She Said, He Said: Don’t string him along, but give yourself time to suss out your relationship

Lori Ann Kret and Jeff Cole
She Said, He Said

Dear Lori and Jeff,

I met a guy about a year ago online. Both of us were pretty cautious about COVID and found ourselves becoming more distanced from friends who were less concerned and living life more freely. As a result, we ended up becoming each other’s main connection and support. If it weren’t for COVID, things probably wouldn’t have progressed so quickly. Now that the world is starting to open up again, I don’t know if I want to continue staying attached to him. There’s nothing inherently wrong with our relationship. I like him, am attracted to him and enjoy spending time with him, but I’m curious if there’s someone better for me out there. On the other hand, I’m worried about walking away from someone who might possibly be the one. Help!


Tempted To Try Something New

Dear Tempted,

Lori and Jeff: The 2020 Cuffing Season is officially coming to an end, and it has certainly been one for the ages. For those of you unfamiliar with this dating phenomenon, it’s the annual pattern of singles seeking out mates in the fall to hunker down with for the cold, dark winter. This year, COVID and the social isolation it brought, created a season on steroids. While some singles were able to stay true to their standards, others were content to connect to anybody with a pulse. With the weather warming and public health restrictions relaxing, the impending spring release is sure to be massive.

Lori: The fact that you’re this unsure after a year means that either you don’t actually know what you want, or you’re not really ready to be committed. (Jeff will help you dive deeper into the first possibility below.) How much of your ambivalence to him is really about your aversion to commitment? I ask because you say you’re attracted to him and still enjoy your time together. Perhaps even more importantly, you haven’t expressed anything in particular that your guy is lacking.

So on that note, here are a few important indicators that you’re ready to settle down:

• You have a good sense of who you are and feel confident in meeting your own needs.

• You’re ready to make the relationship a high priority.

• You’re beginning to plan for your future and willing to include him in the process.

• You’re willing to listen and ready to compromise on a variety of issues.

• You’ve done enough dating to know what you really want and you value deep connection over flirting and the thrill of the chase.

• You’re authentic and vulnerable with your partner and support him in being that way too.

Be honest, is this really where you are in life? If not, you should break up with the guy. He deserves a partner who truly wants to be with him.

Jeff: I can’t count the number of clients we’ve worked with who have no real idea of what they want in a relationship. Sure, most say they want things like love, security, companionship and shared values, but the deeper question of how they want to feel in a relationship often goes unanswered. So why is it often difficult to choose a partner? Many of us make this choice based on the number of boxes a potential mate may check. But where did these boxes come from? Were they based on what we think we’re supposed to want or are they the result of an authentic self-investigation of what’s most important to you in this life? If your partner and the relationship you’ve built together — regardless of the unusual circumstances — instill feelings of trust, kindness, deep connection and genuine appreciation, then give it a chance. If not, then perhaps it’s time to see who else is out there.

Lori and Jeff: As things slowly get back to some semblance of normalcy, it may take some time for you to be able to assess whether your current relationship is truly what you want or if it was simply the result of a timely convenience. We recommend you not act too impulsively as more suitors become available to you. We also don’t think it wise to string him along while you look for something better. Give yourself a few months to suss out your situation but then be clear about your decision and act with intention.

Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to and your query may be selected for a future column.


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