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Ethics of dating too soon?
April 6, 2012 3:03 PM   Subscribe

I would probably get back together with my ex if he asked me to do so, atleast today. I think I need to date other people to get him out of my head. What are the ethics of that?

The stats:

- Breakup was approximately a month ago. It was horrible (for me).
- Since then, he's been horrible (to me. NO CONTACT NO CONTACT NO CONTACT for a reason, y'all! He's been stringing me along and I've been lapping it up).
- I think that I need to remind myself that there are men out there who are honest, kind, interesting, AND WILL TREAT ME WELL in order to *really* get over him.
- We had met online dating, and I found it to be enjoyable, and that's probably the route I would go again.
- I KNOW that I am not ready for a serious relationship at this time. I just to have some fun, be flirted with, flirt with others, etc etc right now.
- My (kind, well-meaning) friends think this is a HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD IDEA and tell me that I need to "focus on myself" and not get involved with anyone for 3-6 months.

I probably wouldn't put on my profile that I'm looking for something short-term or casual, as I'd only get one-night-stand responses. But, I WOULD inform them of my intentions before the first date. And I'm thinking about dating multiple people, which I would also inform them of.

So, question: is it ethical, as long as I fully inform the other person(s) involved, to date them when I would essentially be "using them" to make myself feel better and get over someone else?
posted by athena2255 to Human Relations (31 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sure its ethical, so long as you make what you are up for totally clear up front, but I suspect your friends have a better perspective on this that either of us.
posted by Blasdelb at 3:07 PM on April 6, 2012


Sure.
posted by modernnomad at 3:10 PM on April 6, 2012


Well, as someone who has been dumped in the psat by a girl who was using me as a rebound, it's kind of shitty, but it's not the end of the world. Just be upfront that you just broke up with someone, keep them somewhat at arms length, and break up with them gently if you're not in it for the long term.

You're still going to need some time by yourself eventually, though, unless you can just bounce from one relationship to another (which some people seem to be perfectly okay with doing).

Everybody is different, just do what feels right for you.
posted by empath at 3:10 PM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


It's a fine line. If we all had to wait until we were 100% healed, none of us could ever date. On the other hand, what you are proposing sounds unsavory. Dating shouldn't just be about what you can get. If you aren't in a place to give as well, you probably shouldn't date quite yet.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 3:11 PM on April 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


Saying "I'm not sure that I'm looking for anything long-term, because I just got out of a relationship" is a 100% honest way to describe your situation, and shouldn't be too likely to freak out anybody who would actually be interested in a short-term relationship.

Don't say "I'm using you to get over my ex." That's a bit weird, and the above statement lightly implies it anyway. Keep your chin up, and don't walk into this feeling like you're "damaged goods" of any kind; that's a self-fulfilling prophecy.

(And, jeez; hopefully writing this should help you start getting past the fact that you should definitely not get back with your ex. Sadly, emotions can take some time to fade, but it'll happen eventually, and probably soon....)
posted by schmod at 3:12 PM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


Are you looking to date, or are you looking to jump into another serious relationship?
There's a difference!

When you're dating (in my definition) you're going out with numerous gentleman callers, getting to know them, and basically having an awesome fucking time without necessarily fucking.
Sound like awesome?
Of course it does!
It gets you out of the house, out of your head, and into this thing we call life.

Serious relationship? Yeah. No. Don't do that right now.
posted by THAT William Mize at 3:13 PM on April 6, 2012


You're frank and upfront about being on the rebound? I would think that's sufficient. (And be aware that there are some folks like to take advantage of that). With that said, letting yourself reacclimatize to being single is also a good thing.
posted by smirkette at 3:14 PM on April 6, 2012


So, question: is it ethical, as long as I fully inform the other person(s) involved, to date them when I would essentially be "using them" to make myself feel better and get over someone else

If you put it that way, I would not date you. If you said, "I'm on the rebound and not looking for anything serious" I would date you.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:22 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I probably wouldn't put on my profile that I'm looking for something short-term or casual, as I'd only get one-night-stand responses. But, I WOULD inform them of my intentions before the first date. And I'm thinking about dating multiple people, which I would also inform them of.

