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Was it too soon to ask about his feeling?
April 8, 2010 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Relationship-break-up-post-mortem filter: Did I objectively screw this up or was it just a unique to the person I was with.

I'd been seeing a guy for about 4 weeks. Things seemed to be going well: we got along, had interesting conversations, good sex and good times otherwise as well. (We met online through a dating site, if that matters.) In a late night conversation, I asked if he was seeing anyone else, because I wanted to decide whether I should continue to meet other guys or not and I didn't want to feel like a fool for going exclusive if that wasn't what we were doing. He said he wasn't seeing anyone else, but primarily because that would be "difficult scheduling-wise", then avoided contact for the next three days before meeting me to dump me.

I don't care about him anymore, truly, but I want to get a reality-check for future relationships. (This was only my second 'relationship' two years after the break up of a nine year relationship, so I feel my instincts may not be right/in sync with how others see things.) Was it completely out of line to ask about exclusivity at this point? Or to need a relationship status check? Would the average guy find this weird or intimidating or was it just this guy?

(Anonymous because I feel lame for having to ask this.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (30 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Just that guy; it's not a strange question.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:57 PM on April 8, 2010 [12 favorites]


I'm male, mid-twenties. As far as I'm concerned:

It is totally legitimate, at four weeks, to ask about exclusivity, and/or to make a relationship status check. In fact, if I hadn't had that talk by then, I'd consider it a danger sign, and probably have initiated it myself by then. This will, obviously, vary depending on how often you've been going out - Once a week isn't the same as a couple of times a week - but the short version is that you were being entirely reasonable.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:58 PM on April 8, 2010


No way, that's a perfectly reasonable length of time to wait to ask. It might have weirded the guy out, but you never know what will weird people out. I'm not saying everyone is ready to date exclusively after a month, but if someone can't at least talk about it to say they aren't ready, then they probably have some issues.
posted by Damn That Television at 1:59 PM on April 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's a strange question. Possible the guy assumed you two were being monogamous as soon as you started sleeping together, which he shouldn't have assumed!
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:59 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well within the range of normal and reasonable.

Plus, it's whatever you want. I have a friend who asks for things to be exclusive before she starts sleeping with whoever it is, and if he doesn't like it, you know, that's fine. But it doesn't change the fact that she doesn't want to sleep with someone who might be sleeping with others as well, so ... guess it doesn't work out.
posted by salvia at 2:01 PM on April 8, 2010


You wanted to know the answer to the question, for your own peace of mind. You shouldn't be dating people with whom you can't reasonably have the conversations you need to have for your own peace of mind. Therefore, this was not the right guy for you.

I believe that if this guy dumped you for asking that question, he is one of a very few people who consider that grounds for breaking up an otherwise good relationship. However, even if "the average guy" would find your question odd, it doesn't matter. Because you're the sort of person who wants the answer to that question at that stage, you should be in a relationship with someone who is willing and able to give you that without freaking out.
posted by decathecting at 2:01 PM on April 8, 2010 [17 favorites]


He apparently had issues; not you at all! You were perfectly reasonable; more than likely, he wasn't ready to commit and so bailed. (or was afraid you might expect him to go exclusive but was too immature to, you know, just talk to you about that).
posted by emjaybee at 2:04 PM on April 8, 2010


My guess is that he wasn't looking for anything serious. You checking in on the seriousness of the relationship made him concerned you were looking for something serious. After thinking about the conversation, he realized you two probably wanted different things and decided to end it earlier (less drama, less sex) rather than later (more drama, more sex).
posted by politikitty at 2:06 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know you know this already, but there is no right answer for when the best time to ask about exclusivity is. Many people feel that the fact that you were sleeping together is enough to justify the question. Other people are comfortable waiting much longer than that. It was apparently the right time for you, but it was not the right time for him, so he bailed and you're both better off.

If you hadn't asked -- because you didn't want to freak him out or go against the rules or buck the standard or whatever -- then you'd have been playing a Game, and the end result might have been dating this guy a lot longer, even though you weren't on the same page. And that's no good. Strategies like that may get us a partner, but they don't guarantee the partner that we actually want.
posted by juliplease at 2:10 PM on April 8, 2010 [4 favorites]


Of course, the breakup could have had to do with something else entirely (or perhaps just the way you phrased the question)
posted by schmod at 2:10 PM on April 8, 2010


Sounds like you totally dodged a bullet. With relationships there are no set rules about timing. I mean, saying I love you on the first date is probably a bad idea, but there are cases of love at first sight. So if asking that question at a month was perfectly in your comfort zone and wasn't in his to such an extent that he broke up with you then he was clearly not the right person for you. Successful relationships happen when people are open to communication rather than afraid to talk about things because of some arbitrary timing.
posted by Kimberly at 2:19 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Possible the guy assumed you two were being monogamous as soon as you started sleeping together

This is clearly not the case:

He said he wasn't seeing anyone else, but primarily because that would be "difficult scheduling-wise",

If his primary reason for not seeing someone else is that it would be logistically difficult, then he didn't assume that they were monogamous on principle.

