15 undeniable signs someone is keeping you as an option (complete guide)

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Prince Charming never slid into Cinderella’s DM’s with a “Hey stranger, what’s up?”

Sadly, most of us have realized by now that real romance is a long way from the Fairytales.

Modern dating has brought us the illusion of endless choice. And so it seems like more and more people are keeping their options open.

But how do you know if a guy is treating you like an option? And importantly, how do I stop being an option and be a priority?

15 signs you are an option, not a priority

1) You’ve only ever talked online

Online dating is now the most common way for couples to meet.

In 2017 about 39 percent of heterosexual couples reported meeting their partner online.

Maybe you matched on a dating app or connected on social media. But he hasn’t gotten around to asking you out yet.

Whilst it’s perfectly normal to have a week or two of chatting before asking someone out if it’s been dragging out for much longer — it’s not a good sign.

It could suggest that he is into you a bit, but not enough to make a real move. He might be talking to other girls too.

If you’re not excited to meet someone, then chances are they are just an option to you.

2) They appear and disappear

Whenever someone:

  • Moves in and out of your life
  • Blows hot and cold
  • Does a disappearing act only to pop back up again at some point

…it only ever really means one thing:

You are not a priority.

And it’s the classic move of someone who is keeping you as an option.

They are just breadcrumbing you, throwing just enough attention your way to keep you wondering whether they do like you or not. But not enough attention that you feel confident of their feelings.

Sometimes you think that they must like you. Why else would they text you and you have a really great conversation? But in the next few days or weeks, they go off the radar again.

It’s one of the most confusing dating behaviors because it’s totally selfish.

What’s usually going on behind the scenes is they are bored and looking for some attention.

It’s leading you on but they don’t really care about that as long as they’re getting some validation and ego-boosting out of it.

3) You talk vaguely about meeting up but never confirm plans

Pinning them down isn’t easy.

You say things to each other like: “We should get a drink sometime” or “let’s meet up”. But that’s about as far as it goes.

Maybe you haven’t tried to push it any further and neither have they followed it up. Or perhaps you have, but they just offer some excuse about why it’s not a good time, or how they have a crazy busy week.

“Soon”, “maybe next week”, and “let’s make it happen” — are all vague words and sentences that they throw around but never follow up with concrete action.

If they really wanted to see you, they would make it happen. So if they’re not, it’s likely they are just keeping you around as an option.

4) They take ages to message you back

Taking a long time to message back or keeping your messages on ‘read’ is another red flag.

We all know the social rules of dating. It’s a very simple formula to follow:

The quicker you reply, the more interested you look.

Even if you’re trying to play it cool and not come across as overly keen, there are limits.

We realize that not replying to a message that was sent at lunchtime until we’re just about to go to bed doesn’t exactly scream interested.

If it happens once or twice it’s not a big deal — it’s ok to be busy. But if they consistently take their sweet time in replying to you, then it’s more cause for concern.

5) You never get priority times in their schedule

Not all days and times are equal during the week.

Be honest, you’re less willing to sacrifice your weekends for just anyone. These are our prime time hours of the week, and we save them for the things we really want to do and the people we most want to see.

If they seem to be trying to randomly fit you into their schedule, but at all the worst time slots, you aren’t getting the best of their time.

They squeeze you in before going to meet friends or they have Tuesday evening available but only between 9pm and 10.30pm.

If you suggest a better time they tell you they can’t meet you for a drink on Friday night because they have a work event, or that they won’t be able to go for dinner on Saturday because they have a family commitment, etc.

If this happens often, then it points to the reality that they aren’t prioritizing you.

6) You feel insecure

A certain amount of insecurity when we first start dating someone is normal.

Romance is vulnerable and we can worry about their feelings and whether we’re more into them than they are into us.

But if you have real sustained doubts then it’s a good idea to listen to your gut. Unless you know you’re the paranoid type, your instincts are trying to tell you something.

When someone shows a good level of interest, we don’t question how they feel about us because they are already showing us with their words and actions.

It’s usually the ones who aren’t that we have doubts about. And for good reason.

Their flaky, non-committal and low effort attitude leaves us feeling insecure about where we stand.

