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4 Reasons He’s Stringing You Along (& What to Do About It)


He seems to have fun talking to you when you’re out with friends, but he only texts you after dark. Or maybe he calls you his girlfriend, but he’s been pretty distant lately. Maybe he only seems to notice you when he’s between relationships. What gives? Is he stringing you along?

If he is, there has to be an explanation. We talked to college guys and relationship experts to give you the lowdown on why that guy is keeping you around if he doesn’t want a relationship. Here are four reasons a guy might be stringing you along and how to tell if it’s happening to you.

1. He’s looking for something casual

College is the time to date around and figure out what you want in a significant other. While some of us may be ready to move forward with that plan a bit sooner, others would like to play the field a little longer.

“The most time-honored and tested reason to string someone along from a guy’s perspective is because he’s not totally committed to you or the relationship,” says Dr. Ish Major, psychiatrist, dating expert and author of Little White Whys. “He may possibly be seeing other people or he’s … not that serious and just wants to be involved with you in some capacity.”

Francis, a senior at Georgia Perimeter College, says that he doesn’t want to start anything serious in college. “I would prefer to avoid anything remotely resembling a relationship,” he says. “I’ll have plenty of time for that later, so there’s no need to rush it now.”

How to tell

Matchmaker and dating coach Jasbina Ahluwalia says that if a guy is stringing you along for this reason, there will be a noticeable lack of any kind of emotional connection on his end. “You have no idea how he feels about you,” she says. “He talks about himself but never asks anything about you, your thoughts or your desires.” A guy intent on keeping the relationship casual isn’t going to put in much work to try to get to know you.

He will also hesitate to put a clearly defined label on your relationship. “You’ll never be introduced as his girlfriend,” Dr. Major says. “You’ll always be introduced as ‘my good friend,’ ‘my dear friend,’ ‘my date’ or ‘the woman I’m dating.’ That’s his way of letting you and everyone in earshot know that he’s here with you, but it’s not that serious.”

Ahluwalia also says that if a guy never initiates anything other than physical intimacy, this is a good sign that he’s stringing you along.

Our Real Live College Guy Dale says, “Sometimes, when we’re not sure how we feel about someone (or totally know how we feel and are just using them for more physical means), we bait them along. Certain phrases get tossed around a lot to keep people waiting. If you hear your guy saying things like, ‘I’m not sure I’m ready yet,’ or, ‘I’m not saying ‘never, but’… then pay attention.”

2. He doesn’t want to hurt your feelings

We absolutely hate it when guys do the fade-out thing, but letting a girl know he’s just not that into her is a difficult situation for all parties involved. If a guy knows that having this talk will hurt and upset you, or if he feels guilty that the sparks have fizzled out on his end, he may just keep quiet and hope you figure things out on your own.

“Some guys just don’t know how to let someone down,” Dale says. “Nobody wants to be the bad guy, you know? I don’t look forward to breaking things off with someone because more often than not, I’m not sure how attached they are. So in stringing along, our attempts at being the good guy end up making us the bad guy.”

Brad*, a Duke University senior, knows this all too well. Caught up in a friends-with-benefits situation that was quickly turning into something more on the girl’s side, Brad knew that something had to be done, but he found his willpower lacking.

“I knew she’d be upset about it,” he says. “I could tell she was falling for me, and I knew I didn’t feel the same way about her. I just couldn’t bring myself to say it, though.”

How to tell

If your guy starts ghosting, he may be stringing you along in an attempt to avoid hurting your feelings.

“He may disappear for weeks at a time,” Ahluwalia says. “He may be hesitant to commit to spending time together ahead of time, or he regularly cancels dates with little notice.”

Suddenly, he always seems to have something else to do, or he only invites you to hang out in groups. “You’ll see him be late often,” Dr. Major says. “He’ll include other people often, change or flat-out cancel dates or appointments with you. This lets you know that while you are included in his social calendar, you’re not a top priority.”

A guy might not cut things off with you completely, but these actions show that you’re no longer at the top of his list.

3. He’s not sure if you’re “the one”

A guy may see the potential for a future with you, but if he’s not totally sure, he’ll probably keep you around as an option until he’s sure he’s found the girl he wants to be with. “He wants to maintain a backup plan while he’s continuing to search for his Ms. Right,” Ahluwalia says.

Dr. Major says, “He’s keeping his options open. He’s not totally sure if you’re ‘the one’ he wants yet.”

How to tell

A guy who’s not sure if you’re the one for him will be careful about giving you that impression. For your part, you may be stuck wondering where the two of you stand. “He never refers to you as his girlfriend, even if you’ve been together for several months,” Ahluwalia says.

The most telling sign a guy is keeping you around because he’s just not sure about you is whether or not you’ve met any of the important people in his life.

“Never, and I do mean ever, will you meet his parents or any significant member of his family whose opinion he values,” Dr. Major says. “A guy has no interest in having that conversation with his mother or father about who you are and ‘where this is going’ unless he’s absolutely sure it’s heading for something more long-term.”

4. He’s using you as a rebound

Sometimes we may feel like we need a “transitional person” to help us move safely from one relationship to the next. Still, it sucks to realize the guy you thought had boyfriend potential was simply using you to get over someone else.

“When some guys are rejected or dumped, they go to their fallback girl,” says Michael*, a senior at Georgia Tech Lorraine. “The whole purpose of this girl is to reassure the guy. Once they feel like they can move on again, they will leave just as quickly as they came.”

For this guy, you’re simply there to help fill the void left from his previous relationship. He needs a way to distract himself, and you’re his solution.

“He’s with you out of a fear of being alone rather than a genuine interest in you as a person,” Ahluwalia says. “He’ll continuously go back and forth between choosing to spend time with [you] and wanting to run away from [you].”

If a guy is constantly coming back to you in between all of his failed relationships, you may be nothing more than a shoulder to cry on.

How to tell

Sometimes it seems as though he never stops talking about his ex or hating on other women in general. Ahluwalia says these are clear signs he’s rebounding.

What’s more, while he may be freshly out of a relationship, he’s not that keen on starting a new one. “He tells you he’s not looking for a commitment,” Ahluwalia says. “He’s using physical intimacy with you as a way to avoid dealing with his breakup and is not interested in any level of emotional intimacy.”

While it’s not necessarily true that nothing comes of all rebounds, if he’s showing any of these signs, you might want to reconsider your relationship (or lack thereof) with this person.

“These guys are much more concerned about repairing their feelings than attending to yours,” Michael says.

If you’ve figured out you’re being strung along and it’s not sitting right with you, it’s time to get clear about your expectations.

“You have to have ‘the talk’ about exclusivity,” Dr. Major says. “Say, ‘I really enjoy being with you and I’m not interested in seeing anyone else.’”

If a guy doesn’t respond favorably, then understand that it’s not your fault. “A guy not committing to you has very little to do with you,” Dr. Major says. “It’s mostly about where he is in his dating career right now. No matter how amazing a girl you are, if he’s just not ready, there’s nothing you’ll be able to do to him, with him or for him that will get him there.”

Navigating the world of relationships can be a tricky business. It’s important to be clear about what you want both to yourself and to the guys you’re considering. Keep these signs in mind to avoid being strung along in the future!

*Names have been changed.

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