Dear Wayne and Wanda,
I'm in my early 30's and since my last long-term relationship ended a few years ago, I've been playing the field -- and I do mean playing the whole darn field. I have dated friends, exes, gone on blind dates, tried the online thing ... I have had a lot of fun, made new friends, and got to know a lot about what I am and am not looking for but I hadn't really found anyone I wanted to get serious with, until now.
I have finally met a guy who I want to date. From the moment I met "John," there was chemistry. We have tons in common. He's intelligent, interesting, and I like being around him. He's just a little older, has a good job, and he likes me too. Good, right? Happy ending? Well, not quite.
He got out of a relationship recently and says after being in relationships the last many years, he needs to be single for a while. He wants to keep hanging out but also wants to date -- and sleep with -- other people. He doesn't want to stop seeing me. He says he wants to go slow, though, and keep it casual by also seeing others.
I have no idea how to move forward. I've done the dating thing. I don't know if I can handle sharing this guy. And if I do, well, I'm going to have to date other people too or I'll feel like a gullible idiot. But what are the rules? Do I tell him when I'm going on a date? What if I sleep with someone else?
Lost in uncharted territory
Wanda says: Life sure was simpler back in the old days, when courtships were so linear and controlled, almost like a migratory pattern: meet a mate, date, get engaged, then hitched, have babies, grow old together. Nowadays, we write our own rules but sometimes they're awfully murky, and the more unconventional they are, the more flexibility there is for people to misunderstand each other.
One of the most important early factors in a relationship's success is agreeing upon the terms of your commitment. Are you exclusive? Is it friends with benefits? Are you dating casually while gauging whether the connections are strong enough to forge something long-term? Talk it out, and try to determine whether or not you can compromise. Ideally, both partners are flexible enough to find mutual ground that's conducive to moving forward.
That said, it sounds like your dream man has had his fill of relationships and now has dreams of his own -- the kind that involve multiple women, a lot of variety and limited accountability. If you're OK being a supporting actress on his stage for now, then ride this out and see what Act II has to offer. He might decide he's ready to commit again. And when you're not responding to his curtain call, cultivate your own side projects. Who knows: While he's keeping you waiting in the wings, you might find a more committed No. 1 fan.
Wayne says: This guy is taking what those in the culinary industry call the "having his cake and eating it too" approach to dating. The world, and all the women in it including you, is his oyster -- another popular culinary phrase. And he's all like, "You're my favorite dish but what are today's specials?" Wanda -- stop making me answer these letters when I'm hungry!
Hey, Lost, at least he's honest with you about his status. A lot of singles and serial daters keep their excursions on the down low. And there are fewer experiences less appetizing than seeing someone you're really into out on the town with someone else. He's a stand-up guy in this sense, which makes me believe he has your best intentions at heart -- even though you aren't exactly filling up his heart.
So those are his rules. Now you can write your own: keep him as your No. 1 but do so knowing full well that you aren't his; downgrade your emotional investment and treat him like he's treating you -- a cool friend with benefits; or bounce. Sounds like your heart can't handle sharing, and I don't blame you. Sharing sucks, in romance and food -- I used to have to share the Froot Loops with three younger siblings. And there's no way I'm sharing someone I'm crazy about.
Good luck -- I'm going to lunch now.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.