Am I Wrong to Expect Monogamy In the Early Phases of Online Dating?

couple dating over a cup of coffee

I live in a small retirement community with few men my age (54,) so online dating gives me access to a much broader field. It also means a much longer introductory phase, and an awkwardly pressured scenario – if on meeting we are not attracted. I can deal with that, I think. But in the course of the protracted conversation, when the tone becomes increasingly intimate and anticipatory, I have to repeatedly face the unexpected revelation that the man I am “involved” with is involved, literally, with someone else, typically, an old girlfriend who is now a sex partner and good friend.

Though I have said expressly in my profile that I prefer a single focus and want to be told if someone has other people in their lives (so I can figure out how to deal with it,) I keep having to find out well into the hot pursuit phase. Is this just too much to ask? Should I just get over hoping for monogamy so early in the game? I just feel the other people involved would be hurt if they knew the exchanges their lover is having with me, even if it’s just over the phone, and making plans to meet. Hopelessly mired in tradition?


Dear Michelle,

Great letter. One I feel I must have answered before, but can’t really remember.

To put a fine point on it: yes, you’re hopelessly mired in tradition. But that’s not a flaw on your part. It’s a blind spot shared with pretty much every single person who is dating online. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

The most pervasive trait that I see in online dating is mind-numbing hypocrisy.

Are you “wrong” for wishing for a simpler, more direct approach to communication? Not at all. Are you fighting a losing battle with technology and human nature? Absolutely.

“I may have lied about my height by an inch…how dare she lie about her weight?”

“I’ve been dating on JDate on and off for six years…look at that loser – he’s been using JDate the entire time I’ve been on here and still hasn’t found someone.”

“I lowered my age to be seen by more people…but what’s with these guys who take off ten years and don’t tell you until the first date?”

“I’ve sent out ten emails and eight men were so rude that they didn’t reply at all; I’ve also got ten emails from interested men, but only two of them are really worth a reply.”

“Men are only looking for hot, young women…but I’ve only got the 20 most attractive men on my favorites list.”

And, of course, your dilemma.

Now, you may be the exception to the rule – for all I know, you communicate with only one man at a time and wouldn’t even consider writing an email to a new man if you were already in correspondence with another.

But that would seem to negate the entire nature of online dating – you have access to volumes of single people who also have access to volumes of single people. So are you “wrong” for wishing for a simpler, more direct approach to communication? Not at all. Are you fighting a losing battle with technology and human nature? Absolutely.

And this happens all the time. We want the world to be a certain way and get really frustrated when it flies in the face of our expectations.

“It’s not fair that men have to be the aggressors while women have to just sift through their email!”

“It’s not fair that 50 year old men can date 40 year old women, but 40 year old men don’t want 50 year old women!”

Yeah, and?

So, Michelle, in order to be successful in online dating, you have to understand the rules of the game. Here are the rules you’re currently breaking:

In order to be successful in online dating, you have to understand the rules of the game.

1)             You say in your profile that you’re looking for a single focus and want to be told so you can deal with it.   That’s not how it works. If you actually say that, you’re only indicating that you’re tone-deaf to how you’re coming across. It’s like walking into a swingers’ party and wondering aloud why everyone has no values. Or a guy writing in his profile that he wants a young, thin, woman with big boobs and a hunger for cooking and oral sex. Is he wrong for wanting it? No. Just for saying it out loud.

2)             You’re finding out that he’s dating other people when you’re dating. Once again, I understand why you WANT to know, but you have to understand that if you pull this insta-relationship stuff with men who are exploring 3 or 4 options on right now, you’re gonna get the short end of the stick. Dating is a process. What I tell my clients all the time is that they want to read the last page of the book, just to see that it has a happy ending. But you have to read the entire book. That’s the dating process. If you try to pry information out of a guy – how many people he’s slept with, how much money he makes, whether he’s ready for a serious relationship or kids – he’s going to feel pressured and interrogated. This isn’t the feeling you want to evoke on a first date.

