Advice – How can I ethically date multiple people?

/u/laurpr2 on /r/relationships writes…

“By “dating” I don’t mean “sleeping with”: I mean messaging multiple people that I’ve matched with and setting up first (/second?/third?) dates.

Those who think it’s acceptable:

Do you volunteer that you’re seeing/talking to other people? Is it assumed? At what point do you decide to become exclusive? How long do you give someone before you decide it’s not working out?

Those who think it’s trashy:

Do you bring up exclusivity at the beginning? Is it assumed? Do you deactivate your account(s) as soon as you decide to message someone? If not then, when? How long do you give someone before you decide it’s not working out?”

Photo by Nadia Lindsay on

Dear laurpr2,

My close friend who is actively dating multiple folks simultaneously helped me with this advice column and I’d like to credit her for some of the discussion points. Thanks Mandie!

Ah, the joys of modern dating!

I am so happy to see that you’re enjoying the experience of dating! It is thrilling to have many interest and many interested in you. As a polyamorous man, I feel much more aligned with the “acceptable” crowd here. But much of my advice here depends so much on you and what your own personal experiences are.

First things first. There is no clear answers to the questions you have laid out. Much of dating is in figuring out what your and your respective dating partners comfort levels are while you gauge and determine your own emotional investment in each of those connections. Sometimes, you might not know until you’ve had four or five dates with a person that this person is incompatible with you. Sometimes, you might know within the first couple message exchanges that it is clear this person is going to be really special. It really depends on your experiences and there’s varying ethics here.

The basic assumption in modern dating is that you are at least non-monogamous at first. It is widely accepted that you might be seeing and coordinating dates with more than one person, just like your partners are possibly seeing and coordinating dates with more than just you. That does not necessarily have to be an explicit conversation until further down in the dating process.

Photo by Jonathan Borba on

The more interesting point of discussion here is how long you should date someone before you decide it’s not working out.

And that too is a sliding spectrum.

Let’s say that you go on a middling date with someone where there were several moments of awkward silences. You got the sense that they were nervous so you too got a bit nervous in return. Your follow up conversations after the dates flowed much better, so you decide to go on a second date. Second date reveals much of the same, that the nervous energy crackles around the edges and the date overall makes you feel uncomfortable.

What do you do?

The context of this situation might also be very different. If you had gone on a really bad date where the guy came in, did lines of coke in the bar bathroom, and left without paying for his two drinks, this above date might not be so bad in comparison. But if you had gone on a really good date where you had butterflies in your stomach, you might not have gone on a second date with a match you felt ambivalent about.

There are couple questions you should ask yourself before first dates. What kind of filters are you applying to these new connections so that only the most promising ones take up your resource and time? When do you stop swiping/matching so that you can focus on forging out the connections you’ve already made?

Then there are couple questions you should be looking out for in your date. Are there any obvious incompatibilities/red flags? How much patience do you have to date someone who only makes you feel just okay? Is this person secretly Danny Devito wearing a wig?

And finally there are questions you should ask after your date. If I noticed any obvious incompatibilities, do any of them appear to be shifting? Are any of those possible orange flags acceptable for me at this moment? What was that cute dress she was wearing because I want to buy it for myself?

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on

Most of the process of dating is you figuring out what are some of your boundaries and what are some things you are prepared to compromise on. To have all the answers to your question would essentially be spoiling the journey for you, because it is a journey after all to find that someone who you want to be exclusive with. So have fun. It’s supposed to be fun!

Good luck!

Tea Time with Tomato is an informative relationship and sex advice column for both monogamous and polyamorous folks. By submitting your post, you agree to let me use your story in part or in full. You also agree to let me edit or elaborate for clarity.

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