A non-exclusive relationship entails that there's no commitment.


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This is not a serious relationship - either party can date around. So, together, a casual, non-exclusive relationship is an inconsistent, uncommitted relationship. To some, this might sound like a mess. To me, it sounds like exactly what I want out of a relationship at this particular moment in my life.

Definition of Exclusive Dating

When I shared this with my friend, she couldn't understand it. I was updating her on someone I started seeing casually and non-exclusively, and our conversation went something like:. I've learned that a key to being in any relationship is communication. Clear communication, where both people are honest about what they're looking for and how they're feeling.

That shouldn't change for a casual, non-exclusive relationship. If both people are on different pages, the relationship will likely fall apart. Being in this situation gives me freedom. Not just to date other people and see what I'm interested in, but to work on other areas of my life. I need career satisfaction, mental and emotional stability, and independence before I can let my walls down for a serious relationship. I'm not someone who likes to feel anchored.

The Pros And Cons Of Nonexclusive Dating

I'm not barring myself from a serious, committed relationship, but for now, it's just not what I'm looking for. I recently became comfortable with dating again. I was in a serious relationship that didn't work out, and in the year that followed I found that I was rarely even attracted to people, let alone okay with installing new men in my life.

For me, something temporary and not serious is perfect. This kind of a relationship gives me room to figure myself out, to be okay with having someone in my life, to test the waters with different people and see what works for me. A casual, non-exclusive relationship for me is a way for me to take things slowly. Call me a commitment-phobe, but this is what works for me right now.

I feel more independent than ever, I feel connected to myself, and I'm loving the freedom of no strings. The way I see it, as long as I communicate what I want as clearly as I can, and I listen to the response, any kind of a relationship is okay. Labels or no labels, commitment or not. I've heard a lot that "millennials ruined dating" or "millennials are killing the bees" or whatever they're saying about millennials these days, but I am so thankful not to live in a society where everyone expects a serious relationship or bust.

We can do what works for us. As long as we're clear about it. We can define our relationships as we please. I have read a little bit about non-monogamy -- Opening Up and the Ethical Slut: And really it is! But it's also not for me. I have a sense that it is not for you either. It's good to know what works for you in a relationship. So read about it if you want some background. But if you know yourself and if you know you want to be in a committed monogamous relationship, then that's what you should look for.

Especially given I had my first date with an incredibly exciting, awesome new guy about 6 weeks ago I do get to see him almost any time I'm available - I'm not left sitting around lonely This isn't a supportive relationship with somebody you are close to. This is a fling. It sounds like a pleasant enough distraction but ultimately not something that will be very good for you.

The statements about I'm so over-the-moon happy when I'm with him, and he makes me feel incredible He makes me feel good and special do not actually read as positives here; you sound like you are in a place where you need to get right with you, first. If a guy you have only known for a month and a half is generating that much superficial excitement, you have probably been neglecting you; you should be able to feel incredible, etc, without external assistance. It is a great thing to have a partner who can complement feeling incredible, but this person isn't a partner and at six weeks he isn't even a friend, despite what your limerence is telling you, and it's unlikely that a lot of lasting good is going to come out of an intense fling from a difficult period of your life.

If you can dial it down and view it as a transient thing where the optimal outcome is just: I have a few thoughts about this, mostly in the form of questions. You say he's not ready and may never be. I kept reading the question looking for what he has said about that, but I didn't see it. When you've talked about this with him, what has he told you?

Did he say he may never be ready? You also say you have a tendency to form intense relationships quickly. Now you're in a relationship with someone you've been seeing for six weeks and you're already trying to crowbar yourself into being okay with an open relationship when historically you've had a lot of issues with insecurity, jealousy, control and deliberate drama because of how great and intense and wonderful this relationship is.

In what way, other than non-monogamy, is this relationship different from the other intense relationships you've jumped into in the past? Look, I'm sure this dude is great and does all the great things you want out of a guy, and if he meets your needs right now, that's fine. But I get the sense that you're someone who really loves the endorphin rush of early relationships - which is fine, because it's a wonderful thing - but love can make us a little less wise than our usual selves.

It's fine if none of it fazes you, but the way he's trying to handle it - I'm sorry, but that should faze you. If I were dating someone and they told me that they needed to fuck other people because they had low self-esteem, I would probably laugh in their face, but your mileage may vary. If they then told me that multiple relationships - including our own - was a way for them to self-medicate, I would laugh even harder and then tell them to get the fuck out.

