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Putting a Guy or Girl on the Holding Shelf: OK or Not OK?

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I have a friend who has a boyfriend that she’s like, 97% committed to. The other 3% is reserved for her “could’ve been” guy: someone she had almost dated a few years ago, but it hadn’t quite worked out.

“He’s actually exactly your type. I think you’d really like him,” she told me.

“Yeah, but…you wouldn’t want me to date him, right?” I asked.

“No, definitely not.”

This second guy, the guy who is not her boyfriend, is on her holding shelf. She likes the idea of him, but she likes her boyfriend more. She’s definitely not going to break up with her boyfriend, yet. But if she did, she’d probably be interested in this other dude. So she talks to him just enough to keep him around (and possibly interested), without ever crossing a line. And it is definitely not OK for her friends to date him. He is reserved for her.

It sounds kind of awful, but who hasn’t put a boy (or girl) on the holding shelf while in a relationship? After all, you aren’t cheating on the person you’re currently with, so much as…putting an insurance policy on your future? If you get dumped one day, it’s nice to know you have someone in the dugout, all warmed up and ready to go.

Though of course, it’s totally not OK to string someone along, and have them wait for you in perpetuity, on the off-chance that someday you might break up with whoever you’re with.

But as long as you aren’t leading anyone on, is it cool to mark a guy or a girl as “off-limits” to your friends, and keep him or her on the back burner in case your current relationship turns sour? Have you ever felt like you’ve been on someone’s holding shelf?

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