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Is it worth it to date someone under these circumstances?
August 1, 2008 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Is it worth it to date someone under these (non-exclusive) circumstances?

I am not very familiar with the concept of dating several people at one time.

I've started seeing someone with whom I had an immediate and undeniable connection. In fact, when we first met he was saying a lot of things about the future and even mentioned "marriage" several times (although in a joking manner). My initial impression of him is that he wanted a relationship that would be emotionally intimate.

When we first met I learned that he had just ended a serious relationship. Well, his ex recently visited from out of town and he told me that they slept together. I'm not really mad about this, as he was totally honest with me about it and had been clear all along that ours was not an exclusive relationship. The thing that bothers me is that I know that he was very happy her and that the only reason they aren't together is that she moved across the country. However, he said they had "tried to work things out but it's not going to happen."

He told me that he really likes me...in fact, that he's "crazy" about me but that he simply isn't ready for an exclusive/serious relationship since his last relationship ended so recently. I do believe that he is an honest, (not a "player" or a "liar") but my fear is that I'm being too naive to read between the lines and that perhaps he is saying that I'm "not the one" for him. Also, he's a bit younger than me (mid 20s) and I wonder if this contributes to his desire to avoid getting serious too quickly and that maybe he's just going to be in party mode for a while.

I think we could be very well suited for each other, but I'm not sure I like the "terms" of the relationship (i.e. "not serious until further notice."). However, I haven't known him that long (only a little over a month) and I know that a lot of people date longer than that before they agree to be exclusive. Also, I am allowed to date other people if I wish (but I would rather be exclusive with him).

I am a sensitive person. Am I setting myself up for disappointment if I date him under these circumstances? I don't mind going with the flow, but only if it seems like there might be a possibility that this could turn into something more serious.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Do not do non-exclusive. If a person is in love with you, he will not want to sleep around. One person or nobody.
posted by ChabonJabon at 9:23 AM on August 1, 2008


Tell him you don't do non-exclusive (cause you don't) and just want to be friends.
posted by zia at 9:28 AM on August 1, 2008


I'm guessing you already know the answer to this one better than anyone on here will give you. This said, my answer is:

He's in his 20s. I really doubt he's got forever on the brain. Seems he's also being pretty forward with how he intends to play this. If that's not for you, walk now. If you're willing to be casual and wait to see if something comes out of it, that works too, but doesn't sound like you do casual.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:28 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, this could have been me but with the man being about 12 years older than me. It did not end well for me and I doubt it will end well for you. It's a hard thing to realize and it took me a few months of doing this and pulling my hair out to just know that he's "just not that into me". If he were really that interested in you he would want to see you and no one else. IF you are ok with that (and that's a big IF), then go ahead. If not (and I suspect that's the case) end it now.
posted by MeetMegan at 9:33 AM on August 1, 2008


Casual works fine if both people want casual. You don't sound like you do. I've been in this situation before and told a guy that I was interested in dating exclusively. He wasn't, so I ended things and there were no hurt feelings on either side. If he changes his mind, he knows where to find you.
posted by MsMolly at 9:39 AM on August 1, 2008 [4 favorites]


my fear is that I'm being too naive to read between the lines and that perhaps he is saying that I'm "not the one" for him.
What he's saying is "the possibility of a relationship with you is not worth sacrificing my ability to date other women." He's certainly free to hold that opinion, and it doesn't even necessarily make him a jerk.

What it does mean is that you value a relationship with him more than he values one with you. It's been my experience that women who get into the habit of making small compromises in the beginning of their relationships end up making large compromises later. Set your boundary (exclusive relationship) and stick to it. If he feels you're worth it, he'll man up. If he doesn't, then you don't want to date him anyway.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:43 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


Be honest with yourself. Don't force yourself to handle a situation just because you think you should be able to. Some people can handle non-exclusivity. Some can't. This is not a situation in which to push yourself. It's almost a guarantee you'll get hurt and regret it.
posted by desjardins at 9:47 AM on August 1, 2008


I would rather be exclusive with him.

You have the right to seek what you want. Just because your glands think that this is a good idea doesn't mean that the misgivings of your brain and heart should be discounted. Sometimes things are great with the sex, not so much with the other stuff, sometimes the other stuff is great and the sex isn't. Usually things work out when all three get some of what they want.

