I recently learned about The Four Man Plan which stipulates that a lady have four men on dating rotation to avoid getting emotionally attached. As someone who has been repeatedly burned and invested too much time into men that go nowhere, I’m considering its appeal. But what are your thoughts on this? Would a guy be mad if he found out he was just one of four? Is this really what I have to do to protect my heart?
This is new to me. Although I guess it shouldn’t come as any surprise that women have developed defense strategies to counteract the scourge of male chauvinism and double standards. Having had a colored past myself in the casual dating arena, I can hardly judge. However, at the risk of sounding pretentious, I’m going to try to talk you out of this for your own good (go ahead and cringe). Considering we probably deserve to be subjected to this kind of thing, I’m going to list my reasons in order from self preservation to consideration.
First of all, this solution is basically like using a ton of scotch tape on the broken heel of your Jimmy Choo’s when they really need to be properly fixed by a real cobbler. If you have trust, intimacy, and/or abandonment issues from you previous relationships, the only hope for a healthy and fulfilling love life is to address them and work to heal. I’m not saying you should talk to a cobbler necessarily, but focus on you and work on building up your confidence and sense of independence. That is the way to the kind of emotional strength that will protect you in the future. By dating multiple men to the ends of keeping yourself emotionally insulated, you’re stifling a problem that’s not going to go away, and when you do inevitably develop feelings for someone, your foundation is going to be weakened by festering trust issues.
Second, there is the strictly practical concern of safety. Unless you’re practicing polygamy and celibacy in tandem, you have to consider the health issues associated with having multiple partners. Assuming you’re upfront about your intentions, then the men you’re dating could just as easily be seeing as many women. Suddenly you’re hooking up with 16 extra people by proxy, about whom you have no real assurances of good health and responsible practices.
Third, by “beating us at our own game” you’re perpetuating the practice and setting other people up for the same injury you experienced. The hypocrisy inherent with this strategy is bringing you down to the level of people that have hurt you in the past, instead of rising above to find someone worth your time. If you want to play men like cards, you’ll end up with men who can be played like cards.
Finally, simple consideration. Based on the principle of this strategy, you aren’t really ever planning on making a lasting connection with anyone. Let’s say you date these four guys until at some point down the road, one pulls away from the pack as a true candidate for serious commitment. What’s to say it won’t be another dead end? When is the cutoff? What does this strategy define as a safe period of time to open yourself emotionally, to love? 6 months? A year? Do you really think you can go that long without influencing someone to care about you, and is their time yours to waste?
All this being said, I think for some part of your life it is important to experience a broad range of people. Not only is it the only real way to have any confidence that you’ve found the right one when you think you might have, but different people can teach you about yourself. The shifting perspectives and values open your mind, way you react to them and how you change or resist change helps you pin down your own priorities and sense of self, like a blind man navigating a new space.
However, you have to do it for the right reasons and this sterile strategy for isolation is not one of them. I’m all for getting out there and mixing it up with new people, but we’re human beings too and you can’t just keep a few of us in the stable to buoy your own sense of strength. It’s delusional and manipulative, and you’re going to end up with some serious duds.
Take your time to regroup, feel whole again, and then just use trial, error, and good judgment to find someone worth your time. Move at whatever pace you’re comfortable with and be smart about where you invest your time and feelings. Date a hundred guys if you want, even if they overlap from time to time, but be genuine. Life’s short, love is rich, skip the planning.