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


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. 41

    Not EVEN going into the STD conversation.
    My experience has taught me this:
    1) if someone can sleep around, he/she will–until he decides to get serious about one particular partner. Yes, if you’re still in the “just hanging out” stage,   there will be some overlap. No, you’re unlikely to ever know the full extent of that overlap.    
    2) uncommitted people tend to compartmentalize relationships. Odds are excellent that   there will be intimacy (of some sort) within every relationship. In most cases you will hear about each other but won’t be told exactly how intimate it gets.   Take it as read that until you both agree to be serious, it’s not serious.

    3) Trust me, you really don’t want to know too many details–it’s a sure sign that you’re in Friends With Benefits territory.

  2. 42

    The hpv that causes visible warts is less of a problem than the ones that cause cancer.   HPV is so prevalent it’s pretty much assumed that every adult who’s had sex  has carried – or  is carrying – one or more strains.   You can’t screen for most of them.  
    Condoms help, but don’t protect 100%.
    So, I guess the question is – is this man/woman sufficiently important to me that they’re worth the risk picking up another strain?
    Romance, who said it was dead.
    On the plus side, most people can clear the virus within a couple of years.

  3. 43

    I think some men don’t view “hanging out” as non-committal.   In fact, if you are dating a man and he says or acts like he wants to do unplanned or non-courtship activities such as watching a game on the sofa, washing cars,   jogging or getting a pizza, he’s probably sizing you up for a serious relationship.   JMO…

  4. 44

    I agree with starthrower # 33
    Not only it is it silly and unrealistic to expect a guy you are communicating with (or in the early stages of dating) not to be coomunicating with/seeing other women, you really MUST be thinking about your options and dating other guys too.
    It is so not good to be hung up on one guy that you barely know, and dating or chatting with a number of different guys opens you up to the world of men and lightens you up about the whole thing.

  5. 45

    Just picking up on what Clare said about not understanding why people get emotionally involved in the early stages of dating.
    Some people do lack self esteem and confidence, and do require constant reassurance. I can’t criticize, as I’ve been there done that.

  6. 46
    Sparkling Emerald

    This article is SPOT ON.   At one point, I was exploring relationship possibilities with 2 men I met online.   I rec’d their e-mails on the same day, I responded to several in a batch, I scheduled 3 phone meetings back to back for the same evening, and narrowed it down to two men.   They both arranged a face to face intro.   Then I   had 2nd dates with both.   They both asked for a 3rd date.   Well, I reluctantly accepted a 3rd date with “Guy A” & enthusiastically with “Guy B”.   Why was I reluctant about “Guy A” ?   Because he kept INTEROGATING about my separation status.   Look, I understand if they are concerned, and I told him, if he had a problem with it, I understood.   He kept saying that it wasn’t a problem, but proceeded to interrogate me, not only about separation, but my MARRIAGE itself.   (How did your husband treat you, did he cheat, did I cheat, did he do this, did I do that, etc.etc. )   I would gently try to change the subject, but he would keep coming back to it.   Finally, I down right told him that I wanted to focus on the present and look forward to my future, and not be stuck in my past.   He would say “OK”, then come back to it.   On the 3rd date, he finally backed off of that, and then started interrogating me about my POF experience.   Again, I tried to give vague answers, but since he kept prying & prying and I was pretty annoyed with him at this point, I let him know that, as a matter of fact I was seeing someone else.   He BLEW UP at me.   Told me I had NO MORALS.   (WTH ?????, there was NO SEX, NO PROMISES and NO “I Love You’s) He stormed off after dropping me off, and then sent me a nasty e-mail.
    Oh, and “Guy B”, well he flaked on me. 🙁 That’s online dating for you.
    There are times I will practice what I call “voluntary and non-disclosed” exclusiveness.   I might decide on my own to not follow up with anyone else, but I won’t tell him, and I won’t expect it (although I might HOPE for it) Partly due to time constraints, and partly just due to a lack of interest on my part.   The plan being that if he asks me to be exclusive, then yippee !   And if doesn’t go the way I want it to, time to go fishing (or match dot comming) again.

  7. 47

    …you responded to two “out of the batch”?….hhhmmmh…some of you lucky women, having to navigate through the “ocean” of men….hhmmmmhh…..

    1. 47.1
      faded jade

      (faded jade is sparklingemerald but this new website won’t let me change the default)

      I know it sounds like a bed or roses getting lots of e-mails online, but only a small percentage capture my interest enough for a return e-mail. Before you assume I’m a b—h or something, many of them are really bad, or are WAY outside of what I specified. E-mails from guys young enough to be my son, from guys in another state, guys with AWFUL profiles, and my personal favorite, a boudoir shot of a very overweight man in a bubble bath with his dog. (the dog wasn’t in the tub, just posing on the side of the tub) So out of those big batches, I respond to a handful, a few write back, a few lead to phone calls, and the above example where I ended up dating 2 guys simultaneously is EXTREMELY rare, and even in that situation nothing panned out.

      I really didn’t join match or POF so I could could get a ton of e-mail or even a ton of dates. I am looking for the day when I can delete my profile and be with my one and only.

  8. 48


    …..hhhmmh…hhhmmmhh…yes…….don’t forget, after 50, the days of the hormonal tidal wave are gone, at the big 50, we chose to be with someone, sad to say, most women choose no one…

  9. 49

    About the whole STD testing…one can still get quite a few diseases (mostly viruses) when wearing condoms, and certainly the same holds true for oral sex.   Nothing is 100%, you just have to use your best judgement and get tested periodically OR unless you think something is wrong.

  10. 50

    I think as easy as it is to say a lot of things from the outside (and I actually do agree with most of them personally, thanks to being in control of emotions) it is a constant juggling act in the early phases of dating. Sure, you’ve decided privately to ride this one out and get to know the guy better and dating/interacting with others yourself, but there’s also that element of surprise when you know or can see HE is interacting with someone else. It’s very hard to know when and where to draw the line, pull back, push forward, or at least not wonder where is this headed and get inside your head too much. I am engaging with someone from afar I like a lot, and pretty much knowing he is seeing other people, I don’t want to be the out-of-town girl that acts as a filler, i do want to give it a chance like most posters say to do. But it’s really very tricky, i must say.

  11. 51

    I just don’t see how a person is used to multiple companions, sex friends, etc could ever really desire to give that up for the sake of a monogamous committed relationship. I’d prefer to remain single than to date with today’s polyamorous standards. One man and one woman or none at all.

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