The Rules of Non-Exclusive Dating
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.
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