If it were me, with what I'm looking for, I'd tell the person that we are going to be exclusive or that is going to be it. And I am willing to set what is good aside to have my desires met.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:48 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


In fact, when we first met he was saying a lot of things about the future and even mentioned "marriage" several times (although in a joking manner).

Ahem.

BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

You're lucky he wants this to be non-exclusive. Make it so non-exclusive that he doesn't have to see you. Anyone mentioning "future" and "marriage," even jokingly, on the first date should give you pause. A bit cart before the horse, isn't it? At the very least, it's a signal that the person isn't quite emotionally balanced. You say yourself that you still hardly know him. A relationship doesn't work if you're dealing with potentialities and not actualities. You two "could be," but you need to deal with what IS, right now, and decide accordingly if what is happening now is what you want. Waiting for someone to fall into step with you is a lot of time wasted, IMO, when you're not getting what you need.

Your intuition is warning you away, I think. Heed it.
posted by droplet at 9:50 AM on August 1, 2008


ChabonJabon said: "If a person is in love with you, he will not want to sleep around. One person or nobody.

I have to protest at what is an enormous generalisation supported by no evidence or even explanation. Apart from the fact that this comment seems to run contrary to the basic biological instincts of many members of the male human species, I take umbrage at the idea that loving relationships must be so monochromatic.

Plenty of examples come to my mind of men and women who love each other but for one reason or another do or did "sleep around". Furthermore I can think of loving couples in extremely strong bondings who do sleep with, and sometimes even love, multiple partners - either together or separately.

Then, as MsMolly says, there are casual relationships where both parties are happy to have sexual relations but no permanent commitment. This last area is very common in my circle, and also I think for people of a certain age or life-stage.

What this comes down to, however, is that you don't feel comfortable with these other kinds of arrangements. If you feel that a non-exclusive relationship might be stressful or hurtful to you, keep away until you've been able to give it more consideration.
posted by skylar at 9:51 AM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


The thing that bothers me is that I know that he was very happy her and that the only reason they aren't together is that she moved across the country. However, he said they had "tried to work things out but it's not going to happen."

This guy is not over his ex and doesn't want to be over his ex. He's lying to you and himself. He jokes about marriage because he's playing a game where he enjoys that you want to be with him but he still is pining on the ex who moved across the country.

Dating in a non-exclusive relationship is one thing. Dating in a non-exclusive relationship with a guy who would rather be with his ex than with you is another. Choose accordingly.
posted by Stynxno at 9:51 AM on August 1, 2008


"I am not very familiar with the concept of dating several people at one time."

Dating several people at one time is a very delicate and volatile way to do business. However, I'm not sure it applies much in your case. He isn't dating 2 people at one time. He's still in love with his ex, and he likes you. It is possible for him to like 2 people at one time. It's possible for him to be physically involved with 2 people at one time.

"Am I setting myself up for disappointment if I date him under these circumstances?"

This all depends. Would you be disappointed to learn that he likes you enough to spend time with you and "connect" with you, but is still pining for another woman?

It seems like he's putting his feelings out there. You should be equally forward and honest with yours.

"I am a sensitive person."
run run run.
posted by littlelebowskiurbanachiever at 9:58 AM on August 1, 2008


Anyone mentioning "future" and "marriage," even jokingly, on the first date should give you pause.

Uh, what? That's a pretty silly blanket statement. If, e.g., you discover on the date that you both have a love for, I dunno, watching reruns of Kung Fu while eating peanut butter sandwiches, it could be really cute to say "Okay, that's it, meet you at City Hall tomorrow for the wedding."

Bottom line, though.. OP, you want to be exclusive. He doesn't. These are mutually exclusive propositions.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:21 AM on August 1, 2008


Am I setting myself up for disappointment if I date him under these circumstances?

Yes. It's not what you want. Fly away like a little sparrow.
posted by Sticherbeast at 10:22 AM on August 1, 2008


nonexclusive relationship = a girlfriend "on reserve"
posted by tinkertown at 10:27 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


You've only known him a month and want to be exclusive? That sounds a little needy to me, and if I were a guy, it could bring up misgivings. How can you know that much about a person in that short a time? Hormones are most of what you have going on at this point. A chemical drive that makes you think he is the one. We cannot genetically help it, but we can rise above it.

