Y Me?: Putting the 'ex' in exclusive

Posted 11:31pm on Tuesday, May. 22, 2012

This week I thought I'd regale you with a cautionary tale. Recently, a friend encountered something that I imagine is fairly common in newish relationships: The girl he was dating assumed the two were exclusive, without ever having a conversation about it. She thought it was time to change her Facebook status to "In a Relationship" with him, and he freaked out. The resulting argument ended the relationship.

Which is a shame. The two liked each other, had a lot in common and would have had very pretty babies (they are both hot). A little communication and understanding might have saved that relationship.

They had been dating for a few months, but because of their respective work schedules, could only see each other once or twice a week. So, from her perspective, they'd been dating so long that they didn't need to have a conversation about their relationship status. Her monogamy alarm went off, and the matter was settled, in her mind.

From his perspective, he had only hung out with her a handful of times and didn't feel as if he knew her that well. The irony is that they were already monogamous. Neither was dating anyone else. They are both busy, professionals who had to work just to make time for their respective love lives.

From my perspective, all bets are off until you have the conversation. Two adults should know better. All she had to do was ask him where he thought the relationship was going, and, as he explained to me over drinks, he would have told her everything that she wanted to hear. Since he doesn't have time to juggle women, it wouldn't have been a stretch to be exclusively with her, even though he didn't think that he knew her all that well. Assuming the two were committed was a little faux pas on her part, but I'm not sure it was grounds for calling the whole thing off.

Breaking up with her was a total panic move.

When he called her to discuss the issue, he had no intention of breaking up. She was incredulous and became defensive, and that made him hit the eject button. He just wanted out of the conversation, not the relationship. But panic set in, and he decided to burn the flimsy bridge the two had been slowly cobbling together.

They aren't on speaking terms now and even deleted the other from their respective Facebook friends list -- the modern equivalent of banishing the other person to a remote island. It's a shame they couldn't be more adult about it, but hopefully we can all learn from their mistakes.

I polled three female friends about what happened between the star-crossed lovers, and all three said they would never assume a relationship is exclusive until both people agree that it is. Although one girl, who was the youngest polled, said she believes that if you're dating someone seriously, you shouldn't have sex with someone else. But, she added, you can still date around. If you find someone you like better, call things off before hitting the sheets with your new interest. The other two women disagreed.

I think that until two people agree to be committed, there are no limits on what you can do with someone else. Then again, I've never had that problem, so I'll ask you, the reader, what do you think?

Should a person assume that a relationship is exclusive without ever saying it out loud? If you're dating someone, but not exclusively, are there limits on how far you can go with someone else?

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