How do you gently tell someone you're casually dating that you're also dating someone else?
April 30, 2007 4:04 PM   Subscribe

How do you gently tell someone you're casually dating that you're also dating someone else?

This has come up several times in my dating life, and I've been consistently stumped as to how to respond.

I - a girl - will meet a guy. I'll start casually dating said guy (by "casually", I mean: we're not sleeping together, we don't have standing dates, we're probably not meeting each other's friends, etc.) We like each other, we like the same stupid movies. Everything is going pretty well!

Now, I may also be, equally casually, seeing some other guy, and even if I'm not, I sort of feel like it's not really any of his business if I am or am not: we're not boyfriend-and-girlfriend at this point.

Then the guy will, point-blank, ask me if I'm seeing other people. I never know how to respond to this. Part of me is irritated that he's asking (I wouldn't ask, for instance) but part of me, because I'm kind of lame, wants to soothe him: "No, no! Everything is fine. Don't worry. Do you want us to be exclusive? OKAY, okay, calm down!"

What's a good way to deal with this? Should I sidestep the issue? Should I say that it's not really any of his business? Is there a non-confrontational way to get out of this debate? Should I tell him before he asks? Help!
posted by thehmsbeagle to Human Relations (33 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Sidestep being honest? No, that doesn't seem like a good plan, no matter how much esteem you might have for someone you're dating. Yes, talking about this is uncomfortable because of the potential for hurt feelings/insecurity, but this is something you'll have to deal with if you want to date casually a number of people at the same time.

My advice would be to reveal this up front and very early on-- first or second date: "I want you to know that I'm dating other people casually. I hope this isnt' a problem for you and that if it is, you'll let me know and we can talk about it. I do want to continue to see you."

It isn't his business, no, but it's the respectful and upstanding thing to tell him.
posted by hollisimo at 4:16 PM on April 30, 2007

If asked and you are, say "Yeah, I am." It's no big deal. You may or may not want to have the exclusivity talk before you sleep with them.
posted by klangklangston at 4:17 PM on April 30, 2007

This, IMHO, is something that should be clarified before anything starts. Socially awkward person I am, I have no idea what you would say, but if it's not the big deal that you feel it is, I'd make sure from the outset that no one (the guy) reads too much into anything. Because if he know's what's going on from the beginning, he won't get mad later on.
posted by niles at 4:18 PM on April 30, 2007

You could ask him why he is asking, and steer the conversation away from the topic from there.

You are right, though, it is none of his business.

And I say this as the guy that would probably ask that dumb question.
posted by YoBananaBoy at 4:19 PM on April 30, 2007

I always thought women are more likely to ask this first than guys are. (Of course, I'm a guy, and I date women, so maybe I'm not being very scientific.)

I've learned over time that honesty is the best policy here. If the other party is at all reasonable, they more or less expected to hear "yes" before they even asked. It's a thorny issue, though, but sometimes I think people ask it because, on some level, they want to communicate that they're interested in moving forward, and they want to see if you are, too.

But yeah . . . honesty is the basis of any relationship, etc.
posted by CommonSense at 4:20 PM on April 30, 2007

My only question would be why would you not want the guy you're casually dating to know about the other guy you're casually dating? Is it because you want guy B to think there is no guy A?

On preview, why exactly isn't it his business?

If I were one of those guys, it would be helpful for me to know if I'm going to need to compete for your attention.
posted by emelenjr at 4:20 PM on April 30, 2007

1. It's absolutely his business.

2. Say "Yes. Are you?"

3. He's most likely looking to start a conversation about What's Going On. If either person needs that conversation, then that conversation needs to happen. It doesn't have to turn into anything other than "We're having fun, seeing what happens," but check-ins are often necessary.
posted by wemayfreeze at 4:27 PM on April 30, 2007 [14 favorites]

Just say "Yeah, I am" and leave it at that. Why does it bother you that they know? Competition always makes things'll know quickly whether or not he's really interested.
posted by meerkatty at 4:31 PM on April 30, 2007

I'd be honest. Whenever I was asked, I'd say, "Yes. But when I've decided to be exclusive, I'm exclusive.. Are you seeing anyone?" If I felt swayed toward a commitment of any kind, I'd ask if that was something that he wanted to talk about.
posted by acoutu at 4:33 PM on April 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