Think about how you would phrase the 100% honest, ethical version of whatever you would say to these hypothetical guys. If I understand you correctly, it would include the facts that (1) you are not over your ex, and would possibly get back together with him if he asked; (2) you are neither ready nor looking for a serious relationship; and (3) you intend to date multiple people in order to experience various male attention, flirting, etc. Seriously, think about how you'd phrase this and what exactly you would say to these potential dates. Write it out.

Now read it back. Like any disclaimer, it's going to screen some guys, right? So here's the question. Are the guys who will pass through this filter really going to be all that different from the guys you'd meet if you simply wrote, "I'm just looking for something short-term or casual"?

My (kind, well-meaning) friends think this is a HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD IDEA and tell me that I need to "focus on myself" and not get involved with anyone for 3-6 months.

Several of your friends say this, or they all do? Because I agree with Blasdelb (above) that your friends probably have a better perspective than either you or we Internet folk...but also, if all your friends are unanimously agreed on this point (or close), then that is probably a data point worth considering.

Good luck. I'm sorry for how you're feeling and I wish you well.
posted by cribcage at 3:28 PM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


So, question: is it ethical, as long as I fully inform the other person(s) involved, to date them when I would essentially be "using them" to make myself feel better and get over someone else

If you put it that way, I would not date you. If you said, "I'm on the rebound and not looking for anything serious" I would date you.


To explain: my friends view the situation as me "using" men to feel better about myself, so that's why I stated it that way. That's also why they say to wait 3-6 months; they're telling me that I should only date when I'm comfortable being alone and don't "need" a man to feel good about myself.

I interpret that (probably excellent) advice to actually mean: I'm not ready for a serious relationship until I no longer want a man to help measure my self-worth.

Let me also state that these friends include both males and females, for what that's worth.
posted by athena2255 at 3:31 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are the guys who will pass through this filter really going to be all that different from the guys you'd meet if you simply wrote, "I'm just looking for something short-term or casual"?

I have to say, I would only go full-speed ahead with someone who laid all that on me if my plan was to have a fun weekend, maybe get laid, and probably never see them again.
posted by empath at 3:32 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't be pleased at the idea of dating someone just to make him feel good about himself. Only if I had zero emotional investment and didn't particularly like him all that much would it be something I could deal with.

So ... if you're honest with your prospective dates, I'm not sure how this is going to lead to you having a nice man with good intentions showering you with attention and affection and reminding you that men don't all suck for several dates, until you are through with him, when he politely stops calling with no hard feelings.

If you really want to be reminded that men don't all suck, volunteering or taking a class might be a better venue.

If you want to get over him by getting under someone else, put "short term dating" on your profile and have some one night stands.
posted by bunderful at 3:42 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm with cribcage. It may be ethical, but it will probably not weed out the ones that suck or reel in the ones that are the things you described. I'm not speaking in absolutes, just from anecodota/experience.

To explain: my friends view the situation as me "using" men to feel better about myself, so that's why I stated it that way. That's also why they say to wait 3-6 months; they're telling me that I should only date when I'm comfortable being alone and don't "need" a man to feel good about myself.

I interpret that (probably excellent) advice to actually mean: I'm not ready for a serious relationship until I no longer want a man to help measure my self-worth.


And I interpret that is that you are not ready for any kind of relationship until you no longer want a man to help measure your self worth. Because this is not really about reminding yourself that awesome men exist - it's about reminding yourself that awesome men exist for you. I don't know you as well as your friends do, but I took your situation the same way they did.

