What does “I’m not ready to be exclusive” mean to you?

by Dating Goddess on December 31, 2013

The other day I was helping a newly dating pal navigate dating waters. He’s been dating about 6 months after the breakup of a long-term relationship and was multidating. He’s gone out with one woman multiple times in the last 6 weeks — we’ll call her Amy — and continues to see other women including another woman he’s seen 5 times. Let’s call this woman Betty. Amy is head-over-heels for him and thinks he’s The One. They’ve slept together a few times.

He’s not specifically told Amy about Betty or any of the other woman, but feels he’s communicated by saying “I’m not ready to be exclusive.” When we talked, he was feeling he and Betty were going to get intimate on their next date in a few days.

He is a good guy, very thoughtful, conscientious and sensitive. He’s not a player, which I define as someone who is knowingly deceitful to get what he wants. He called because he wanted to ensure that he had done the right thing with Amy by telling her he wasn’t ready to be exclusive. I had to tell him the bad news.

“If a man told me he wasn’t ready to be exclusive, I wouldn’t necessarily think that meant he was actively seeing other women. And I certainly wouldn’t think that meant he was sleeping with someone else. I’d think he just needed more time with me to decide he was ready to feel committed.

“If a man says, ‘I’m not being exclusive’ or ‘I’m continuing to meet other women’ I’d know he was seeing others. But saying, ‘I’m not ready to be exclusive’ is a different message.”

A man once shared that a woman he’d been interested in had said she wasn’t willing to be exclusive. She wanted to date a variety of men. Isn’t it interesting how the phrasing can mean different things?

He was not happy that he had to be that explicit. But without doing so she could have a very different interpretation of what he thought was clear. He didn’t want to be duplicitous so he knew he had to have a more specific conversation with her as well as with Betty.

I told him for many (most?) midlife women, having concurrent multiple sexual partners was considered bad form, even assuming protected sex. We might have done this in college, but now we’re older and presumedly wiser. While some feel that as long as they haven’t promised exclusivity, they can sleep around, the women I know say that feels cheap and is not what they prefer if they are looking for a long-term relationship.

How would you interpret “I’m not ready to be exclusive” if you heard it from a man you were sexual with?

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