If you had a friend who said, "I'm dating this awesome new guy. Oh, by the way, he dates multiple people as a way of dealing with his low self-esteem and I am one of those people," what would you tell them? I get the sense that you maybe have a tendency to throw caution to the wind when you're caught up in the passion of dating someone new and getting excited about them, maybe sometimes to your own detriment. I think it's a good thing if this guy excites you and makes you happy and all that, but I also think that you sound like someone who's fundamentally monogamous and trying to reason herself out of being monogamous so she can keep having the thrill of this guy.

And that doesn't work. You can't reason with the heart. That said, if dating this guy right now is working for you, then that's awesome and you should keep doing it. I don't think there is a way for you to force yourself to be okay with his dating other people, and it may get harder as time goes on.

Truthfully, this doesn't seem like a relationship that has a hugely promising future, at least from where I sit. Also, both because of the overall question and the way you described your behavior in past relationships: Even people who are really into poly and like it for its own sake find it stressful at times. Don't fight yourself if you don't want to do it. This kind of says it all.

Maybe you should just enjoy it for now knowing that he has given you permission to break up guilt free. Once you get past the first throes of sexual desire some of his issues will likely start to bother you more. It's perfectly reasonable if you don't want someone you're having sex with to be having sex with someone else. Normally I'd say six weeks was way too soon for exclusive dating, but then I'm one of those old-fashioned people who would wait longer than six weeks to have sex with someone.

Once you've crossed that Rubicon, I am also old-fashioned enough to think it changes things. Put me in a glass case and stand me in a museum, I guess. But apparently it did change things for you. You started the relationship on nonexclusive terms, so he's not misleading you. But it turns out that what he's offering is not what you want. You have every right to change your mind, but that means walking away. Otherwise, you have to face that or you're going to be emotionally torturing yourself. Asking this question is like asking how you can saw your arm off at the elbow without feeling pain at any point.

You should take some time to work on your control and trust issues, but even when that's settled, it's totally ok to want a monogamous partner. I wouldn't want my dude dipping his pretzel in someone else's mustard either. Having already been married twice, and now questioning a six week relationship, maybe in addition to the control and trust issues, you should look into whether or not "settling" is an issue for you.

Do you go along with partners that seem "good enough" even if in your gut something is bothering you about the relationship, like right now? As far as living in the present, do whatever the hell you want. IF you don't then don't and allow yourself to do so without an excuse. These relationships only work if both of you are open about it from the beginning. As a guy, it sounds like he just wants to hook up and have fun.

If you are OK with that, go for it, but be aware that it may not last. I think this is an excellent opportunity to practice enjoying someone without losing yourself in the limerance and the struggle to form a permanent bond. I say this coming out of a long period of quickly developing heavy relationships with codependant qualities myself. It is a huge relief to finally have a crush on someone and enjoy it without making it into my raison d'etre.

Can you spend time with him, have sex with him and even love him in a way that doesn't involve engineering yourself to be suited for this relationship? If you can't, then you should start seeing a therapist and stop seeing him and learn how. Please, please don't try to "fix" yourself for him. The therapist will help you with that, but they certainly won't do it so you can date this person. Non-monogamy is great for many and maybe you can swing it with him, but you won't end up anywhere good thinking about this the way you are now.

It's not a question of "being ready to commit" to one person when someone's preferred relationship style is non-monogamous; I know plenty of people who are committed to two or three or more partners. It sounds like you are also self-medicating via your interactions with this guy. What you describe sounds more like getting high than being in a relationship. You're married contentiously divorcing , so not exactly available yourself; you have a lot of grown-up responsibilities and forgive me, but "kids who take some of my time" raises an eyebrow This guy is probably a very welcome diversion from all that.

Since breaking up with him isn't an option, per your Ask, then you have two options as I see it: He chooses to end things with you at some point, for whatever reason on his end. Are you OK with getting dumped after spending x-amount of time bending yourself to fit what he wants? Will you feel used, or will you feel OK that it was just a temporary, mutually-fun time?

You find yourself getting increasingly anxious, and start to play out your previous patterns of behavior, and it escalates into something extremely painful for you, and you end up breaking it off, and then having to spend x-amount of time undoing the damage. He's told you exactly who he is, and how he sees you as medication, as an emotional bong-hit. He has no incentive to change. As long as you are OK with the temporary high of dating this guy, with the knowledge that you will crash hard and have a long detox afterwards, then carry on.

