Never Assume They’re Not Dating Other People #atwys

Alias (DO NOT USE A REAL NAME!!): Jessicasnooping
Comment: I’ve been seeing a guy I met online for 6 months. We see each other with extreme regularity (once a week) and he is always a complete gentleman. We’ve taken to spending pretty much our whole weekends together, every weekend. He showers me with pleasantries and compliments, I’ve met his brother, and we’ve gone on mini-vacation together. All signs point to boyfriend material. However, we’ve never talked about our status. Not once. At this point, to bring it up seems almost moot – I am treated wonderfully and he’s always been there when I needed him. However, I made the horrible, irreversible mistake of reading his text messages. And now I can’t stop. And now I know he is doing on dates with other girls from dating websites, and it makes me sick. Has everything been a lie? Is he doing it because I’ve never told him he couldn’t? This all makes me feel like a placeholder. I can’t bring up specifics since I was the one snooping around. But how do I open up the conversation?
Age: 28
City: Boston
State: MA

This is why you don’t snoop. Now you’re stuck with information that you can’t reveal or else you’ll lose the upper hand in the argument.

Has what been a lie? You’ve never talked about exclusivity, remember? As I have said several times before, there are a lot of people out there who will absolutely take advantage of the fact that exclusivity has not been discussed and agreed upon. In his mind, he’s not doing anything wrong. He’s exercising his options, something a lot of people in his position would do. My guess is that, if he wanted to lock things down, he would have. That doesn’t mean he won’t, of course. But right now he’s getting to have his cake and eat it, too. That’s hard for many people to give up. If you haven’t brought it up, then he’s thinking that either you don’t want to be exclusive (unlikely) or that he has the perfect set-up and doesn’t want to lose it.

How do you open up the conversation? You tell him that you want things to be exclusive. He’ll either agree or he’ll balk and make up an excuse. No, you shouldn’t tell him what you did. I don’t understand the people who confront whomever they’re dating or emailing with and tell them about the snooping and recon work they did. Especially in cases where the two people haven’t even met. Regardless of the scenario, telling someone you researched them or snooped makes you look crazy and you lose all of your leverage. If you do try to work things out, that person will always have something damning to use against you. That’s why you don’t say anything about what you learned or how you got that information.

The problem here is that you’ve seen those texts, which means you’ll never really trust him.



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88 Responses to “Never Assume They’re Not Dating Other People #atwys”

  1. Nathan Says:

    Next time, refrain from snooping and initiate a conversation about exclusivity. Leads to a lot less guessing and misery.

    I don’t think, though, that her trust in this guy is totally in disrepair.

    OP, remember that you didn’t have any clear agreement in the first place, so you don’t know how he will act if he is in a relationship with an agreement to date exclusively. Once a week over a six month period is not “extreme regularity.” It’s easy to see someone continue to test the waters under such conditions.

    Anyway, have the exclusivity talk, and do it from a place of non-judgement.

    • C Says:

      You spend all weekend, go on vacation with, and introduce to family women you date casually?

      • HammersAndNails Says:


        Why is it so hard to understand? having company on a weekend trip + options during the week is the best.

        • Michelle Says:

          yea if you’re a shitty type of guy who intentionally keeps women in the dark about where they stand so you can use them how you want without having any responsiblity towards them.

          • mindstar Says:

            How is he “a shitty type of guy who intentionally keeps women in the dark about where they stand” when they never discussed exclusivity and she was the one who violated his trust by snooping??

            • C Says:

              She violated his trust by snooping and he strung her along. Both are wrong.

              To give you an analogy, if you and I get together for a beer twice a week for 6 months, I would call you my friend, because friendship is implied in the way we interact. I’d be pretty put off if after 6 months of acting like my friend you denied being my friend and insisted I was just an acquaintance.

              Same thing here. This guy is not acting like this relationship is casual. I doubt he is so stupid that he doesn’t know that the LW believes the relationship to be serious and as such is playing the “but I didn’t promise anything” card which is pretty shady.

        • C Says:

          Doing one of these I can understand such as inviting a lady friend on vacation with you, but you would do all 3 in a casual relationship? So you have a chick that you are just banging during a dry spell who you’ve introduced to your family, taken on vacation and regularly spend the weekend with?

  2. LostSailor Says:

    Moxie and Nathan are quite correct. Jessica didn’t have the talk about being exclusive, so they weren’t. And 6 months is quite long enough for an exclusive BF/GF relationship. But instead of having the talk, she snooped and now she “can’t stop.” She’s seen the texts and might not be able to trust him. But the opposite is true, too. Snooping is a deal-breaker for me, and as Jessica shows, once you snoop, it’s almost impossible to stop. If she snooped once, she’ll snoop again, so how can he trust her

    But if there is something to salvage, Jessica wonders how to bring up the exclusivity talk. How? Just bring it up. You’ve been going out long enough, just say you want to make things a little more “official.” It may not work, but if she doesn’t bring it up, she’ll just be stewing in her own head.

  3. DrivingMeNutes Says:

    Simple math. If the guy wanted exclusivity, he wouldn’t be dating (or trying to date) other people. The OP has her answer – regardless of the means she used to get it.

    Guys are not simpleton, morons who need to be tricked or coerced into exclusivity. When a person – male or female – wants exclusivity, they don’t actively seek out other partners. Just like the OP. Has she been dating people just because they didn’t have “The Talk?” No, of course not. She’s not dating anyone else because she’s content with the relationship and doesn’t want anyone else. A guy who felt similarly, would ACT similarly. This guy is doing the opposite.

    All the talking in the world is not going to solve the OP’s problem. The “exclusivity talk,” is just a means to try to coerce someone to not date other people, when their behavior indicates they obviously want to date other people. What is the purpose of that talk? And, why would you expect such coercion to lead to actual commitment as opposed to, at best, just empty promises.

    • yb Says:

      100% Agreed.

      The OP should have the talk and expect that he may not be on board with going exclusive.

