early dating: more than one iron in the fire
December 13, 2005 8:32 AM   Subscribe

internet dating ethics question about when to go exclusive

I have had plenty of relationship experience in the past but never really "dated" very actively until the advent of internet dating.

Now, thanks to the 'net services, it's as easy as 1-2-3 to line up several potentially interesting dates for any given weekend. I have rapidly found myself in a situation where I'm dating more than one person at the same time. This is all very casual, first-couple-of-dates kind of thing. Nothing serious yet. But I have no idea how to navigate it.

Recently, for example, I met two different potential mates at about the same time. Both were interesting to me for different reasons. The two connections have both proceded at different paces for various circumstantial reasons, and now one connection is a little further along then the other (a couple more successful dates and one good kiss). Do I now need to stop trying to see and get to know the other person? I would regret having to do so as our first meeting was very intriguing and I'd like another chance to explore the match between us. Even though I'm a couple steps further along that process with another person, nothing conclusive yet.

I don't believe you can really know someone in just a couple of dates, and I don't like having to choose so early on in the process. Ideally, I would prefer many dates and a couple of sexual experiences before making up my mind whether somene was relationship material for me.

Now that I have kissed one, do I need to break it off with the other and follow through to sexual experiences to see how it goes? What if it's terrible and I've lost my chance with the other person? It doesn't seem right to be having sex with more than one person at a time. But I really don't think I can necessarily choose between two people without some sexual chemistry as input to the decision. Sex is important to me and I haven't always chosen partners well in this regard in the past. I don't want to repeat that mistake.

I can't just pursue one person a at a time, all the way from initial email to final decision, before trying another. Given the noise-ratio of internet dating, that would take forever and just not be tenable. I would lose weeks on jerks who drop the ball or change their mind or whatever. There's nothing wrong with making 3 coffee dates for the same weekend. But what if 2 of them actually go somewhere? Is there anything wrong with having 2 dates for the same weekend that end in kissing? Making out? Sex?

Some people believe that until a conversation takes place establishing the relationship as an exclusive arrangement, it's okay to do whatever with anyone you want. I am not sure I share this opinion, but I am starting to see its wisdom. If you want to meet a lot of people and find the right match for you, it's very hard to do so on a one-by-one all-exclusive basis. You don't want to miss your chance with that special someone and timing just doesn't always cooperate.

What do you think? How shall I proceed? I would like to ultimately find a long-term relationship but I need to feel confident that the person is the right match. I have screwed that up before.

Thank you.

One final request: no "if it is meant to be it will be" type philosophies, please. I have to choose a course of action, here, and am trying to make the right conscious decision. Some concept of fate is not relevant to me.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Settle for the one who compiles the most kick ass mix tape.
posted by the cuban at 8:53 AM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

I thought there was a question similar to this asked a few weeks ago, but I can't find it now...

...IIRC, the consensus was that if you are sleeping with one of them, and would feel guilty about sleeping with the other one, then it's time to be exclusive. Of course, you should TELL the girls that you're not dating exclusively yet - that'll probably clear up a lot of conflicts.

Ah, here it is.

posted by muddgirl at 8:54 AM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

I think she's female, and I think she's a perfectionist(a). Yup, you're likely going to miss out on a guy that was 2% better or more in the end. That's life. If you're happy with one, call it a duck and run with it, and if he sucks in bed you've obviously found Internet dating to be easy enough to try again.
posted by kcm at 8:56 AM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

The rules of dating as I try to live 'em:

I think for the first couple of dates or until some level of intimacy occurs (whichever comes first) you don't need to mention that you're dating other people.

After this point, I think there's an implied level of exclusivity if it hasn't been discussed.

That doesn't mean you can't continue to date other people, but you should have a conversation that goes something like "I'm really enjoying our time together, but you should know I'm seeing other people. Are you okay with that?"

If you feel uncomfortable having that conversation, then you probably believe they may be assuming you two already were exclusive.

I think this is particularly true with Internet dating, because you don't know what their background/assumptions are.
posted by justkevin at 9:01 AM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

(I would drop you like a hot chihuahua if I got wind of this - not because you're "dating" other people, but because your attitude really reeks of trying to figure out why each guy is not perfect, and that just plain sucks to be on the receiving side of.)
posted by kcm at 9:01 AM on December 13, 2005 [2 favorites]

I think this is the sort of thing you have to work out for yourself. For myself, I've got no problem dating multiple people at the same time. Some of my friends do.