I don't see the problem. The guy asks if you're seeing other guys, you say "yes," and then he can either bring up the subject of going exclusive, or feel entitled to continue to date other girls without feeling guilty. So if he asks, just calmly respond with the truth and everything is cool. He is entitled to know whether he's in an exclusive relationship or not, and I don't think you have the right to be irritated. If you deceive him either by lying or knowingly allowing him to have the wrong impression, then you become a bad person. I mention this last bit because I don't understand why you you want to "get out of this debate" rather than simply responding with the truth.
posted by nowonmai at 4:34 PM on April 30, 2007

There's no way to sidestep it. Be frank.
posted by chuckdarwin at 4:37 PM on April 30, 2007

I've been the guy-victim of this sort of thing once. I went out on 5 or so dates with a girl and fell for her pretty darned quickly. I finally worked up the nerve to kiss her (but we had held hands, fallen asleep snuggled together after a late night of talking, etc etc prior to this) and that's when she finally decided to tell me she's seeing other people and "can't be tied down"...

Not freaking cool. Not cool at all.
posted by twiggy at 4:44 PM on April 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

I would like to clarify these two points:

1) I don't think it's his business if he isn't yet my boyfriend. I have never even been tempted to cheat on someone I was exclusive with, but Some Guy I'm Dating wanting to know who else I hang out with feels, to me, similar to a girlfriend going "Oh, you can't go to the movies Tuesday? Why not? Who are you hanging out with?!?"

2) The reason I find this irritating is because the fellows who have asked me this have been sort of overwrought about it sort of like some of these answers. in fact. about it, and because I thought we were casual dinner-once-a-week people, the way in which they chose to discuss this was surprising and alarming to the extent that I stopped seeing them.

This was not a case of me - clearly kind of a hussy for daring to go to the movies with two dudes in one week! - manipulating some upstanding gentleman into believing that we were exclusive when that was not the case.

Thanks for the advice to be frank, and to bring it up early on. I would tend to assume nothing until we've had a conversation about exclusivity, but this is, I now realize, not something I should assume about other people.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 4:54 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

I assume that everyone involved could be seeing other people unless otherwise stated, but once someone asks the right thing to do is to be honest, and not with the sort of technical truthtelling where you sidestep the question and distract the person from it either.
posted by yohko at 4:56 PM on April 30, 2007

he's asking because he's really into you. be honest. ask him if he's seeing other people. use your wily feminine intuition to determine if he's relieved or hurt by the information. if he seems disappointed, and you're into him enough to be exclusive, this would be the time to mention that. watch him perk up.

on the other hand, if he's relieved, it's because he's also seeing other women and doesn't want to settle down.

altho the bare minimum of responsibility would be if you weren't sexually monogamous, just for safety's sake.
posted by thinkingwoman at 5:18 PM on April 30, 2007

I don't think it's his business if he isn't yet my boyfriend.

Asking such a question may be his way of trying to establish if he is your boyfriend. If that's the case, and you don't want to answer, then you obviously want something different, and you're doing both of you a favor by answering honestly, even if that results in the end of the relationship.
posted by grouse at 5:27 PM on April 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

Maybe he just wants to see where he stands? Don't sidestep it, be honest. Though if you are bothered by the question, why don't you tell him that the question bothers you and explain why it bothers you.

Or if this is all too much, you can always run away screaming and waving your arms :)
posted by Brian Puccio at 5:39 PM on April 30, 2007

Asking such a question may be his way of trying to establish if he is your boyfriend.

Bingo. Don't be irritated, let him know gently that you're seeing other people, and if he freaks out and runs away, you don't want to be dating him anyway. If it were me, I'd think to myself "OK, I'll be patient and let her find out what I'm like, and hopefully she'll wind up wanting to date me exclusively." But I guess that takes a certain level of self-confidence.
posted by languagehat at 5:39 PM on April 30, 2007

have you ever been "casually dating" a guy that you were crazy about? He's asking because he wants to know where he stands. You may see this as just a way to spend some time, but he may be thinking this could go somewhere or be more interesting. If you're not looking for that, that is completely fine, but it's not out of line for him to bring it up at some point.

