I’ve been dating a guy (for the sake of this blog let’s call him Paul) for about 5 weeks and it was my understanding that we weren’t exclusive. In addition to dating Paul, I’ve been dating/talking to two other men (no sex just dinner, dancing and/or good conversation).
Recently, I accompanied Paul to a party where I exchanged numbers with a man I knew from school. I had no intention of dating this man but when Paul saw me exchange numbers he explained that he wasn’t comfortable with me seeing anyone else. Since I thought we weren’t exclusive (hence me talking to the two other guys in my life), I asked him where he thought this was going and he said he “doesn’t know. He wants to get to know me better.” My question is, does a man have a right to set restrictions on who you are dating if you’re not exclusive? Should I assume that Paul isn’t dating anyone else?
Dear Courteously Courting,
The answer to your first questions is, “NO.” In my opinion, a person who isn’t solidifying anything with you doesn’t have the right to set boundaries about anything in YOUR life.
Now, I’m sure you’re questioning why Paul would even suggest you not date anyone else since you’re not exclusive, right? Here’s the deal…many men believe that a woman who is dating more than one man at a time is a whore because honestly, more often than not, men date several women at a time TO HAVE SEX WITH SEVERAL WOMEN AT A TIME. It is hard for a man to understand a woman who date to get to know a man.
With that said, Paul views your desire to connect with other men as a desire to have sex with them. That is why, even though he doesn’t know what he wants from your relationship yet, he doesn’t want you to date anyone else. You dating other men, in his mind, means you’re somewhat “used” and that is problematic because he hasn’t decided what he wants with you yet.
Does this sound ridiculous? That’s because it is. While men date several women at a time and aren’t seen as “used”, many men don’t give women that same agency and society backs up this conundrum that places women at a clear disadvantage.
Don’t understand? Think of it like a laptop on display at BestBuy. Before that product is purchased tons of people will come by and use it to check email and play with features. However, once a person decides that they want it, they aren’t going to pick the laptop that they saw on display. Instead, they want a fresh “new” one to buy. Even if the laptop is the last one in the store and has no noticeable wear and tear, a shopper will still negotiate the price down because the perception is the laptop is “used”.
While I hesitate to compare women to products that can be purchased, I think an important factor in strengthening the dialogue between men and women is for each party to understand how they may be viewed by the other. This isn’t to say that men view women as products but instead to assert that many men view women as the ones waiting for a decision to be made as opposed to the ones making the decision. So, to answer your last question, you shouldn’t assume that Paul isn’t dating anyone else because Paul views himself as the “shopper” and you as the “laptop”. I think it’s great that you have two other options because you should assume that Paul is “shopping around” and if I were you I’d grab a shopping cart and start rolling through the aisles.
Can you drink to that?