When I first met Chris eight years ago, it was immediately clear we were attracted to each other.
In him, I saw a handsome and clear-headed man who knew what he wanted in life and was ready to take action and risk something for it. In me, he found a free-spirited, courageous young woman who “stood for something in life,” as he once told me. The compatibility and connection were off the charts – time just seemed to fly when we were together.
However, two months into dating, he popped the question – could we get exclusive and officially be a couple? I refused.
At first, this was a shock for him. I remember his face turning pale when I told him that while I felt flattered by his offer, I did not want to be any man’s girlfriend.
In my mind, boyfriend-girlfriend was an excellent arrangement for teenagers, but not for me – I wanted to commit to a man who saw me as his forever woman.
As much as I liked Chris, I was determined to not let any man ‘test drive’ me, see if I was ‘wife material’ and wait around on tippy toes until he’d made his decision about me. I let Chris know that what we had felt special but I would be keeping my options open and seeing other men until he had decided what he wanted for us long-term.
Now, any good man could feel threatened hearing something like that. At first it may come across as indecent. So, I also made sure he understood that I wouldn’t be ‘sleeping around’ – I’d just be getting to know other men, but, more importantly, not locking myself down to any one man unless he was 100% sure he was in this for the long haul.
Chris was shocked, surprised, unhappy. But I am to this day proud to say that he did not demean me or attack me on my bold choice – he respected it.
The following three days were the hardest. When I didn’t hear from Chris, I was ready to let him go, with full respect for his choice to not be with me. After all, this wasn’t an ultimatum or threat – Chris was still free to choose to walk away from an arrangement that did not work for him, just like I was free to say “no” to be his girlfriend.
“I let Chris know that what we had felt special but I would be keeping my options open”
A huge smile returned on my face when I heard from him days later, with a date invitation. Suddenly, this time, we were discussing what the future could look like. Chris said to me that he wasn’t willing to let me go. It was time to step up his game. He was also fully aware (if not fully happy) that I was still saying yes to coffee dates if men asked me out. On my part, I promised to let Chris know if anything got serious with any other man.
What I followed with Chris is known as ‘rotational dating’ – a method of seeing more than one personal at the same time, but only committing when you get the commitment you desire. For some women, that may look different than what it looked like for me. It may be the proposal like me, but it could easily be a sign the man you’re with is after the baby, the house or globe-trotting you’re seeking.
It is important to state again that rotational dating is not about sex. Connection dates are non-sexual – instead they are about meeting different people, to evaluate your compatibility and hopefully find lasting love. Dates I went on included cinema trips, walks in the park, coffee dates and visits to museums.
I met several interesting men through this and the experiences were invaluable in getting me clarity on what I was truly looking for in a partner. I believe it was the same for those men.
When a man asked me if I was seeing other men, I was upfront about it. Some took it well, some did not. I did not take it personally – I knew for sure that it made no sense to lock myself down exclusively with someone who did not see a full future with me.
I passionately believe that rotational dating is the most revolutionary way for single women to date. When you rotational date, you do not spend your entire time focused on one man – your attention is divided amongst many potential prospects. This is healthy when you are only getting to know someone. It helps you as a woman to avoid early attachment with a man who may not be the best match for you, it allows for filtering to happen and for true intimacy to develop over time with the right man for you: a man who will outlast the wrong ones.
What was miraculous about not saying yes to exclusivity was that I felt free and not obligated to any one man unless he knew what we wanted for us for the future. In my heart, I felt ‘single’ unless I had a ring on my finger, and I felt happy and in love with the man who was offering it. Plus, with Chris, I could now feel he wasn’t just pursuing me out of a fear of losing me or getting some weird kick out of the competition; he had genuinely decided and felt in his heart that I am the woman he wants.
And so just a few months later, on top of a snowy mountain with champagne, red roses and a gorgeous diamond and sapphire ring, Chris proposed. Today we are in the seventh year of marriage, we’re parents, and the love and intimacy just keep growing.
To this day, he tells me that refusing him was shocking... but so powerful.
We often laugh about how hard it was for Chris to date a woman like me. He says I inspired him to dig deeper into his heart to consider whether I was the right person for him. Other women had been easier to date, but they never forced him to think about settling down. And, he confesses, he was scared another man would sweep me off my feet if he didn’t gather his guts and commit.
For me, it was empowering to stick to what I wanted, to be able to articulate it, to draw boundaries, and for once care about what made me happy instead of a man.
Until a man is willing to give you his heart, why should he deserve yours?
It’s time to believe in yourself, open yourself up to new opportunities and let the best man win.
Sami Wunder is a dating and relationship expert. Find out more at samiwunder.com
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