Dating: Stay Exclusive or Spread It Around?

Do you date more than one person at a time? When do you decide to make it exclusive?


Some of my blog stories are about my online dating experiences and this one poses a question that perplexes me.  When is it appropriate to date somebody exclusively?  I mean, I have my own take on the situation but I was a teenager when I married and in my forties when we divorced, so I’m the first to admit that figuring out the subtle nuances of dating is my work in progress.

First, how to meet somebody?  My teenagers suggested online dating, which seemed better than sitting around some public place and waiting for somebody to happen along.  I’ve met loads of lovely people through online dating and have made some great friends but have not yet found that special man.

Once I begin texting and talking to someone I try to meet by the next weekend. In my experience, anyone who delays meeting has something to hide and it’s never something nice.  Also, meeting quickly is important because it’s impossible to get to know a person through phone conversations and text messages – nothing beats real life for reading a person’s habits, mannerisms, attitude, shift in mood and respect for others.

After our first meeting I ask myself whether I’m comfortable in his company, do we ‘click’, did the conversation flow, were the silent moments okay and do I look forward to seeing him again?   I’ve met many people once and was glad to never see them again. I’ve had many second and third dates only to find we didn’t click as well as we had over the phone and stopped seeing one another. This doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with him (or me) but dating needs a certain comfort and chemistry to continue.

My current dilemma is exclusivity. There’s a moral stance on seeing somebody exclusively, there’s a social stigma about it, there are many reasons people aren’t exclusive and many reasons they are.

The dating website urges members to see lots of people and not to limit yourself.  I agree with this… until I find somebody I connect with on a physical, cognitive, social and emotional level.  When I’m keen on one particular man I stop contacting more and I let anyone I’m talking to know I’m going on hold to investigate a relationship with one particular person I’ve met. If and when I go back to the website those men may not be around, but that’s how life goes. There really are plenty more fish in the sea.

I’m happy to meet many men, one after another if that’s how they flow, but once I find someone I really like I stop the flow. My dating profile might be deactivated for just a few days, a week, a month or permanently.  It costs nothing to reactivate.

When I’ve met somebody I really like (and they say the feeling is mutual) surely I don’t need to continue meeting even more men?  I mean, who do I want to meet when the man that I’ve been waiting for (and his chemistry) have come along and we’ve decided to see each other again and again. Not that exclusivity is a sign of life-long commitment but I think it’s what dating is all about. Finding what we are looking for in one person is a thrill and, over time, the relationship will either fizzle out to nothing and we start again…  or the relationship grows and blossoms into something amazing.

Not everyone I’ve dated necessarily agrees with my one-at-a-time method. Some become terrified of what it means to be seeing a woman exclusively, as if being exclusive means being permanent or worse… trapped!  These men remain active on the dating website, which only makes me feel protective of my heart and cautious about their intentions. Knowing that they are still looking means I don’t invest my whole self into dating these men because I don’t want to be hurt. The secretive “multiple daters” often say they are looking for a relationship but then say they’re only out for fun… it’s as if they can’t decide what they want – but it’s more like they can’t decide on how to express what they want.

The “multiple daters” tend to approach online dating as a series of simultaneous relationships from which they eventually pick the one they like best. Naturally, they want to avoid the mistake of being with the wrong woman. They don’t want to trip clumsily into another bad marriage and they are aware of their own mysterious internal forces that convince them they’ve found “the one”.  But surely life isn’t about taking everything and discarding the left-overs? That approach makes dating into something dirty, greedy and it lacks integrity. It’s like having the cake and eating it too, but spitting out the left overs.

My “one at a time” approach is also about seeing multiple men however, I stop when I find one I’d like to see again. Then I start up again if and when I end that relationship. Easy.

I’m curious to know how other people handle online dating.

  1. Once you find someone you feel comfortable with and want to see again and again, do you stop looking?  I mean, is it logical to continue your search when it seems like you’ve found what you’re looking for?
  2. Do you keep your extra dating activities a secret from the woman/women you are seeing?
  3. Once you decide on “the one” how do you get rid of all the excess people you’ve been seeing without being nasty?
  4. Is there something wrong with seeing many people until you find one you like – and then only seeing the one you like (even though it’s too soon to have feelings of love)?
  5. Is the “date many all at once” rule only an online thing or do people who meet opportunistically also go on looking for more people to date?

I look forward to and welcome your comments.


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Side note:  Below are links to some of my stories about dating.

How to handle first dates;

My First Date;

Dating Success and Humour;

Ten Months Into Dating.

Author: The Life Of Sue

I live by the sea in the Australian state of Victoria. My life hasn't been very extraordinary, however I seem to have a way of looking at my life events that makes them seem a little sensational. This is because I enjoy words and I cherish the art of storytelling. Painting a picture of my life experiences for others to share is relaxing and fun. Although these things really happened to me, I usually change names to protect the privacy of others; and there are many stories that will never be told on this forum. I believe I could write a story a day for the rest of my life - I'd never run out of things to write. See all my stories at

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