I get quite a few emails from people struggling to handle the situation where the person they’re dating is still active online. I hear from more women on this topic and some of those women don’t always understand my position: that if they’re not in an “exclusive” relationship, I don’t think the man is doing anything wrong.
I’ve talked about getting to exclusive already in my article on His Profile is Still Active: Is He Interested or Not? However, I wanted to take some time to just talk about getting to “exclusive” based on the number of emails I’ve been getting about this lately.
Why I Say Dating Others Isn’t Wrong
I understand why people I talk to look at me cross-eyed when I say that it’s not wrong for the person their dating to continue to be active online. You might have an amazing date only to see the person is “Online Now” when you get home. What gives?! How can I possibly think that’s OK?
While it may not seem kind, dating multiple people is one of the key benefits of online dating in my mind. Because of that, my opinion is that until you agree to enter an exclusive relationship with one another, you should BOTH be looking to meet other people. You might then say something like this:
But we’ve been on 10 dates and spend time talking to each other every day and I don’t WANT to meet other people!
Well, in that case it’s time to move the relationship to an exclusive relationship or, failing that, to a place where you know what you can expect from the relationship.
Getting to Exclusive
If you’re in the place where you want to be exclusive with this person, I’ll talk about how I would approach it. Let me emphasize this before we begin: Being aggressive is generally a really bad idea!
I get contacted by a lot of women who contact me after they’ve verbally attacked the person they were dating over the issue of activity online. You can recover from this, but it’s is hard to do…so try to avoid putting yourself in a position where you need to recover!
Approach from a Position of Wanting to Understand
The truth is, most of the people I hear from should approach the person they’re dating the way they approach me. I get some great emails from people that lay out their feelings, what they hope for, and describe how confusing things are for them. They’re not angry or aggressive. Instead they’re open, honest and they just want to understand. A lot of times I want to say to these people, “You just need to forward this email to the guy you’re dating!”
My point is that often you need to approach the situation with no assumptions and no attacks. Just a desire to understand. It’s always sad when someone contacts me with one of these great emails after they jumped all over the person they were dating and drove them away.
The Keys for Success: Understanding Where You Stand
The approach is simple. Your goal isn’t to get them into an exclusive relationship. Your goal is to understand why that goofball is still going online when you two have something great (although we’re not going to put it in those words to them).
Here’s the approach: Be honest, caring, understanding and patient (with some limitations).
- Honest because you need to let them know where you’re coming from.
- Caring because you need to keep negative emotions out of this for now.
- Understanding because even though what they say might sound like crazy-talk, chances are they believe what they’re saying.
- And patient because it takes some people longer than others to recognize when they have something good.
So what does that look like? Well, here’s one suggestion I shared with a reader:
Hi So-and-so: I really enjoy spending time together and I’m wondering where you see our relationship going? I ask because I saw that your profile was visible on Match again. I realize we’re not in a committed relationship and I’m not trying to create an issue where there potentially isn’t one but I’d feel a lot more comfortable if I understood where you saw us going
I tried to use all of my “keys” in this email. Let me say this though: the point isn’t to be able to write an email like this. The point is to recognize that you’ll apply those four areas (honesty, caring, understanding and patience) to your approach. Want to have the talk in person instead of an email? Go for it. Text messaging? That’s fine as well. The point isn’t that you’d write an email like mine. The point is that you’ll be intentional about how you approach them.
And remember: the goal at this point isn’t to win some kind of fight where at the end you’re in a committed relationship. The only goals are to get them to understand where you’re coming from and for you to understand where they see things going. Having something this simple as a goal can take a lot of the pressure off you.
Know When it’s Time to Move On
Some people will take this approach and will find it works great: they’re in an exclusive relationship now and his/her profile came down off the dating site. However, many others will get some kind of story or pushback. Sometimes you might even be told that you are “exclusive” and that they just don’t know how to remove their profile off the dating site (generally not true: removing a profile is a lot easier than creating one so…)
Whatever the specifics are to their response, in this case I’d recommend the following:
- First, make it clear that you want an exclusive relationship and that you understand where they’re at right now but that they need to understand you’ll not wait forever. This should be framed in the nicest way you can but you should be clear on where you stand. No ultimatums either! Just honesty.
- Second, you should be open to dating others. I know that this is painful and I’m sure some people get a stabbing feeling in their gut just thinking about it. The truth is, you now understand better where you stand and it may or may not be a committed relationship in the future. So keep your options open.
- After a month, if nothing has changed but you’ve still spent a lot of time together, I’d bring this back up again. If they’re still making excuses, I think it’s time to seriously consider moving on. I feel that four weeks is more than enough time to know if you want to be with someone and I’m afraid waiting longer is a waste of time. You need not end it entirely with them, but I do think you should make it clear you’re going to aggressively explore your other options. Also at this point, barring some really good reason from them to continue to wait, ultimatums and a bit of anger are fine!
Final Thoughts on Exclusivity and Online Dating
Hopefully my thoughts here were helpful. I think the key take-aways should be that online dating can be different than traditional dating and that “wanting to understand” is sometimes the best approach to take.
If there are others out there who have experience or thoughts they could share that would help others get to “being exclusive”, I’d love to hear them!