3)             You’re worrying about the other women these men are dating and are trying to protect them from heartbreak. I could spend a lot of time worrying about the suffering in Namibia or North Korea or Detroit, but I’ve got my own stuff to keep me busy. Until you really get that the very nature of online dating means that thousands of men are browsing thousands of women – and that pretty much every one is trying to trade up for the youngest, cutest, funniest, coolest woman on the website – you’re gonna put yourself through a lot of unnecessary heartbreak.

If you’re a baseball player, you may be an All-Star – but you pretty much know you’re never going to hit better than .350. 65% -75% of the time, you’re gonna get out. That’s the way the game is played. So instead of trying to rewrite the rules to online dating, how about you start playing by the existing rules?

Instead of trying to rewrite the rules to online dating, how about you start playing by the existing rules?

Everyone writes to everyone.

Nobody is monogamous until his profile’s down.

No relationship is real until he’s your boyfriend.

Before that, it’s just hope and potential.

If you embrace the above, I predict a much greater sense of peace at the revolving door of men facing you.

Remember, all it takes is one…

This is why I developed Finding the One Online. If you’ve ever struggled with the online dating process — and wondered why men do what they do online — I’ve answered all of your questions and more.

Warmest wishes,


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  1. 1

    LOL! Oh the silly little reindeer games we humans play. And yet I can’t argue with a thing Evan says. Once again he is spot on. You’ve got two choices; opt out or play along. Only you can decide which is right for you.

  2. 2

    I liken Michelle’s situation to that of the person who wrote because she was having a hard time finding an online date who, like her, did not believe in sex before marriage. While Michelle’s best option to increase her potential dating pool is to learn to play by the majority rules, she also has the option of continuing to look for someone with identical values. Like the gal who opposes premarital sex, Michelle just has to recognize that if she sticks to her traditional ways, she is seriously limiting the number of men available to her. Everyone has a different idea of what “dating” means, from casual sex with multiple partners to serial monogamy. The average person, though, seems to agree with Evan, that it’s a process of meeting numerous people, whittling it down from there, and hoping that the person you choose picks you in return.

    1. 2.1

      I read your post several times. I think you are saying that not only should older adults date as many people as possible but they should also have a deeply intimate sexual relationship with all of them, too, in order to assure that you have the largest pool of prospects.

      Good grief.

      I was very happily married for 40 years. I am now a widow at 60. I have five male friends under 65 who take me to dinner, watch tv with me, go for walks, sit and talk with me for hours on end, insist on buying me presents that I’d prefer not to accept, open car and other doors for me and understand that there’s no sex. I have been clear that we are building friendships over time and in time, we’ll know what is needed to know. There is no reason to hide these new friendships from anyone, including my wonderful new male friends and companions. There seems to be a belief that progressive is always wonderful and the best way and that tradition is always stuck in muck. I believe that’s lazy thinking. Tradition has some wonderful aspects to it that should be continued.

      1. 2.1.1

        I agree. As a 33 year old woman who is waiting until marriage to have sex, I can understand the point Cilla was trying to make, but there is a flaw in that thinking. I’m not necessarily looking for a man who shares my values concerning virginity until marriage. At 33, I know that the possibility of finding a male virgin who’s my age is very low. Because of this I am open to dating men as long as they are willing to wait with me. Through my own experience with dating, I’ve found that there seem to be lots of guys who are very interested in developing a relationship first and approaching sex second.

        1. hunter

          ….”lots of guys…..approaching sex second,”…..thanks for saying that….my applause…!!

  3. 3

    I pretty much agree with Evan, HOWEVER this woman writes “I have to repeatedly face the unexpected revelation that the man I am involved with is involved, literally, with someone else, typically, an old girlfriend who is now a sex partner and good friend.” It’s one thing to continue to meet and/or date people online while meeting and dating others, but dating someone who is already involved with an old girlfriend, would be unsettling to me also. Is the “old” girlfriend aware that she’s just a friend with benefits? Or is the guy hoping to cheat on her? Dating is one thing, but having an ongoing sexual relationship while you’re meeting new people? Ok, I know men do this, but if a guy was really interested in me, I’d wonder why he’s telling me about this other woman, what he’s looking for and what the relationship they have is really about. Ah, the baggage!