      Expect the best and prepare for the worst. By snooping, she kind of already got her answer.

    • C Says:

      I couldnt agree more.

      People who want exclusivity act exclusive.

      In my opinion, the problem is that the LW and her dude arent on the same page. The LW wants an exclusive relationship, and her dude wants to play around while still getting his girlfriend experience. Personally, I wouldnt bother trying to nail down the guy who wants me to be the lead dog in his harem. I’d move on.

      • HammersAndNails Says:

        Guys that really really want exclusivity but have a lot of options are rare. For guys exclusivity isn’t all positive, it means giving something up you do want (freedom) to hold onto something they don’t want to lose (a girl worth giving up your freedom to keep).

        • C Says:

          I’m just speaking from observation but I think it depends less on options then it does on the guys personality and stage of life as to whether he prefers exclusivity or dating around. Matt Damon could be banging a different 19 year old every night but he prefers family life.

          I have to agree with DMN. If the LW forces her guys hand, wont he resent her?

    • HammersAndNails Says:

      dumb math.

      Maybe having his cake and eating it to is the best, but if he has to choose just one or the other, you don’t know which way he will go.

      • DrivingMeNutes Says:

        The premise of my comment was that men are not idiots and can (and do) make choices freely on their own without having women spell things out for them like 7 year olds. I take it you disagree.

        If he makes the “choice,” of exclusivity based on her threat of leaving, then I would view that as a very hollow promise of exclusivity from a likely, future “cheater.”

        She did nothing wrong by concluding they were exclusive, even though they didn’t have a stupid exchange of vows. It’s not her fault for failing to raise the issue and read his mind. He betrayed her trust, most likely knowingly. That sucks. But, that’s all that’s here.

  4. Millie Says:

    I agree with the person who said there’s nothing there even though he did not technically do anything wrong. If he wanted exclusivity he would have brought it up or just been de facto exclusive. I say move on.

  5. Selena Says:

    Also agree that if he wanted to be exclusive he would be. After 6 months he’s still playing the field – that should tell you everything you need to know Jessica.

    Also, this business about how you started snooping and now you can’t stop… EVEN IF you had the exclusivity discussion and he agreed, you wouldn’t trust him. You would keep on snooping. Terrible way to live Jessica…always afraid of what you’ll find, and still be wondering even if you find nothing.

    Better? Start dating other guys. Find one you can start fresh with. Don’t wait months to bring up exclusivity if that’s what you want. I will take a guess the reason you started snooping on this guy was because you suspected he was seeing other women all along. You wouldn’t do that if YOU were honest. Choose integrity next time.

  6. Nicole Says:

    If I were in the OP’s position, I’d feel deceived too. I feel like there should be some dating equivalent to the old common-law marriage statutes – if you date for X amount of time, you’re presumed to be exclusive boyfriend/girlfriend unless you’ve explicitly said otherwise. I get that things don’t work that way in the real world, but I don’t think the OP was being unreasonable when she assumed 6 months of spending weekends together and meeting family meant this was an exclusive relationship. I would have, too.

    I mean, we all make assumptions in dating. Really, there’s nothing about the word “girlfriend” that means exclusivity. But most of us assume that if a guy asks us to be his girlfriend, it means he isn’t seeing anyone else. And when my boyfriend told me that he was done dating other women, he didn’t say anything one way or another about one-night stands. Or visiting prostitutes. Those things aren’t “dating”. Does he have the all-clear to do those things since they weren’t discussed?

    I realize I’m reaching here, trying to make my point, but I do think that just because you aren’t “technically” breaking any promises, doesn’t mean you aren’t doing something shady. Moxie wrote, “In his mind, he’s not doing anything wrong”… But I would bet that the guy knows the OP assumed they were exclusive and would be hurt if she found out they weren’t. He may think he can use the fact that they never talked about it as an excuse, but at the very least he knows he is taking advantage of her.

    • DrivingMeNutes Says:

      One is entitled to make reasonable conclusions. I disagree with Moxie on that. These are not “assumptions” but reasonable conclusions based on one’s perceptions. And, in my opinion, it is a reasonable conclusion that a person you’ve been seeing regularly for six months is probably not actively dating other people. Of course, they CAN date other people if they want to, like the OP’s guy did- there’s nothing you can do or say to stop them. Yep, even if they’ve promised exclusivity to you, still nothing you can do.

      There is no jury of imaginary angry women to whom he will have to explain himself someday. “But I didn’t make a promise, ladies!” These relationship promises are just moral promises, completely unenforceable, and the sooner people understand and accept that, the better off they will be.

      That is just life. Sometimes there are disappointments. People will betray your trust, even if reasonably given. There’s no real way to avoid it, or to change other people.

      • Chester Says:

        DMN, I’m note so sure it is that cut and dry.
        I can give you examples of two friends. One guy was in exclusive relationship with a woman and he would flirt like crazy when we were out without her. He would even say to me that he loved __ and would never cheat on her. He would even get numbers but never call. Another guy I know had a girl but he was suffering from the “is the grass greener syndrome” again he ws looking for a while to see if he can do better but eventually married that girl. I would certainly encourage this behavior the first month or 2 into relationship as it also prevents the guy from being too needy, which turns woman off. Perhaps I am naive to think this guy is just dating and not sleeping around, but this was true witht he two men I mentioned above.

  7. Matt Says:

    Even if you’ve only been going out for a week, I think it would be common courtesy to not date anyone else unless things don’t work out.

    • HammersAndNails Says:

      Seriously? If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?

      • Matt Says:

        Old enough to have learned the value of treating others the way I would like to be treated.

    • bbdawg Says:

      Matt I’d say the exact opposite: always assume people are dating other people until both have explicitly decided to be exclusive with one another.

      • Matt Says:

        I prefer not to be cynical and distrustful.

        • HammersAndNails Says:

          It’s not cynical or distrustful if you don’t hold people to your expectations without making those expectations clear. You are the one asking someone else to read your mind here. If you are so wise, whats wrong with communication instead of assumption?

