The good news: you've met three people, each of whom has definite potential to be The One. The not-so-great news: you've met them all at the same time. If you're not yet ready to date just one person exclusively, as tricky as it may seem, you do have the option of seeing multiple people at one time. According to Nancy Slotnick, dating coach and author of Turn Your Cablight On: Get Your Dream Man in 6 Months or Less, as long as you do so with dignity and decency, juggling multiple relationships is not only fun, but can also provide you with some valuable insight into your best mate. Below, she answers the most-asked questions on how to play the field without experiencing the pitfalls.
Q: Under what circumstances is juggling multiple relationships okay?
Nancy Slotnick: It depends what you mean by okay. Morally speaking, I think it is fine to date a few people at once, as long as you're interested in casual dating and all of the people you're dating know you're not in an exclusive relationship with any of them. If you're looking to be in a committed relationship, however, there's really no place for dating multiple people at once. Of course, you have to go on a lot of dates in order to find someone that you want to date exclusively, which necessitates keeping many potential dates in the loop and juggling prospects until you find one that you want to date. In order to do this yet preserve a bit of your dating integrity, I don't recommend going on more than two dates to figure out if you want to continue dating a person. Essentially, try to "name that tune" in fewer notes, so to speak.
Q: When someone is juggling multiple relationships, do you advise always being upfront with all of the other parties?
Nancy Slotnick: I never advise anyone to lie, but, otherwise, all is fair in love and war. If you're dating someone but haven't discussed monogamy or exclusivity, it's safe to assume that your relationship with each other-for now, at least, is casual. Therefore, nothing about your extra-curricular activities needs to be discussed or divulged. If someone you're dating asks you straight-out if you're seeing others, you owe that person enough respect to tell the truth. To keep things decent when plural dating, avoid misleading the people you're dating with statements like "I've never felt such strong feelings for someone" or "I want to be with you all the time." If you feel compelled to make those kinds of declarations to someone, you should be seeing him or her exclusively.
Q: More men than women report having an easy time maintaining multiple relationships. Why do you think this is?
A: There's truth behind all of those clichés about women having greater challenges than men do handling the emotional ramifications of dating and/or sleeping with more than one person at once. It's because women are more apt than men to get emotionally attached to others and when dating, women tend to want to be in a monogamous relationship. Whether you're a man or a woman, however, you have to know yourself. If you can't handle casually dating, you shouldn't try to juggle multiple relationships or you'll likely drive yourself nuts.
Q: What are some of the challenges that plural dating can present?
A: Whether you're a man or a woman, if you're not being upfront and honest with those you're dating at the same time, you risk getting caught and jeopardizing any future relationships with them or others. When you habitually engage in sustaining multiple relationships at once, odds are word will get around about you. Whether you live in a small town or not, it's just simple math. Once it does, others may become wary of getting involved with you because you have a reputation of juggling too many women or men at a time, which leads them to believe you can't be trusted.
Q: Logistically speaking, juggling multiple relationships can be really challenging. Do you have any tips on how to best do so?
A: I know someone who was dating two guys at the same time. Believe it or not, they had the same name-first and last! Luckily for her, one of them had an Irish accent, but, if you aren't that good with voices, you could be in trouble when you pick up the phone-same names or not. In order to avoid a slip-up, make sure to register the name of those you're dating in all of your phones. This way, when they call, they'll be identified on your caller ID, so you'll know if you can or want to answer. In order to avoid getting caught fumbling the excuses you give if you aren't free on a weekend night, write down what you said and to whom and keep expert track of your calendar so you don't double-book. No matter what, never allude to having another date. There's no need to invite jealousy and engage in game-playing. Leave that in high school.
Q: Dating lot of people at once can also pose emotional challenges. How do you advise handling the emotions associated with juggling multiple relationships?
A: It is very hard, especially for women, to be in a relationship without being emotionally attached. Heck, most people, even if they want to have multiple partners, can't handle the idea of their partner being with someone else-especially when sex is involved. The only way to successfully handle multiple relationships where sex is involved is to make sex about sex, and not confuse it with love. If you've entered into a plural dating situation, you can't drive yourself crazy thinking about what the other person is doing on a given night; this is the agreement you've entered into, so lie in the bed you've made, regardless if someone's there to join you.
Q: Are there any benefits associated with juggling multiple relationships?
A: Sure. The biggest benefit of juggling multiple relationships is that you can keep yourself open to finding the right relationship, while still being out, having fun and, if you like, being sexually active on a regular basis. As it's said about the lottery, you have to be in it to win it. For men, the benefits of juggling multiple relationships are much more clear, as most men would prefer to have the opportunity to date a lot of women at one time.
Q: If someone juggling multiple relationships realizes he or she is ready to date one person exclusively, how do you advise letting down the others he or she has been dating?
A: As with most breakups, I advise shooting straight. Tell the others you've been seeing that you've met someone and you want to see where it's going, so you won't be able to see them anymore. Though you may wish to remain friends with them, I advise against it. It will make continuing to date them too tempting and prevent you from really exploring that connection with the person in whom you're most interested. Keeping others around can be a crutch. If you really want to make a new relationship work, clear your plate of every other person you're dating or sleeping with so you can give the new relationship the fair chance it deserves.
Chelsea Kaplan, a DC-based writer, is the Editorial Director of www.themomtourage.com.
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