If you can’t shake the feeling that they are just keeping you as an option, then chances are you’re not being crazy, the way they are acting is making you feel like this.

7) Things aren’t progressing

For a while you’ve been feeling stuck.

It’s as though you’re in limbo, not going any further.

You’re still talking, you may even see each other every now and then too, but you’re not getting to know them any better or it feels like there is a barrier standing in your way.

You’re not meeting their friends, you’re not getting emotionally closer, and things aren’t moving forward.

This could mean one of two things:

  • They are holding back. Maybe it just means they aren’t ready yet or they’re not looking for anything serious.
  • They are keeping their options open. They keep you at arm’s length to purposely stop things from getting to a committed stage.

8) They’ve canceled on you more than once

In fact, not only has it happened more than once but it has started to become a bit of a habit.

Some of their excuses seem legit. But you’re not sure if they are telling the truth or lying to you to try and keep you sweet.

You’ve started to wonder if what is really going on is that they have a better option and got a better offer.

Either way, if you find yourself wondering why they cancel on you so much, then it’s worth asking questions.

Because it looks like they have other things and people that they are deciding is more important than spending time with you.

9) They send you a “hey stranger” message

A “hey stranger” message or any similar incarnation like “long time, no speak” “Heyyyyyy”, “how you doing?” or the laziest of all…simply sending an emoji, reveals something significant:

This person exists in the peripheral of your life.

They haven’t spoken to you in a while and now they are simply on a fishing expedition to see if you bite.

And any potential romantic interest that floats around on the edge of your life is not committed to you.

I recently had a chat with a guy friend about “hey stranger” messages and he admitted that he had sent them before to girls when:

  • He was bored
  • Scrolling through his contacts and randomly stumbled upon them

There was nothing unique or special about the girls, they were just an option.

If you were anything more to them, they wouldn’t need to “reconnect” because you wouldn’t have lost touch in the first place.

10) They don’t contact you when they say they will

Nothing shows you how important you are in someone’s life more than whether they stick to their word.

When they say they’ll call or text you, do they?

Do they always follow up on promises? When they say they’re going to get in touch to confirm plans, does it happen?

Because if they don’t, these are glaring signs that they might be keeping you as an option and not truly interested in you.

Dating casually is one thing, but then there’s just plain old disrespect. And if they aren’t being respectful of your time, they clearly don’t see your connection going anywhere serious.

11) They just add you on Instagram

This sign needs some explanation. Because adding you to their social media accounts in itself isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it can even be a good thing.

But here’s what I’ve anecdotally noticed:

Adding someone on social media quickly becomes a junkyard for collecting romantic matches and contacts you’re saving for a rainy day.

They could take your number. But some people prefer to be a follower instead. That way they can check out your photos, watch your stories and take their sweet time in deciding if they’ll ever go on a date with you.

Whenever I’ve been on dating apps in the past I always start to suspect a guy isn’t truly interested (and I’m just an option) as soon as he suggests connecting on Instagram.

It’s almost like being put on the bench. You might be called up to play one day, but for now, you are firmly on the subs team.

It’s not that social media is a bad sign, it’s how someone uses it.

If they don’t message you pretty soon after adding you, then they’re not interested enough to make a move right now.

12) It’s all on their terms

You only talk when it’s convenient for them and when they want something.

For example, if they’re in the mood to chat, you can have long text exchanges. But at other times if you send them a message, they only send brief replies or cut things short.

You hangout whenever it’s good for them and most convenient to their schedule.

Basically, you have to accommodate them, or whatever is going on between you probably wouldn’t even be happening.

You feel like he’s only interested in you when there’s something in it for him.

13) Most plans are last minute

The further in advance someone makes plans, the more interested they are in you. It might sound like an oversimplification, but generally, it’s true.

Let me give you a personal example:

Last year I started talking to a guy I met on Tinder. He added me on Instagram (red flag number 1), and proceeded to breadcrumb me for a few months without ever asking me out (red flag number 2).

When I say he breadcrumbed me, he would reply to my stories, send the odd message and then disappear for a while.

When we finally decided to meet up “sometime” (redflag number 3) he eventually contacted me later that week at 9 pm on a Saturday asking what I was doing that evening.

The bottom line is he wasn’t interested enough to make plans in advance, but when he found himself with nothing else better to do, only then was he prepared to commit to something.

