Sound Advice Thursday: Do I have to tell him I’m seeing other people?

Dear Steph:

I’m recently single and have been trying to get back into dating mode. I don’t know what the technical term for this is, but I’ve been hanging out with a few different guys on a fairly regular basis. I’ve made it clear that I’m not looking for a relationship, but I haven’t really mentioned to these guys that I’m also seeing other people. Is that a necessary conversation, or is it okay for me to continue as I have been?


Playing the Field (but not a Player)

Dear PTF (BNAP),

Dating etiquette these days is complicated, eh? With the New York Times heralding The End of Courtship (replaced by oh-so-classy casual hook-up culture, a vestige of the millennial college experience), it’s hard to know what’s socially acceptable and what’s just plain rude when it comes to dating.  Does playing X-Box and making out count as a date?  Is it a date if his bros from Sig Ep are there, too?  Is it okay to break up with someone via emoticon? And if so, is it okay to use the Robocop emoticon? ([(  (“Your move, creep.”)

But let’s get to your question. If you’re wondering if it’s okay to date multiple people, of course it is!  But is it okay to keep that fact to yourself?  That depends.  But probably not.

First, you’re doing the right thing by making it clear to your potential paramours that you’re not looking for a husband, which should help clarify your intentions.  However, men can be quite literal and may be bad at reading between the lines.  This means that if you hang out with a guy long enough, you’ll need to disclose to him that you’re also seeing other people. Why? Because at some point, if you spend enough time together, the guy will assume that you’re probably a couple.  The precise point at which each guy will assume you’re an item depends on the guy – but for his sake and yours, you should let him know you’re not exclusive before things get awkward.

Let me give you an example using the hottest current pop stars: imagine you’ve been seeing Howie, Brian, and Nick, each for about three weeks, maybe once or twice a week.  Nick assumes you’re seeing other people and so is he.  Brian thinks you’re only seeing him but he’s seeing other people.  And Howie, bless him, assumes that you’re only seeing him and is saving up money so that he can someday buy you your dream home in Orlando (WITH an aboveground pool), because even though you say you’re not looking for a relationship right now, Howie knows you two are meant to be.  Do you see the issue here? Same time spent with each dude, but three different sets of expectations.

Don't break Howie's heart.
Don’t break Howie’s heart.

So when to have this conversation? I’d say after the third or fourth time you go out with someone, you should casually mention that you’re seeing a few other people.  If the guy is looking for a serious commitment (which you’re not), he’ll probably balk.  If he’s not, perfect, you can continue as before.  I understand that telling someone you’re dating other people has the potential for awkwardness, but this is a small amount of awkwardness in order to avoid a large amount of awkwardness down the road.  So just do it.  And tell Howie to hold off on that down payment.

Good luck!

~ Steph

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