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What is proper dating etiquette?
August 5, 2009 7:52 PM   Subscribe

What is proper dating etiquette?

I used to always date one guy at a time. However, this left me waiting for him to call and with no back up plan if things din't work out. Over time, I realized that getting exclusive prior to knowing someone limits one's opportunities prematurely--before you have any real idea what type of person someone is or what they are looking for.

In the end, I am seeking a serious relationship. However, I now am comfortable taking a more slow, casual approach towards dating and I think it's helped limit some of the anxiety about dating that caused me problems in the past.

My question is this. It seems rather tacky to tell someone you have a date planned with someone else. At the same time, if you are seeing someone naturally they will ask what you are doing on other days and maybe who you are spending time with. It seems a little dishonest to say "I'm going to xyz with a friend." What is the best way to handle this sort of question?

Early on (before "the talk") it's assumed that you are dating more than one person, right?
posted by mintchip to Human Relations (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
if you are having sex with more than one person, you need to disclose that.

otherwise - if he asks you out for a day that you have a date with someone else you are fully within your rights to say "i've got plans that day, how about thursday instead?"

until exclusivity is discussed you are under no obligation to be exclusive. if someone gets mad about that, they have issues with being forthcoming and expecting you to be a mind reader.
posted by nadawi at 7:56 PM on August 5, 2009 [14 favorites]


You're right, it does seem really tacky to tell someone you have a date with another person. But the alternative straddles a very fine line of dishonesty and non-disclosure. There's isn't a single thing wrong with the approach you wish to take; yet at a certain point in time with a prospective relationship, it becomes unfair to the other person to be pursuing a relationship without knowing that there is competition on Tuesday and Saturday nights. Where that sliding scale is for you and the other person would vary and as nadawi said, you aren't a mind reader.

The definition of casual and open vary for everyone so I would say that honesty is the best policy here, however cheesy it may sound. Many might not be interested in the sort of arrangement and wouldn't think to ask other than a passing "are you seeing someone?" (in which case, how would you answer that question if the other relationship was in its infancy?). I would say that it really isn't assumed that non-exclusivity is the norm for it to go without saying.
posted by cgomez at 8:59 PM on August 5, 2009


The definition of casual and open vary for everyone so I would say that honesty is the best policy here…

no. there's no need for you to explicitly state that you are seeing other people. if you are not in a relationship, then anyone you are dating should assume that you are also dating other people—whether you actually are or not—and it's only their business if you are starting to get serious with them. you don't need to say anything more than what was suggested above: "i already have plans; how about Xday instead?"
posted by violetk at 9:52 PM on August 5, 2009


If you're comfortable enough saying "sorry, I'm busy on X night", you aren't in the predicament where you feel uncomfortable because you feel you have to lie.

My advice: If you can stand by an answer of "Sorry, I'm busy" without elaborating...you need not justify it any more. If you can't...then perhaps you're more attached to the person you're speaking with than you think.
posted by hal_c_on at 10:29 PM on August 5, 2009


Be honest. Please, be honest. Personally, I'd be okay with a woman I'm dating telling me that she was dating other people - but if you want to keep it at "I've got other plans", that's cool too.

Above all, be honest :-). And like @hal_c_on said, if you can't stick to either of those answers then you're more attached.
posted by arkhangel at 11:19 PM on August 5, 2009


It's not anyone's business who you're seeing and who you're having sex with until you get into an exclusive relationship and just see/sleep with that one person. This is not game playing -- it's not oversharing. Say something like "Oh, I've got plans that night." If he asks, "What are you doing?" You say, "Going to [see a show]." If he asks, "With who?" Then you say "A friend."
posted by bunny hugger at 6:20 AM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


You don't need to say if you're busy with a friend or a date. If it's someone you're just getting to know then just "I'm busy on Friday, want to get together Saturday?" should suffice. If, however, one of your dates asks you if you're dating others then don't lie. I personally think it's OK to play it down a little, as in "yea I'm dating around, nothing serious at all" instead of saying "yea I've been dating another guy for a month as well" just because the first makes me think "oh OK, sure, whatevs" and the other would make me think "hmm, I have to compare myself to this ONE guy she's been seeing consistently."