It kind of sounds like you want a monogamous relationship but feel like you should be fine with a nonmonogamous relationship, so you're trying to figure out how to stop wanting the thing you want, which is exclusivity. It seems like you've sort of bought into the idea that wanting monogamy is inherently backward, and accepting nonmonogamy is more advanced, so you're trying to achieve being okay with it.

What is a casual, non-exclusive relationship, anyway? - Mogul

I think what the folks here are telling you is that whichever you want, that's kinda what you want, and you probably shouldn't fight yourself about it. The fact that monogamy isn't guaranteed to be successful doesn't mean you shouldn't do it; nonmonogamy isn't guaranteed to be successful either. People in multiple relationships or open relationships still get hurt, lied to, damaged I'd recommend listening to yourself and realizing that monogamy is actually pretty important to you, so you want to look for somebody who wants that, too.

I spent a year in a previous relationship trying to be okay with non-monogamy, even though it deeply bothered me. I wanted it so badly to work, the chemistry, the butterflies, everything you describe was there. I knew if I just tried hard enough I could be the "cool girlfriend" he needed and I'd make everything work and he'd see how awesome and freethinking and amazing I was. But it was just wrong for me. I don't know if it's possible for me to overstate the massive toll the whole thing took on my mental health. The relationship ended over seven years ago, and I'm in a much better place now, but there are still areas where I'm dealing with the emotional and logistical fallout every day.

You have to do what's best for yourself, and while I certainly don't know exactly what that is for you, your description of this relationship especially the guy's "low self-esteem" spiel and the high intensity and of your feelings in it hits really close to home for me. There is nothing wrong or controlling about wanting monogamy, and you aren't less of a person for needing it.

That was a hard realization for me, but now that I know that it's something I fundamentally need, I can be honest about it with others and most importantly, with myself. Take care of yourself above all else. There sure is a lot of "this is the way relationships have to be"-ism here. Is it mutually satisfying and growth producing? Can it be made so? If so, it's as good as relationships get and you should both keep it, as long as possible. Note I did not say anything about exclusive, committed, or permanent.

Those aren't the same. Folks pushing you to get into a commitment zone might want to take note that a you didn't do too well in the prior one and b neither did they if they are normal adults how many had just one? Woman, you are powerful. You are in charge. You can do whatever you want. No one can tell you how or when to be happy and no one, not your family, friends, or community, can stand in your way of trying on different clothes, as it were.

If this man makes you happy for a year, what a year it will be. If 10, you will be 3 beyond most married folks. The best model is what works for you, and for NewGuy. Even if that's conventional commitment. I'm just not a fan of one-size-fits-all.

1. You can still date whoever you want and not get in trouble for it.

Goodness me, without the chemistry you're experiencing this guy sounds terrible on paper frankly - barely holding it together in multiple ways it seems - and further, he seems exactly structured to bring out and fan your absolute worst insecurities and behaviours. Good luck to you if you stick to it, but yikes, he doesn't sounds like any kind of relationship material - open or closed - to me, and it's super dooper clear you emotionally want and need something more than friends-with-benefits, which is all this is ever going to be.

You're allowed to want things in a relationship and not have them solely on someone else's terms, that's okay.

About the Author

If you persist with this I think you should totally continue dating. It's unlikely for someone who wants to be monogamous to be ok with a non-monogamous partner. This is the origin of a large amount of the pain people face when trying to be non-monogamous in this culture. This suggests a "maturation model" in your mind, wherein he'll ripen into someone who does want exclusivity sometime. Many non-monogamous people do not and will not. I suggest you treat him as such and keep your expectations of your relationship here limited and short: On a separate note, people with such low self-esteem assuming your diagnosis is correct that they need the external ego strokes of multiple relationships are not ready for a deep, stable, mature relationship, monogamous or otherwise.

Love involves revealing the self until eventually we are down to our softest vulnerable core. That kind of self-revealing takes courage and belief that what we reveal, however flawed, is still worth loving, because no one is perfect. This is WHY he spreads himself between multiple people -- he needs distance in order to maintain this facade you see him now -- charming, able to make you feel good, all that. From experience, I have learned that no amount of love can "heal" another person's self-loathing, whatever their method of camouflage multiple shallow relationships, yes, but also being controlling, co-dependent, testing, fear being cheated upon We can only ever heal ourselves.

