By Frank Kermit
A client of mine recently asked me, “How do you tell someone you are dating, that you are also seeing other people while dating him or her?” The answer is, honestly and directly.
There is nothing to hide in the fact that while you are dating and getting to know someone, you are also dating and getting to know others as well. Until you make a public commitment to only date just one person, the expectation that you and the other person are exclusive is unreasonable. Just because you meet for coffee, or have a dinner date, or have a romantic encounter one evening does not automatically mean that a commitment exists between the two of you that forbids either of you from dating another.
One area of confusion for many couples is that each individual comes into dating with certain expectations of what different events mean. When two people’s meanings of interactions conflict, dating gets a lot more complex than it ever has to be.
What about sex? Shouldn’t having sex with someone automatically indicate that, at the very least, there is more going on between the two people than just the sex itself? In theory, it would make sense. However, the experience of clients that are shared with me during my practice, suggests that sometimes sex, just means sex, and nothing more.
If you want the person you are starting to date to stop dating others, or date others without going all the way to sex, it is up to you to communicate your request, instead of hoping that someone is going to either read your mind, or just assume the other person thinks the same “common sense” that you do. If the person you are dating agrees, then it is settled.
However, if you or the other person disagrees about being exclusive while dating, it is a great opportunity to talk about why.
For some people, dating exclusively is simply not an option. Perhaps they do not believe in monogamy, or they do not believe in monogamy when just dating. For others, it can be a matter of how much time has been spent dating the same person before becoming exclusive.
Whether it is 3 dates, 3 weeks or 3 months, it is important to ascertain a deadline to either expect exclusivity or potentially end dating that person. And still, there are others that do not base their desire to be exclusive on how long they have been dating a person, but rather whether or not they see a serious potential future with that person.
There is nothing wrong with wanting exclusivity, and there is also nothing wrong with wanting to date non-exclusively. It is only an issue of ethics if someone is either lying about their exclusive intents, or trying to force someone to their way of doing things.
The best everyone can do is to decide for him-or-herself what makes sense in dating, and invite others to date them under those rules. The people you date will either accept it and date you, or not accept it and leave.
Now then, if someone does NOT accept your guidelines about exclusivity and STILL decides to date you anyway, then the issue has nothing to do with valuing or not valuing exclusivity. That has to do with a deeper issue that we can explore in a future session.
The Ashley Madison Affair
Re-thinking our relationships
and the practice of monogamy
By Frank Kermit
Ashley Madison, a website that caters to individuals in seemingly monogamous relationships and who are looking for a discreet affair, has been hacked.
This means that the discretion and secrecy promised to its membership has been compromised, with full personal information of customers now made publicly available for anyone to download them.
The aftereffects, according to various media sources, include suicide of those exposed (at least two thus far attributed directly to the hack), cheating partners confessing their indiscretions to prepare partners for the fallout, a number of people targeted for extortion who are blackmailed into either paying up or having their information further exposed to family and friends, credit card cancellations to avoid illegal identity thefts, a growing number of lawsuits against the website and a big reward offered by the company that owns Ashley Madison to help catch the hackers responsible for the revelation.
What is not so publicized is that not everyone uncovered in this scandal is a person in a monogamous relationship attempting to have a secret affair. Single men and women looking for casual sex with other singles do join this kind of site. Also overlooked are couples that agree to have some kind of non-monogamous relationship and find it easier to discover other open-minded individuals through a site like Ashley Madison rather than attempt to find discreet partners through other means.
I wonder how some of the couples affected by this will cope. Affairs unto themselves do not necessarily end relationships.
It is how a couple copes with the broken trust and how they examine the lack of fulfilling emotional needs that will determine whether or not their relationship will survive this challenging issue.
In moments of crisis, we may find new opportunities to reach a level of honesty with ourselves and our partners that could put an end to behaviors of betrayal and potentially help rebuild our relationships on more solid foundations.
Maybe it is time for some individuals to accept that monogamy is simply not something they are capable of or interested in pretending to exemplify anymore, or to recognize that they have taken their partner for granted and fostered extreme neglect that pushed them away.
Perhaps what could be the most desirable outcome of this entire situation is that, with the right guidance, singles and couples struggling with fidelity may finally learn to be honest with others about their sexual needs and questioning whether they may or may not have neglected their partner’s needs, which led in part to their current predicament.
Surely the one thing most people can agree on in the aftermath of this revelation is that, if so many people publicly identify as monogamous but aren’t actually practicing monogamy, then maybe we all need to re-think our relationships and expectations as a society regarding monogamy.
One sure thing that my practice of coaching has proven time and time again is that people and relationships are much more complex than the sensationalism mass media would rather you focus on. More to the point, monogamy is not for everyone, and neither is a non-monogamous relationship.
However, people can make either relationship structure work with the right partner. It takes being honest with themselves first, and learning to communicate their needs to their partners.
One sure thing that my practice of coaching has proven time and time again is that people and relationships are much more complex than the sensationalism mass media would rather you focus on.
While some in the public are praising the hacker group who committed this act in the name of some moral calling, I cannot help but wonder what their next target will be.
Their motivation is based on what they find immoral, which means anyone doing anything that is counter to their personal code of ethics could be targeted. Will abortion clinics be next?
Perhaps it will be hospital records, to reveal patient medical conditions because of some righteous stance on what diseases are more culpable to have than others, or government offices willing to file marriages (same-sex, inter-faith, inter-race, age-gap) that they disapprove of.
Could we see a shaming campaign against sexually active adults who are members of regular dating websites?
Perhaps disrupting legal proceedings will be next because some hackers out there feel that divorce proceedings are contrary to their code of ethics.
Evidently, the hacker groups are powerful enough to carry about these threats. Something to think about if you happen to be amusing yourself with the effects of watching people’s lives unfold in the wake of the hacking of Ashley Madison.
Dr. Laurie Betito Quotes