    1. 3.1
      Petra Spahr

      For my husband and I it was the other way around and it worked.   I had broken it off with my ex-fiance, moved out, but was still seeing him (and having sex because, well, it was good) when I met my now-husband, David.   Not knowing that it was going anywhere with David, I was honest about my situation.   The first half dozen dates or so with David we didn’t have sex, but he got me so excited that would immediately afterward go see my ex.   After I started having sex with David, I would still see my ex from time to time and David’s complete non-jealousy is what convinced me to marry him.

  4. 4

    Is realizing someone you meet off an internet dating site is most likely dating others really the same thing as a person “in hot pursuit phase” informing you of an ongoing sexual relationship they have? With an ex??

    I’d be reluctant to get involved with someone who was still sleeping with his ex (?) girlfriend. I’d be wondering if she knew she was an ex. Or if the guy was using the internet to find …ahem… cheating partners.

  5. 5

    It’s possible that lowering physical standards might lead to a man who is not so likely to be a player. Facial cues and described personality traits might be helpful, too. Stated religion isn’t that reliable an indicator of attitudes now, is it? Consider that players in that age range might be more likely to use online dating sites than their monogamous male peers, e.g., maybe the type of man preferred goes to church social functions.

    1. 5.1

      Why should a good looking woman have to lower her physical standards when a man shouldn’t have to? What’s the point of dating. Sex is the main thing otherwise it’s just a friendship so it should be with someone you’re attracted to.

  6. 6
    Karl R

    Michelle said: (original letter)
    “I have to repeatedly face the unexpected revelation that the man I am ‘involved’ with is involved, literally, with someone else,”

    Once something happens to me twice, I start expecting it.

    “I just feel the other people involved would be hurt if they knew the exchanges their lover is having with me, even if it’s just over the phone, and making plans to meet.”

    A lot of them have become accustomed to the rules of the game. I realize that any woman may be dating multiple men. I won’t have sex until the relationship is exclusive, but she may choose to have sex with other men before then.

    I’m not hurt by this because I accept reality. It’s not personal. It’s just the way things work.

    “Should I just get over hoping for monogamy so early in the game?”

    Yes. Since I haven’t formed any kind of bond that early in the relationship, it’s easier to stop dating the one woman who expects instant monogamy instead of the two or three who are willing to wait for the relationship to develop before taking that step.

  7. 7

    Ya I agree with Ruby, that you don’t continue to date if you are having an ongoing sexual relationship with someone. That’s just crass. I know it happens, but so do STD’s. It is a hard thing (no pun intended) to date around like we do, when you meet someone you are really excited about and they want to continue dating around. I’m in that situation now, but I’m still in contact with other women, hoping that she comes around and wants me as much. And it might, it might not. If it doesn’t, and I was just waiting, not contacting other women, not meeting anyone, then I really wasted a lot of time. I don’t have that kind of time! I say date away until you get what you are looking for. As Evan stated on his last sentence, it only takes one and that one will make it all worth while. It only gets exclusive when two people agree it should, otherwise dating is really introducing yourself to a lot of people, because it takes meeting a lot of people, in most cases anyway, to finally meet the right one.

    1. 7.1

      I can relate to you Paul. Bottom line is that you should keep your options open until an exclusive commitment is declared by both consenting adults.   Until then I think anyone who makes themselves available is fair game.  

  8. 8

    The answer is: date around, but don’t sleep around. Going out to dinner is not an engagement ring. Neither is going out to six dinners. Don’t sleep with a man until he has made an out loud commitment to you to be monogamous (and has agreed to be tested for STDs, as will you). Other than that, date up a storm and have fun! You might find you prefer the more light-hearted companionship to a one-at-a-time slog through “Is he the one?” each time out. If you approach this with a “I’m not taking it that seriously” attitude, the men will flock to you much more so than if you are out there with your pith helmet on, peering through field glasses for your next “kill.” Because that is the vibe you are giving off with that kind of profile wording.

