritize their interests in other areas.
If a woman has the confidence and willingness to make sure how valuable her compartment is to her man up front and maintains it over time, she won’t feel less important than she wants to be. Those compartments have two-way doors.
Women who are willing to close those doors when they don’t like the deal anymore are more likely to only open them when it is right.
So, if you’re feeling strung along, let go of the string. You’ll find out if you’re correct.
Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com
When you are in a relationship that you hope will keep moving in the direction you want, it feels good.
However, you won’t know in the beginning what your partner’s intentions are. Is he looking for a long-term committed relationship, like you, or is he more interested in a casual, “have a good time” companionship?
Whether he’s stringing you along or not, you need to know if he’s right for you.
The first thing you should do is see if he’s satisfying your needs for a normal healthy partnership.
- able to be your authentic, natural self around each other?
- treated equally, with not one person being more dominant or demanding than the other
- feeling comfortable being open and honest in your communication?
- sharing similar values, philosophies and goals?
- respecting each other without compromising who you are?
- attracted to each other and compatible in bed?
- allowing each one to pursue your own interests, yet sharing many common activities?
- having fun together?
- handling your disagreements fairly?
If he meets most of these requirements, then you can determine that the relationship is worth staying in.
Then it’s time to stop second-guessing where things are going and start finding out what your partner is looking for. Are you both on the same page in terms of commitment? You don’t want to assume anything, because that is how you experience misunderstandings that are the core of relationship failures.
Communicate with clarity by asking straightforward and concise questions.
Say, “I’m very happy with what we have together and I see a future for us. How do you see things going?”
In this way you avoid being strung along any longer than you already are, if his intent is different than yours.
The answer may not be what you want to hear, but at least you know and can move on to meet the perfect guy for you.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
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