A reader wonders whether she should accept a guy’s proposal that she be exclusive while he sees other women. One-sided monogamy? This is a first for my inbox.
I’m in a new situation with a guy I’ve been seeing for about two months now. Early on when we first started dating, I was convinced through his behaviour that he was a player– and since I’m in grad school and was interested in having a wild, Taylor-Swift-style fling, that didn’t bother me. Since then, though, he’s been moving things forward and emotionally investing, and, lo and behold, I’ve fallen for him. This has lead to the kind of tricky situation I’ll describe below . . .
We haven’t had sex. I’m Catholic, and am committed to remaining a virgin until marriage. We talked about this a few weeks ago. I expected him to walk away, but instead he’s stuck around, which I’m very unused to. Then, last week, he realized that I’m open to seeing other guys, which visibly bothered him. We had a long talk, during which he indicated that he’s interested in pursuing me seriously in the long term.
Over Valentine’s Day, things were very rocky, and I finally had him over last night, made us dinner, and we talked. But when I indicated that I’m interested in pursuing exclusivity, he seemed expressed doubts about moving things forward.
The thing is . . . he has this strange idea that he wants ME to be exclusive with him before he’s willing to commit to me. I told him that I’m not all right giving someone my 100% if they’re giving me their 50%, but he seems to think that because I’m not open to having sex with him, he needs some marker of my commitment to replace the sexual component of a relationship.
I want to know– am I doing the right thing? Should I stick to my guns? Or is there something to be said for the “woman investing first?” This just seems like a strategy for emotional validation to me . . .
Say whaaaat? Initially I couldn’t make sense of this – I had to literally sit down and write out the steps. Let’s see if I’ve got the timeline right:
Guy was moving the relationship forward and acting attached, though he did not initiate a discussion about exclusivity.
Mae let him know upfront that she was not down for sex before marriage. A risky move and to be commended.
Guy stuck around, whoo hoo!
Guy gets bent out of shape that Mae is not exclusive by default, despite not having expressed a desire to be monogamous himself.
Guy expresses serious long-term intentions, but still no DTR.
Mae initiates DTR, and Guy balks. He proposes asymmetric relationship terms to give Mae an opportunity to demonstrate real commitment.
Guy makes clear he will not be exclusive at this time. This privilege will serve as a form of compensation for the lack of sex with Mae.
I see three possible hypotheses here. Let’s start with the worst first.
Hypothesis I: Guy’s a player.
The reason Guy is into Mae is that he has not succeeded in getting her to have sex. Her carefree demeanor without the sexual component threw him off his game.
Guy perceives that Mae has the upper hand – if he offers commitment, what does he get in return? No sex? Not fair!
Guy sees possible solution – get sex elsewhere while insisting on devotion from Mae. This is a win/win for Guy – Mae either gives in and has sex to obtain commitment, or Guy has sex with a variety of women while enjoying the attentions of Mae the Girlfriend.
There’s a scheming aspect to Guy’s behavior that is troubling. For starters, his reasoning is not logical.
Why would Mae’s tolerating him being with other women serve as a healthy marker of her commitment to him? If anything, it suggests the opposite – a willingness to allow him to see other women suggests she’s not invested in him long-term.
Why would he ask her to show her affection by engaging in an arrangement that would clearly cause her pain? Remember, Mae has made it clear to Guy that she is interested in being exclusive and will forfeit seeing other guys.
Why does Guy think that this unorthodox plan is a healthy way to begin a long-term relationship? Guy’s behavior is 100% focused on his personal gratification – he shows absolutely no concern for Mae’s happiness or how she might experience this arrangement designed entirely for his benefit.
What it doesn’t explain:
A true player would be unlikely to stick around, even with this plan. It would be far simpler for him to move on to other casual encounters. It sounds like he really does like Mae enough to have stuck around after her revelation about premarital sex.
Perhaps he might even see himself marrying her one day – though not having been celibate in the meantime.
Reject his proposal as one-sided and unfair. Consider what it says about Guy’s character, as well as long-term compatibility around values.
Hypothesis II: Guy’s a pretend player.
Guy is really into Mae, and could totally see himself heading into a serious relationship with her. And he loves the idea of marrying a virgin someday.
But it’s just so lame to date a virgin, isn’t it? It’s so uncool, right? His guy friends would give him hell, you know? How would he ever explain this relationship?
And hey, he has NEEDS. Needs that are going to have to be met over the next few years before he winds up married. He respects Mae for her beliefs, but this is not going to work if he can’t find a way around it. Maybe he can get her to loosen up once they get established as a couple, but he’s no teenager. He has no desire to be thrown out at third every weekend.
This has “extended adolescence” written all over it.
Lack of relationship experience? Check.
Underdeveloped sense of empathy? Check.
I feel certain this guy has Neil Strauss’ The Game on his bedside table. And gets his advice from fellow redditors.
What it doesn’t explain:
Guy would be unlikely to have any luck attracting other women simultaneously. If he’s a Pretend Player, then most likely he is using this strategy to elicit submission, after which he’ll commit to her without actually attempting to “spin plates.”
Mae still has to reject the plan. It’s not her job to read his mind or attempt to outmaneuver him. Plus, if she capitulates, she’s signaling that she might be flexible around the issue of fidelity in future. A terrible way to start a relationship.
Hypothesis III: Guy is a good man with the worst idea ever.
As I mentioned above, Guy’s proposal makes no sense, because Mae’s agreement would not do anything to demonstrate her willingness to commit. It would guarantee drama, jealousy, and hurt feelings right out of the gate.
Perhaps Guy is crazy about Mae but doesn’t think he can make it work without sex. Fair enough, that’s a real compatibility issue. We’re not always dealt a perfect hand – Guy has to compromise one way or another. That’s the only win/win for both parties – instead of the proposed win/win for Guy alone.
Maybe Guy thinks this would truly be a perfect solution, because he’d get to see other women and presumably have sex, while Mae would get to remain a virgin. (*Facepalm*)
Plausibility: Low to Moderate
The cluelessness required for this Hypothesis to work is mind boggling. It’s possible but unlikely. If Guy were this devoid of social intelligence, he couldn’t possibly have struck Mae as a player early on.
What it doesn’t explain:
Does Guy actually believe this is a proposal Mae could accept with enthusiasm?
Reject the proposal as the worst idea ever. If Guy retracts it and offers a full relationship with strings attached, take some time to think it over.
Do you really want a man who actually dreamed up this idea?
Readers, what do you think of this letter? Have you ever heard of such a relationship offer? A no-strings commitment?
Do my three hypotheses make sense? Are there others I missed? What do you think is really going on with this guy? Am I being too hard on him?
What advice can you offer Mae?