    I strongly recommend you read Evan’s book (if you haven’t already), “I Can’t Believe I’m Buying This Book!” where he covers profile writing extensively. I read the book AND hired Evan, himself years ago – and met my now-husband two weeks after I posted that profile. He still quotes from it to this day. It’s well worth the investment. And no – LOL! I am not a paid shill for Evan.

    1. 8.1

      Absolutely spot on. I couldn’t agree more. I recently felt perplexed after the guy who I had been on TWO dates with, ‘winked’ at a friend of mine online (he obviously didn’t know the connection). I went off on my high horse for a few days, refusing to text him back with a ‘how dare he contact other women’ attitude.

      Then i had a reality check – it had been 2x dates, we met online, we were not exclusive, I was putting too much hope on one guy.

      Online dating should be fun in the beginning. Not putting your hopes on every man  you have fun with on a first date. So I went out and dated other guys…naturally my attitude/vibes became more relaxed and the 3rd/4th/5th date offers came flooding through (from the original guy).

  9. 9

    What Ruby said.

    A lot of Evan’s response was, unfortunately, beside the point.

  10. 10

    When I first started on-line dating, my expectation was similar to Michelle’s. It absolutely floored me that a guy who was writing me constantly, then calling, & cranking up the level of intimacy with each communication, was also doing pretty much the same thing with who knows how many other women on line. How dare he? Does he know who he’s dealing with? Oh, yea, I was so offended.
    But with experience comes (some) wisdom, and some hardening that allows you to buck up, not take it personally, and continue on. But I’m having a hard time believing that Michelle is “worried” about the other women in this guy’s life. If that’s a genuine concern, then accept my apologies, Michelle, for my free, unsolicited, not-a-therapist opinion about that, and don’t read any further. But I suspect this so-called concern is pure projection & actually Michelle’s own worry about herself, and her wish that men would not engage her while simultaneously having those same, sweet, intimate interactions with other women. But she’s afraid of looking like the uncool one, the insecure one. So she takes the Mother Theresa route & says it’s done out of concern for those poor other women. (And yes, it’s possible that now I’m doing the projection. Whatever.) But the point is that it’s OKAY TO BE A LITTLE INSECURE, because everyone else is, too. So buck up, accept that you’re not Teflon Woman — and why would you want to be anyway? — and just try to be good to yourself when you feel insecure or rejected. Assume you’re not the only one on his sweet-talk list but also that you’re not the only one who is sometimes bothered by that reality of on-line dating. Oh, and enjoy the ride.

  11. 11

    Just as an aside, related to Been Through the Wars’s comment, does everyone here get tested for STDs after EVERY partnership and expect their new partner to, as well? Do you demand to see the paperwork? Do you carry your paperwork around with you on a date? Does your insurance cover all those expensive tests? I’m no slut, but I’ve had a handful of (protected) sexual encounters within the last year. There’s no way I could afford to be tested multiple times in one year for everything I could possibly have, and my OB/GYN wouldn’t order all those labs.

    I realize only abstinence is foolproof, but at a certain point, don’t you have to assess your risks and act accordingly? If you think someone may not have been honest about all their past contacts, by all means, get tested. Get tested as part of your routine physical. Get tested if you have suspicious symptoms.

    I guess I’m not one to wait for a serious, committed monogamous relationship (preferable as it might be to some) to become intimate with someone. As I’ve written before, if you wait that long to sleep together, and you are incompatible sexually, you have put yourself in a very difficult situation.

  12. 12

    No offense to Michelle, but isn’t 54 a bit young to be living in a retirement community?

  13. 13

    You know I love me some Evan, but his response here seemed a bit out of tune with the question. I didn’t get the impression that Michelle cares so much if the guys she’s dating are emailing/talking to other women online, just if they are continuing to sleep with ‘ex’ girlfriends while actively pursuing her. I definitely didn’t get the impression that her request was coming from a hypocritcal/double-standard type of place either.

