My ‘Number’ Keeps Growing After 4 Years of Online Dating. Help!

Hi Evan,

How do you avoid putting “notches on your headboard” while dating, yet still enjoy a satisfying physical, monogamous relationship? I am a 52 year old attractive woman, and I have been dating online for about 4 years. I haven’t had a problem meeting lots of men with whom I have chemistry. While I don’t jump in bed with them right away, we will have sex once we get to know each other.

The problem is, most people will put their best feet forward in the beginning, and so you start having the physical relationship, then at about the 6 month mark, the red flags start glowing. You may find out his idea a good credit score is being one step ahead of foreclosure or you may meet his family and you realize you aren’t going to be happy listening to the banjo on the front porch.

While I think of myself as pretty discerning and have high expectations, I have taken your advice and widened my parameters. However, it seems in the last 4 years online dating is making me feel like an “Online Whore.” What’s a woman who enjoys a physical relationship and wants to be monogamous to do? Do I have to just think more like a man? It seems in this day and age, trying to wait for sex until you know someone thoroughly isn’t realistic. I am right now taking a vow of celibacy.

Frustratingly yours,

What you call being an ‘online whore’ is what other people, including myself, call ‘dating’

Mary

Great letter, Mary. The banjo part nearly gave me the chills.

However, based on your text above, it doesn’t seem to me that there’s ANYTHING wrong. What you call being an ‘online whore’ is what other people, including myself, call ‘dating’.

That’s right, Mary. Unless you still buy into Mom’s explanation of sex – ‘When a man loves a woman’ – intercourse tends to happen before marriage. It happens before the six month mark. It happens before the declaration of love. And hey, if you’re lucky, it can even happen before the entrée. Point is, you’re conflating two different points and coming to the wacky conclusion that a vow of celibacy is just the right tonic.

Yeah, I can’t think of a better solution for a sensual woman than to swear off sex.

Your issue isn’t with sex. It’s with your antiquated, double-standard view of sex. That’s right. You’re still obsessed with the number of people you’ve slept with, when, you know what? Nobody else cares. ‘Notches on the bedpost’. Not even GUYS talk like that anymore. If you sleep with men you’re seeing for two months, four months, or six months, you’re not a slut. You’re a normal, sexually active woman. And you need to stop beating yourself up on yourself for racking up numbers. See, unless you get hit by a bus, your number just keeps going up and up and up. …

So if you are a discerning dater and you commit to – and thereby sleep with – a new man every three months, what’s the logical conclusion? You’ll sleep with four men a year as long as you don’t have a long-term relationship. Do that over 5 years, and you’ll sleep with 20 men. Do that over 10 years, you’ll sleep with 40 men! That’s 40 penises!! Time to buy a new bedpost, or maybe use a softer material for easier carving.

So unless you want to stay with that banjo picker to keep your numbers down, I’m afraid you’re going to have to boff another guy someday.

I’m only teasing you, Mary, not because I’m not sympathetic, but because it’s impossible for society to move on from its double standards until its enlightened women do the same. Are guys ready to hear that you slept with 40 men? Nope. No way. No how. But it’s a shame because there’s nothing wrong with it. Not logically. After all, you could hypothetically have a series of serious one year relationships for 40 sexually active years, and still end up at the same number. 40. Which doesn’t make you loose, or a slut, or a whore, or any of the things you choose to denigrate yourself. It makes you human.

So unless you want to stay with that banjo picker to keep your numbers down, I’m afraid you’re going to have to boff another guy someday. And another. And another.

Thus, your real issue should be figuring out why it’s so tricky to find a keeper, not whether monogamous sex with a six-month boyfriend makes you feel icky.

Frankly, I’d guess that not having sex with a six-month boyfriend would feel a helluva lot worse.

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Comments:

  1. 1
    Natalie

    I think you should keep your “number” as low as possible. I dated online for 3 years and my number didn’t grow that much. be a lady. Be picky.

  2. 2
    Jennifer

    Totally agree with Evan. People tend to lose their minds if a grown woman has a number of 20 or more. In some crowds it’s 10. If you do the math those numbers are far from ‘whorish’ but people act like the women have been working part time at a brothel or something. It’ll be nice when the number won’t be such a sticking point, especially for guys cause that’s why it even bothers women, and the circumstances surrounding the activity will matter much more.
    And while I’m ranting, I don’t think women who’ve slept with 10 men should catch heat while women who’ve sucked off 50 men but only slept with 5 are seen as almost virginal and held up as paragons of virtue. Both are intimate acts, but one act is whorish and the other isn’t? Another one of those nonsensical things that I will be happy to see go by the wayside.

