Six months ago, I told friends that I was open to blind dates and I signed myself up for two different online dating sites. After five months of meeting mismatches, I met three great men at the same time; since then, I’ve been going out with each of them about once a week. There’s one guy that I have stronger feelings for, and he seems to feel the same for me, but I know it’s too early to have the “exclusive” conversation. I do like the other guys, but since I feel the strongest connection with the one man, I feel it’s only fair to stop seeing the other two. A few friends say I need to keep dating until I have “the talk” with the guy I really like, but I’ve never been much of a multi-dater once I know where my heart is. My question is: at what point it does become rude to date multiple people … or does it? Half my friends say anything past three dates is leading someone on and the other half think it’s good to keep options open and date multiple people until there’s an exclusive arrangement with someone. What do you guys think?—SS, Dallas, Texas
The Gay Woman’s Perspective: Jody Fischer
Sounds like you have a strong sense of where your heart wants to go; now, why not bring your head along with you? What I mean is, you’re doing a great job of trusting your heart and not second guessing it. You don’t seem to be running to your friends to get their advice to see if your heart is on track, so why do you think they can offer wiser words than you can about dating multiple people?
I don’t think there’s one right answer as to when is the right time to have the “exclusive” talk with someone. And even if it feels like the right time for you, it may not be for him. But there seems to be another issue brewing between the lines of your question. Are you most concerned with misleading the men you don’t want to date or of exposing your true feelings and risking the possibility of ending up with none of the trio? Only you can answer that.
From where I sit, I wonder why you would continue dating the two men you’re not that interested in. Are you just looking at dating as a way to pass the time? I doubt it. You took some action when you signed up for two dating services and told your friends to hook you up. Good for you! I’m thinking you’re ready to find a partner.
How do you feel when you are not dating anyone, SS? If you know you have self worth as a single person, it will make it much easier to say what you want to say when you need to say it to these guys. How they will react or whether or not they want to hear it is really out of your control. Follow your heart on this one.
The Straight Man’s Perspective: Chris Kennedy
First off, let me commend you for being so proactive. Nice work! I hear from many people who complain they can’t meet anyone. They could take a lesson from you.
And three prospects? It’s like you’re a contestant on The Dating Game. (Many famous people were on the dating game so you’re in good company, including Suzanne Somers, Tom Selleck, and California’s very own celebrity, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.)
Second, multi-dating (a much more agreeable term than “player” or “whore”) is not for everyone. It’s not an issue of rudeness, but of comfort. If you can’t multi-date with a clear direction or conscience, then don’t do it.
You want the guy you have the strongest feelings for to have your undivided attention. That’s okay. That’s the way you’ll know best if you two are meant for each other, and that’s why you’re dating in the first place—to find someone. If you do that best by dating one guy, then go with that.
Continue to date your top choice and be exclusive yourself. You don’t have to tell him you’re doing this. It’s about you figuring it out. Let the exclusive talk come up naturally; don’t force it—you yourself said it’s too early for that conversation. That you realize it is a good sign. A bit more down the road, if it hasn’t come up, then bring it up. There’s no rush.
Sounds like something exciting could come out of this. You’re on track to meet some other great match even if your first choice somehow doesn’t pan out. You’re playing the dating game like a champ. Way to take control. You’re the governor of your own state of affairs.
The Straight Woman’s Perspective: Rebecca Brown
A few months ago, I visited my eye doctor for my annual visit. He sat me in front of a big eye chart on the wall and had me look into a machine that allowed him to keep swapping out lenses with different prescriptions until we came across the combo that allowed me to see the chart most clearly. We did this about twenty-five times on each eye, with him saying, “Which is better … number one or number two?” until we arrived at the perfect prescription.
You’re probably wondering what exactly the eye doctor has to do with your dating life. Well, SS, I think dating should be a lot like that eye doctor appointment; you should be swapping out your proverbial dating lenses until you find the right fit. Dating multiple people allows you to constantly weed out those you’re not attracted to so that you can find those you are attracted to. You can’t figure out who’s best for you when you have no one else to use as a basis for comparison. So no, I don’t think it’s rude to date multiple people when you’re still in undecided and/or discovery mode; I do think it’s rude when you figure out that someone isn’t for you and you keep dating him anyway, just to have something (or someone) to do.
But sometimes that’s all so much easier said than done, isn’t it? If you’re truly not into dating a bunch of guys at once, then don’t, and date only the guy you like (truthfully, that’s probably what I’d do), but don’t push the exclusive convo. And be careful; I firmly believe that guys can pick up on some sort of scent when women have nothing else going on, so keep yourself busy with other things.
In the end, it’s really just about finding someone you like and following your gut. Do that and you won’t go wrong.
The Gay Man’s Perspective: Darren Maddox
SS, I had this same conversation with a friend of mine just the other day. I’ll advise you, as I did her, to keep your options open for as long as you possibly can and date around to make sure your feelings are not just an early infatuation. Be selfish with your dating world right now! It may have taken a while to start raining men, so why take shelter immediately? Until you’re 125 percent sure that this is the one you really want to go out with, I think you should continue dating all three—just make sure you aren’t going to the same locations where you’d bump into the others.
However, if you’re not that into one of the three, now’s the time to get out. You’re not doing him (or yourself) any favors by continuing to see each other. Let him go so you (and he) can move on with narrowing down the dating pool, you lucky gal.
As for the three dates rule, I’m not sure where your girlfriends got that one. I’ve heard of waiting three dates before going horizontal, but not about cutting someone loose after the third date. I think you can stretch that rule a bit. I think when you know, and you’re sure you know, and you’re sure he feels the same way, then it’s time to be exclusive. Not until then. Have fun. You can get serious soon enough.
Read Part Two of the April 4-Way.
Read the previous 4-Way column.
Check out the 4-Way podcasts.
Follow the 4-Way on Twitter at twitter.com/The4way. 
The 4-Way is published monthly. If you have a question for our 4-Way panel, please send it to them in care of the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org . To make sure you never miss a 4-Way column again, just click on the author’s name at the top of the story, then select “Be notified when writer publishes” at the top of the page. We’ll send you an email as soon as a new column is published.