What Is the Definition of Monogamy?

a man with two women in bed

Hi Evan,

I started dating this guy (met online) about 6 weeks ago. Our first date was one of those dates where we just kept talking and even though we met early, we ended up closing the bar (I only had 2 drinks!). He followed-up the next day, and secured the 2nd date w/in 2 days for the following weekend. Skip a few dates, we sleep together.

After that happened, on our next date (which was a really romantic restaurant here in LA), I told him I need to know for my own health and safety that this is monogamous. He assured me it was. Fast forward 3 more weeks, he’s been swamped with work (high powered attorney at huge firm) and our dates have become more like hang outs, and not as scheduled/formal due to his 100 hour work weeks. He calls me one night (we’d been communicating every day via phone/text) and says that a friend is coming to town this coming weekend who he has hooked up with before and staying with him (this the man who is too busy to hang out the previous weekend). He went on to say that because he likes me and respects me, he wants to tell me this might happen again. I brought up the monogamous conversation and he said “I said it was monogamous unless I was going to sleep with someone else”. For one, BULL, I would have never continued that dinner if he said that.

However, am I in the wrong for telling him to lose my number and have a nice life? I’m of the mind-frame that if a guy likes you, he only sleeps with you. Apparently this girl’s trip was planned prior to our meeting. However since we aren’t official bf/gf, did I over-react? Should I respect that he told me beforehand? If she was planning on coming this whole time, why did he take me on such nice dates, meet my friends, and invite me to a wedding in 2 months?

Thanks in advance!

What could he possibly have meant otherwise? He was monogamous while his penis was in you, but was a free agent once he took it out?


Leave it to a lawyer to parse the definition of monogamy.

Your question is particularly interesting for two reasons:

1) You did the right thing by kicking him to the curb.

2) He isn’t as entirely wrong as you think he is.

To explain how I arrive at this conclusion, let me start with a story — one that I’m not sure I’ve told publicly before:

I met my wife at a party in January, 2007. We hooked up (without having sex) a few times before I was scheduled to take a short trip to San Francisco.

I told her the main reason that I was going was to visit Steve, one of my closest friends from college. This was true — sort of. I was going to stay with Steve. But I was also going to go on a long-awaited first date with Jill.

Jill was (and is) a super-cool chick with whom I’d been flirting for a few months. We bantered by email, chatted on the phone for hours, and talked about the excitement of meeting each other — as well as the possibility of a dreaded long-distance relationship. But that was just putting the cart before the horse. We hadn’t even met yet. We put a date on the calendar.

And before that date, I picked up my future wife at a party.

You with me so far? Good.

You somehow found space between monogamy and boyfriend/girlfriend. In my book, there is none.

So let’s recap: Did I lie to the woman I was seeing to obscure the fact that I was going on a date in San Francisco? Absolutely. And it was perfectly defensible. The woman in LA wasn’t my wife yet. She wasn’t even my girlfriend yet. She was a woman I’d met twice. As such, she didn’t have any claims of exclusivity — and, for that matter, I didn’t have any right to expect her not to see any other men at that point.

I went to San Francisco, had a great time, spent the night with Jill, and returned to LA. And while I definitely enjoyed my date, it wasn’t so transcendent that I wanted to uproot my life to make things work. If I already lived in SF, I might have given it a shot. But driving 6 hours every other weekend? I just wasn’t up for it. Instead, I continued to date the first woman in LA. I had absolutely no idea she’d become my girlfriend, much less my wife.

End of story. Mostly.

As it turns out, my wife was still dating on Match.com until we became exclusive. As she should have been. That’s what you do until you are truly monogamous.

Once you’re monogamous, you stop seeing other people.

That’s where your guy fucked up, Jenn.

That’s why you were right to kick him to the curb.

He said you were monogamous and then changed his mind. That is unacceptable, no matter how you slice it. What could he possibly have meant otherwise? He was monogamous while his penis was in you, but was a free agent once he took it out?

Good riddance to him.

However, don’t get too high and mighty on him. Because if he didn’t say that you were monogamous, he wouldn’t have done a single thing wrong.

He would have been just like me in the story above. He had a previous fling and plans on the books. He met and hooked up with a new girl, which complicated things. He didn’t want to cancel his plans with #1 until he was sure about his feelings for you. All perfectly acceptable. If you’re not exclusive, he has the right do do whatever (and whomever) he wants. As do you.

Where you really lose me is your final paragraph:

I’m of the mind-frame that if a guy likes you, he only sleeps with you.

Not remotely true.

Apparently this girl’s trip was planned prior to our meeting. However since we aren’t official bf/gf, did I over-react?

You overreacted if you were just “seeing” him. You didn’t overreact if you were “monogamous”. You somehow found space between monogamy and boyfriend/girlfriend. In my book, there is none.