He may or may not be a good fit for you. Someone else may be better. Do not give him the gift of exclusivity until both of you are at an agreement.

Also, men do tend to say what they mean. If a long distance relationship doesn't work for him, it doesn't. If he is not ready to be exclusive, he's not. None of it is right or wrong, it is just where he is at at this time in his life.

Also, it might be prudent to ignore the mentions of marriage that early on. I have known many men who do not seem to have the self censoring mechanism and often think out loud when they should not. He was probably just trying it on, as we all do on the first few dates or weeks or months.

I know women who come home from first dates and talk to their girlfriends about what their babies would look like. (again, just questioning and trying it on)
posted by Vaike at 10:32 AM on August 1, 2008 [2 favorites]


I think you'll only be hurt by this "relationship", but if you do decide to carry on with it, consider asking him to not give you details about his sexual activities. It's enough to know that both of you may have sex with others. There's no need for the hurtful blow-by-blow details. I cannot imagine why he thought it necessary to share that with you, since you two are not exclusive.
posted by Houstonian at 11:01 AM on August 1, 2008


My comments will somewhat echo what has been said above but I think the important point here is that you do not want what he is offering. He wants non-exclusive and you don't. You have the right to ask for what you want in a relationship concerning something as very basic as this. What he wants and why he wants it can be speculated and argued about in terms of its pros and cons, morality and immorality, feasibility and nonfeasibility and so on but the fact remains, his wants do not match yours on what is a very basic issue. You have to decide for yourself whether this is a deal breaker or not - for me it would be and I would walk away, even if I felt very strongly about him otherwise.
posted by bluesky43 at 11:21 AM on August 1, 2008 [1 favorite]


He sounds like an alright guy - from your description he's been pretty honest and straightforward about where he is and what he wants. But you guys want different things so you're probably setting yourself up for disappointment if you try to stick it out.
posted by PFL at 11:23 AM on August 1, 2008


Sounds like he is already dating someone. In an open, long-distance kinda way. Which would be great if you wanted just some hassle free fun...
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 5:37 PM on August 1, 2008


It's a losing proposition to be with someone on his terms when you're unhappy with said terms and hope the situation with morph into one on your terms.

Tell this guy you two don't want the same things, and no hard feelings, but you'd rather be looking for someone who is prepared to give you what you want. Then go do that. Leave the ball in his court.

Maybe he'll suddenly decide that you are really what he wants, more likely he won't, but either way I guarantee you that if he's a decent guy he will respect you all the more for knowing what you want and having the backbone to refuse to compromise on it.

Men don't respect women who suck up bad treatment and stick around hoping things will change, and they tend to just treat such a woman worse and worse, and/or lose interest altogether. This seems really hypocritical to me, but it is the way it is. So don't follow that path. It will not lead you to any place you want to go.
posted by orange swan at 5:55 PM on August 1, 2008 [3 favorites]


Dating is supposed to be, you know, dating. It's not that serious and it's insane to couple up after a few days as som any of these kids today do.... however, you seem to want something more serious with this man, and he does not want that with you. It is, indeed, a losing propostion to have the relationship he wants while waiting for it to magically turn into what you want.

Why don't you go date a few other guys?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:34 AM on August 2, 2008


You are playing second fiddle. His honestly about this does not change it, although perhaps it makes him not a lying player that he would be if he told you he was exclusive with you but continued seeing his ex. You might be content to play second fiddle, hoping that in the long term your investment turns into a real committed relationship. It might. But it probably won't. Most of the highly negative reactions on this post are probably from people who have been runner-up in a relationship at one point or another. It sucks. And at the time, you tell yourself, "eventually, they'll love me more and stop seeing X or thinking about X." And then you get your heart broken enough that you move on. YMMV.
posted by Happydaz at 3:23 AM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


i agree with what skylar said about enourmous generalisations, but i want to speak up for all the LADIES who have been INTO non-monogamous relationships. being in love with someone doesnt mean you dont wanna sleep with anyone else. it may mean you CHOOSE NOT TO. i love my husband 100% and we are monogamous right now but it doesnt mean i dont think about sleeping with other people and we may re-define the terms of our relationship in the future.

as everyone else has said, it comes down to what you want. but please dont all y'all think he's scum for not choosing monogamy.
posted by beccyjoe at 9:13 PM on August 2, 2008


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