If you’ve ever spent more than a few days on a dating app, you’re likely familiar with the pull to date more than one person at a time. Sure, you went on a great first date with Steve, but a few harmless minutes of late-night swiping led you to match with Cameron, a 6-foot-3 soccer player with bright blue eyes and an adorably crooked smile. You want to at least meet him and see how the two of you hit it off. Steve doesn’t have to know, right?
It’s officially fall, and traditionally that means it’s “cuffing” season — i.e. time to settle in for the winter with someone special. But if you’d rather keep your options open and sip pumpkin spice lattes with more than one date, you’re hardly alone. The results of Match.com’s eighth annual Singles In America study found that 40 percent of single people have dated more than one person at a time.
And if you think men are the only ones enjoying this trend, think again: Women are actually more likely to want to date multiple people at a time than men are. In fact, 69 percent of women have dated more than one person at a time, compared with 51 percent of men.
But is dating more than one person at a time actually a good idea, or will it just lead to heartache, confusion, and hurt feelings? Let’s take a closer look.
There are benefits to dating more than one person at a time.
While some people thrive in monogamous relationships, others don’t. Especially in the beginning stages of dating when you’re not entirely sold on one potential partner over another, dating more than one person at a time can be a great way to figure out what you want and get more experience.
“It’s not for everyone, but I encourage those who are inexperienced to give it a try,” says relationship coach Jillian Turecki. “Those who don’t have a lot of relationship experience or have been serial monogamists their whole lives can really benefit from this. This helps people get a better sense of what they do and don’t want. It is all for the sake of clarity.”
Rachel, a 27-year-old woman who lives in Chicago, is a great example of Turecki’s point: She was an extremely focused student in college, and afterward she threw herself headfirst into her career. When a few of her closest friends got engaged within six months, it was a bit of a wakeup call. No, she wasn’t dying to get married just yet, but she did want to see what was out there.
“I felt like I needed to make up for lost time, so I didn’t just stick with the first cute guy I matched with on a dating app,” Rachel says. “I decided to ‘play the field’ a bit. I’ve spent the past few months dating a few guys I’m really interested in, and I’m having a great time.”
Sometimes, dating more than one person goes from fun to flat-out bad.
Of course, dating more than one person at a time does have its drawbacks. Scheduling a slew of first dates can be a blast — you’re trying new restaurants and bars, going on adventures that get you out of your comfort zone, and getting to know new people. But if you have a history of being unable to commit or you’re using dating as a distraction, consider taking a step back. That’s what Josh, a 32-year-old man living in L.A., had to do.
“I dated a ridiculous amount of guys and girls for a year,” he says. “When friends and family expressed concern, I told them I was just having fun — it took me a while to come out as bi, and I felt like I’d been repressed for so long.”
Eventually, Josh realized he wasn’t going on all those dates just to have fun. He was distracting himself from his soul-sucking job. “That distraction wasn’t benefiting me, and I found I was hurting a lot of people who were invested in me,” he explains. “So I decided to take a few months off from dating until I found a new job. Once that happened, I started dating again — and now I’m exclusively dating a girl I really like.”
Turecki notes that in situations like Josh’s, stepping back and slowing down to ask yourself if dating more than one person at a time is actually making you happy is crucial.
“While I do like to encourage people to date more than one person at a time, the opposite holds true for someone who has difficulty committing, someone who uses dating as a distraction from their lives, or someone who is looking only to fulfill egoic needs,” she explains. “I would encourage that person to slow down and to give getting to know a person more deeply a try.”
Plus, there’s the matter of keeping all those first dates straight. There’s nothing quite as humiliating as calling your date by the wrong name or having them catch your phone lighting up with texts from other people you’re dating. Dating more than one person can feel like a full-time job, so pay attention to those moments that feel overwhelming or empty. You might be better off giving monogamy a shot.
Are you obligated to tell the people you’re dating that you’re seeing other people?
Ah, the million dollar question: Do the people you’re dating have the right to know that the nights that you’re not with them, you’re taking romantic strolls with other people? Turecki says yes. “I believe in complete transparency,” she explains.
Turecki adds that the same holds true if you’re dating someone you really like. If they haven’t brought it up on their own, don’t be afraid to ask if they’re seeing anyone else. “If you’re dating someone you have strong feelings for, it is wise to ask them if they’re dating anyone else,” she says. “You need to know if someone is on the same page as you.”
While Turecki’s advice is solid, Lauren, a 29-year-old woman living in New York, lives by a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy when she’s dating more than one person at a time. “If they don’t ask me, I don’t feel I’m obligated to tell them. If they want to have the ‘what are we?’ talk, that’s another story.”
Remember that monogamy isn’t for everyone.
It’s also important to note that monogamy simply isn’t for everyone. One study conducted out of the Indiana University School of Medicine found that women’s libidos tend to lower the longer they’re with the same partner, while men’s tend to stay pretty steady. While everyone is different, if monogamy truly isn’t for you and you’re willing to be open about that with people you’re dating, it could be worth considering an open relationship.
People are different, and it only makes sense that their approaches to dating — and how many people they want to date at one time — would be different as well. So whatever your dating style, embrace it. Just make sure you’re being true to yourself.