Had the phone call not happen or been taken, and Jenna had brought up exclusivity at the end of their successful fourth date, would it have been acceptable for Ralph to tell her that he does not want to date exclusively/seriously, but that he wants to keep seeing her casually?
Why wouldn't it have been acceptable for Ralph to tell Jenna what he wants and then see if they come to a compromise first? They are both in the relationship so both their opinions matter. It's not for one person to define the relationship and the other to take it or leave it. They both get to say what they want and then see if they can make it work.
I'm actually responding to the OP's question here: Of course it's acceptable for Ralph to tell Jenna that he doesn't want to date exclusively. It's the truth! Just because it's not what Jenna wants to hear, doesn't make it wrong. The phone call has absolutely nothing to do with it. I get that Jenna was hurt...but her hurt stems more from the rejection that Ralph isn't in the same place as her than it does from anything that Ralph did or said wrong. You didn't provide too much detail, but from what is stated, it doesn't sound like Ralph did anything to lead Jenna on either. They went out four times. They kissed. Only a month has gone by. I get Jenna's feelings on the matter (mine used to be the same...dating
around wasn't my thing). To want exclusivity is understandable. To be hurt that it isn't happening is understandable. But to expect that it be given automatically or to asign any blame or rudeness to Ralph because he's not on the same page, isn't.
As for the bolded...I agree in principle. But to me, this only practically works in already committed relationships
. If I want my DH to behave a certain way towards me (say, hypothetically, always include me in conversations he has with other women) and he doesn't feel that he should, then yes, we both get to say what we want and work out a compromise. But when it comes to exclusivity, or just dating
in general where no commitment has been made, I think that the person who doesn't want the exclusivity sort of has the upper hand. There's no compromise there. If I don't want to date you exclusively, you can't force me to. And if you don't want to date me unless I'm committed to you, I can't make you date me anyway.
I can kind of see a scenario where Ralph would say "I'm not ready to date exclusively yet. But perhaps after we get to know each other better and develop the relationship
better, I may be willing to make that step with you. I can't promise that now." and Jenna replying with "Ok, but I'm not interested in doing X, Y or Z unless we are exclusive, and I'm going to date around too" as sort of a compromise. But honestly, if Jenna is the type of person that is uncomfortable dating
someone unless he's only seeing her (even if they aren't serious) and Ralph is the type of person that likes to date around until he's made a commitment, then they aren't likely a good match anyway. It was smart of Jenna to move on. Neither is exactly wrong in their desires, they just aren't very compatible with each other.
ETA: I see you already said something similar in your other post