I'd say if it's casual dating then before the talk, or before the state where you guys start spending every other night together, it's OK to date as many people as you want. If you really like someone more than the others you won't want to see the others anyway. So it all works out =)
posted by KateHasQuestions at 6:31 AM on August 6, 2009


It's not dishonest it's discreet. The latter lets you be sensitive to the person's feelings without having to lie at the same time. You can simply say "I have plans with a friend." You can also tell him what you are doing, without mentioning with whom. Even the basic "I've got plans" is enough.

It's only really an ethical problem if you lie in response to further inquiries on his part.
posted by oddman at 6:59 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Honesty is not the best policy with stuff like this.

"I have plans that night" is fine. And by the way- you come off looking humble that way.

If you are having sex with more than one person, you need to disclose that.

No you don't.
posted by Zambrano at 8:58 AM on August 6, 2009


If you are having sex with more than one person, you need to disclose that.
No you don't.

Yes. You. Do. There are health implications there. Unless you're testing every single time you have sex, then the other person should know that you are sexually active outside just the two of you.
posted by whycurious at 9:17 AM on August 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


I do think that if you are having a sexual relationship with someone, you should disclose that you are dating other people and/or sleeping with other people to the person you're getting busy with.

Also, though, if you are "dating casually" or seeing multiple people at once, you should also be dating other people who are doing that. Folks who are comfortable and used to the dating scene know how this works. If they ask you out on a Thursday night and you respond "I actually have plans, but howabout Friday?" -- they know not to pry any further.

That's not to say that everybody just assumes that you might be dating other people. In my experience doing the "casual dating" thing -- folks tend to assume that you're in the place that they are (that's what they're looking for, after all). So if they're dating multiple people they just kind of move ahead thinking that's what you're doing too, until "the talk". Likewise for someone who is looking for a relationship and is really hopeful that you'll be "the one" -- they're hoping you're feeling the same way until you have "the talk".

This is why having the talk early on (and BEFORE sex) is so very, very important!

Obviously it's not like you have to be "Sure! Here's my number - by the way I am dating two other men casually and I have had sex with one of them six times."

Sometimes the talk isn't necessary because the person you're spending time with is so obviously casual and the time you spend together is so light and breezy and clearly not going anywhere that it never seems appropriate. Sometimes after one night of staying up all night talking it will become apparent that you need to say something. I think it will become a lot easier for you to pick out "the right time" after doing it for a while. In the meantime, stay safe, be fair and have fun!
posted by pazazygeek at 9:39 AM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


there's no need for you to explicitly state that you are seeing other people.

And there's no reason not to. State upfront that you are dating other people, so there is no mis-communication or unrealistic expectation involved.

Begin with honesty, and you can forever follow with honesty. Begin with 'selective truth-telling' (known by good people as 'lying'), and you're asking for hurt feelings.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:35 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


folks tend to assume that you're in the place that they are (that's what they're looking for, after all).

Yeah. In my circle of friends, no one dated multiple people at once (unless they were cheating). You either didn't have a boyfriend/girlfriend or you were dating just one person.

If you were dating one person, it wasn't necessarily serious, meaning that you weren't necessarily looking to get married. But you were exclusive while you dated. Even if you only dated the person for a week.

My default assumption, if someone asked me to go on a date with her, would be that she was single. I would be shocked to find out she was dating other people.

I'm not saying other forms of dating are wrong. I'm just speaking from my experience and expectations.

Disclaimer: I'm over 40.
posted by grumblebee at 2:29 PM on August 6, 2009


My default assumption, if someone asked me to go on a date with her, would be that she was single. I would be shocked to find out she was dating other people.


what? if you are not in a relationship, you are single.
posted by violetk at 5:09 PM on August 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


there's no need for you to explicitly state that you are seeing other people.

And there's no reason not to. State upfront that you are dating other people, so there is no mis-communication or unrealistic expectation involved.


if i went out for the first time with a guy and he has to tell me that he is seeing other ppl, he might not get another date. do i care? no. do i need to be told that explicitly? no. because i'm already assuming that, since he's single, that he is dating people. it would probably provoke some sort of sarcastic reply along the lines of, "how awesome for you."

