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You’ve been on a few dates with a guy you’ve recently met and you’re excited about the possibilities. Over drinks you find yourself telling your closest friends just how great this guy is and how he would be perfect for you. As you and your friends drink wine and nibble at shared appetizers, he walks in the door. You didn’t plan on seeing him, he didn’t know you’d be there, so this is an absolute surprise. What’s more of a surprise is that he’s not alone. He’s with another pretty woman who makes you wonder if that’s a relative, platonic friend, or another girl that he’s dating.

Deep down inside, you know that it’s not his cousin or a platonic friend. You’ve just met the competition.

It’s important to note that when you first start dating someone the expectation of exclusivity does not attach itself until the conversation happens. That means, unless you’ve sat down with one another and made it clear that you are only dating each other, you can’t be mad when situations like the one above occur. However, what can you do at a time like this to not lose sight of your self-respect but still pursue a future with him? Life’s not fair, and more than that, matters of romance are definitely not fair. I think there are ways that you can survive and thrive in this situation. I think that as men we go through this all the time. We’re well aware that men are vultures and have no allegiance to one another. Most times when we meet a woman we’re aware that there are probably other suitors vying for face time too. Women can’t necessarily operate under the premise that if they’ve found a guy, he’s going to exclusively only court them early on in the process. But again, what can you do?

First, I believe that you have to avoid overcommitting in the situation. Only give him what he’s willing to give you in return. Many women lose their dignity because they begin to accept situations that are not in their favor. If he’s not going to be exclusive with you, you can’t afford him the liberty of being exclusive with only him. While this may not translate into you actually seeing another guy at the same time, it’s a subtle position of not letting the exclusivity expectation set in. He has to know that if at any moment another man approaches you, you’re more than welcome to accept another man’s advances.

Second, you must be the best you can be at all times. Nobody’s perfect, but everybody has it in themselves to sabotage a situation. You have a choice, you can either have a conversation with him about the fact that you guys are not exclusive or you can hold onto that information for yourself. My advice, it doesn’t really need to be a conversation unless you already had a conversation about it being exclusive. Be careful not to sabotage your situation; beginning to act erratic, getting frustrated because you can’t always see him when you want to see him, or attacking him because you guys are not in an exclusive state will only cause the situation to collapse.

A brief note: I would be remiss if I didn’t advise you not to sleep with someone who is seeing someone else. The risk is just too high to be involved in a situation like that. However, if you really must, make sure to be safe. You cannot and should not use sex to win in this situation.

Third, you’re going to have to be the one to set some goals and checkpoints. There has to be a finish line in this situation, because it can’t go on forever. While the guy may very well have set a deadline for when he plans to make a decision one way or the other, you have to make your own decision and stick to it. When you don’t have clear goals and checkpoints set out for yourself in a situation like this, it can go on forever and ever. This leads to it causing more pain and stress than it really needs to cause. I do want to reinforce that you stick to your goals. If you have told yourself that if after two months he’s not ready to commit, you’re not staying any longer, then that’s what you must do.

Last and probably most important, you can’t ever lose sight of what you deserve. If you find yourself working way too hard to force the relationship or to force the decision, it’s probably a sign. Look at the situation logically, do you really want a relationship from a situation in which you had to work super hard to make a man want to commit to you? There’s nothing wrong with putting in a little work to differentiate you from the competition, but that can only go so far. Once you reach the point that you’re working more to make him choose you, rather than merely enjoying the natural organic flow of a partner selection process, you have to walk away. When you walk away with your self-respect and dignity, you’re always in control. You leave open the outside chance that you can reconnect with him later, but you also don’t let yourself slip into a mental state where you are not ready for what may be in the cards for you in your near future. That’s how you survive and thrive in the love triangle; you win or you at least walk away without losing.

Dr. J is a writer for the men’s blog Single Black Male. Dr. J’s inspiration and motivation for writing comes from a desire to provide real and honest advice to all. His approach is no nonsense and rarely sugarcoated.  Follow him on twitter @DrJayJack.

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