I'd let this one go. If so, it's as good as relationships get No. There's a lot more to a relationship that's as "good as it gets", including but not limited to trusting your partner to cherish you and prioritize your feelings and welfare, and knowing that you are emotionally safe with them. None of those things are going to happen here, because OP isn't a poly person by nature, and she knows it.

OP, you asked a legit question about whether you can train yourself to be a happily poly person, and we haven't seen any post yet from someone who's successfully done it, although we've certainly seen several from people who've tried and failed, which jibes with what I've seen myself. In my experience you either dig it or you don't; it sometimes, but not always, takes some experimenting to figure out which it is. This guy sounds like exactly the kind of guy who makes people associate open relationships and non-monogamy with assholes and players.

Not to mention with people for whom "one person just isn't enough attention and validation", etc. Those stereotypes aren't just unfounded propaganda by "backwards religious assholes" or something like you're implicitly being sold here, and trying to tell yourself. I absolutely agree with the people above who say that you're getting some kind of feeling that not being ok with this is a problem and that being cool with it is not only the cool thing to do to be the "good girlfriend" but also that it's somehow more socially progressive and you're holding on to some archaic concept.

No, i think that's exactly what this type of guy wants you to believe.


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And as much as i usually hate to be one of the people going "Lol yea i bet they're saying all that shit to the other person too" I would be really really surprised if someone who openly said they were essentially self medication with sex and relationships wasn't the type to also tell every person they're involved with that they are the super special one they like more than all the other ones.

That is their hook, that is how they play their game. I mean really, read this entire description. This guy pretty much sounds like the textbook definition of a player. And like a lot of those types of people he lightheartedly told you exactly how he is, what he wants, and how he operates. Because it clears his conscience because "hey, i told her exactly what i wanted and how i'm going to act. It's not being an asshole if i tell her i'm gonna be an asshole!

When Should You Become Exclusive

He knows that's not what you want because you've pretty much explicitly told him, plus he's not an idiot unable to tell those obvious things. He knows this isn't what you really want, and you know that. But you just let that elephant chill because "Eh, maybe it'll change this is just starting! When it doesn't, he has his get out of jail free card.

Meanwhile you're feeling fucking burnt. He's setting himself up to always have an instant guilt free eject lever of "hey, full disclosure and shit, what's the problem? You're the one sliding all your chips onto the table while he puts up essentially nothing. I realize i might be projecting my own experiences a bit and reading into this, but what you described sounds like a very distinct type of person that's easy to identify once you've seen a couple.

And that said, having known a couple of guys like this fairly well there is a distinct honeymoon period. They're really really good at seeming awesome and like everything you'd want while not quite committing for about After that they either ghost, or the entire thing falls apart and it becomes really obvious they weren't what they seemed at all. This may very well resolve itself very soon when it either becomes cartoonishly like scooby doo villain obvious he wasn't what he seemed or just gets "bored" with you and leaves because he's essentially run out of pre-punched cards to feed in to his speak-n-spell of how to play a mini relationship.

I'd be really curious to know how many "relationships" like yours this guy has had that lasted a month or so. Not that there's any way to look that up or ever honestly find out, but i would be surprised if the number wasn't high. If life, or dating was some kind of game with stats they would have the absolute maximum number you could have in that field and sex while having the minimums you start out with when it comes to everything else in life.

Someone I know was with this guy she liked, whom she found very intense and sexy, and who insisted on an "open" relationship. Like yours, he explained this with reference to various personal quirks and traumas and made it sound like monogamy was something he was just too damaged to do. In practice this meant that he had a free pass to sleep around as much as he liked, but he got insanely jealous of her behavior even though she was not really seeing anyone.

She tried really hard to convince herself that if she were a more mature person, she'd be okay with the open relationship concept. But she wasn't okay with it, and what happened was that she cycled through being miserable about his behavior and then as an extra bonus getting mad at herself for being miserable. If she talked to him about this, he responded that she was creating drama and breaking the terms of their relationship, and treated it as completely her problem.

She ultimately was forced to recognize that and dump him. Shortly thereafter she met someone else with whom she is now happily monogamous. After that, she also talked to some of her ex's other ex-girlfriends and found that a lot of the stuff he'd told her -- about the way he felt about her, about their possible future, etc.


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I guess my point here is two-fold: And second, the thing of "I'm just too damaged to be faithful to you" is at best a warning sign and at worst intentional manipulation. Someone who is poly in a well-grounded way will likely present the fact differently.