          If it’s important to you, talk about it.

        • mindstar Says:

          Matt you don’t think wanting to be exclusive after only ONE week comes across as needy? How have the women you’ve dated responded to this?

          • Nicole Says:

            Brutally honest answer from a girl who actually wrote a letter to Moxie once about weird guys who call themselves your boyfriend after one date…

            If I’m on the fence about a guy, jumping to the exclusivity thing too fast absolutely comes across as desperate and needy, or manipulative, or even creepy stalker behavior.

            If I’m blown away by the guy and think he’s amazing and smart and funny and sweet and just absolutely perfect… Then I’m thrilled to find out he likes me as much as I like him. He can’t ask too soon.

            Having said that…It’s always a better bet to wait a few weeks or until things get physical, in my opinion. You aren’t going to “lose points” for not bringing it up in the first few weeks of dating, but you might easily scare off women by moving too fast.

            • Matt Says:

              Who said anything about being a boyfriend? I’m talking about show some respect and decency to another human being. People aren’t shoes to try on and send back if you don’t immediately like the design.

              • LostSailor Says:

                Actually, that description isn’t too far off from the reality of online dating at least.

                I’m not going to make any “commitment” to not date other people after merely a week, and it has nothing to do with not respecting them as human beings or treating them decently or being unkind. I assume that women I date are fully functioning adults with a minimal level of sophistication when it comes to intersex relations.

                So, yeah, dating is very much like trying on different shoes to see which one’s fit and whether you like the design. If they don’t fit or you don’t like the design, why would you not immediately send them back?

                I guarantee you that though I might be dating more than one woman in a space of time, they have my undivided attention, courtesy, kindness, and respect when I’m out on a date with them.

                • Nathan Says:

                  Matt, when I was doing online dating, I experimented with both approaches. Dating around sometimes, and sometimes choosing to only focus on one person.

                  When I focused on one person, I didn’t have to worry about others, but it was easy to get “too invested” way too early.

                  When I dated around, I didn’t get invested too early, but it was sometimes stressful to keep track of everyone, and a couple of times I had to choose between two possibilities where there was no clear front runner.

                  As LS pointed out, the most important thing is giving your full attention, kindness, and respect to whomever you are actually on a date with now.

                  I don’t think there’s anything really special though about choosing to only date one person at a time.

                  • fuzzilla Says:

                    **When I focused on one person, I didn’t have to worry about others, but it was easy to get “too invested” way too early.**

                    I know I have a tendency to get too invested too early. Which is exactly why I make myself talk to/plan dates with a variety of people in the early stages.

                    There’s that old saying of, “Don’t treat someone like a priority when you’re only an option.” I feel like if I treat someone like a priority too soon I’ll scare them off and blow it.

                    • C Says:

                      Gonna have to disagree there. I don’t think you can scare someone off by making them feel special and liked. If someone is “scared off” by your admiration and enthusiasm, they probably don’t like you very much anyway.

                    • C Says:

                      Grrr! Just realized my last comment contradicts itself….lets try that again….

                      What I meant to say, is that someone who is “scared off” by your enthusiasm probably didn’t like you much anyway and wasn’t going to hang around very long no matter what you did.

                    • D. Says:

                      Well, there’s enthusiasm and there’s enthusiasm. There’s definitely a balance to be struck in showing interest early on and not coming on too strongly.

                      But I do agree that when you and another person are clicking, your instincts are usually going to be pretty solid.

                      I think the key is to stay relaxed, but enthusiastic, rather than worrying and overanalyzing how you’re behaving.

        • Cynthia Says:

          Matt its completely unrealistic to expect someone to only date one person at a time. This behavior puts a woman in a very emotionally vulnerable position getting caught up and focusing on one man without being able to retain her sense of self meet people and figure out what she wants. It is so healthy to keep dating others until a man wants exclusivity because then its something he has to earn and it makes him work harder.

          • Matt Says:

            I didn’t realize that being treated with kindness and decency were things someone had to earn.

    • D. Says:

      It might be courteous, but it’s not at all common. Most people will date around when they’re just getting to know you. Nobody is required to date serially. You may prefer to do that, and that’s cool if that’s your preference, but you can’t expect other people to hold the same preferences as you. Moreover, it’s not an indication of lack of interest in you if they do date other people. Someone could be perfectly interested, but not be sure that they want to date you to the exclusion of all others. Realistically, the safe bet is to assume the other person is dating other people and simply accept that. Maybe they’ll surprise you pleasantly by telling you they aren’t, but either way you’re prepared.

      • fuzzilla Says:

        Exactly. It’s just the world we live in. Be too busy having your own fun to be worried about what they’re up to.

    • jane Says:

      I completely agree with you. And I wish more people had the integrity to date in this way – or at the very least be open and disclose if they arent so that we can prevent from wasting each others time.

      • Lisa Says:

        But then most relationships would never happen. If everyone was immediately exclusive w/ the first person they met, then they wouldn’t know what else was out there, perhaps better suited to their likes and needs. There has to be a little freedom early on to just test the waters w/o a commitment to keep things dynamic.

        • Matt Says:

          Right, which is why instead of ordering one meal at a restaurant, you should order several meals, then send back the ones you don’t like.

          • mindstar Says:

            Are you try a lot of meals until you find the one you like best. Again how have the women you’ve dated responded to you when you tell them you’re not seeing anyone else while you date them? And how do you respond if they tell you they’re dating multiple men?

        • C Says:

          For all the claims of wanting to find a relationship, there’s certainly a morbid fear commitment.

          When I was single, I wasn’t telling men I’m not seeing anyone else. I simply dated as I saw fit and broke things off with men who didn’t appear to be on the same page. Based on a conversation I had with one guy I dated, he told me he suspected I wasn’t seeing anyone else. That guy didn’t like it…which was great because in the same conversation he told me he wasn’t “physically available” for a relationship and I’m pretty sure he was cheating on his wife, next! My fiancé, on the other hand, said held the same view of focusing on one person at a time. So things worked out well between us.

