How To: Have an Exit Plan

Due to a cautious father, I was always taught the safety of having an exit plan. I learned quickly that when walking into any space, you should always be sure to mark the exit, as well as what people would be easiest to push out of your way if it becomes a survival of the fittest kind of thing. The more I would search for my impromptu exit plan the easier they were to find.

It eventually became a game. When we entered a room we would see who could come up with a plan first. I started creating one for every situation… friends, play dates, sleepovers. However, it was turning into a kill switch for relationships rather than keeping me safe.

I would start developing these “exit plans” on the first date. If this turned into a relationship, what was the best way to get out? How could I get up and leave this date without causing a scene? Was heading to the “bathroom of no return” (a move I unfortunately used a lot) the way to go tonight?

By creating these exit plans early on, I wasn’t letting myself try. I was running away before I could discover if the person I was with was someone I was willing to get hurt for. Although I was constantly dating people, I was always alone. And as silly as it may sound I didn’t understand why.

It took a persistent guy for me to realize what I was doing. I hadn’t been used to guys actually wanting to see me more than once or getting to know me for that matter. After years of hiding behind intense amounts of sarcasm, I got used to not being approached. Even if I was approached, the other party usually lost interest pretty quick. This guy, however, stopped me in my tracks by asking me what my problem was and if I wasn’t offended after that last text could I please call him so we could figure it out.

So I called him, and he listened…and I mean actually listened. He didn’t just add random “yes’s or uh-huh’s”… he heard what I was saying and responded back appropriately. The ending result was that I was afraid to let anyone get close, so I created the idea of a relationship kill switch to avoid the messy stuff (having actual feelings). I know, you’ve heard this before and I promise there is a point. 

He was the first boy I gave a chance.   And after taking that one step, I threw myself into that dark bleak pit that love sometimes is. I got hurt and it sucked…a lot. But you know what I learned from that messy situation?  1. You shouldn’t free fall into anything without testing the waters first and 2. I was okay. Even though it hurt and I cried a lot, I was okay.

Now you’re probably like, “Okay great Courtney, but you promised you were going to show me how to have an exit plan.” Well yeah, hold on, I’m getting there.

I don’t want you to be like me, too afraid to even try to like someone. But I do want you to be cautious, surprisingly there is quite a bit of grey area between being completely closed off and diving in with open arms.  So let’s get down to it:

Step 1: Assess the situation.  I’m not talking about making countless pro/con list, because although that helps sometimes i’ts best to not over think this type of thing. You need to go on a couple of dates, hang out, get to know this person. Figure out what they are about, and what you want. It’s important to know what they want, but right now we’re focusing on your needs. (I promise it’s okay to be selfish.)

Step 2: Figure out your options.  Do you want to be with this person? I’m not asking if this is your forever, I’m asking if you want to be with this person right now. Do they make you happy? Or maybe you just like having fun with this person as a friend. So now is when you need to talk to the person, find out where you stand and where you can go. You can write it out if you need to but don’t go too crazy though. Just figure out the paths you can go with this person… and if you even want to go down any paths with them.

Step 3: Make a decision.  The art to having a great exit plan is deciding on which way is the best fit at the time, not what could be an ideal plan in like say two months. So now you need to actually decide what you want to do: Do you want to be romantically with this person? Do you want to just be friends? Or, do you not want them in your life at all? Creating an exit plan isn’t all about leaving, it’s knowing the best route for you to start your journey on.

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About the Author,

Over the past four years I've been collecting a few million how not to date stories, mostly from the hundreds of blind first dates I've gone on. My friends have even dubbed me the MVP of dating, and after you strike out as many times as I have you learn a thing or two (i.e. Never get extra onions on your burger during a first date if you want a romantic kiss.)