The “I have a boyfriend” Excuse


I think everyone would agree that the social dynamics of our dating world are incredibly interesting topics of contemplation. That seems to be the reason why we get so many shows that come and go such as MTV’s Exposed, VH1’s The Pick Up Artist, and the ever-famous Bachelor/ Bachelorette runs. I recently became interested in the dynamics myself, not through shows like this, but by experiencing a particular situation and reflecting on it with curiosity and eventual disappointment thereafter.

So here is what happened… 

I was sitting at a table at my local Starbucks, where everyone seems to know everyone. While I was studying, I noticed some guy looking in my direction but I didn’t give it a second thought and went back to work. He approached me and after some small talk he asked me out.

In my haste to distance myself from the possibility of a prolonged discussion, and thoughts on a date with him any further, I responded with “Sorry, I have a boyfriend…” Which was untrue.

The situation wasn’t a big deal in itself; it was the response I gave in regard to a situation I did not want to drag on or sour with a “you’re not my type” response.

This boyfriend excuse became such a big deal for me, and not in a good way. I thought about what warranted this response from me and found no meritable reason for it.

There was nothing wrong with this guy; it was just a matter of me deciding he wasn’t what I wanted at the moment. So why couldn’t I just respond with something like “thanks, but I’m not looking to date right now” or simply, “I’m not interested.” I feel like there is an unconscious need to not hurt another person’s feelings, so providing a condition that eliminates the possibility of dating often softens the rejection. Out of curiosity I asked some of my gal-friends if they’d ever used this excuse before (rather than just assuming they have) and they replied with a “hell yes” or an “almost always.” We concluded that yes, it does make rejection a bit easier for the other individual involved in the situation, but it also provides a clean break, most of the time. Other times guys respond by saying things like “why does it even matter” or “we don’t have to let him know” and I feel like these responses are appalling because they both normalize infidelity and unstable relationships as well as promote dishonesty. If guys respond this way when you give a reasonable excuse to prevent them from going on, it seems sensible to see why women aren’t honest in the first place.

Having said this, when girls use the “I have a boyfriend” excuse, our self-expression in inhibited. We feel that our true reasons for rejecting a guy aren’t enough to put him off, essentially that our own thoughts aren’t valued (making me consider their intentions for going out in the first place). There is nothing wrong with being honest with another person and by using this excuse you give power to another man, your boyfriend (even if he is imaginary to you, he’s real for the guys trying to pick-up on you). The fact that the excuse works in most cases tells us that men respect another man’s choice more often than they would a woman’s. Essentially, a woman can’t claim for herself that she’s unavailable, only her ‘boyfriend’ can. If you try to tell a guy that you’re purely not interested, which I have done in the past, there seems to be this unspoken question on their face asking “Why??” further impressing the idea that if you’re a single girl there’s no reason why you should reject a guy that’s propositioning you.

Of course, there are always different conditions to consider. For some girls this is a legitimate reason for rejecting a guy and is put out there as a statement of respect for their relationship, that it is meaningful and valued.

In the end it doesn’t matter if the boyfriend excuse is actually an excuse or a legitimate reason for getting out of a date. The central issue really is that women feel the need to put this out there because there is a lack of respect for a woman’s decision. Maybe a way to change this aspect in our dating world is for women to be honest and firm about what they want when faced with something that they don’t, even if it creates friction.

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One Comment

  1. This has always been an interesting issue to me. Several times I’ve gotten this response when I wasn’t even asking a girl out or for her number. As someone who’s embraced polyamory, the idea of someone having a boyfriend doesn’t put me off, but I am respectful of a woman’s voice not to engage with me if she doesn’t want to. Initially I used to feel annoyed and insulted at this response, but later I came to just resent a status quo that makes this the standard rejection. That being said, I’m also a guy who might ask “why does that matter?”, because for one, I’m just having a conversation without expectations and for another reason, I assume that statement was a lie, and more often than not, it is. I’m certainly not the majority, but if you don’t want to talk with me, you’re better off just saying so.

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