          We aren’t trying to play in the same pool so in effect my way works well for me and your way works well for you.

        • jane Says:

          Why do you need to see all the options at the same time? If you go on 5 dates (exclusively) with Kelly and you arent feeling the potential – you break it off and then pursue Tina. Go on as many dates with Tina until you can decide yes/no, then move on again if need be. This is casual dating with exclusivity (and respect for each person). You’re not committing to anything, you’re just giving each person your full attention and consideration.

          • Lisa Says:

            Bc you might meet both Kelly and Tina in June. You can’t put Tina on ice until you exhaust every possibility w/ Kelly. If you wait until August to contact Tina, she might have emotionally moved on, changed her number, moved away, commited to someone else, gotten frustrated w/ waiting…or you might have gotten caught up in a mediocre committed relationship w/ Kelly.

            I’m not saying juggle for months or years or indefinitely. Just go out w/ Kelly and Tina both once or twice, see which one is the better fit, and end it w/ the other. If one or the other absolutely blows the other away in terms of compatibility/chemistry/whatever, you’ll probably feel soooo much better about her/him that you won’t want to keep dating around. But if you never put it to the test, you may never completely sold.

            • C Says:

              It doesn’t take 2 months to go on 2 dates with Kelly. It generally takes about a week. If Tina loses interest in Matt because he tells her he is unavailable because he is seeing someone else and she instantly loses interest, she wasnt all that interested in the first place.

              Truth is theres no chance in hell Matt doesn’t know if he likes Kelly or Tina more. He dates them both to hedge his bets. If Matt is dating 3 or 4 or more women, at best there will only be one woman he is really interested in and the rest are fillers. Multi-dating sounds awesome. Where do I sign up?

          • DrivingMeNutes Says:

            Your logic makes sense but your premise is wrong. For the most part, I think men who “juggle” multiple women are doing that because they enjoy (gasp) the variety of dating multiple women. They aren’t enduring the torture of having to date multiple people until they find the “one.” Can’t speak for all men, of course, but that’s my guess. These men aren’t critically evaluating each one for potential relationship the way women do. A relationship just kind of happens with one of the women after a period of time, and the guy may decide to hop off the carousel.

            • Avery_t Says:

              I disagree.

              There was a point in time when I was dating three women. I really liked all of them. They were great people. But I just sort of accumulated them. Since I wasn’t in love with any of them, I just kept meeting new women and hooking up with them. Then I met a girl I was serious about and we got exclusive within two weeks.

              I was never into the variety. I just wanted to have a certain amount of sex quantity matters for me) without giving any particular woman the wrong impression by trying to see her too often. In a perfect world, I’d have sex 2 to 3 times a day. usually, the only way to have sex 14 times a week is to have multiple partners. If a guy sees a woman two nights a week, she may be ready to have sex 2-3 times each of those two nights. If a man tries to have sex 14 times a week with the same woman, he has to see her every day. If you hook up with a woman six days a week, it starts to seem like a LTR. Also, most women don’t want sex 14 times a week year after year.

              Women talk about men being like kids in a candy store. The suggestion is that men like to taste variety. This may be how women see men men (they want to try dating a musician then a banker then a doctor then a writer). But most men I know are driven more by the desire to have lots of sex. The number of times matters more than the number of partners. So, men date multiple women in order to have enough sex. Having multiple partners is incidental. What the men are after is frequency, which NECESSITATES having multiple partners.

              Sometimes men are sincerely torn between two lovers. But that’s a very different situation.

              Sometimes, different women offer a man different things physically. One may be very pretty. Another may have a huge chest. Etc. Do I pick the pretty face or the beautiful breasts? But I think it’s much more about having sex frequently enough.

              If I am dating 3 women, I can see each 2 nights a week. That keeps it casual. We can have sex 2 to 3 times each of those 2 night. That’s 12 to 18 times a week.

              If I am dating one woman, I can’t expect to have sex with her 18 times a week. Also, if we try, then it sort of becomes a LTR by default, because we’re seeing each other every day.

              If women really thought about the matter of frequency, they would have a better understanding of why men juggle multiple women.

            • Lisa Says:

              you’re prolly right. I was just explaining it from my (female) POV. Bc some women juggle a little bit, too. And it doesn’t make us discourtesous, unscrupulous aholes.

    • C Says:

      Theres nothing wrong with not wanting to multi-date. There are plenty of people out there who feel the same way (myself included). Dating style is just another point of compatibility. If you are with someone who likes to date around, just move on to someone else until you find a like minded partner.

      I wouldn’t call it a matter if dishonesty, just different strokes for different folks.

      • fuzzilla Says:

        I dunno, online dating moves pretty fast. If I can’t guarantee a guy’s not dating anyone else, then I don’t want to be just sitting around waiting for him.

        I do find it confusing and exhausting to date multiple people, but it also makes me feel safer emotionally to exercise all options until I have good reason to really focus on one person.

        Infants who play peek-a-boo think mom ceases to exist when the blankets are over their faces, but if you’re an adult, I don’t see why dating someone else means you forget completely about someone else who seems promising. If it’s meant to be, you’ll beat the competition, no? You can’t fight the fact that competition exists, so embrace it, make peace with it, make active choices yourself, and you’ll have a much happier and more relaxed dating life.

        • fuzzilla Says:

          When I say date multiple people, I mean actively meeting new people, I don’t let that shit drag on for months or anything.

          • Nathan Says:

            Fuzzilla ” If I can’t guarantee a guy’s not dating anyone else, then I don’t want to be just sitting around waiting for him.

            I do find it confusing and exhausting to date multiple people, but it also makes me feel safer emotionally to exercise all options until I have good reason to really focus on one person. ”

            When I read this, I see “you get to be choosy and take your time, but the men better choose you rather quickly.”

            Is that accurate?

