dating in multiples

Reader F. T. asks:

What advice do you have for dating multiple people at the same time?

Dear F.T.:

I strongly advocate dating multiple people when you’re single, especially if you’re not sure you want to dive into a relationship and all its work and nonsense (full disclosure: I’m a little jaded about being in a serious relationship). First and foremost, you should know whether or not you’re capable of it. If you get really jealous easily, or really attached easily, or hurt easily, I don’t think you should date multiple people at the same time. Make sure you really want to do it. Dating is just a step up from being friends, and most people date because they want it to lead to something bigger. You can keep things on the friend level rather than dating someone, and that ought to be fine.


I'm really worried that third wheel is actually a serial killer. Image: jscreationzs / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I am not a huge advocate of sleeping with multiple people unless you know you’re polyamorous. Just because you can sleep with a lot of people socially without getting kicked out of society, this doesn’t mean everyone is emotionally capable of doing so. Whether or not monogamy is “natural” to human existence, we have a lot of hang ups about it in society. Sleeping with someone tends to drag a lot of emotion into a relationship that won’t happen if you’re just having dinner. Physical intimacy is a touchy area for a lot of people, and honestly, if you don’t know you’re capable of handling it, just don’t do it.

If you are going to sleep with multiple people, most of the tips I’m going to give for just dating them also apply to sleeping with them. But I’m going to hang another tip on that hatrack: BE SAFE. Use condoms and get tested regularly. Be an adult. You owe it to yourself and to national public health to keep STI’s at bay. While most of these nasty diseases are generally curable, a lot of them don’t make their presence known when you’re infected and are easily spread whether you know you have them or not. You do not want to be the person who’s given everyone within a 40-mile radius one of those new strains of drug-resistant chlamydia. That’s just embarrassing. Not to mention you could ruin your ability to have children in the future, or even die.  So sack up those ovaries or testes and wrap it up, kiddos. And if your partner doesn’t want to, get out fast.

Now that we’re done with Sex Ed 101, let’s get into the tips I have for dating multiple people.

– Be honest. Let them all know you’re seeing other people. This does not mean you should give them the sordid details of your last date with so-and-so, or compare them to each other, or introduce them to each other, or anything like that. Just let them know you’re not tied down to anyone, including them. Keep lines of communication open on this matter. You don’t necessarily have to pull them aside and say out loud that you’re seeing other people on the first date, but it should come up after you’ve been seeing each other a while, especially if they ask. Don’t lead them on into thinking they’re the one and only when they’re not. This will save you a lot of nastiness when they actually find you out with someone else at dinner somewhere.

– Don’t be angry if your dating friends are seeing other people, too. While jealousy is a completely natural human emotion, you don’t have to take that jealousy outside your own heart, and, in fact, you shouldn’t if you’re not willing to commit to one person. Tell your friends about your jealousy, write it in your diary, call your mom about it, and get it out of your head. All that is a perfectly fine way of dealing with jealousy.  In fact, you can even tell the person you’re dating that you’re jealous, but just be aware you’re being an enormous hypocrite. Just don’t lash out at someone because you’re jealous they’re seeing someone else. Keep a cool head. Jealousy will subside eventually, and if it doesn’t, maybe you need to question your ability to date around.

– Keep your dating friends separate from each other. Minimize the drama. I know it sounds like fun to facilitate  a cage match to the death over you at a party, but really, awkwardness is not fun. In large groups where your partners can escape you and each other, it might be okay, but I wouldn’t recommend having them even see each other. They should already know “the other ones” exist, but they don’t need to see those others in person. Avoid inviting multiple dating partners to the same event. Eventually they’ll either kill each other or decide you’re not worth it. You gotta’ be careful about these things.

– Don’t date people who are in the same friend circle. Nothing is less fun than being the girl that came between friends (except maybe being the girl that gave all those friends the same genital condition).

– Do different things with different dating partners. The reason you’re dating multiple people is that they are different and interesting. Don’t go to the same restaurants over and over again with all of your different partners. Go hiking with one, dancing with another, to the movies with another. Use their strengths to make your dating life interesting. Otherwise, why aren’t you just dating one person?

– If someone doesn’t light your fire, let ’em go. There’s no need to go on multiple dates with someone who is obviously not up your alley after the first date. If you wanna’ be really classy, let them know, but otherwise, you don’t have to say anything. Just like with a booty call, you can simply quit texting or returning calls.

– Be careful about introducing them to your friends, especially large groups. Eventually someone is going to ask, “Wait, who is this one? What happened to the other one?” This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, but you’ve got to know how your dating friend is going to respond. Some will laugh it off, some will get red in the face, some will hold it against you for the rest of your (probably short-lived) relationship. Remember that introducing someone to your friends is also an intimate, relationship-y gesture. They could take it the wrong way.

– As stupid as it is, and as much as I wish it wasn’t so, keep your reputation in mind. People are going to assume you’re sleeping with everyone you’re dating, whether you are or not. While that doesn’t really matter, there are still some unenlightened weirdos who may judge you for it. This is why I advocate being careful what dating partner(s) you bring to what events. Work events are probably a no-go for anyone you’re not seriously dating. Friends’ large house parties are probably okay. Group outings to the bar, sure. Your mother’s birthday party? Mehhhhh… I wouldn’t.

– Don’t do anything you don’t want to. This means, of course, you’re going to have to define what you want, but hey. That’s a good thing to do in life anyway. While I think you should probably do things you don’t want to do for, say, your health or work (eat broccoli; get up at 6am), this does not hold true for dating. If you don’t wanna’ have dinner with Jane, don’t have dinner with Jane. If you don’t wanna’ go home with Steve, don’t go home with Steve. If you don’t want to commit to one person, don’t commit to one person. It’s simple. Doing things you don’t want to do in a dating relationship will just make you resent the person later on, anyway. Keep your feelings in mind and follow them. Dating is all about feelings. Trust me.


2 Responses to “dating in multiples”

  1. 1 Melisa
    June 30, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    One additional suggestion: Don’t tell the people you are dating “ther other’s” name. Facebook and google have made stalking way too easy

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