Specifically: when I date people that I meet on the net, I assume that they're currently seeing other people. Sometimes the "so how much luck have had had using the service?" topic comes up, just as a way to see how many people each of us is currently seeing.

I've got plenty of friends who will make out with two people in one weekend. Or one night, for that matter. But the number that will have sex with two different people over the course of a weekend is much smaller in my experience. That's not a condemnation of that choice, just the stats from my group of friends. And an indication that we're not in university any more.

(On preview: justkevin's point about having the conversation is a good one. If you feel uncomfortable having it, you have to ask yourself why that is.)
posted by flipper at 9:05 AM on December 13, 2005

Come on...because s/he wants time to make up their mind before starting a serious relationship doesn't make them a perfectionist.

What they're saying is that with the internet it's easy to start several things at the same time.

I would second justkevin's post - I think kissings okay, but if it's going to go further than that talk to them after or before if you think they could be hurt. Say you're interested in them but you're dating other people and it takes you a while before you feel ready to start an exclusive relationship.
posted by lunkfish at 9:36 AM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]

It's not all one sided - it's also the other party's responsibility to make sure they're comfortable with the situation before becoming intimate.
posted by lunkfish at 9:40 AM on December 13, 2005

I don't think there's an easy line to draw. I think that you have to draw the line at the earliest level of discomfort for any of the people involved - which means you have to know what it is for each of them.

For yourself, decide, at what point would you consider it 'cheating' or 'wrong' if one of your dates was seeing other people while you were already progressed to that point. Or, at what point in another relationship they were having would you consider your relationship to be 'cheating' or 'wrong'. These might not actually be the same point, even though they seem the same.

For the other people involved, have a conversation about this sort of stuff on the first date. It's a natural subject for people who have met via dating websites. "Have you been on many dates?" can lead into a discussion of where comfort levels lie. You might not find out their precise line, but you should be able to figure out, at least somewhat what points are considered okay. As you reach the outer limits of those okay points, it's time to have the conversation again, to find out where the actual line is drawn on their side.

When you reach the comfort line of any one person involved, it's time to make a choice and either move on with that person alone, or let them go.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:43 AM on December 13, 2005

"It depends."

I think the variety of answers you're going to get here is going to support my position - that you really just have to get the feel for how the people you're seeing would take it. I think it also matters what the tone of your dating is. I've been out with someone a half-dozen times before it started to Feel Serious and been out with people who it felt relation-shippy right from go.

I think there's nothing wrong with seeing multiple people if your atitude and honesty reflects that. If you try to be cagey about it then you should feel bad. That's not to say you need to offer full disclosure documents every time you see someone but if it comes up, discuss it. You've got goals and they do too and there's no shame in being up-front about them.
posted by phearlez at 9:46 AM on December 13, 2005

This is all so dependent, isn't it? For example, myself, if I found someone that I wanted to really get to know and see how things are going to be, then I want to devote my time and attention to that person. (Well, before I was married, but you get the point.) I was actually in a very similar situation some years ago -- I was using an internet dating site, and I happened to be seeing someone when I got a message. I talked to the guy a few times, we set up a date, and we met. It was ok, but not worth ditching my current interest, so I just backed off. Six months later, I was single, and I called him. Hey-presto, we had a little relationship for a while, and while it didn't turn out to be the guy I married, it was fun and there were no hard feelings . . .because I had been honest.

So, if you feel like you want to spend more time with one of them, and you feel that your (perceived) obligation to the other one is making that harder than it should be, be honest with the second girl. Just tell her that you're in a situation that you feel you need to persue, and that you wanted to be honest with her about it. Unless she's unusually attached to you at this point, she will probably be fine with that, and if you find you want to call her again a few months down the road, then you've left that door open.

All of that said, I agree, it's not cool to be having sex with one of them and still dating the other one. For a lot of people, there is an implicit assumption of exclusivity when sex becomes part of the equation. You have to be totally explicit if you don't mean for that to be the case.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:57 AM on December 13, 2005

« Older Flying before GPS   |   Hack the Man Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.