Is there anything in life more stressful than dating? You plan dates, you choose outfits, you try not to do anything stupid or creepy, and still you agonize for hours or even days afterward, wondering if the date went as well as you thought it did. Even with all this, some people still insist on casually dating multiple partners—like the stress of one partner isn’t enough.
Casually dating multiple partners can be done, and in fact it can be fun. There are a few simple rules to follow and tips to keep in mind to keep things fun and fair and to make sure that you don’t end up on the news as someone stabbed by a jilted lover.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
If it’s at all physically possible for you, meaning if you can do this without risking divorce, assault, or a guest spot on a daytime television talk show, you should tell everyone involved that you are dating multiple partners. Not only is it fair, but it also saves you an entire level of effort that you would need to put into maintaining the illusion that you’re dating one person exclusively while you’re sneaking around with somebody else.
If your dating is truly casual, your partners shouldn’t have a problem with you seeing other people, at least at first. In general though, the longer you are with someone, the more you are pushed toward an exclusive relationship. You need to approach it gently though, perhaps asking if you are correct in assuming that you are both dating other people for now. Of course, if they answer “No,” you will be forced to choose between breaking it off or dating on the “down low.”
Secrecy Is the Second Best Policy
If you’re going to date multiple partners in secret, be sure to do it right. Don’t take your dates to all the same places, otherwise you’re bound to have an uncomfortable moment. Incidentally, that includes hotels and motels—if you’re in your favorite room at the no-tell, you might just forget which day it is and call out the wrong name in the throes of passion. Keep as many things separate as you can.
Another key to keeping a secret relationship, or several of them, secret is to not tell anyone who doesn’t need to know. Maybe you can keep all of your boyfriends straight, but your best friend probably can’t, so don’t give her that burden. The more people who know how many people you’re dating, the more likelihood there is that word will get back to one of your partners and mayhem will ensue.
It would be nice if it wasn’t necessary to say this in this day and age, but if you’re not in a committed, monogamous relationship, you need to be using protection. That doesn’t just mean the pill or an IUD to prevent pregnancy, although those are important, but to prevent sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) you need an actual barrier. This means the dreaded condom, femdom, and/or dental dam.
How important are these devices? It depends on how much you value your health. There are dozens of STDs out there, with chlamydia and syphilis being on the rise and a new strain of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea being all the rage in California. If you catch one of these lovely bugs, you will have almost certainly spread them to all of your partners before you even know you’re infected.
Your partners may try to talk you out of using protection. You may even try to talk yourself out of it. If everyone is tested before you start, what’s the big deal? The big deal is that everyone you’re having sex with may be having sex with someone else, and they may not be tested or using protection.
If you are dating somebody, it stands to reason that you should probably like and respect them. People we like and respect deserve our courtesy, and your partner is no exception.
You generally shouldn’t cancel dates with one partner to go out with another. Similarly, cutting off one phone conversation because call waiting shows that another partner is calling is rude, too. If you value one partner that much more than another, maybe you don’t need to be dating the other one at all.
Even if you are open and honest about dating multiple partners, you should probably keep the details of your other relationships to yourself. It is human nature to be jealous and, if you go rudely telling one partner about the wild animal sex you had last night with another partner, no good will come of it.
It’s also not courteous to the other partner, who probably doesn’t want their intimate details shared with the world, either. All of this is different, of course, if you live in some sort of love commune where everybody is sleeping with everybody else, but those probably only exist in the movies and Southern California.
If your relationship with a partner starts to fizzle out and you want to focus more on other partners, the courteous thing to do is to either end the relationship or at least inform your partner of your feelings. You don’t want to create a situation where one of you is far more invested in the relationship and has misconceptions about mutual feelings.
Dating is hard work sometimes, and it stands to reason that dating multiple partners is even harder. Whether you choose to keep things open or date in secret, things will go much easier if you use common sense, practice safe sex, and use common courtesy.