Over the past few weeks in particular, I’ve had quite a few readers tell me that they’re dating multiple people, something I find exhausting just thinking about it, but at the same time rather fascinating because I find that people give me all sorts of reasons for why they do it:
I’m just experimenting with dating. Couldn’t you ‘experiment’ with one person for a few dates, see how it goes, and then move on?
I’m not ready to start properly dating. Do the people who you are dating know that you’re potentially wasting their time? Why not take a break?
I like the attention from all of these guys. Remember how you didn’t like it when Mr Unavailable had a narcissistic harem of women he was dipping in and out of for an ego stroke? Nuff said!
I’m just trying these guys on for size. Do they know you’re just experimenting with them?
I don’t want to get into a relationship too quickly? Who said you have to go straight to a relationship? Where is the fire?
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about why dating is a discovery phase for fact finding. It’s where you discover the facts that will help you determine whether you should green light, date some more and potentially move into a relationship, or whether you should red light and abort the mission.
As people no matter what they tell you, don’t always date for the same reasons, dating someone and getting to know them will let you determine through their actions and interactions (not just words and your imagination) whether you are two people on the same page with similar primary values.
The issues arise because not only do people bluster blindly through dating ignoring red flags and letting their libidos and imaginations make decisions for them, but we forget to date and basically commit to being in a relationship before there is something to commit to.
Multiple dating makes dating messier even though the people that do it often think it makes it easier because it keeps them out of a relationship, let’s them check out lots of options at once instead of doing one person at a time, but it can also be a protective measure for ensuring that you don’t get close enough to anyone.
Really multiple dating is just a code term for:
1) Keeping your options open.
2) Being afraid of commitment because you’re afraid of getting hurt.
3) Keeping your attention meter ticking over.
Some people keep their options open because they want to shag around, they think there’s plenty of fish in the sea, and they also worry that someone who perfectly meets their criteria may be out there somewhere and are afraid of ‘settling’. In fact a number of women have said to me that they’re afraid of wasting time, while at the same time feeling that time is running out, so they’re trying to effectively compact, for example, what would be a years worth of dating for another person, into a couple of months.
But equally, keeping your options open is about being non-commital and this is the mainstay of being emotionally unavailable and creating limited experiences that keep you ‘safe’ in a self-fulfilling prophecy bubble.
What I found particularly prevalent though with each person who multiple dates is that they enjoy getting lots of attention from various different sources which helps them get a level of validation that they’re seeking.
But, is it just me that wonders what happened to dating one person at a time?
What is this fear of the supply running out? What is this whole ‘But what if he’s not the one and I’m missing out on one of the other guys that could be?’ Are you supposed to know if someone is the one on the first few dates? Why do we need so much attention?
If you’re keeping your options open and sitting on the fence dating several people, how can you be emotionally available enough to get to know these people and determine whether you can date one?
How do you choose? This isn’t The Apprentice! You’re fired! You’re fired! Ooh, you’re hired! It may feel like you’re auditioning them for what you feel is the big job of being ‘The One’ but you and they are people with feelings, libidos, imaginations, and love habits that may be counterproductive to you actually getting the relationship you want – adding several people to the mix just makes it messy. Feeling like you have choices may convince you that you have more choices than you have and trap you indecision!
Here’s the trouble: I’m not suggesting that you be a nun or ‘commit’ to a relationship with a virtual stranger, although ladies, let’s be real, many of you have committed to virtual strangers but told yourselves that you knew more! However, you are making a rather large rod for your own back because unless you have hide of a rhino and don’t really care about how other people feel, it can get pretty damn messy with the whole multiple dating thing.
If you’re someone who has had a pattern of being involved with, for instance, emotionally unavailable men or assclowns, or has a penchant for getting carried away with illusionary relationships, multiple dating is heartbreak, ambiguity, and confusion on acid.
If you multiple date with dubious love habits, the moment that someone either ticks the boxes of your pattern such as having familiar characteristics, qualities and behaviours or doesn’t do what you expect, triggering curiosity and a sense of rejection that convinces you that you are more interested in them than you are in others, you will start thinking and expecting like someone who is dating them exclusively, while at the same time, because of your fear of getting hurt, being committed, or losing all of the sources of attention, trying to maintain some of the other guys.
You won’t be interested because you’re genuinely interested – you’ll be interested because you’ll want to ‘win over’ this person and get validated, which is not the same thing.
You’ll just be falling into old patterns while having lots of loose ends. You’ll also find that you worry about ‘breaking up’ with people and may even avoid being honest or be inadvertently ambiguous because you’re worried about hurting their feelings. Next thing you know, even though you feel like you’ve communicated that you’re not interested, you’ve got the stress of various guys you have half-hearted interest in, lurking around.
Then you think back to when you’ve been messed around by some guy, remember how you felt and tell yourself you don’t want to make someone feel like that, but these guys, who some of them will be just as emotionally unavailable, will be pursuing you because you’re not doing what they expect, so they’ll take a while to take the hint. You may even have to do no contact or get medieval on them!
If things don’t go according to plan with the one you got fixated on, you’ll start to get nostalgic about one or some of the other guys and restart contact all over again giving off mixed signals. Or you’ll quickly hop on your laptop and start flirting up a storm on a dating site, quickly filling up your diary with dates and attention so that any rejection you’re feeling is quickly blocked out.
And lather rinse repeat.
You’ll experience times when you think you want a relationship with one of them but you’ll agonise about killing off the other attention sources and feel nervy of committing.
This is where we overblow commitment as there are various levels of commitment, and really, in dating one person, you commit, not to marrying them or promising forever more, but you commit to giving it a shot and seeing how things go one on one. You’re committing to courtesy and you’re also committing to removing ambiguity about stuff like ‘Am I the only person they’re sleeping with?’
And here is the big question: Do you want to perpetuate the very behaviour that drives you insane when you’re on the receiving end of it?
Much of the stuff about multiple dating will be very familiar to you if you have ever been on the receiving end of the flip flapping, hedge sitting, keeping you on ice guy that is Mr Unavailable.
Ladies, I’m not saying don’t have fun but I am saying to be careful of not only living a double standard but dragging out a cycle of being emotionally unavailable and commitment resistant. If we truly do want a relationship and we don’t want to engage in the type of situations that have caused us pain when others have done it, why do it ourselves?
Each time I hear from women struggling with multiple dating, do you know what I hear? A woman who is uncomfortable dating several men at a time, that is not being authentic, and is living outside of her values – what we expect from others, we should expect from ourselves.
Dating means that you do have to take a bit of a risk. If you go in with your eyes and ears open, feet on the ground, with an awareness of your boundaries and red flags, you will opt out if, while you are in your discovery phase on your factfinding mission, you receive information to your spidey senses that says that the relationship is not for you. You will cut your losses instead of continuing to invest blindly and you’ll be relieved to have found out now, rather than later, and move on. You can get to know the person in the reality if you’re not all confused trying to juggle several people at once!
Your thoughts? Have you tried to date more than one person?