  3. 3
    JB

    Yeah ya know I’ve often thought about how easy it is for women online to rack up some “crazy” numbers. Then they feel guilty about it and/or they don’t even tell friends etc… I’m sure it goes on everyday and it’s your own business.

    Most people would say “it’s just as easy for men to do the same”. Sure if they look like a model a guy could probably do pretty well but by and large most women could literally meet a guy every day where as a guy is lucky if he meets 2 women a month.

    It’s also said “well a woman could go to a bar every night and meet someone and start dating them etc.. Well then everyone would see her “hanging out” in public etc… (and she certainly wouldn’t be able to order them by haircolor,height,and income …lol)where as online noone see’s anyone meeting for “coffee” etc or how often or what happens next. Also for the “over 40″ crowd in most places there is NO bar scene so it’s internet or bust. I’ve often wondered how women online “draw the line” at the amount of men they’ll “date” in a given period.

    What Mary or whatever anyone else does is noone’s business but you still have to be able to look yourself in the mirror in the morning and live within your own moral boundries.

  4. 4
    Honey

    I don’t talk numbers with any guys I date. “How many people have you slept with since your last STD test and did you use a condom,” maybe. “How many have you slept with?” No. Irrelevant. I’ve been with the BF two years and a half years, and I totally get that some people don’t want to know their current partner’s sexual past in every intimate detail, but guess what? That’s why you don’t discuss it.

    Guys have tried to use my number as some sort of evaluative criterion in the past, and I a) told them it was none of their business and offered them the results of my latest STD test; b) lied about my number (which is all I can do, really, since it’s not like I keep a list–I have no idea how many people I’ve slept with though I could come up with a guess within 15 or 20); c) broken up with the person since we obviously don’t share similar values.

    I’ve slept with significantly more people than my bf, but he had a 4 year relationship and a 3 year relationship during a time period when I never had a relationship lasting longer than 6 or 8 months. It’s inevitable. He’s jealous sometimes that I dated more than he did, but only because he stayed in relationships where he was miserable trying to work things out, not because he cares about my number.

    I always think it’s WAY more disturbing when people can rattle off every one or have a numbered list somewhere. Ew.

  5. 5
    Steve

    @Honey, post #3

    If somebody was married in an LTR, yah it would be nice to know, but otherwise I am with you. I REALLY don’t want to know! :). What matters to me is what is going on now that we are together.

  6. 6
    JuJu

    Great response from Evan until the very last point. The issue isn’t why it’s so tricky to find the right person (dwelling on that would be unproductive). Her issue is thinking in those terms. What she should do is attempt to analyze why exactly she even cares (I mean, I, while reading her letter, was struggling to see what exactly the problem is). At age 52 one should a) know oneself quite well (and if they don’t, then work in that direction), and b) have a mind of one’s own, and not just blindly follow whatever societal / religious conventionalities they’ve become ingrained with through conditioning.

    Lastly, it’s just not a legitimate question. No one has a right to ask you that, nor should you feel obligated to honor it with an answer.

  7. 7
    Ben

    Honey: It honestly disturbs you if someone knows the name of everyone they’ve slept with? And if they don’t remember, even having a list on paper disturbs you? It would disturb me if they didn’t!
    But my number’s pretty low.

    Which brings up another point, is this true in the reverse? Are women bothered if a guy over 30 has slept with say, under 5 women?

  8. 8
    Shawna

    I’ve found that you don’t *really* get to know a man until you’ve become intimate with them. So, in order to figure out if they are the right one for you, you kinda have to sleep with them.

  9. 9
    Selena

    My philosophy is and has been the same as Shawna’s. Perhaps because of it my *number* is higher than I would ever have thought in my 20’s.

    Now in my 40’s, the only thing that bothers me about it is that there are a few in my count I wished I’d never bothered with. Oh well, live and learn.

  10. 10
    Honey

    @Ben, #7: If your number’s pretty low then it seems reasonable that you will remember off the top of your head. But once it gets above 10, then knowing them all or keeping a list gets pretty creepy to me–being obsessed with all the people you’ve slept with seems just as disturbing (or at the very least irrelevant) as being obsessed with how many people your partner’s been with.

    I would never ask how many partners someone had had, so I don’t know under what circumstances I’d find out if a fellow over 30 had fewer than 5 partners as in your example. If he admitted as such to me, I’d probably wonder a) why he was telling me, and b) why his number was so low. Whether I feel comfortable sleeping with someone always depends on the circumstances, which is one of the reasons you can’t attach too much importance to the number in the first place.

