I’m not in a committed relationship, but I am dating someone (nothing physical). Another guy has asked me on a date, which I accepted. My friends are giving me grief, saying I should date one person at a time and give it a chance to grow. Am I wrong?” —Anonymous
Your friends are good people who are giving bad advice.
Exclusivity is for committed relationships, and since you aren’t in one, you shouldn’t act like you are. If the guy you’re dating doesn’t want you to see other people, then he should offer you a commitment and a title. And so you know, if he hasn’t asked you to be in a relationship, he’s not exclusive to you—and he shouldn’t be. He’s single.
Here’s the thing: What if you date this guy for months, finally ask him, “Where is this going?” and he comes back with, “I like things the way they are” or “I just want to be friends.” Then you’ve invested months getting to know someone who’s never going to be your boyfriend, and you’re left disappointed with no options on your plate. You’re stuck either sticking with a guy who doesn’t want to commit, and maybe trying to convince him to change his mind (pointless), or starting over from scratch after months invested and no commitment to show for it. That’s a waste of your pretty.
Exclusivity is also a resource. One of the many reasons that men commit, other than “just” liking you, is that they see you have a lot to offer. A man knows that if he sees it, other men will notice that, too, and he doesn’t want you entertaining other men.
A commitment is an attempt to keep you all to himself. When you give exclusivity away, you’re giving away one good reason for him to commit. He’s got one of the big bonuses of a relationship (and likely others, too) without actually being in one anyway. What’s the incentive here?
I challenge you to rethink what dating is—not a relationship status but an activity. Your goal while doing this activity is to have fun and evaluate the person you’re dating to see if you actually like him. That’s it. After you’ve spent a few months—you need to see his ups and, more important, his downs—then you discuss a relationship.
When you meet a man, even if you like him, don’t shut yourself off from other men. Keep going out, keep flirting, keep meeting people, and keep going on dates with anyone you find interesting and/or attractive. He is.
The “rules” for dating multiple people are simple:
* Do not date two people on the same day (tacky).
* Do be honest if one of the people you’re dating asks if you are dating other people. It’s generally an unspoken assumption for single people. If you’re new to dating the right way and don’t know what to say, offer this: “I enjoy our time together, but I’m also exploring my options.”
* Do be exclusive to the person you’re on a date with when you are out. That means when he gets up to go the men’s room, you don’t holler at the guy sitting at the bar. You also put your phone away and don’t take calls or return texts from the other men you’re seeing. I know, you just thought, “Isn’t that obvious?” Actually, no. I’ve been asked several times if it’s OK to do. It isn’t. Would you want someone to do that to you?
* Do not have sex with more than one person (high risk for sexually transmitted infections), if you choose to have sex with the person you’re dating. Dating doesn’t automatically mean, “Let’s have sex!” It means getting to know people and evaluating them to see if they are a good match. Or just having fun, depending on what you’re looking for. Be honest with yourself and your date about what you’re looking for. If you’re not sure, say so.
* Do recognize that being exclusive is a resource you don’t go giving away.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life and the upcoming Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “I’m Devastated by the News That My Son Isn’t Mine. What Do I Do?”