Begin with honesty, and you can forever follow with honesty. Begin with 'selective truth-telling' (known by good people as 'lying'), and you're asking for hurt feelings.

please, if you hated your boss would you tell him that in the name of being a good, honest person? or would you select to not tell him that particular nugget of truth? get off your high horse.
posted by violetk at 5:16 PM on August 6, 2009


What violetk said - grown up people have private lives and assume that others also have private lives.

grumblebee - How do you "date" a person for a week? You kids, on my lawn, talking about have relationships with and "breaking up with" people you went out with three times? Jeebus - a week is barely even a one-night stand.

What is a girl to do if, for instance, a nice guy comes along on Monday and asks her out for dinner and a movie on Friday, and then on Wednesday another fella comes along and asks her out for Saturday? Does she say, "Oh no, I dare not, I am dating someone"?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:01 PM on August 6, 2009


I believe I should retract my original answer to this AskMe. I was under the impression that one goes on dates with a person they like, seeing as the asker mentioned they were seeking a serious relationship rather than just companionship and a way of keeping that social calendar full. What most of the other responses are advising is being vague because "it's nobody's business who you're seeing", but silly me thinking of honesty.

Sincere alternative solutions: be more selective about who you choose to go on a date with. Or, alternatively, be honest and make the other aware of the 'casualness' of how you wish to pursue relationships early on. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the latter, and it takes into account others who may not be on the same page as you.

I'm very glad to see that grumblebee and pazazygeek chimed in to that effect.
posted by cgomez at 9:00 AM on August 7, 2009


I was under the impression that one goes on dates with a person they like, seeing as the asker mentioned they were seeking a serious relationship rather than just companionship and a way of keeping that social calendar full.

what?

what if you don't know that person well enough to know if you "like" them. what if you accept the date(s) to find out if you might like them? this isn't purely about "keeping that social calendar full"—dating is sometimes/oftenabout finding out if you might want have a relationship with that person.
posted by violetk at 11:07 AM on August 7, 2009


If you were dating one person, it wasn't necessarily serious, meaning that you weren't necessarily looking to get married. But you were exclusive while you dated. Even if you only dated the person for a week.

My default assumption, if someone asked me to go on a date with her, would be that she was single. I would be shocked to find out she was dating other people.


I'm really confused by this... "not single" after a week? That might be two dates, and I've had guys not even call or return my calls after two dates. How would I even know if I was "dating" someone after a week, and what would I say if someone else asked me out? "Sorry Tom, Dick hasn't returned my call from 3 days ago, I need to wait another x days to see if I'm single or not!" Then after accepting a date with Tom for a week from Friday, Harry asks me out for the intervening Sunday -- would I be able to accept?

How long would a person need to wait to make sure they weren't still "exclusive" with someone they hadn't heard from under this system? This is a serious question.

My personal view is that people need to consent to getting into a relationship, and to what type of relationship they are getting into.

Early on (before "the talk") it's assumed that you are dating more than one person, right?

Well, if assuming you were exclusive already was a valid assumption, you wouldn't need to discuss it. In my experience, assuming that you get to have control over how someone spends their time before you've actually discussed it is a good way to be surprised.

You can bring up these ideas with your date, talking about how you think it's not a good idea to date exclusively until you get to know someone, and asking what their opinion is on that. You can either make this a personal discussion about what you are doing now and why you are doing it, or it that's a little to personal on the first date you can talk about trends in society or something.

I'm guessing some of the difference in opinion on this might be regional and cultural, so you will probably need to talk to your dates to see what they would usually assume.
posted by yohko at 4:52 PM on August 9, 2009


violetk: please, if you hated your boss would you tell him that in the name of being a good, honest person?

I must be missing how this is at all related. There's a difference between being honest and clear in order to make sure there's no misunderstanding and speaking every single thought that crosses your mind no matter what the negative consequences.

Of course, you know that.
posted by coolguymichael at 12:45 PM on August 10, 2009 [1 favorite]


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