  11. 11
    zann

    Dang, Mary. When I first starting reading, I thought your problem was your inability to find a keeper, not about having “too many” sexual encounters. Gee, is there really such a thing? I’m in your age range, and frankly, all I can say is Yeeha and GOOD FOR YOU. I agree with everything Evan said. It’s been eons since I’ve had any discussion about numbers, and if I was asked, I’m sure my response would be something like, “Whatsit to ya?” In fact, I would consider a man who asked about numbers to be a Big Red Flag. But what I was particularly struck by was your “Old Whore” reference. Don’t you even dare think that about yourself. That is someone else’s dated, judgmental bullshit running through your head. You’re a responsible woman when you give and ask for health-related information, period. Other than that, your numbers are your business — better yet, stop keeping a tally — too tiresome. When are we going to let go of the Sex Is Bad and Nasty dogma? Sure, most women would love nothing more than monogamous sex on a lasting basis with a good man. But as you know, that’s not an easy thing to come by. My personal philosophy is “I’m over 50 and, therefore, totally slut-proof, no matter what I do.” Give yourself some credit for having the stamina & guts to keep up your search for a quality, lasting relationship. But in the meantime, enjoy your sexuality — it’s healthy, life-affirming, and fun. I now pronounce you Unburdened of Guilt.

  12. 12
    Selena

    @Honey

    I’m with about the circumstances. Someone might have a lower number if they were in a long term marriage or other relationship as opposed to a person who was single and dating during the same amount of years.

    I don’t think it’s creepy to remember all the names of people you slept with though, even if it’s more than 10. Seems to me that would have more to do with what kind of impression each individual made on you and how long ago the encounters happened. I don’t think about my “list” very often, but when I do, (like after reading a thread like this) I can remember all the names. Takes a bit of time though, cause I always find myself leaving a out a couple at first. “Oh yeah, and him” Just isn’t that memorable a decade or two or so later.

  13. 13
    hunter

    to Ben on post #7

    I am not sure if women are bothered by the few number of conquests a man has had…..yet, women are attracted to “experienced” men…..

  14. 14
    Kim

    At 50, I am dating again after 24 yrs of marriage. I, too, thought I’d want (need) to be in a committed relationship before I had sex with someone. It’s that darn “good girl” image we were raised with. I’ve been adjusting my boundaries on that (still to my comfort level, though), and Evan’s advice (plus some of the comments here), have made me feel so much better about having sex again, and not necessarily in a committed relationship. Zann is right about sex being healthy, life-affirming, and fun. I didn’t think of it from that angle. That’s just what I needed to hear, thanks! (I also love that I’m “slut-proof” now. I just may put that on a t-shirt!

    So here’s my question: Is it cool – or not cool – to be sleeping with more than one guy at a time (safety precautions in place, of course)? And no, I don’t mean two guys in the same room! LOL I mean having a sexual relationship with more than one man at a time. Hope this is not a stupid question; I really am learning all over again, and things are so different from 30 years ago! Clue me in, my friends! This is the best post I’ve seen in a while!

  15. 15
    JuJu

    Kim,

    sleeping with two men in the same bed is perfectly fine too, if that’s what you want.

    And, really, why on earth wouldn’t it be?

  16. 16
    JuJu

    Oh, same answer to your original question: if that is what you want, what you feel is best for you at this stage, and so on and so forth.

    There is no right or wrong here, and no one can decide this for you.

  17. 17
    Ms. Single Mama

    I don’t remember the last time a man asked me how many men I’ve slept with. And if someone did – I’d dump him immediately. Who cares? Insecure men care, that’s about it.

  18. 18
    Jennifer

    I have to say i do understand why a person would ask or be curious about a person’s number- they are trying to find out more about you just like asking if you were a bully, a cool kid or a nerd when growing up, how’d you get along with your parents, etc. BUT, i think there are much better ways to find out what you want to know about someone sexually (are you a prude or adventurous, inexperienced or experienced) than asking for a number. The number doesn’t even begin to tell the story; context matters so much more.

    So I wouldn’t automatically get offended is someone asked for a number; I would just get at what they really want to know about me and discuss that.

  19. 19
    Lance

    What’s wrong with banjos?

    I lost track of my number someone around graduate school (very possibly when Honey and I were dating), and I haven’t given it a second thought since then. I definitely don’t think in terms of conquests or notches, just good partners and not-so-good partners. If pressed, I could probably sit down and figure all of them out. Personally, I love experienced women.

    @JuJu: Love that response! That’s the first really open minded response to sex I’ve read from a female commenter on this blog. Cheers to that. There’s no level of rightness (or wrong) to sleeping with multiple partners, you define the relationship(s) that work for you. Monogamy? Polyamory? Open marriage? Swinging? Whatever floats your boat, sister, just be safe and be honest.

