Context: London, UK, dealing with same-sex male relationships.

I have a recurring issue whenever I date someone new, and all the IPS solutions I have tried to come up with have failed in the past in dealing with this.

When dating someone new, it is my personal preference to refrain from meeting anyone else either for a date or a casual encounter. The reasons for this are two-fold: I like to invest my remaining energy in one person, and for physical intimacy, even knowing someone once before makes me a lot more comfortable, as opposed to someone new.

The person usually finds out about this through a tangential discussion they may bring up, like sexual safety preferences (which I am content discussing and think it's wise to), or some tangential topic. And the problem is either: they think I have become attached to them early, or just knowing this makes them feel pressured to be exclusive early on.

Despite doing my best to stress it's just how I function, and not related to early attachment or a means to pressure them into it too, I am often unsuccessful in convincing them.

Moreover, because I often date much older than me (approx. 10 years), their belief that it could be down to early attachment due to my inexperience relative to them is reinforced.

How can I go about communicating and reassuring why I am exclusive early on, without pressuring them, as it is not my intent at all?

  • So you prefer to only date one person at a time but you don't expect whomever you are dating to be exclusive with you?
    – sphennings
    Mar 16, 2018 at 20:26
  • How does this topic come up? Maybe the fear of early attachment stems from the fact that you emphasize talking about your exclusivity? Couldn't you just adhere to the standards you have set for yourself without explicitly bringing the topic up? Or is dating only one person so uncommon in your community that it is some kind of "red flag"? I am not being judgemental, I just have no experience with that particular community. I would have thought that if "open" relationships are the norm in a community, discussing exclusivity would not be a fairly common "early dating" topic anyway.
    – skymningen
    Mar 19, 2018 at 12:46
  • @skymningen: it is very popular for men in London to expect unprotected intimacy on PrEP (reverse transcriptase inhibitors), but for me that is something I’d only do when a person was exclusive. That’s one example how it sparks the discussion. Mar 19, 2018 at 12:48
  • I guess then this unusual request is what makes them feel pressured into exclusivity, not your statement of being exclusive yourself. Your expectations do not match up. While that is not a pressure you put on them, it is definitely a point for them to consider themselves. I have had friends jokingly have called me a "serial monogamist". Maybe if you put this out with some humor attached that could make the situation less pressurizing? It kind of has the connotation of "will move on (if necessary)" (serial) but also "exclusive" (monogamist).
    – skymningen
    Mar 19, 2018 at 12:57

2 Answers 2

  • Rather than explaining the preference, explain the framework.

I made the experience of dating two people at the same time. The two most stressful weeks of my whole life. It's not that I couldn't; I'm just bad at multitasking in a more general way and I need some consistent time alone.

In your question, you write something pretty similar about preserving energy. You could introduce the features of your personality that lead you to such a preference before talking about the preference itself. After all, your preference doesn't come out of the blue; on the contrary, it is the product of your personality, needs, points of view etc. Talk about those. It is a matter of both dropping phrases here and there ("I'm too stressed out by multitasking, I feel like I have to finish a thing before starting another") and talking thoroughly about a topic, for instance being an introvert that needs some time alone to recharge his energy or something alike.

  • Show them that you have a social life.

Mention your friends to them, tell them what you did last night with your flatmates, send a picture of something a friend will appreciate in their presence and explain it to them. In short, show them that they are not the only person in your emotional life and that you don't need them to have an emotional balance. Of course you'll be more than happy to be with them, but if they can see that you're an emotionally mature person they will feel freed from the weight of being the older guy.

If a) the explanation of your monogamy comes after some unrelated disclosure of your personality to them; and b) they can see they're only a part of your life and not the center, by the time you'll tell them that you prefer to date one persone at a time they will know that it is a matter that fits naturally in your personality and that it's not related to some ill attachment to them.

  • 1
    I like this answer a lot, it definitely seems like the most probable to be successful. The only thing is the “set up” can take time, i.e., discussing my personality, my friends, etc, but definitely worth it if it resolves the issue. Thank you. (PS: I’m a linux fan too.) Mar 19, 2018 at 10:17
  • @user1997744 glad it helped! Yes, it can take time, take this time for yourself. Also, by the answers you receive you can discover many things about your partner that can enhance your relationship. Mar 19, 2018 at 14:06

There's no way to completely dissuade them from reading between the lines of whatever you say, but it's probably sufficient to explain it the way you did here. As in, take the time to explain why you choose to operate that way and that you're not requiring or expecting them to operate the same way.

Honesty is usually the best policy when it comes to most things, even more so when it comes to romantic relationships. Honesty builds trust, which obviously ought to be a two way street... Which kinda seems to be the underlying issue here, you're being honest and apparently not being believed.

Unfortunately, there's not really a fool proof way to address that issue either. All you can really do is be honest and hope for the best. Dating people a little closer to your own age/experience level may help a bit, but I'm already stretching beyond the question asked, so I'll leave that be.

I can say that at different points in my life I leaned towards dating in much the same way that you do, it's just easier all the way around to focus on a single partner, even earlier on in a relationship, so don't feel like you're odd for doing it that way. I was usually honest and upfront and for the most part it seemed to work out. It's just a matter of finding someone who has similar relationship goals. (Some folks prefer to play the field without really wanting or looking for anything terribly serious)

Most folks date a good few people between major, serious, committed relationships. Some folks date around and may go out with someone on Friday and someone else on Saturday, while others prefer to date the same someone each Friday for a while before deciding to look elsewhere. Nothing really wrong with either approach, as long as everyone is being honest, just different strokes for different folks.

  • 1
    I appreciate this answer; I guess you're right I can only be honest, and if it's not well-received, the ball's in their court, not mine. Mar 16, 2018 at 21:16

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