Why Men Should Avoid Monogamous Dating Until Their 30s

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Unplugged Alpha" by Richard Cooper. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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At what age should you start dating exclusively? Why should men delay monogamous dating until their 30s?

According to Richard Cooper, men should avoid dating monogamously in their 20s. Dating exclusively in your 20s is a bad idea because you simply haven’t dated enough women to understand what kind of woman you want for the long term.

Here’s why you should steer clear of monogamous dating until your 30s, according to Cooper.

When to Date One Woman

At what age should you start dating exclusively? In his book The Unplugged Alpha, Richard Cooper advises against monogamous dating until your 30s or above. If you’re younger, you haven’t dated enough women to determine who is a good candidate for monogamous dating. Moreover, you should be focusing on yourself and becoming a dominant instead of spending time building a relationship. You can still date if you’re in your 20s, but you should only have casual sexual relationships. Don’t treat these women like girlfriends: In other words, don’t introduce them to people you know, and only spend time with them when it’s convenient for you.

(Shortform note: In How to Not Die Alone, Ury warns that not dating anybody long-term can have drawbacks. Ury argues that dating is a skill: You learn how to have both casual and serious relationships by actually being in them. So if you only focus on casual relationships in your 20s, you won’t learn the skills necessary to sustain a long-term relationship in the future—like how to adjust your schedule or introduce your girlfriend to people you know.) 

But what if you’re past your 20s? Cooper says that you can consider making someone your girlfriend only if you meet several conditions, including the following. First, you must have been sleeping with her (and other women) for at least six months. Second, she asks to be exclusive: This indicates that she’s decided you’re the highest-status male in her life. 

(Shortform note: Like Cooper, dating experts agree that you should date for a while before becoming exclusive. However, unlike Cooper, they suggest waiting just two months—long enough to pass the infatuation stage—before discussing exclusivity. And they don’t insist that the woman must bring up exclusivity: Rather, one blogger argues that since you would both be equal partners in the relationship, it is both of your job to initiate the exclusivity conversation.)

Third, if she wants to be exclusive, ask her to tattoo your name on her body and see how she reacts. If she sees you as a dominant with whom she wants to spend her life, she’ll happily tattoo your name. 

(Shortform note: Cooper doesn’t consider that a woman might be reluctant to tattoo your name on her body not because she doesn’t see you as a dominant to commit to but for other reasons. For example, she might not like tattoos, or she might be concerned about the health risks: Tattoos can cause skin infections, and we don’t yet know the long-term health consequences of injecting tattoo ink under the skin.) 

If you choose to make someone your girlfriend, you must decide whether you’ll be sexually exclusive to her. Pointing to the historical precedence of dominants with harems, Cooper explains that a woman would rather share her dominant than settle for a non-dominant. But if you choose to continue sleeping with other women, you should tell your girlfriend beforehand. However, don’t let this become a two-way street: If she is also sleeping with other men, this is now “polyamory”—and may indicate that she sees you as a non-dominant in your relationship. 

Understanding Polyamory

Contrary to Cooper’s definition, most people define a polyamorous relationship as one in which the involved parties consensually have romantic relationships with other people (and not just each other). By this definition, if you sleep with other people, you’re now in a polyamorous relationship—even if she remains faithful to you. People in polyamorous relationships contend that any structure can work as long as everybody involved is honest—otherwise, their actions may constitute infidelity. 

Since polyamory encompasses a wide variety of relationship paradigms, they may cross gender lines. Cooper doesn’t indicate whether a woman who wants to sleep with other women also sees you as non-dominant, or if this is only true whether she wants to sleep with other men. But historically, women in harems have engaged in same-sex relationships with the other women in the harem. Since Cooper implies that women were only happy to be in a harem with dominant men, this implies that a woman who engages in same-sex activity while being your girlfriend still sees you as dominant.
Why Men Should Avoid Monogamous Dating Until Their 30s

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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