'My friend spotted the guy I was dating on an app. So I asked her to do a "loyalty test".'

Dating and love are hard, whether you’re 15 dealing with your first crush, 27 and preparing to walk down the aisle or over 40 with a marriage and a few significant relationships under your belt. And the current climate of misogyny that continues to fester in Australian culture can add an additional layer of trepidation for women looking for a relationship with a male.

Recently, I was blindsided by a guy I thought I was developing a real relationship with when my best friend stumbled across him on a dating app. While we hadn’t explicitly discussed exclusivity, I suppose I didn’t feel the need to raise it because he told me he’d deleted his dating apps; he was seeking my availability for weekends away two months in advance, and when he was visiting his mum in Europe, he messaged me multiple times a day including to report that he’d told his mum about me.

I suppose bouquets delivered to my home and text messages on a Monday night, saying "I miss you. There, I said it", made me think that four months in I’d found a mature and emotionally available man who might be my reward after kissing a few frogs.

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And when news broke about boys at a private school who had been ranking their female peers, I was heartened by his response; his anger at the behaviour and empathy for the victims, and how he made a point of discussing it with his teenage sons. Here was a man who respected women.

But on a Friday morning a few weeks ago, not long after receiving a text, "I can’t wait to hold you in my arms tonight", I was at work, wishing the day away when I got a call from my friend. She sounded a bit flustered and blurted out: "I think I've just seen your man on Bumble." My stomach dropped, and my inner detective went into action. I asked her to send me a screenshot. 

The photo came through and not only was it him, but it was a very recent photo, in fact, a selfie he had taken and sent to me only a few days before. My friend was apologetic, "What are you going to do? What do you want me to do?" 

I had to be sure before I confronted him. Perhaps it was a glitch with the app and his profile had reappeared without his knowledge?

I suggested we undertake a 'loyalty test'.

"Swipe on him," I instructed. She did, and it was a match. (Strike one for the loyalty test as my friend’s profile had only been active for two weeks.) I then asked her to message him, so she sent one of those standard prompt questions "What’s the last thing that made you smile?" and a reply about his son quickly followed. Strike two.

I felt sick and confused; we had a date in eight hours. I called him and came out with it, "Um, my friend just saw you on Bumble." I didn’t get a denial or an attempt to claim we weren’t exclusive, but he was clearly busted. His response was only vaguely apologetic, "I’m sorry, I struggle with loneliness and boredom and a bit of a phone addiction. It was stupid, I only set it up last night to chat with people. I know I have some issues I need to work on." 


Last night? While we were texting...

I told him I needed to think. Over the next few hours, I went back and forth trying to reconcile the behaviour, trying to determine if I was overreacting and if I could get over it. The relationship was too young to be built on such a foundation, and I respect myself too much to put up with that sh*t.

I called back, "I can’t go out with you tonight, trust is the most important thing in a relationship for me." I suppose I was hoping for a heartfelt apology, for him to beg for forgiveness or a declaration of love, but all I got was "Ok, well thanks for your honesty." Oh, the irony. When I ended the call, I knew I’d never hear from him again.

Perhaps this is a long bow to draw but discovering that while showering me with affection and attention and driving the velocity of the relationship, he was online seeking out new women has left me thinking about who he really is and what he really thinks about women. Was I seen as a unique person in my own right or a replaceable part? Was I 'wifey' material or merely 'f**kable'?

This isn’t a 'woe is me' jilted lover tale, and I know that behaviour like this is not the domain of men only, but I expect this experience to be more familiar to women and reflect the broader culture of dating and values. Things aren’t great for Australian women right now, and of course, yes, "not all men", but there are men who know the right things to say and the correct attitudes to publicly hold, but, who, at the end of the day don’t value women as equals.


Social media and dating apps only exacerbate the issue and create a culture where people are expendable and the opportunity to see what else is out there is easier and apparently more gratifying than investing time and attention in building meaningful connection. The dopamine hit of a like or a match to alleviate boredom or pass the time is irresistible to some.

This isn’t about good versus bad, but rather moral and social laziness coupled with underlying gender values. Male attitudes towards women and our sense of safety and respect are being constantly tested, and this experience has left me reluctant to expose myself to more male assessment. I’m not looking for perfection, we’re all a little broken in our own ways but is integrity and a bit of substance too much to ask for?

So, all the best to him and I hope he does better by the next woman. My ego is a little bruised, and I’m kind of over dating apps, but until something better comes along I'll be in there swiping and hoping.

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Gen Walton is a writer based in Melbourne, and when she’s not writing, she’s investing time in the relationships that bring her joy.

Feature image: Canva.

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