Is it unhealthy to use him as a placeholder?

Hi Meredith,

I'm a 27-year old professional who has her act together in every way -- except dating. I feel like I should be in a different place than I am and I’m struggling a bit with the rules. Let me explain.
My last long term relationship ended three years ago. Since then, I've taken time for myself.

Although I still have some work to do in the area of self-discovery, I've been on a whole host of first and second dates. A few have turned into, "Hey, I actually like you," … but as soon as they start wanting more from me, namely spending more time together or wanting to become exclusive, I bail.

About a year ago, I met a guy, "Ryan." The chemistry was great and we were together for about 9 months. It worked because we both traveled a lot for work and we were able to keep our independence. He was also the first person in a while that I actually wanted to spend more time with -- but he was clear that he didn't have any more to give (note: I could give you a list of reasons, but suffice it to say, he has commitment issues -- I saw it early on, but accepted that as part of him). I was hurt. We broke it off and I told him I needed some space. I went back to dating other people and found myself in the same pattern as before.

Ryan has recently come back into the picture. We've talked, hung out a few times, and as always, have had a blast together. So I have a few questions -- is it weird that when presented with good guys who want to commit that I'm not interested? Or have I just not found that *right* person for me yet? Is it OK for me to continue to see Ryan because I enjoy his company even though I know he can't give me what I need? Or will he get in the way of being able to connect with someone else?

– Looking for a Little Direction, Boston

Let's start with your question about Ryan, LFALD. Are you secretly hoping that he will become a good boyfriend this time around? When you leave him after an outing do you wonder when you'll see him next? Do you think about him more than once a day? Does Ryan take up nights that should be spent with other people (friends or dates)?

If you answered yes to at least three of those questions, I'd consider a ban on Ryan. He's taking up important space in your head. And without Ryan, some of these other guys might seem a bit more appealing.

And that brings me to your other question, the one about wanting what you can't have and vice versa. I'm not so worried about that. You just haven't found anyone you're afraid to lose. At some point, you will. You're just not there yet. Trust me, when you meet someone who's really great, the fear of loss should trump the fear of commitment. Relax about that stuff and focus on the Ryan issue. You don't want to string yourself along.

Readers? Can she see Ryan casually? Is it bad that she wants the person she can't have? Are placeholders always bad? Is it possible that Ryan could come around? Discuss.

– Meredith