    Though I completely agree that Michelle can’t really put anything like ‘looking for a single focus’ in her profile. I can almost guarantee it will be misread/misinterpreted and not in a way that does her any favors. If I read a line like that I’d imagine a scorned/bitter/non-trusting man looking for an insta-girlfriend and wouldn’t waste any time on him.

  14. 14

    I’m starting to wish that Evan would start saying a bunch of stuff I disagree with so my comments on here could amount to more than the “right on! ^5!” sort of material I’ve been producing lately.

    I guess I could take him to task on this sentence: “It’s like walking into a swingers party and wondering aloud why everyone has no values.” But, well. It’s only a flawed analogy, and the point it supports is well-made. It’d feel like quibbling.´s last blog post…Paid adult site review –

  15. 15

    What’s wrong with the values of the people at a swingers party?

    I think it’s pretty reasonable to expect that the person that you just started dating be upfront if they are sleeping with someone else. It’s a health and safety issue, so that information needs to be out there. In this situation, the guy is being insecure. He’s afraid that if he lets the cat out of the bag, she’ll bolt, which she might. That’s the risk if you play the game that way.

    Also, why does she have a problem if the guy she’s dating is getting laid with an ex? If she’s only been on a couple of dates, there’s no relationship there.

    My question is this: if she wants her male dates to not be getting laid with exes, how long do they have to wait until the dude is unattached? A week? A month? Three months? It’s silly. Just date, and if it gets serious, tell him he has to make the decision to break it off.

    Lance´s last blog post…Stomp, Anniversaries, Obama, and Vacations

  16. 17
    Curly Girl

    Always insist that the guy use condoms. You won’t believe how it puts the relationship into perspective. If he’s sleeping with other women you don’t care so much. If he’s not into the relationship he won’t care enough to go along.

  17. 18

    Wow ! Finally a great question !! The age old dilemma…………….
    “Is anybody wrong to expect monogamy in the early phases of ANY dating relationship not just ONLINE.”

    I think there are so many variables and answers to this question that it falls under the category of everyone has different parameters within they feel comfortable with in their personal life.

    Since there are no absolute rules in dating(online or off)there are going to be tons of different answers and opinions depending on peoples ages,experiences,values,etc….

    I tell this to women who I just feel something “casual” with all the time. Women are, for the most part not biologically programmed for casual sex so they will think differently than men.

    On the flipside,does anyone really want to go on a date with someone that got laid “last night ?”. I know I don’t !
    What if it’s “not serious”…yadda,yadda,yadda

    Cilla’s right ….only delusional people think everyone is going to run to the doctor and get “tested” for everything before any time your going to have sex with someone new. Sounds great on paper except probably less than .00001% of anyone ever does it.
    It’s just not practical or logical let alone feasible.

    How can anyone ask anyone to be in a committed relationship BEFORE you’ve had sex?? That would be like buying a car before you’ve seen it or driven it, or a house before you’ve walked through it. What if you tell someone “ok,were monagomous” and then you find out their idea of a sexual relationship is once every 2 weeks ? You can’t date anyone else because ….oh darn “were committed”……it happened to me just like that. Never again though….lol I’m pretty sure 99% of the time it’s women asking for the monogamy EARLY on especially because they control the pace etc……..

  18. 19


    I don’t confuse sexual exclusivity with committment. If I’m not compatible with someone sexually early on, I won’t continue to date them, let alone commit to them. In the past I’ve sometimes dated someone I knew wasn’t sexually exclusive to me. Fine for a fling, unsettling if my feelings deepen and I want to move toward something more. These days I’m apt to get the sexual exclusivity/non-exclusivity card on the table BEFORE proceeding in that direction. Saves misunderstandings on either side.

    Someone who was still sleeping with a “supposed” ex though? Uh..who needs that? Not interested in becomming involved with someone who still has a “thing” going with last lover. Why bother?

    Seems Michelle is trying to screen for this kind of thing before meeting with potential dates. Not wrong necessarily, but apparently unrealistic when using the internet vs. meeting people in person in other venues.

  19. 20

    Dating is one thing, but having an ongoing sexual relationship while you’re meeting new people?
    there is nothing wrong with that as long as commitments are not violated.

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