            One thing I’ve noticed in discussions on here, and other dating blogs, is a commonplace contradiction where people both rigorously argue in favor of keeping their own options open for however long they want to, while at the same time saying that if someone else doesn’t demonstrate clear interest and seek commitment fairly soon (within a few months) then they “aren’t interested in an LTR.”

            It’s totally fine to date multiple people at the same time for awhile, but if that’s your practice, then don’t expect those you’re dating to demonstrate clear commitment to you rather quickly. Because that’s certainly not what you’re offering.

            • C Says:

              Lol. Great observation. We are hypocrites!

            • fuzzilla Says:

              Jesus Christ, I’m talking like two dates, not several months of that nonsense. I don’t *like* dating multiple people, I want to just date one person I really like and be done with it. As some may have noticed, that’s hard to find and takes time and a lot of searching. So shoot me for making lemonade out of lemons.

              • fuzzilla Says:

                I guess what I’m trying to say is, like, “Hey, wow, I had a really great date with Bill! I think I really like him! It was only one date, though, don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket. So…Steve seems funny, why don’t I meet him at the bar on Thursday so I don’t text Bill too much or drive myself crazy analyzing every last thing he said?” If I had five great dates with Bill and things seemed mutual, I’d be like, “Bill, it is!”

                Is that unfair to Steve? Maybe. But either one of them could be doing the same thing to me and I can only look out for myself. It’s all very preliminary, and who knows, maybe Steve will be a way better match.

                • Matt Says:

                  Do unto others as they might possibly be doing unto you? Nice.

                  • fuzzilla Says:

                    If no one owes you anything after one date, then you don’t owe them anything, either. Doesn’t it “all mean nothing until it means something”?

                  • D. Says:


                    I don’t mean this in a rude way, but the simple fact of the matter is that, at least in my experience, most people don’t date the way you say you want to date. If they do, they don’t do it out of some sense of moral obligation or guilt or “do unto others.”

                    I think it’s because most people believe they are “doing unto others” by dating around. They don’t mind that you may be dating someone else. Sure, they may be disappointed if you lose interest in them and go for someone else, but they also recognize that you could decide to stop dating them just because…you aren’t interested in them anymore, even without someone else in the picture.

                    So, what’s the difference, really? If you dump them because you like someone else more, or if you dump them because you don’t want to see them anymore, the bottom line is…you don’t like them enough to keep things going.

                    Personally, I’m comfortable giving someone else the freedom to make up their mind the way they want to make up their mind. If they dig me, then it doesn’t matter if they go out with other people early on; they’ll end up realizing they like me better and it won’t matter. If they move on, then they just didn’t dig me enough to want to stick around, and that would’ve happened eventually anyway with or without “competition.”

                    That’s the thing — “competition” is an illusion. You aren’t in competition with other people, because that implies that, if the playing field is clear of competitors, the other person will stay with you by default. And that’s simply not the case. They can always leave, with or without competition. Whether someone stays with you isn’t about whether there’s some external threat; it’s just about how they feel about you. And if the feelings aren’t there, well…that’s disappointing, sure, but at least early on, it’s not that big a deal.

        • C Says:

          I tried multi-dating and I didn’t like it. I found it exhausting and I felt dishonest. I held on to men that when I’m not multi-dating I would cut lose much sooner.

          The problem with the numbers game is that it works against serious relationships. Novelty becomes intoxicating. Not to mention that lots of people will string you along and waste your time. Suppose I’m dating 4 men and one is my favorite, and my favorite man is seeing 4 women one of which is his favorite. What are the odds of my favorite guy also seeing me as his favorite?

          Theres the premise that if you aren’t multi-dating you might miss out on something good. The problem is that all of those “options” are just an illusion.

          • fuzzilla Says:

            To be honest, it’s largely an exercise in pacing myself, avoiding getting too invested in someone who doesn’t return my feelings, or doesn’t do so as quickly as I’d like (“oneitis”). Someone I’d presumably have a shot with if I just played it cool. I don’t lead people on if I’m only “meh” about them.

            Also if you don’t take your time to smell the roses and make an informed decision, there’s the temptation to be like, “All right, I’m sick of being alone…I guess he’s good enough.”

            • C Says:

              I guess dating 4 guys versus dating 1 guy can make you feel less lonely but that feeling of business isnt real. Those guys will all be gone shortly. As an alternative, you can line up a ton of first or second dates. You dont realistically see a future with all 5 guys you are dating do you? Why bother keeping them all around if your goal is an LTR? Thats time away from a potential first date with someone who may progress toward something.

              As far as using other guys to keep you from getting too invested…been there done that. It didn’t work for me. Maybe its just me but I am only interested in one guy at a time. I may even tell myself “I’m giving guy #2 a chance” but truth is, I only have room in my head for just one guy so guy #2,#3,#4, etc… are just there to stroke my ego and keep me from getting too anxious about the guy I really want. I just started feeling like a jerk sitting across from a guy who was genuinely interested in me and was trying to impress me, all the while wondering when I can sneak away to check my phone for messages from the guy I really want who really didnt give a rats arse about me. It just felt mean. So I stopped doing it and found that eliminating the dead end relationships and focusing instead on cultivating friendships and hobbies made me feel much happier. But thats what felt right to me. That may not be the right thing for you.

              • fuzzilla Says:

                **Why bother keeping them all around if your goal is an LTR? Thats time away from a potential first date with someone who may progress toward something.**

                As I already explained, when I say, “Dating multiple guys,” I really just mean chatting on OKC and meeting for one or two dates. If they’re gone after one or two dates, they’re not really clogging up the Mr. Right onramp.

                I’m just recently back on OKC after a longish hiatus, had a couple one and done dates, two “sure, maybe we could grab a drink again.” Not enough information to deserve my fully focused attention as of yet. (There’s one guy I’m pretty into. He’s rather a catch, we had a fantastic time, and he kept raving about how talented I was and how I’m so funny and should be a comedian…BUT red flags galore on the emotional availability/not over his ex- front. So, not writing him off, but sure not getting my hopes up).