If the relationship were going to go somewhere, how would he be expected to know? It's not his business to tell you what to do, but it's certainly his business to ask you what's up and where he stands in it all. If you're happy keeping things casual, just make that clear. Depending on your age/community, I would even try to make a reference to the fact that you're seeing other people, since for some people, long term potential is in the back of the mind from the start.
posted by mdn at 6:20 PM on April 30, 2007

Some people may also ask this question before getting physical.
posted by acoutu at 7:08 PM on April 30, 2007 [1 favorite]

The reason I find this irritating is because the fellows who have asked me this have been sort of overwrought about it sort of like some of these answers. in fact. about it, and because I thought we were casual dinner-once-a-week people, the way in which they chose to discuss this was surprising and alarming to the extent that I stopped seeing them.

It's not them, it's you. Consciously or not, you are leading them on. For one thing, the "seeing multiple people" thing is mostly a relic of an earlier age. Most girls don't have a different suitor every night of the week anymore, any more than they go to box socials and neck in Stutz Bearcats. Sure, some girls enjoy juggling as many guys as they possibly can, but its not the norm, and they're usually so flagrant about it that the guy isn't surprised. so yeah, people are going to be surprised and hurt by your actions. So you can:

a) wait for all the guys in the world to change their behavior
b) change your own behavior
c) keep hurting people and getting into awkward situations
posted by drjimmy11 at 8:06 PM on April 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

Just for the record, hmsbeagle, as a young-ish urban guy, I think drjimmy11's comment above is completely out in left field. I don't think there's anything at all unusual about dating multiple people, in fact I think it's downright common and completely to be expected. Sure, most people are doing it with the ultimate goal of getting serious with someone, but that doesn't mean you're being "awkward" or "leading people on" in the meantime.
posted by rkent at 8:54 PM on April 30, 2007 [2 favorites]

Echoing rkent above. drjimmy11's comment about juggling doesn't seem to me to accurately reflect your position. I'd say answer honestly if and when asked, and definitely point it out if things are going to move forward into a more physical basis, but otherwise it's up to you. At the level of commitment you are describing, an expectation of exclusivity is unreasonable.

I think the folks kicking it at the box socials were more interested in monogamy in all possible relationships than folks are now. Indeed, in grandfather's day, if you went to the moving pictures with a gal, that meant you were engaged. Of course, you got to bundle then, which was nice.
posted by Nabubrush at 9:00 PM on April 30, 2007

thehmsbeagle: you are clouding, probably unintentionally and possibly even subconsciously, the line between "being friends" and "dating".

There is a difference, even though that difference is often very subtle.

However, it most assuredly IS his business. Anyone who believes otherwise for even one moment is delusional.

If you will bear with an extreme example, if you were dating some guy just casually, would you want to know if he were married? What would your response be if you asked and he avoided the question or said "none of your business"?

If asked, a simple "Yes, I am seeing a few other men casually" is sufficient. If he wants to know more after that, he'll ask.

However, understand he is probably asking because he probably cares. As evidenced above, there are some people like rkent who think it is completely normal to have many suitors, and you have people like drjimmy who believe it is abnormal.

A lot of it has to do with the goals. Some people view dating as a social activity, having someone to go to the movies or to dinner with, no big whoop. Others date as primarily a mate-finding activity. Those in the second category will be very interested to know if you are dating others, and may very well be scared off if you are.

When I was single, there were three classifications of girls I was interested in:

1. Platonic companions. A female to go grab a bite with or see a movie. Nothing more. No expectation of romantic feelings or sex.

2. One night stands. No dating, probably no dinner and no movie, just sex; hook-ups.

3. Possible mates. People I was sexually and emotionally attracted to that I was auditioning for the role of sole partner.

The world is divided rather starkly between people who consider #1 "dating" and #3 "dating".

