Non-Exclusive, Committed, Player: Dating Terms That Freak Us Out

Nobody wants to date a player. At least not once they recognize the player mind-set. But where do you draw the line between keeping your options open and being a player?

The norms of dating vary greatly depending on who's doing the categorizing. In this online dating frenzy, many people assume they should be dating around until the absolute right one comes along and they explicitly agree that they are exclusive. Others assume their dates are focusing only on them unless they disclose that they're dating multiple people.

What seems normal and ethical to one person can seem shady and dishonest to another. But dating multiple people at once seems to be more common and acceptable these days...even expected.

Playing the Field
When one person is dating multiple people for a few weeks, then on to more people for a few weeks, and so on, most of us agree that person can be called a "player." But the classification is hardly ever applied by the player to him or herself.

For some reason, players don't see themselves as players. They'll tell you they want to be in a committed relationship. They'll tell you they are looking for "the one." But that ideal of "the one" gets translated to "let me date this one, and this one, and this one" until the fun wears off. Players often are avoiding getting close to any "one," so they will have a hard time finding that special person.

Narrowing Your Focus
But when you're not dating a player and things seem to be going along pretty well, how do you handle the question of when to be exclusive and whether you're there yet?

It's a tricky talk. What works best is to first make sure you want to be exclusive with this person. Of course you want them to want you. But do you really want them?

Second, you don't ask or beg. You simply note that you've had a lot of interest expressed by potential dates lately and you wondered if your partner is having similar experiences. That opens the door to the discussion without putting your date on the spot.

Using the C Word
To many women, the opposite of "non-exclusive" is "commitment." This means focusing your romantic attention on only one person. To many guys, "commitment" means engagement or marriage--and that term can scare them away fast. Whoa, there! Those views are very different.

With all of these terms, the meaning varies so widely depending on the person doing the dating. So when you feel ready to label your relationship (even the R word can be tricky), beware that your date might have an alternate interpretation of what those terms mean.

Remember that communication is the only way to move closer together. So tread lightly and talk sensitively. But in the end, you'll have to be brave to get what you crave.

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