I politely let him know that I’m not Uber Eats and that if he wanted to see me, he needed to give me more notice.

And if someone only wants to make last-minute plans with you, I’d suggest you do the same. Because I’m sorry to say, you are just an option for them.

14) You notice their follower count is always fluctuating

Again, this one needs some further explanation. Here’s what I’m talking about:

As soon as you connect on social media, you usually indulge in a light bit of harmless stalking.

Nothing crazy, but a look around, checking out their pictures and often their followers too (and who is following them).

You can usually spot the players because their followers tend to come and go like the changing tides.

One day, they’ve got 10 brand new followers and they’re all women.

But presumably, as they begin to realize they are only options, they slowly disappear as they get fed up — only to be replaced with more girls.

Ok, it might sound a bit intense to start poking around for girls you don’t recognize on their Instagram, but it will probably reveal a lot.

15) You’re making more effort than them

Perhaps at the end of the day it all really boils down to this one significant thing:

You are making much more effort than them, and you know it.

You’re afraid to ask for anything because you think he’ll say no. You don’t want to be too demanding in case you scare him off.

But the relationship or connection is feeling really unbalanced. And it is you that is the one trying.

It’s probably started to knock your self-esteem.

How to stop being just an option

Don’t chase, and be less available

One of the most annoying things about not getting enough of someone’s attention is that you can start to feel panicked and a bit desperate.

But that’s the last thing you need. Because the more desperate you feel, the needier you can become.

The more they pull away, the more you try to bridge that gap by making even more effort. But this just leads to an even more unbalanced situationship.

If you’re ever going to be more than just an option, they need to feel like they’re at risk of losing you. And that isn’t going to happen if you’re at their beck and call.

Firm up your boundaries.

Be less available to them. Rather than see them whenever they want, be busy. Rather than checking in on them, wait for them to get in touch with you. Don’t reply straight away to their messages.

It’s not about game playing, it’s about putting in the same effort that they are. And until they are willing to step it up, you need to make them just an option too.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, stay open to meeting other people.

They’ll either:

  • Realize they’re at risk of losing you and step it up
  • Slowly fade out of your life — which I know probably isn’t what you want. But if it happens it is most likely for the best as you need to weed out the flaky types sooner rather than later.

At some stage we all need to know when we should cut our losses and walk away from someone who ultimately isn’t giving us what we want.

Trigger his hero instinct

Why do guys want to keep their options open?

It comes down to this: they want to keep their options open when they’re not ready to commit.

But there are still things you can do to give them a nudge and help them reach that stage where they are ready.

You see, for guys, it’s all about triggering their inner hero.

I learned about this from the hero instinct. Coined by relationship expert James Bauer, this fascinating concept is about what really drives men in relationships, which is ingrained in their DNA.

And it’s something most women don’t know anything about.

Once triggered, these drivers make men into the heroes of their own lives. They feel better, love harder, and commit stronger when they find someone who knows how to trigger it.

Now, you may be wondering why it’s called “the hero instinct”? Do guys really need to feel like superheroes to commit to a woman?

Not at all. Forget about Marvel. You won’t need to play the damsel in distress or buy your man a cape.

The easiest thing to do is to check out James Bauer’s excellent free video here. He shares some easy tips to get you started, such as sending him a 12 word text that will trigger his hero instinct right away.

Because that’s the beauty of the hero instinct.

It’s only a matter of knowing the right things to say to make him realize that he wants you and only you.

Click here to watch the free video.

Can a relationship coach help you too?

If you want specific advice on your situation, it can be very helpful to speak to a relationship coach.

I know this from personal experience…

A few months ago, I reached out to Relationship Hero when I was going through a tough patch in my relationship. After being lost in my thoughts for so long, they gave me a unique insight into the dynamics of my relationship and how to get it back on track.

If you haven’t heard of Relationship Hero before, it’s a site where highly trained relationship coaches help people through complicated and difficult love situations.

In just a few minutes you can connect with a certified relationship coach and get tailor-made advice for your situation.

I was blown away by how kind, empathetic, and genuinely helpful my coach was.

Click here to get $50 off your first session (exclusive offer for Hack Spirit readers).

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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