My limit was always 1 other suitor. My goal of dating was generally to find someone to have a relationship with, so I am firmly entrenched in #3. In fact, I don't consider #1 "dating" at all. If a girl had 3 or 4 suitors, then she was no longer in the running for #3 and got moved to #1 pretty quickly.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:14 PM on April 30, 2007

be truthful, always -- you're not doing anything wrong, and maybe suggest they light the fuck up.
posted by matteo at 3:02 AM on May 1, 2007

If he's going to read too much into it, he's going to read too much into it. The best you can do to reduce this is to honestly answer the question he asked.

After that, you might consider saying 'Why do you ask?' and seeing where it leads you—assuming you are prepared to take his answer at full face value.

If you are not prepared to take his answer at full face value, one or both of you has something seriously wrong with them: He's got an honesty problem, or you've got a preposterously wrong understanding of what relationships are, or both. Whichever one it is owes it to the other to stop messing with his/her life. So if you can't discuss this with someone, stop going out with him.

No, really. Assume this guy wants to know where he really stands with you. This is pretty reasonable. Maybe he wants to go exclusive. Maybe he doesn't, but he wonders if you do. Maybe it's something else. Whatever it is, if you are going on dates with him, the significance of those dates is certainly his business: A date is a communication, and any communication deserves an accuracy check.

So he's got to determine this. He can use the only realistically effective, decent means of finding out, namely asking; and he can seek out the only authority on the subject, namely you. Or he can assume you lost all interest in everyone else the moment you first saw him, or assume he will always be just a plaything to you, or assume that you went exclusive if you accepted a third date, or a fourth date, or some other number that he heard from a friend or read in a men's magazine or rolled on 2d6 divided by two (rounded up). Or he can follow you around and count your other engagements himself. Now, which of these responses is the problem, again?

AskMe can supply plenty of These Are From Sirius, Those Are From the Crab Nebula, Relationship Advice Is From Uranus, if that's what you want. See also beans, plate of. But if you're interested in a perfect answer, see wemayfreeze above, and quest within to discover the mindset that led to it, and disregard the rest.
posted by eritain at 4:16 AM on May 1, 2007 [5 favorites]

Also, while you may be the type of person who can casually date a number of people without enduring undue stress, he may not be. n+1 the "trying to figure out where he stands" thing.
posted by softlord at 5:23 AM on May 1, 2007

Who you're dating? Not his business. What you do on those dates, and when and where you go? None of his damn business. Whether you're dating other people -- Absolutely his business. Dating (even casual dating) is different than simple friendships, and it's completely reasonable to want to know where you stand.
posted by svenx at 10:40 AM on May 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

"Dating" means "having sex with" to a lot of people, and even if it is okay to hang out with several different guys for coffee, he may take it as a bit more then that when you say yes. If you're having sex with several people at once (or even a whole lot of one night stands, or a lot of serious relationships in a row) this is definitely something anyone deserves to know fairly soon in a relationship.

You should be honest that you're dating multiple people casually, but make sure the guy knows you don't do anything serious until you're in a serious relationship and it probably won't be a very big deal (unless that's what he was wanting).
posted by sandswipe at 6:30 PM on May 1, 2007

Wow. Huge differences in opinions.

I agree with twiggy. Been there, done that. It's not cool at all. Being strung along thinking that you may have a nice budding relationship until she makes her decision about which one of you to dump is a really shitty feeling.

My opinion:
* Don't sidestep it.
* It is absolutely his business.
* Be upfront and honest about it.

I would respect you a hell of a lot more for being upfront and honest about the situation. Whether or not you (the girl doing this) cares whether or not there's any respect is another story.

I had this discussion with my last girlfriend, and I appreciated her and respected her more for being honest with me from the very beginning.
posted by drstein at 7:12 PM on May 2, 2007 [1 favorite]

Do this:

Clean your place really well and say oh, my boyfriend/john/whatever must have come over and cleaned it for me. This will A) Indicate that you have another guy around and B) You're not uncomfortable about it, it is a part of your reality and thus must be congruent with his reality as well.
posted by thegmann at 3:38 PM on May 4, 2007

1. Clean your place.
2. Lie about who cleaned your place.

posted by emelenjr at 9:55 AM on May 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Who you're dating? Not his business.

Unless you're dating a mob boss or something. Then I think it would be his business.
posted by grouse at 7:53 AM on May 6, 2007

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