                • C Says:

                  ” I really just mean chatting on OKC and meeting for one or two dates.”

                  I’m not sure I a couple of dates is considered multi-dating. I thought multi-dating was more along the lines of dating a single person for 3-4+ months while concurrently dating others potentially for several months as well.

                  • fuzzilla Says:

                    I dunno, call it whatever. I consider it a step up from pining forever and ever for one guy, was my only point.

  8. bbdawg Says:

    It’s hard to tell what the exact terms are between the OP and her quasi-boyfriend. I wouldn’t assume he is a bad person or that he is “cheating”, it’s just that the “exclusivity” talk didn’t happen and well, he isn’t doing anything wrong in his book. He’s enjoying the OP’s company but like many men have said before on here, exclusivity and commitment isn’t something men give that easilly they have to really be motivated to be with someone in order to close all other options for good. She should tell him what she wants (exclusivity) knowing that she may in fact “lose” him for good.

    The more I read posts here the more I realize if a woman wants commitment after a certain time period she needs to state that clearly at some point. The problem is taht if you state that clearly you have to also be prepared for a potential break-up.

    It’s hard because sometimes ( I used to be like that when I was younger) we get hung up on “a guy” when that “great guy” isn’t really after what we’re after. The reality is that you are going to lose a lot of people from your potential “audience” if you spell that out. But if exclusivity is something you need, then that is something you really need to articulate clearly, since men – especially with online dating – aren’t necessarily going to give up on options easily.

    Yes they can lie and all that, but I find that if you have clear boundaries and you state them, people will take that seriously. My 2 cents is when looking for a committed relationship, make sure there is discussion on what you are exacly after and iron out ambiguity (“let’s see where this goes…” “only time will tell…” “labels are meaningless in relationships…” “we are enjoying the moment that is all that matters…”).

    In my experience the embrace of ambiguity is the tell tale sign a man is not looking for anything other than regular sex and you can tell that pretty early on to avoid wasting your time, if you are indeed looking for commitment. But the attitude should be that commitment, for men, is the exception, not the norm. So never assume that inclination towards commitment happens naturally to men the way it does to us women.

    • Selena Says:

      “In my experience the embrace of ambiguity is the tell tale sign a man is not looking for anything other than regular sex and you can tell that pretty early on to avoid wasting your time, if you are indeed looking for commitment. ”

      Yes bbdwag, my experience also.

    • rugbychix Says:

      In what world would anyone assume their partner thinks of them as possibly, “the one,” if they aren’t trying to put them on girl friend lock down in the first 8-12 weeks? I don’t care how shy or passive a guy is, if he’s not trying to put it on lock down in the first few months he’s just not that into…except for sex…and possibly for status…or because of access to your friends.

  9. Yvonne Says:

    Of course Jessica should have had the exclusivity talk, like maybe about 3 months ago. But I have to agree with the other posters that seeing someone weekly for 6 months, spending weekends together, going on a short trip, and meeting a family member would also lead me to believe that we were exclusively dating. And I’m certain this guy knows it. He is taking advantage of Jessica. If he wanted to be her boyfriend by now, he would have said so. She’s a placeholder, for sure.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that despite how good the relationship has seemed, she was feeling a twinge of distrust or suspicion, and this caused her to read his texts. Perhaps she had a sense that something wasn’t right and that lead her to snoop. Somehow I think it’s more than just not knowing where she stood.

    When a man has wanted to be my boyfriend, he asked, and usually within the first couple months of dating. There was no ambiguity. I also don’t believe that all men will take advantage. A few men I’ve known feel like Matt, that it is common courtesy not to date other people. But even then that didn’t necessarily mean that we were boyfriend and girlfriend. You really do have to talk about it, and be prepared to walk away.

  10. D. Says:

    Re: “The talk.”

    I don’t know that it’s absolutely necessary, but it’s helpful to have when you get to a point where you know you don’t want to date anyone else. I usually just say “So, I don’t think I want to date anyone else,” and leave it at that. The other person will respond however they respond. I’m not attempting to pressure or browbeat them into committing to me; they’ll choose to do so, or they won’t, and I’ll make my decision on how to behave accordingly.

    I’ve been in situations where the other person said “Yeah, me too,” and then that’s it. You’re exclusive. I’ve been in situations where the other person said “I don’t want that with you” and that was it. We were done. And I’ve been in situations where the other person wasn’t ready to be exclusive yet, wanted to stay with me, and we wound up being exclusive later. It can go any number of ways, and you always have the choice to walk away if you don’t like how it’s going. If you choose to stay, that’s on you. The benefit of raising the issue is that you’re at least making your choice based on actual statements from the other person, rather than pure guesswork. So, while it’s not “required,” it’s certainly helpful.

    The other part of this, however, is that if you don’t have the conversation, then it’s still on you if you choose to stick around. And if you do that, you have to do so with the assumption that the other person is still seeing other people, even if they otherwise behave like your boyfriend/girlfriend.

    Re: this situation.

    It’s been six months. He never said he wanted to be exclusive. That’s usually a pretty good sign that…he doesn’t want to be exclusive. Might be a “yet” or might be “ever,” but either way, right now, he doesn’t want to be exclusive.

    So, you have to decide whether you want to stick with him and hope that he decides to be exclusive with you later, or move on because he doesn’t want what you want. The only way you’ll have any information, though, is if you have a discussion about it. Tell him what you want, find out what he wants, and then decide how you’ll respond. Whatever you do, though, recognize that you are making the decision, not him. He’s not choosing for you.

    • Nicole Says:

      I agree, just telling the other person that you’re not seeing anyone else is the best way to handle “the talk”. I also feel like there is a window where this kind of conversation works, but after too much time has passed, it’s awkward. Both my ex-boyfriend and current boyfriend told me they weren’t seeing anyone else within a couple of weeks of dating, and both times I felt flattered and immediately stopped talking to other guys. A lot of folks here saying they have this talk 2-3 months into dating… I gotta be honest, if I’d been seeing someone for 3 months and they said they wanted to be exclusive, I’d think, “Wait, has he been dating other people all this time? Ouch.”