I don't think there's anything wrong with dating without an "end goal" of a serious relationship at all, though. That's how I dated. I never actually said it, though, I just did it. And I wasn't operating from the emotional place that you are, either. So... I don't know, this just doesn't sound fun to me for anyone.
posted by sm1tten at 3:43 PM on April 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've done this. I have some regrets, but part of me forgives myself because I think it might have been truly necessary in my case in order to ever get over my ex. It's sort of bad karma to turn around and betray a new person after you've been betrayed- it perpetuates a chain of bad karma, really. But at the same time, it's possible to minimize the hurt to the other party so that it at least tapers off. After my breakup, I think I was in such a deep, dark hole that I might have been crippled for a long time if I couldn't point to my ability to take things into my own hands and find someone decent on my own intiative, giving me peace of mind that I had a fall back plan if necessary, and letting my most recent experience be someone besides the ex. And it worked. It's a murky area ethically, but I think there's room for everyone to do it once- you learn that you can and then you generally don't have to do it again and its over. Agree that you should be honest but not as excrutiatingly honest as telling them "I'm using you"- that's just kind of psycho. And don't let the reltionship go too far. You'll have to find nicer, sweeter partners in order to even feel better about how they treat you, and they may be tempted to get attached no matter what you say, so be sure to cut things off when they've gone on long enough. Try to get the validation just from flirting and getting out there, if you can. Don't do anything you'll regret.
posted by quincunx at 3:53 PM on April 6, 2012


You don't specify how long your relationship was, but, especially if he's been "stringing you along," a month is a pretty short amount of time to start dating again. If you do meet an honest, kind, interesting guy who treats you well, what happens? I think that going out, being social, and flirting is all fine, but it might be a bit soon too date. If you do decide to do online dating, I would at least list "short term relationships" or "casual dating" in there, at least as one of the options.
posted by dysh at 3:54 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know, this just doesn't sound fun to me for anyone

That was hard to hear.

I guess I feel like waiting for the dating to begin is just delaying the process of getting over him. The guilt of spending time with another guy ... the pang when you realize new guy doesn't kiss like he did ... realizing he can't order you a beer while you're in the bathroom because he doesn't know what kind of beer you prefer, like he did ...

All that stuff is going to HURT. And I just want to get it over with.

But there will be elation, too: having someone show *real* interest in what kind of beer I like! Having someone want to perfect their kiss with me, and try to make it as good as it can be!

Those things I can't WAIT to start.
posted by athena2255 at 3:57 PM on April 6, 2012


Well, it was over a decade ago but I had a several month fling with a woman who, from the moment we met, said that she was not over her ex, and would go back to him in a moment if he called. I was, from the get go, second fiddle.

We had fun together, but never got particularly close. It was pretty certain at the time, and blindingly obvious in retrospect, that she was intentionally not letting me get close. In a lot of ways I'm not sure if I ever really got to know her despite the nice sex and time we spent together.

Eventually her ex called, and she went.

I didn't feel used, didn't get angry, and I still have fond memories of her. Her cards were on the table from the start and she played them just like she said she would. Frankly, I'm not sure I've had a more honest relationship.

So yeah, I think it can be done ethically.

---

Sidenote: Going back to her ex turned out to be, big surprise, a mistake and that relationship fell apart a short while later.
posted by bswinburn at 4:03 PM on April 6, 2012


Ok. let me contrast what I just said with some of the other posters advice. I have found out women I've gone out with were not interested in a relationship and just wanted "validation from flirting". Those made me feel used and I have not forgiven a single one of them.
posted by bswinburn at 4:06 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can get over all the "why am I not with him" stuff on your own, so that when you go on a date with someone new you start fresh.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:07 PM on April 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


Ok. let me contrast what I just said with some of the other posters advice. I have found out women I've gone out with were not interested in a relationship and just wanted "validation from flirting". Those made me feel used and I have not forgiven a single one of them.

Respectfully, you're doing flirting wrong, then. The whole point of flirting is that it's a fun way to suss out how people feel before committing. It's not leading someone on until real promises are made and thinking otherwise means you're probably not having enough fun in life in general.
posted by quincunx at 4:10 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Respectfully, you're doing flirting wrong, then.