  20. 20
    Lance

    Also, that’s a good question, if Mary has great chemistry with all these guys, why can’t she stay in a committed relationship? Everyone has rough edges and blemishes, and those always come out over time. That has to be accepted.

    My guess is her standard is still too high once the LTR starts, possibly because she’s holding the guys up against a past husband or boyfriend. Her strategy of holding out on sex rarely works, because the men will be turned off and frankly she wants to have sex also.

  21. 21
    Cornelius Prescott

    I think Mary has more serious problems than worrying about how many men she has slept with, if her reasons for breaking off a relationship with someone she cares about, after 6 months, are as trivial as a low credit score, or his family members. Mary’s position on love is the only red flag she should be concerned about. Just me.

  22. 22
    JB

    @ Kim …well sure it’s perfectly fine to sleep with as many men as you’d like on an ongoing basis as long as they all know you’re sexually active with other men. The flipside to that lovely situation is how many people want to jump in bed tonight with someone who got laid last night ?? Men or women ?? Ladies ?? Do you want to be kissing a guy tonight who was “downtown” on a woman last night ??
    Same for guys ?? I’m not saying what’s right or wrong…I’m just saying these are things people that actually have feelings towards someone they’re dating think about. I don’t think most womens’s brains let them pull this off that easily.
    Back to the online thing though ….it’s just sooo easy now for women who never even used to go out in public to be approached to put up a profile and get 100 responses in 3 days. All of them basically saying the same thing in a round about way “I’d like to have sex with you if YOU deem me worthy”. Of course the numbers are going to go up just by convenience !!

  23. 23
    Evan Marc Katz

    Cornelius –

    How nice of you to join us! Long time listener, first time caller?

    Evan

  24. 24
    JuJu

    Posts 8 & 9: that’s why there is a “know” in the biblical sense. :-P

    Just being facetious. ;)

    And thanks, Lance. :)

  25. 25
    Lynn

    Regarding high standards when “shopping” for a long-term partner, I say the fit has got to be right, and if it is not, 6 months is a good amount of time to get to know someone well enough to know whether they are right for you. It hardly sounds as if Mary is not open to accepting human “flaws” among her partners; she’s just not found a keeper yet.

    Being single is basically a B+ for me. If I am going to pursue a LT relationship with a man, I want the relationship to be an A.

  26. 26
    Kris

    Wow…it takes 6 months for the red flags to start glowing? They usually arrange themselves for me on the first few dates. Personally I have yet to have a physical relationships with someone I have met on-line–what’s your secret to finding them?!? !

    Anyway, the last time I shared my “number” with someone was due to our being a physical relationship and deciding to do The Stranger (free paper in Seattle) sex quiz together, which included that question. My partner’s number was higher than mine, but not by much! A number is just a number, but you may want to hold off on sex early on (due to it’s blinding hormonal effects) and find out who you are really with first. It may suck to find out, oh, maybe they’re not someone you want to get naked with, but there ya go. I’m not sure you can be discerning and sleep with a considerable number of men you meet on-line, at the same time. Decide what is important to you. Do you want a LTR, or does the girl just want to have fun?

    Good luck!

    Kris

  27. 27
    BonerBandMan

    Commitment can be fantastic. Having had many previous partners is not as important as finding one who makes you happy.