      Having a formal discussion of exclusivity is not something that comes naturally to everyone, or that everyone knows to expect. The first time my ex-husband and I actually verbalized our relationship status was when he proposed. We just… spent more and more time together and took for granted that we were a couple. Sure I was 21, but that’s when a lot of us learned how to navigate relationships.

      What I’m trying to say is, I completely see how people can think they are in an exclusive relationship without some big talk. Although after reading this discussion, I will never make that assumption again!

  11. Michelle Says:

    I guess the one deciding factor as to whether this was an imaginary relationship all along or if this guy is at fault for making her think it was real , is who did all the planning and reaching out for dates an activities? If the only reason they spent every weekend together is because for 6 months she took it upon herself to invite herself over and place hersef in his life with him rarely if ever takin the initiative to bring her in, then this could have been a one sided pursuit all along with him going with the flow and accepting the company she offers because he likes her enough to. If that’s the case I guess he really isn’t at fault. She could have been the main architect of the whole relationship and then assumed he was looking at it the same way she was. It’s an easy thing to do when you really like someone, but if this is the mistake she made then going forward it’s important to know when to pull back on the efforts you make so you can see if and how the other person makes equal effort.

    • D. Says:

      I don’t think it’s a question of “fault” if she feels misled. Yes, this guy probably shouldn’t have strung things out, but he may also be under the impression that she’s totally cool with exactly what they have — no exclusivity, no expectations thereof, even though they genuinely care about each other and enjoy spending time together. But she could also have raised the issue instead of assuming and pointing to gestures which — apparently — don’t have a ton of content behind them, or at least not the content she was expecting/hoping for.

      Likewise, at any point, she could’ve said “Fuck this” and walked away. She could’ve decided that the guy wasn’t into her the way she wanted, if he was taking so long to say he wanted to be exclusive. Instead, she avoided asking the question — very possibly for fear of not getting the answer she wanted — and simply rested on assumptions. That’s on her, not him. That was her choice.

      And to take the flipside, even if she was the one reaching out for ages, and he was getting the sense that she was getting more invested than he was, he could’ve clarified or called it off. And, again, she could’ve walked away.

      The bottom line is that, while it may be polite to take care of other people’s feelings, it’s nobody’s responsibility but your own. Assigning fault and blame and such is — too often — just an exercise in absolving oneself of any responsibility, and that’s a path towards adopting a victim mindset. Maybe this guy should’ve handled things better, but she’s not some helpless damsel at his mercy.

      • Lisa Says:

        I agree.

        I’m wondering why no one is commenting on their once a week routine. Whose idea was it to see each other only once a week and what was the reason?

        Maybe the guy had been pushing to see her more often. And she demurred. Maybe he was suggesting more vactions and family events. And she wasn’t interested. Maybe he (cowardly) put out little feelers to assess her level of commitment to him. And she blew them off.

        We have no idea why he’s seeing other women. Maybe he’s dirty dog. Maybe he thinks she’s seeing other men. Maybe he’s waiting for The Talk that every other woman he’s dated has hit him with. Maybe he just wants something casual and is hoping she’s Ok with that. Maybe the texts are made up and he left his phone unlocked in the hopes she would read it and get jealous. No way to know.

        Bc we don’t know how he’s thinking, we can’t say if he is a jerk or a commitmentphobe or a player or not worthy of anymore of her time.

        Personally, I don’t think the situation is that bad. It would be far worse if they had agreed to exclusivity and she caught him stepping out. This is really nothing (but I hope they’ve been having safe sex).

        Just tell him that you’ve enjoyed the time spent together a lot, your feelings are starting to grow deeper and you are wondering if and when he would be interested in making it an exclusively one-on-one thing.

        See what he says. No harm, no foul.

        • DrivingMeNutes Says:

          True. We should be careful about drawing conclusions based solely on perceivable evidence, logic and experience (let alone faith) without seeing the written documentation first. Written documentation is always necessary, right?

          • Lisa Says:

            The conclusion I’m drawing based on experience, logic and perceivable evidence is that the guy is gonna know what’s in his head better than we will.

  12. Debbie Says:

    Bottom line – NO ‘exclusive’ conversation equals NO assumptions. Been there, done that. Much longer than OP, but really did not want to have that conversation either (did not really want a major next step). Even with ‘the’ conversation, action trumps talk.

    Adults have conversations about things that matter …. Repeat until that is embedded in brain. Girlfriends can sit and speculate about motivation and who is the evil guy/good girl until the cows come home. Adults have conversations about things that matter ….

    NEVER EVER touch the phone of someone you are dating – if it falls on the floor at your feet, walk around it! If they hand it to you to show you an error message, don’t take it (IT chick & that actually happened to me – with app showing on LTR guy’s NEW phone … Like I can’t see all that at a glance? sigh!) Deal breaker? More like arm breaker. Once snoopers SEE anything (or even nothing) – the game has changed.

    • bbdawg Says:

      Good point. I also feel like in the era of online dating you have to also discuss being on dating sites. Meaning the boundarties of exclusivity are 1. not seeing anyone AND 2. keeping one’s profile off of online dating sites. It’s weird because although this isn’t physically “cheating” it’s technically about pursuing others. That’s when you know someone is assessing thewir options and looking for an excuse to leave, or looking to stay with you as the main course and pursue an endless array of side orders.

  13. Mark Says:

    Jessica (the Letter Writer)

    Your in a tough spot. Both of you have passed the initial attraction phase and seem be be going strong on the compatibility part.

    As you now know, this is where it get’s really sticky.

    Some will say that you were not all that clear at the outset as to what you were looking for. Truth be told, they have a good point.

    Some others may say that if you are seeing each other with regularity, then there is an implicit assumption that you are pretty much exclusive. Or at least something along those lines.

    The thing is both have arguments both for and against.

