One Last Fling Before Wearing His Ring?

One Last Fling Before Wearing His Ring?

Should she date other people before marrying her high school boyfriend? Cathi and Dan offer advice.

For the best advice on sex, love, dating and relationships we ask two experts with personal experience. Cathi Hanauer is the author, most recently, of Sweet Ruin, a novel about love, marriage, and adultery. Daniel Jones is the editor of both the "Modern Love" column for The New York Times, and Modern Love, an anthology derived from the column. They've been married for 15 years, and together they provide a his and hers take on relationship questions. This round: should you date other people before marrying the one you love?

Question: I've been dating the same guy exclusively since high school. I'm now 26, and we've been talking about marriage. I'm crazy about him, but I worry that I will regret limiting my dating experience to just one man. Should I explore other options? –Anonymous

Her Take: If you've been with your boyfriend that long and are still "crazy about him," that's pretty promising. But you're smart to ask these questions. I think you could have regrets—dating around often shows you just how many wrong men are out there, which makes the right one feel that much righter. Talk to your boyfriend—he may have the same fears. But even if he doesn't, he should be willing to entertain yours, if he’s truly the open-minded man you might marry. A few months of seeing other people may make you long for the safety of each other’s arms. Of course, you—or he—could also meet someone else who makes you see what you’ve been missing (because, let’s face it, no relationship has everything). That's the risk you'd take. And if that risk freaks you out so much that you don't want to do it... well, there's your answer.

His Take: On the one hand, yes, you might wish you’d played the field before settling down. On the other hand, if you are truly still "crazy" about your boyfriend after being together for so many years—a stretch where many couples go through dramatic and even relationship-ending changes— then maybe he is indeed the one for you. Besides, what can you do about your lack of experience now? Take a year off to date other people? True, doing so could be fun (or horrifying), and may confirm that you belong with him (or with someone else). But in so doing, you risk losing the best thing you ever had. Not everyone is a comparison shopper who needs to consult 20 issues of Consumer Reports before making a decision that feels right. Some people—it's true!—actually know what they want from the get-go. Maybe you're one of them