Respectfully, you're not reading carefully.

I said that I was going with people. I was going out with them to find out if we were compatible and would be interested in a relationship. When they went out with me they led me to believe that's what they were interested in too. Because when people are not interested in that, they turn you down.

However, they were going out with a different goal in mind. They wanted to use me in some personal psychodrama to make themselves feel good about themselves. I barely fit into the picture except as some prop.

That's using people, without their consent, pure and simple. It's wrong.

You'll see from my earlier comment that I have no problem with people who want to use people as a prop for some reason as long as they're up front.

So, to spell it out in grade school terms for you.

Honesty + flirting = fun!
Deceit + flirting = bad!
posted by bswinburn at 4:22 PM on April 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


...And thanks for the personal attack.
posted by bswinburn at 4:22 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


...And thanks for the personal attack.

That really wasn't meant to be snarky or personal. It actually was meant to be respectful. I guess I don't see a first date as all that binding- I think people mostly go out to have a good time. As long as they're paying their own way, and you're having fun, you're only out an hour or so of time. I guess this varies depending on whether you already know each other, but especially if you meet online or something, it's just not worth taking one outing that seriously.
posted by quincunx at 4:33 PM on April 6, 2012


As someone who has on the receiving end of being used as a rebound twice, I can tell you how not to do it and how to do it. Guy 1, I'll call him Matt, was very clear upfront that this was a casual thing. We went out on dates together and went back to his place about once a week. I never met his friends or family, we never made plans for the future, it was 100% just a fling. I ended up because I wanted to move on to a real relationship. No hard feelings. Sometimes we casually email each other. He's cool.

Guy 2, I'll call him, Greg, was not upfront. I fell for him pretty hard, with all kinds of stupid fantasies about our future. He only told me that it was just a fling after I was pretty deeply into him and we had been dating several weeks. At that point, I was hanging out with his friends regularly, had met some of his family, had made plans for doing all kinds of things, had been invited to be his plus one at a wedding, and generally been treated like a real girlfriend. Until I brought it up, and then I was dumped. And it hurt. A lot. And I don't know if I'll ever be able to be his friend.

Be clear, be careful not to treat him like your boyfriend, and know the signs of increasingly deep attachment so you can decide what to do when it crops up. Maybe you'll want to upgrade to relationship 2.0, maybe you'll end it just to be kind. Flings don't have to be messy.
posted by melissam at 4:39 PM on April 6, 2012


Frankly, I'm not sure I've had a more honest relationship.

In my mind, that's how I see this working out. You're bored, you're lonely, you want to be flirted with. I'm sad, I'm lonely, I want to be flirted with. I don't want to meet your mom, I don't want to go on vacation together ... I just want to be out, with someone new who finds me interesting, NOT talking about him (my well-intentioned friends are ... well ... I'll talk about him if asked. I feel like I'll always want to talk about him if asked. Maybe they should stop asking).

I certainly don't want to hurt anyone or mislead anyone, especially after what I've been through.

So, should this end up being something that I do, I should state in my profile that I'm not interested in anything long-term, correct? Is there a way to state that that DOESN'T imply I just want to get laid?
posted by athena2255 at 4:50 PM on April 6, 2012


Here is my suggestion: Instead of arranging dates, go dancing. Whether that's a class, or an evening out, or one of those evenings that has a class at the beginning and then you boogie-- go dancing.

Hear me out here. Dancing will supply many of those things you're longing for-- low-stakes flirtation; fun; endorphins from the exercise; the chance to dress up, feel attractive and have drinks bought for you. The physical contact is also a plus-- that's why I recommend one of the partner-type dances, like swing, tango or salsa. Ceilidh and contra are also fun, though less intimate. As you dance with multiple people, you'll feel how sometimes when you take someone's hand a spark jumps-- and with others, it doesn't. Observing this phenomenon is fun.