    Can’t really blame the guy in this thing. He apparently has what he is looking for and it comports with what you were looking for from the onset of this thing.. But there is the nagging question that if he were really looking for more then generally it is expected that guys will make the overt step commitment step to the next level. Not always but that seems how it usually goes. He has not done so at this point in time.

    After all is said and done, one way or another, you probably want to broach the subject with him. But take care that it doesn’t seem like an ultimatum. If you did not specify from the get go about things, you can’t fault him for saying the status quo is good good enough. But you want peace of mind as to whether to continue with him or start looking elsewhere.

    But six months seems like long enough in this instance.

    Just be sure of yourself and what you are looking for and be prepared for any and all outcomes.

    In the worst case scenario and you no longer see each other, you can probably say that this was a good run for both of you but that things just weren’t in the cards. Easy enough to say but a bit tougher to experience first hand.

    Whatever the outcome, best of luck. To both of you.

  14. jane Says:

    I think every girl who online dates encounters this at some point – and it stings doesnt it? I went through the exact scenario as you OP, meet a great guy who is doing everything right, perfect relationship material, says he wants all the same things as you and you think you’re on the path to something special. Then BAM you realize he’s dating other girls and likely treating them the same and you feel like dirt. He didnt pick you because you were special, he’s not feeling the same way as you are, you’re just a placeholder competing for his attention. Assuming you are writing this for advice, you probably feel the same way I did – hurt and insulted. And there’s nowhere to go to save this situation from here. Trust me when I say to get out now, walk away. It doesnt end well and you DESERVE someone who meets you and thinks “wow this girl is something else” and wouldnt jeopardize the chance with you by measuring the competition alongside because he’d already know that a girl like you doesnt come around everyday.

  15. Lisa Says:

    I’m not a man but when I first got separated I went online and started to go out with different men. I quickly settled on one who was my favorite and on whom I wanted to focus (ie., stop seeing everyone else). But my girl friends all told me that would be a big mistake, I should play the field, I should explore my options, I shouldn’t rush into another serious relationship, I should enjoy my freedom, blah blah. So I continued to basically force myself to go out w/ other guys, wishing all the time I was spending time w/ my #1. Then by happenstance, I wound up in a situation where I was moments away from being seen by guy #1 with another guy I was on some BS date with. Fortunately, I was able to make a quick last-minute change of plans and disaster was averted. Even tho there had been no explicit commitment w/ guy #1, I know he would have been really hurt if he’d seen me out w/ another guy bc we’d been seeing each other for a few months and he wasn’t seeing anyone else. So as soon as the dust cleared, I told #1 what almost happened that I was deciding then and there to stop seeing the other guys…bc I didn’t want to risk losing him.

    Sometimes ppl juggle bc they feel they are supposed to. Not necessarily bc they really want to. Yes, sometimes they want to. But sometimes they don’t or are ambivalent about it.

    I know it would have felt like a slight if the first guy would have seen me out w/ another guy. But my going out w/ other guys was no reflection on how I felt about him.

    • HammersAndNails Says:

      “I quickly settled on one who was my favorite and on whom I wanted to focus (ie., stop seeing everyone else). But my girl friends all told me that would be a big mistake, I should play the field, I should explore my options, I shouldn’t rush into another serious relationship, I should enjoy my freedom, blah blah. So I continued to basically force myself to go out w/ other guys, wishing all the time I was spending time w/ my #1″

      Women really are very strange ducks sometimes.

      • Lisa Says:

        What? That kind of scenario never happens with men? LOL

        • HammersAndNails Says:

          Maybe the flip side of the coin is that if a man is with the worst women in the universe, and she is sucking all life, joy, and hope out of him and has left him an empty rotting husk of the man he used to be, that guy can hear from every single person he knows that she is terrible he still won’t listen till he’s good and ready to make the decision himself.

  16. Howard Says:

    As I read these comments, it’s easy to see that women and men are hard-wired differently, and have typically different expectations out of life. But the bigger problem is the failure to fully recognize this and deal with it in a workable way. In simple terms, men are designed to breed; women are designed to nurture and want nurturing.

    No man is exactly similar to other men, nor no woman is exactly similar to other women, but there are some generalities that apply in more than 75% of situations. A woman generally want a relationship with one man where she feels secure that he has her back totally, and is looking to always enrich her life. Men just like to fuck the best looking women they can find, and as many as possible.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, men like dependability too, unfortunately, often because it’s means sure sex, rather than them having to unnecessarily hunt. Men too like feeling like they are fully understood and that a woman is 100% in their corner, but never forget a man is first and foremost designed to breed the best looking that he can find, and as much and many as possible.

    Women like excitement too, and do participate in some of the crazy that men do, but it’s their prime objective that matters most.

    So for men and women to work together, there has to be some agreement. Sure in the beginning, we have to let things unfold, but six months is way too long to let things go laisez-faire, when a woman knows deep in her heart that is insufficient. It’s the fooling oneself that one is ok with laisez-faire that creates the problem. I have no doubt that some women may like laise-faire, but the vast majority of women are just not looking to do this for, especially for six months.

    Let me say this in conclusion. Women are indeed innately wiser about the way things should be between people. We men seem to have to work at it, as we endure the ravages of testosterone and poor societal programming. One mechanism that drives us to a working agreement with a woman, is the pizeability factor. If we recognize that a woman is a great prize, we are willing to abandon the wild ways.

    In fact prizebility works the other way too. That’s the problem with the OP. She is actually seeing him as more of a prize than he is currently seeing her. Great relationships happen when both parties see each other as great prizes.

  17. Avery_t Says:

    6 months is a long time. 2 months is not. By the 6 month point, I think exclusivity is implied. I myself have been non-exclusive with women, but only for 6 or 7 weeks tops. After that, it feels wrong. That’s just me. Maybe if it were long distance, it would be different.

    In all these letters, women seem blindsided. But I think most women pick up on cues, They know what’s what, but most are in denial.

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