Moral of the story: if you claim to be monogamous, you should be in a secure relationship. And if you’re not in a secure relationship, then don’t have sex. Problem solved.

Should I respect that he told me beforehand? If she was planning on coming this whole time, why did he take me on such nice dates, meet my friends, and invite me to a wedding in 2 months?

Because he wanted to.

There’s no reason a guy can’t like/be attracted to/sleep with two women simultaneously. It’s up to you whether that’s okay with you or not.

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  1. 1

    Yup, you did the right thing by dumping him, Jenn and I hope that you won’t second-guess yourself about it any more.   Like Evan said, the “crime” this dude committed wasn’t in hooking up with more than one woman but in doing so (or, potentially doing so) after claiming that he was monogamous with you.   You can do better; even being on your own awhile is better than staying with a guy who behaves like this.

  2. 2

    I reluctantly understand Evan’s point, but also agree with him that she was right to kick him to the curb.   After two months of dating, it’s a sh*t or get off the pot type of deal and him sticking with having the friend coming and ‘possibly hooking up’ means he’s vacated the pot.     Time to move on to someone who doesn’t follow the lawyer’s definition of monogamous.  

  3. 3

    “There’s no reason a guy can’t like/be attracted to/sleep with two women simultaneously. It’s up to you whether that’s okay with you or not.”
    Exactly. If it’s okay with you, then there is no need to ask for advice. If it’s not okay with you, then you opt out and don’t look back.
    It continues to amaze me how much we can twist ourselves into pretzels to analyze/justify/accomodate/excuse behaviors that completely conflict with our goals and values. Been there, done that too!
    Self-awareness is knowing oneself and becoming confident in our right to have certain preferences, values, and ethics. Self-respect is gracefully opting out of interactions that conflict with those. It does not make the person with different values bad, it makes them uncompatible.
    As Evan said, if you’re not exclusive, you have to accept that each party is free, no matter how many plans have been made, how romantic each date is, and how many couple-y things you guys do over time. In the situation the Letter Writer wrote about, the guy subscribed to “monogamy” in a “pay-as-you-go” kind of way, not a subscription. As a good lawyer he played the grey area. He canceled his commitment to monogamy before the hook up, so that he would not be technically cheating. Ah, he is a good guy, right? Good guys don’t cheat. He indeed did not lie or cheat, but he lacked integrity and was a user. Folding oneself into a pretzel to try to find something honorable in this behavior is pointless.
    As I wrote in other threads, exclusivity can be given and taken away in the same breath. It does not mean much if you are not emotionally bonded and devoted to one another. There was obviously no true emotional connexion there.

  4. 4

    If I am reading this correctly, the misstep here is that she slept with him before they had the monogamy conversation, and after only a few dates. To be clear, I don’t think the problem is the guy wont like you because you slept with him before the conversation, but rather, you will feel more pressure to prematurely push for monogamy and that could scare off a decent guy.  
    And as a somewhat serial dater over the last few years, I learned it is absolutely possible to want to sleep with one person while liking another. The two aren’t related. But if the guy I really liked showed every sign of wanting to commit to me, I wouldn’t be preoccupied with other guys, really.  

  5. 5

    Completely did the right thing. If this guy was “into you,” and wanted to see a future with you, there wouldn’t be this sort of in between monogamy /boyfriend (i.e. I will sleep with you, but if someone else is available that is better to sleep with, I am gone). In his eyes, he is probably being noble by being honest. Sorry this probably hurts a lot because you wanted monogamy, told him you needed that to feel safe, and he gave that to you, but was dishonest. I am so sorry, a lot of this seems like shopping for something bigger and better-while dating online. Which is difficult to handle. Cyber hugs.  

  6. 6

    You did the right thing.   To his (very) modest credit, at least he told you and didn’t sneak around.   Better yet would have been to officially break up with you rather than his half-assed cowardly break-up with you by saying “I like you so you should know I am going to end our monogamy” and leaving it to you to pull the plug. (He wasn’t even that direct. Maybe he was hoping you would still hang on, but I think if he wanted to play that game he would not have told you at all.)   What a fearful wuss. For the sake of his employer I hope he is not a trial or tort lawyer.

  7. 7

    I 100% agree with Evan’s point that he did not do anything wrong if you were not exclusive. But, it sounds like this guy told you exactly what you wanted to hear to keep seeing you when he fully planned to hook up with someone else in the near term. He didn’t technically do anything wrong since he hadn’t hooked up with her when he tried to redefine the expectations of your relationship. But, if you want a secure and exclusive relationship, this guy doesn’t seem to be a good bet.
    And, I’d be very wary of how he qualified things in the future as he seems to be perfectly comfortable setting one expectation when he wants something different. I’d question his character if he’s willing to commit to an exclusive relationship with you then claim he didn’t later when that relationship is no longer convenient for him. If he came to you and said “hey, I don’t think I’m not cut out for a relationship right now and would like to be dating different people”. That’s very different than him lying about what he agreed to before. I could trust a guy who breaks off a formerly committed relationship not one who pretends he was never in one.   