So yeah, go dance away your sorrows. Ex will be forgotten in no time.
posted by Pallas Athena at 5:12 PM on April 6, 2012 [11 favorites]


Have you implemented "No Contact" with your ex yet? That is absolutely your first step. Before you shut down your computer tonight, if not sooner. Seriously. If you need support on how to do this, just ask. And go ahead and tell your friends that you want their help in ix-naying the subject of him. It sounds like there is little else to be gained from picking at that particular scab, unless you're subconsciously relishing in those powerful "woe!" and "WHOA!" feelings (we've all been there!)... which is also probably not the most productive activity.

I think it's fine to start dating if you think that will help you. But I'd adjust as you go -- both to the possibility that maybe someone you meet now could, in fact, be your next serious relationship... and to the possibility that dating might turn out to be not the best thing for you right now. I'd also keep yourself open for the myriad other ways you can remind yourself that there are kind, interesting men out there. Hang out with friends who are in good relationships. Take a class, volunteer, etc.. Hang out in coffee shops or your neighborhood bar and flirt and be flirted with, and simply observe the nice interesting men there, without the formal construct of Dates.

I personally don't actually think you need to state explicitly in your profile that you're not looking for a serious relationship. You can always signal it with some phrasing about "putting your foot back in the dating waters" or something, and decline invitations from potential suitors who are clearly only interested in long-term relationships from the get-go.

People date for many, many reasons -- many of which they know about themselves, and many that they don't. I think you'll know once you start how to comport yourself kindly and generously and according to The Golden Rule. Best of luck.
posted by argonauta at 5:25 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why don't you just make a bunch of new friends and go DO things that make you feel more awesome until you're in a healthier place? When you feel awesome, you're automatically more attractive to other awesome people. Win-win! Don't look for a man to make you feel better-- do it yourself and the rest follows naturally.

"No relationship" beats "unhealthy relationship" every day of the week. Frankly, this "casual-but-romantic-and-not-really-casual" thing you've got on the table seems like a recipe for endless nights of unhappy, hand-wringing obsessive drama. Get ready to spend time staring at the ceiling, asking yourself "Does he really like me? Am I being used? Does he think of me as just another throwaway fling? Does he want more from me than can give? Do I even like this guy?"

Ugh, who needs it. Pallas Athena has it right--I'd rather go dancing.
posted by doreur at 5:30 PM on April 6, 2012 [12 favorites]


If you give full disclosure, you're being totally ethical.

That doesn't mean you have to word things in the most cynical, Machiavellian-sounding way possible. You basically want to say things like: "not looking for anything serious," "not looking for a relationship," etc. Don't say "I just want to use you to feel better about myself," unless you're OK with limiting yourself to people who are truly desperate.
posted by John Cohen at 5:53 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


One other thing to keep in mind--be aware of the possibility that dating casually might -not- make you feel better about yourself. Whether this be because casual dating doesn't turn out as fun as it was the first time or because you get unlucky and run into an asshole or two--make sure that any rebuffs or lukewarm dates don't cause your self-esteem to worsen. I think being single is a good idea due to the fact that it allows you to find your baseline again, and then go from there. If you're still hurting over your ex and your emotional baseline is lower than normal, any unsavory behavior from guys that may usually not faze you one bit might hurt more than you think.

However, you know best how emotionally strong you are right now, so if you think you can do this and have fun and get over your ex, then by all means!
posted by shipsthatburn at 6:13 PM on April 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I guess it's ethical in the narrow sense. But do you really want to do this? Is it ethical in the broad sense of you being who you want to be? How you handle this transition will influence how you see yourself a you go into this next phase.

It sounds like you have two to three motivations:
- to escape your sadness
- to feel better about yourself
- to get over the post-guy firsts

I mean... yeah? "To be honest, I'm on Match because I'm going to HATE kissing anyone but Jack, and I want to subject myself to that disgust repeatedly until it doesn't make me want to retch. So, how's Saturday?!"

You can do this...But do you want to?
posted by salvia at 11:08 PM on April 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


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