General Etiquette > Dating

Etiquette of defining exclusivity- a spinoff

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Expanding on a situation that I posted as part of another thread a while ago- copying and pasting from my own old post, with a few modifications.

Jenna and Ralph meet at an alumni event for the very large university they both attended. A couple months later, they run into each other at another alumni event and get to know each other better. They talk on the phone and go on 3 successful dates. They have kissed- but that's it physically.

They go on their 4th date. By now, over a month has passed since their first date (and even more since their first meeting). Jenna is hoping to define the relationship on that date. Ralph receives a call during the date while waiting to be seated at the restaurant. It is a very short and perfunctory call- so he takes it in front of Jenna (he had never taken a call in front of her before- and smartphones did not exist at the time, so Ralph had no way to know who it was ahead of time by a special ringtone or possibly even caller ID). She asks if everything is fine- Ralph says it was just Deborah (whom he had not mentioned before). Jenna asks casually if Deborah is his friend- Ralph says it was a woman he met. Jenna asks if he was interested in her- he said no, that they went out just once (one night he was not seeing Jenna- sometime between dates 2 and 3 with Jenna) and he could tell she was not a good match for him, and that she now was more of a business contact since they work in the same broad industry. Jenna does not bring it up on the rest of their dinner and movie date...

Until they are in the car on the way back to drop Jenna off at her place. Ralph asks Jenna if she has a problem with his dating other women. Jenna said yes. Ralph replied "I never said we were dating exclusively".  Jenna replied "true"...but she said that she was the kind of person who by 4 dates needed exclusivity and was hoping to discuss it. Ralph does not think he did anything wrong in wanting to date Jenna only casually. While Ralph has no plans on ever seeing Deborah again unless it is through their jobs (they both work at different units of the same very large hotel chain), he wanted to keep going out on dates with new women he met, and keep seeing Jenna too without making a commitment to her- but Jenna could not deal with that.  Ralph and Jenna part ways cordially that evening, but Jenna is still hurt because she really liked Ralph and she thought he liked her back and all.

Now my question is- other than taking Deborah's phone call in the middle of his 4th date with Jenna, did Ralph do anything wrong?

A) Not at all. Exclusivity should not be expected until it is explicitly discussed and mutually agreed upon.

B) Only delivery failure. He did nothing wrong in wanting to date casually- but he should have relayed his intentions way before the 4th date.

C) Only circumstantial. Had Ralph met Jenna and Deborah through an online dating site, casual dating multiple women would have been acceptable. But since he met both of them IRL and in platonic ways, it is not so appropriate to date more than one person at a time- especially so many dates with one of them.

D) Maybe. Kinda. Sorta. Perhaps. Possibly. Going on one date with Deborah between dates 2 and 3 with Jenna may have been okay for Ralph to do; but after 4 successful dates with Jenna, Ralph needs to either go steady with Jenna OR end things with her altogether.

E) Definitely. If Ralph likes Jenna that much to keep going out with her, he needs to focus on her and only her.

Also, add any other regional or cultural differences that could affect this. While I am using a male name for the one who wants to keep dating casually, and a female name for the one who wants a commitment- would there be a difference if the man wants a commitment and the woman wants casual dating? If the couple were same-sex, would there be a difference as well? Please do comment on this.

I fall somewhere between "not at all" and "delivery failure."  I think Jenna is absolutely fine to expect exclusivity, and Ralph is absolutely fine to not want exclusivity.  I think it is not very wise to "expect" exclusivity without an express conversation about it, however.  So I don't know that Ralph did anything wrong in not saying, "I intend to date other people if I feel like it" since that, to me, is the default unless and until the conversation of "I want to date you and only you - do you agree?" happens.

If someone wants to define the relationship or discuss exclusivity, they need to speak up. IMO, nobody is under obligation to divulge that they are dating other people until 1) they are asked directly by a romantic interest, 2) things venture into scrabble territory (even this is iffy, because if if it bothers you to sleep with someone who may be sleeping with someone else, you should have employed point #1). The genders make no difference for me.

I don't think that either of them did anything wrong. Jenna was perfectly right to want an exclusive relationship and Ralph was perfectly right to want to date other women. I think the timing of the discussion was fine.

If anything, I think I would put a little more fault on Jenna for not being clear earlier that she would only be open to an exclusive relationship. But that is quibbly.


--- Quote from: Deetee on April 18, 2014, 01:07:50 PM ---If anything, I think I would put a little more fault on Jenna for not being clear earlier that she would only be open to an exclusive relationship. But that is quibbly.

--- End quote ---

Yeah, I agree with this.  I have never dated more than one person at a time, but I have always made it clear upfront I expected exclusivity if we were going to date. 


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