The only reasonable explanation I can see for his behavior is that he cared more than he let on about being free to see other people. He interpreted you as very much wanting to become monogamous, and he's either polyamorous or not interested in a serious relationship.

You have no reason to worry that you were bringing up the idea of monogamy too soon. Sounds like you were totally reasonable and he flaked out for his own idiosyncratic reasons.

No matter what was going on in his head, one thing that's beyond question is that he was either incompetent at or uninterested in mature communication. That doesn't reflect on your relationships skills.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:20 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read that the same way as politikitty. At a guess, your asking him made him think about the nature of the relationship for a few days, he decided that he didn't want as serious/exclusive relationship as he thought you did, and he broke it off. (Difficult but the right thing to do, IMHO.) Maybe your question came across poorly and he interpreted your asking about exclusivity as you saying "I want to be exclusive now and I OWN YOUR SOUL", and this scared him off, who knows. It's a fraught subject. But as far as asking about it? If you were seriously wondering about it, then it wasn't too early to ask. After all it's your relationship too. People have really different mores, and it sucks mightily not to be on the same page. Some people expect to be exclusive from the first date; some people expect to be playing the field until they're engaged. (Plenty of people outside that range too, but they usually identify as being outside the norm.)
posted by hattifattener at 2:38 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Seems to me like 4 weeks is a reasonable and customary point at which to have a conversation about exclusivity (but I'd agree with juliplease that there isn't really one right time.)

From your description of the conversation, I'm wondering whether maybe he (unfairly or otherwise) got the impression you were saying "Commit to exclusivity right now or I'm totally banging someone else tomorrow night" and whether his "difficult scheduling-wise" comment was an attempt at parity to express that he could find other people to sleep with if he wanted to, too.

On balance, I don't think that's likely and am more inclined to agree with other respondents that he was a Mr. Flinchy with whom a relationship wouldn't have lasted anyway. But I thought I'd note that your description suggested to me at least that possibility.
posted by Zed at 2:41 PM on April 8, 2010


If someone wants to be with you, saying the wrong thing on one occasion is generally not a deal-breaker. If someone does not want to be with you, there is no way to trick them into it using some magic formula of words. You could not have avoided this outcome by saying something else or by saying nothing at all.
posted by prefpara at 2:41 PM on April 8, 2010 [27 favorites]


The guy had issues that were beyond your control, and you have no way of knowing what they were unless, upon further reflection, you realize he gave pretty clear signs that you didn't pick up on at the time.

Maybe he WAS seeing someone else too and felt guilty about it, so he dumped you to rid himself of that guilt in order to keep seeing the other person?

Maybe he has issues with commitment and panicked when your situation with him started to turn into a relationship?

Maybe he just wanted some easy sex and moved on when it moved past that?

Maybe he's a jerk who realized you deserve better?

There's simple no way of knowing. I'd bet the issue was commitment (or the fear of it), but I just guess that because I've had that happen to me... where what seems like something with a lot of potential evaporates when a woman I'm dating panics. I've been through that a few times. It sucks.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:44 PM on April 8, 2010


I'd been seeing a guy for about 4 weeks. Things seemed to be going well: we got along, had interesting conversations, good sex and good times otherwise as well. (We met online through a dating site, if that matters.) In a late night conversation, I asked if he was seeing anyone else, because I wanted to decide whether I should continue to meet other guys or not and I didn't want to feel like a fool for going exclusive if that wasn't what we were doing. He said he wasn't seeing anyone else, but primarily because that would be "difficult scheduling-wise", then avoided contact for the next three days before meeting me to dump me.

Yeah, um, that was a reasonable question, and much better than just guessing -- because it allowed him to clearly realize you were starting to think about him more seriously, which he obviously didn't want. To his credit, he told the truth, and then ended it rather than letting it drag on.

In short, you and he just ended your relationship in the textbook best possible way that all MeFites recommend. You didn't do something wrong generally, or even for just this guy -- he didn't want to be committed and you were starting to think of being committed. No fault on either side, and props to you both for figuring it out quickly and moving on.
posted by davejay at 2:48 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Would the average guy find this weird or intimidating or was it just this guy?

I don't think he thought the question was weird, and I don't think he was intimidated by it. I think he assumed you meant "I'd like to be exclusive" and I think he didn't want to be in an exclusive relationship, so he ended it. I don't think he's crazy for making that assumption.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:05 PM on April 8, 2010


It wasn't wrong to ask the question because you wanted to know. You should have been clear, though, that you weren't pushing to be exclusive, you merely wanted to see if you were both on the same page.

