Here is the set-up:
I've been dating three men for the past month. There's "Todd," a divorcé with a young daughter; "Chris," an engineer; and "Matt," a graduate student. (I also recently met "Adam," a police officer, but we'll leave him out of this for now.) I'm a bit of a prude (pardon the expression), so nothing untoward has taken place with any of the three. However, when I met them I told each that I wasn't in a relationship. Technically, I'm still not, but I feel like I'm lying when I avoid telling them I'm dating other people.
Prudie said "why not?", and suggested keeping a journal; sadly Trudie is harsher...
Trudie related her answer to me:
The deadly clinker is that "nothing untoward" is going on. If nothing else, sex in a relationship can serve as the equivalent of an "up or out," (no pun intended) rule, as in the principal-agent literature. You don’t make partner in a law firm after some number of years, good-bye. You don’t get academic tenure within six years, good-bye. It’s not quite "three dates or marriage," but at some point a guy is either better than the available competition
or he is not. It is not necessary to have sex within a month, but the couple should be on such a path, or at the very least engaged in a puritanical erotic blaze of repression and restraint. And that must be done monogamously. If she continues to see three dullards on such distant terms, each of whom has nothing better to do than to date her, we can narrow the options as follows:
a) she is afraid
of rejection, and uses the guys to hold each other at a distance, if
only in her own heart.
b) she is afraid of rejection, and seeks out the worst imaginable dullards.
c) she is the worst imaginable dullard.
These alternatives are not mutually exclusive.
The socially optimal policy is for her to see a fourth and yes indeed a fifth and possibly sixth dullard, if only to soak up their time and stop them from bothering other people in any way whatsoever.
Tyler adds that if he were seeing a woman under those terms, he would prefer that she were in another relationship, if only to rationalize her apparent total lack of interest in him. The best case scenario is if the guys are assuming she is lying to them, think she is having bizarre sex orgies on the other nights, and believe she is holding them in some sort of frustrating but worthwhile queue.
And this "best case" scenario is not really all that good.