What if he’s seeing other people during COVID-19?

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Dear Meredith,

I am 31 years old and find myself single during this pandemic. I have been single for years, finally got up the courage to try online dating, and four months later, COVID-19 arrived. I had just started seeing someone in early February and it was going really well but it didn't last because of the pressures of COVID – the stress and social distancing and everything shutting down, etc. I recently started talking to someone I met months ago, and we did meet up recently at an outdoor restaurant. I get the sense he is dating other people, or at least in the market to date other people.

My question: Is it reasonable to ask for exclusivity earlier in the game than usual given the pandemic? I would be open to exploring "outdoor dating" with someone, but if they are seeing multiple people at once I worry about exposure to the virus. Normally, dating is about exploring the field and seeing what's out there, but that doesn't feel so safe right now. I don't know if asking for exclusivity so early on is unreasonable or controlling and I don't know how to have these complicated conversations. Help.

– A nervous COVID-era dater


This isn't about romantic exclusivity. You want to find out about this man's in-person social boundaries and decide whether they match yours.

We're all doing this with friends too, right? Maybe we’ve stopped seeing some friends because we don't want to put them at risk, even on a walk. Or maybe we believe they put us at risk because they're out in the world more than we are.

You can ask this man about his COVID rules and how he engages with the people around him. This has little to do with who else he's dating. You'll also want to know how he sees friends and family, how many people are in his bubble, and what concerns he might have about your routines. Who gets close to his face without a mask on? That kind of question doesn't seem nosy right now.

I guess my point is that you can have this conversation without framing it as having anything to do with traditional exclusivity. You can acknowledge the awkwardness of this, that a conservation about health sounds like a request for commitment even when it isn’t.

If your rules don't match his at all, move on. Dating during a pandemic involves communication and trust. If you’re not feeling that – or you have very different goals for interaction – there are others looking to date one person at a time.

– Meredith

Readers? Is it less weird to have a conversation like this right now?