But he did what he was supposed to, as well, assuming he didn't want to commit. He broke things off rather than leading you to believe that you two had an exclusive future together.
posted by inturnaround at 3:08 PM on April 8, 2010


Agreeing with others that as far as I'm concerned, once you start having sex, it's acceptable to ask.
posted by MexicanYenta at 3:11 PM on April 8, 2010


Some people would be scared off by you asking that question after 4 weeks, and many other people wouldn't be. But regardless of what would scare other people off, if *you* would be happiest being monogamous after four weeks (or after an hour, a year, after sex, on Tuesdays, whatever) then I think it's best for you to scare off people that aren't on the same page! Rather than stifling what you really want out of fear and going along with a situation that bothers you.

I agree with what someone said earlier, that it wasn't that this guy was scared off by your timing. It sounds like he simply didn't want to be monogamous with you, period. IMO, more often than not, that doesn't change with more time. So regardless of when you asked him about monogamy, you would have gotten the same result. So, better you did it when you did.
posted by Ashley801 at 3:27 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, I may be in the minority, but here's my two cents for what it's worth: I am a mid-twenties guy, non- religious, so my opinion is self-guided, and I think that if you had sex, then the expectation is that you *are* exclusive. In which case, it would be ok to ask, of course.. or simply to state your assumptions.
posted by albatross84 at 3:30 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a bit older than you, but when I was online dating I made sure to ask before we had sex. Not that exclusivity was a deal-breaker, but for being on the same page, STDs, etc.
posted by rhizome at 3:52 PM on April 8, 2010


What was your relationship like besides the sex part? I mean...did you talk on the phone everyday? how long? did you just chat here and there during the week just to plan dates/rendezvous? For me (a guy) the most intimate part of a new relationship is not the sex (although if there is none after a while it really is only a friendship) buy rather the bonding that exists particularly when you are not together. If you were routinely calling each other before bed, for example, his response would have been weird. If it was more casual chit-chat when you weren't together then not-so-weird. The whole "schedule-wise" thing is a little bit off, but maybe he didn't want to be the first to say, yes, he wanted to be exclusive. Heck, he may have even dumped you because he thought you were exclusive, but you indicated that you might want to see other guys.
posted by teg4rvn at 3:57 PM on April 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


For the future, it's usually a good idea to have the "are you seeing anyone else?" conversation *before* you have sex with someone. Even if you're OK with non-monogamous sexual relationships, you still should be informed about what level of risk (and thus what level of precautions) you're taking.
posted by Jacqueline at 4:00 PM on April 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe I’m really dense, but why did you ask him and what did you want? I mean, yes, you wanted to know so as to decide if you should meet other people. Did you want to be with him exclusively, or did you just assume you were going to be exclusive because things were going well and you just wanted to confirm that assumption? I think I’m unclear about what you want because it sounds like if he had said “Yes, I am seeing other people” then you would also have continued to meet others (because you wanted to decide whether or not to do this). Would you then have said something like, “Oh, ok. Well, I like what we have, how would you feel about being exclusive with me?” And if he had said no to that, would you have then broken up with him, or would you have continued to see others? See what I’m saying? I kind of feel like whatever his answer was, would have in part determined your actions and you would have accommodated him. But maybe I’m totally misunderstanding your question. My advice for the future would be just be clear with yourself and your partner about what you want.

He said that he would see other people if logistically possible, which means to me that he didn’t want to be exclusive. Instead of clarifying that with you and you agreeing to something casual (thereby allowing you to see others), he dumped a good thing. That doesn't seem too smart, but oh well. His loss.
posted by foxjacket at 5:46 PM on April 8, 2010


Not a weird question, but I think there's a difference of asking whether someone's seeing anyone else and asking for exclusivity. You mention both and I would guess he heard the latter. To be honest, it sounds like he wasn't that into you, and you weren't that into him, so when you threw in the reality check of the state of the relationship, he wanted to make it sound like he was exclusive but wasn't all that serious.
posted by tmcw at 7:28 PM on April 8, 2010


Once you have had sex, it's fine (and prudent) to ask about exclusivity.
posted by bananafish at 11:28 PM on April 8, 2010


Just to add another confirmation, you were well within appropriate boundaries to ask. 4 weeks is probably to soon to commit to monogamy for a lot of people, it would be for me, but it's not to soon to have a discussion about the tenor of the relationship. Your question easily could have lead to casual touch-base about how your both feeling, rather than a rude breakup.

The bottom line is, you want a partner who is going to respond to your inquiries and feelings in a way that works for you. This guy didn't, and you're better off without him.
posted by RMQ at 12:18 AM on April 9, 2010


Once Before you have had sex, it's fine (and prudent) to ask about exclusivity.
posted by Jaltcoh at 3:43 PM on April 9, 2010


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