  8. 8

    This guy wasn’t clear that when he claimed to be “monogamous”, he just meant that he wasn’t sleeping with anyone else at that moment. Another way I’ve found that men can muddy the waters in order to have their cake and eat it too, and worthy of dumping. I agree that the monogamy conversation should have happened before sex, but he still could have lied about it. It seems that, for him, monogamy is a temporary state, and subject to change whenever he feels like it.

  9. 9

    Sounds like the chronology was this:
    1) Trip of out of town friend is planned.
    2) Jenn and Lawyer meet, have sex < 3 weeks later.
    3) Jenn asks Lawyer if it’s monogamous, receives affirmation.
    4) They spend the next 3 weeks hanging out.
    5) Lawyer calls Jenn and tells her he’s probably going to fuck another woman, Week 6.
    In my book, if you’re monogamous, you  are  BF/GF, so Jenn was not overreacting.   He basically lied regarding the whole monogamy thing.   There’s no “He isn’t as entirely wrong as you think he is” about it at all.   If he was planning on fucking this other woman (which he clearly was) he should not have told Jenn their relationship was monogamous.   There’s no way you can spin that so it’s not wrong.   The only thing you can credit him with is that he told Jenn about the other woman before she came to town, giving Jenn the opportunity to kick him to the curb before he slept with the other woman.
    By the way, Evan–you’d have been spending 12 hours on the road every other weekend if you’d continued dating Jill, not just 6!

    1. 9.1

      Agree with you entirely.   I’m stunned the respondent behaved the way he did with “Jill” and his now wife.   Men really think it’s acceptable to start-course with one woman while knowing full well they intend to sleep with another?   That’s not justifiable – it’s selfish.

  10. 10

    Missed the detail that the visit from the out of towner was planned before you two even met for the first time.   He owed it to you to tell you she was coming at the point of the monogamy talk if he knew then he would be sleeping with her. In that case, he completely lied no matter how he legal-sleazed around his selective memory of the romantic dinner conversation.

  11. 11

    Yes, and the other minor detail he left out was, “I said it was monogamous unless I was going to sleep with someone else”, so he actually lied again about his first statement (which was already a lie!). Next!


  12. 12
    Jackie H.

    Wait as long as possible to have sex because as evolved as women may seem, the heart gets too involved when it shouldn’t be when sex becomes part of the equation. If this woman hadn’t had sex with this dude, while she may have been concerned, it wouldn’t have been something that she worried about…better luck next time…

  13. 13

    If Jenn wanted sexual monogamy for “health and safety” reasons why didn’t she mention it prior to having sex? Telling him after doing the deed doesn’t  look like  health concerns  to me.  It rather looks like angling for an emotional commitment.
    She wrote: ““I said it was monogamous unless I was going to sleep with someone else”. For one, BULL, I would have never continued that dinner if he said that.”
    Next paragraph she writes: “However since we aren’t official bf/gf, did I over-react?”
    What if he had said, “Jenn I like you and I’m not sleeping with anyone else right now, but I’m not ready to make a commitment after only 3-4 dates”? Would she have ended it with him, or continued seeing him?
    People have different ideas of what exclusivity and being boyfriend/girlfriend mean. And see different degrees of emotional commitment. For the guy monogamy seems to have meant acknowledging he wasn’t having sex with anyone else and being upfront if that were to change. For Jenn monogamy seems to mean not having sex with anyone else and hoping a boyfriend/girlfriend commitment will materialize in the future. Neither of them bothered to add these details in their brief convo re: monogamy.
    I do think the guy was skeevy agreeing they were monogamous when he knew he had a pre-planned visit with previous lover coming up. But I also think Jenn was a bit disingenuous herself since she doesn’t define monogamy as being boyfriend/girlfriend either.  
    Lesson here? Be clear in what you want and express it clearly to the other person.  

  14. 14

    Fusee # 3
    Yes!!   I especially appreciated your line about him “subscribing to ‘monogamy’ in a ‘pay-as-you-go’ kind of way, not a subscription.    And I agree that many of us tend to do all sorts of mental gymnastics in order to justify and excuse bad behavior.
    AllenB # 10
    I loved your line that he lied no matter how he “legal-sleazed” around his selective memory. LOL…