  28. 28
    Tasha Patterson

    Through much of my live, even though I am still young, i’ve tried to seek love, with thoughts that, you should save yourself for this, “special person”. But of course you have all the things each perticular person wants in a woman, weather you want a pretty girl, a good personality, or a fun lover. But i’ve never come in contact with this, “true love bond”. Just a bunch of women and men looking. Saying to me, “Yes, i’ve been with that one, it was fun, but it didn’t work out.”
    We have come to a conclusion, that maybe, there is no true love.
    It’s just something people made up to give them reason to marry. A invisible bond between two human beings, believing that it would carry them through the thick and thin. But, there are challenges, there are mistakes. And different view points. What is love? people ask me.
    How can I be sure? What I can find is that people have sex, Sex and love are very different things. But they have a connection. Where love goes, sex lingers. Or some believe that sex brings forth love. But in other cases, it brings hardships. For sex, is the basis of life. There are some that don’t believe in God. Or any religion. They believe in Living, Loving and Laughing. But they believe in Love. But what is it? Where does it begin? Does the heart really serve a purpose other than to keep us alive? Or is it the brain, that comprehends our thoughts. Making us believe in this, “love”. I have seen highschool girls, throw away their virginity, in hopes of “love” and marrages. Their so young. And I have seen the tears. I was confused once. I didn’t understand what I was doing. I saw life brought into the world, a baby, but the mother was not ready. But she believed so much, that she would have no regrets, and that baby died. Their blind to see mistakes sometimes. They don’t know when to ask for help. When you give yourself to a man or women, should it not be forever, or is forever to long. Would you love that woman or man enough, to say no to even the most attractive man or woman, enough to never break your wedding promise, to stay true to that one you “love”. Some cheat. And others give up. And temptation could be behind all of it. Tempted to cheat, tempted to get love, tempted to feel sex. It’s in our nature as humans, to make mistakes, but with all the mistakes we have seen, where has the virgin gone, does she exsist anymore? or is a virgin just a guy or female that cannot get someone to sleep with them, or maybe, they believe. We all search for love. But in reality, it is we the humans that make love, not some magic bond. We must take it into our own hands, we have to understand what we want as individuals. Not base it off of luck of the draw. Sex is a very serious matter, but with it so open these days, we do fear the future of what is considered love. Perhaps, we shouldn’t teach ourselves to save anything. Maybe we are just animals and just have sex whenever, it is in our hands. So will you give yourself to any man or woman, and believe that its love. Only to be cast down, and then you get up, and try again, and again and again, until your “heart” can’t take anymore screw ups. Or do you believe you’ll just try until your inpregnated with a child or left with one, because you did not wait, did not wait for “love” to appear to you, the line between sex and love is strong, many challenges await a marrage, we all sin, but some prove to be stronger than the other, good luck with your life, choice is life, and you only get one, use it wisely.

    With love

  29. 29
    Reign

    If you reach your hand out for a mans love, and you give him your body, Tell him this.

    My lover, after all this, i would like to know more about you, I am searching for someone, i can be with forever, and i you passed my “expectations”. So in order for me to know more about you, i will give myself to you, the final piece of me, and if you stay with me forever, when i am your wife, you can have it all the time, and tonight you get lucky. Although if you are the one, i am sad to say i cannot give you my virginity, but if this is “love”, should it matter?

    In the near future, the femensist and sexist both believe that, virginity won’t matter, and most women here will want to bear a child, but “moms explanation of love” is just a way to keep teenagers from having sex, then why not let them do anything they want. As long as you tell them to use protection, it should be okay, maybe if they see enough young teenage boys, they will find their love. We consider teenagers to be restless and young, but if you just sleep with a man or woman to find if you love them, then let my son or daughter be with who she/he wants. What examples do we bring to the table. Maybe when a daughter grows up, and comes to her mother pregent, that girl will say, mother, i tried to learn about a guy i think i loved, but the condom broke, and the mother will say, its okay my daughter, i did the same. Sex, it’s a toy for some, but with the movies and half naked women, it does give Modern Sexism a wall to lean on. But the movies arn’t all fake, sex is apart of many peoples lives. We sexists believe that there is a virgin, and like wise we portray it as a woman, and this woman, she wears a mask and shows no skin, but you can hear her voice and hear her opinion, and she is strong in the head, she knows what she wants, but she won’t take anything off for it, and there is the advarage woman, the girl who takes off her clothes sometimes, who shows her face, for attention, for love, for her own reasons. And she gives herself away many times, and eventually, she settles down, but she has flaws, and sometimes the woman divorces, but the virgin, she waits, and waits, until she finds that someone, and from that true love is born, but this will never be the case, human life, will always contain sex, the virgin, is forever gone, let the black reign seep into our minds, let our teenagers go out and get pregnent, because we, we, were no different. There is no such thing as love, but there is such thing as carring dearly for someone. Sex is not a sin. In todays world, it is the beginning of life, and it is the way life is lived. If you search of love and have sex to find it, why look for love at all. You can’t have sex when you first meet me, but in 6 months, you’ll get it.
    You are correct, numbers don’t matter. For once you’ve done it once, you will crave it forever, it becomes a part of you. It becomes a part of your life. A woman could have sex every night if she wanted to, a man could get lucky maybe every 2 months, Prostitution is that mans answer, it lives even as its illegal, and if that man is that desparate, we will seek one. Sex, will always be easy to get, depending on the person you want to be with, it will get harder. Our leader has many philosophys, some that arn’t even sexist at all. But I will always believe, that if a woman is portrayed on screen as a half naked tool. And will give herself away after a time line, or a mear test, we can not fill teenagers minds with lies of love, sex can no longer be forbidden to them. Adults have lied for a long time, imagines of love, that just turn to sex. In sex you search for love, or in love you get sex. Choose your path, give yourself to a man, whats one hit for a lifetime of love right?

  30. 30
    July

    I think that numbers matter for many men – you just don´t have to tell them!

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