  15. 15

    I don’t know. I agree with Evan’s “just like a lawyer” comment, but sometimes men really need things spelled out for them and it could just as easily be playing dumb as it is actually being dumb.
    Jenn, here is what you said, “I told him I need to know for my own health and safety that this is monogamous.”  I know people that make rules for their friends with benefits for their own “health and safety” and want a scenario where they aren’t exposed to STDs, etc, so I wouldn’t say you are definitely letting him know that you see yourself developing an emotional attachment.   You saw it as implied.   I (once) told a guy who I KNEW was a rebound that if he was sleeping with other girls, he’d never see me again, mostly b/c I didn’t want the drama.  
    And regarding this other girl: Even if he knew she was coming, he may not have had a feeling she was interested in hooking up again.   I’ve hooked up with people that are still in a wider social circle, one who has even requested to stay with me (though I said no), but this lawyer may have just started seeing signs from her she’s interested, where before he wasn’t sure.   He’s just trying to keep as many things stacked in his favor as possible.   Also, your suggestion that if a guy likes you he only sleeps with you is not how a lot of guys work.   That’s how guys in love operate.   This guy may have no interest in falling in love.   He sounds like he was testing you anyways.   If you had shot back, “Not if you plan to see me again!” you’d at least have made him choose.
    It sounds like you did yourself right, but moving forward just say you see yourself developing an emotional attachment if you sleep together.   That’s more direct than the “health and safety” thing.

  16. 16

    Selena is right. The OP angled for a commitment that the man didn’t want to give. Don’t squeezeyourguy. Real monogamy resolves naturally.

  17. 17

    It’s not unreasonable to want sexual monogamy in early dating, but it doesn’t guarantee anything. The two people might grow closer, become a couple, or either person might find they aren’t into it as the weeks go by. Saying you want monogamy on date 4 doesn’t mean you will have a lasting relationship.
    Fusee, you made a very strong point in #3: exclusivity means nothing with emotional bonding. And how emotionally bonded can you be (or should be)  after only a few dates?  
    As far as respecting “Mr. Loophole” for being honest…he had to know Jenn might be upset hearing about his pre-planned anticipated tryst. Was telling her his way of breaking it off? Or testing to see if she would still be available when the visit was over and he could resume “hanging out” with her?   I don’t know, just seems kind of cruel.

  18. 18

    I mentioned in another comment in an earlier post that sometimes guys will date women even though the guy knows in his mind there is an “expiration date”. But the guy will never let onto this fact because he is getting the companionship and the sex until someone else comes along. It sounds like this was the case here.
    This guy knew he would probably lose her by telling  her another woman will be staying with him. SO this was his way of ending the relationship without having to do the official breaking up.   He got what he wanted out of the OP and then told her something that would make her end things. Mission accomplished.
    Now as to the reason why he acted all boyfriendy even though he knew she wouldn’t be around a long time? Could be many reasons. Maybe she was not his type physically. Maybe she never offered to pay anything on their dates. Maybe he was just a player.   But rest assured, he knew all along this would end things   the moment he told her about this other woman.

  19. 19

    I don’t think it really matters if you have a conversation about “monogamy” if there is not sufficent  emotional investment on his part.   Saying the words isn’t going to stop him from doing what he wants, and if he is not emotionally ready/willing to be monogamous with you, he won’t be.
    Likewise, just because a guy doesn’t say the words, does not mean he doesn’t have every intention of being monogamous.
    For me personally, I would keep my emotional investment extremely low until I saw some ACTUAL evidence (in the form of consistent action, not just a few nice dates)  that he was committed to me on some level and quite strongly emotionally invested himself, otherwise I would keep my expectations to a minimum.
    Having said that, I think this guy knew when Jenn was having the “let’s be monogamous” conversation what she was angling for, and that was the time to open up about this girl who was coming to visit, not lead Jenn on.
    On the other hand, I think a girl initiating this conversation with a guy (ESPECIALLY after sex) is extremely ill-advised.

  20. 20

    Angie says
      “Also, your suggestion that if a guy likes you he only sleeps with you is not how a lot of guys work.   That’s how guys in love operate.”
    Exactly so if you want to higher your value and chances of committed monogamous realtionship that has a chance of moving forward to   life long partner it isn’t about waiting x amount of dates or time 4 dates or 3 months timescale and then I’ll sleep with him and he will be faithful. It is about waiting and d getting to know his character and seeing if deep feelings develop on both sides develop first waiting to see if your inner core values are a compatible on those inner core values and you have both fallen in love. Then you can take that leap of faith and sleep with him.
    Unless you are one of those rare women who are able to do causal sex and doesn’t get hormonally bonded and attached to a man who isis ok with being a one or two night stand, having a fling here or there or being a fuck buddy, risking your health and heart hoping he will fall in love with you and want something more. Most women are not able to do casual sex like that and don’t really want that they need monogamy and love to thrive. If you don’t need monogamy and love and can compartmentalize sex having it casually without being in a monogamous realtionship being in love, I don’t believe you would be here asking these questions.
    So to me it appears to be the lesson here and take away is now you have learned that about yourself.
    Only you know deep down or not who the real you is and what it is you really want and what you are able to handle. Or if you don’t are on the journey of discovering that.

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