The worst romcom ever.
January 11, 2012 5:24 PM   Subscribe

How do you handle dating multiple people when there's a possibility that you'll cross paths with one person while in the company of another?

I'm not talking about cheating or, er, "playing." Nobody involved is committed or being deceived, but they also probably don't know that I'm actively dating more than one person. Is it important that I be explicit about this? How and when do I do that?

What about events where it's likely that more than one person will show up specifically for me? Like, my band is playing or something.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If they don't know, and would react adversely if they did, then yes, you are deceiving them.

The way you resolve this is by telling them.
posted by zamboni at 5:32 PM on January 11, 2012 [21 favorites]

Nobody involved is committed or being deceived, but they also probably don't know that I'm actively dating more than one person. Is it important that I be explicit about this? How and when do I do that?

If it's no big deal and nobody is committed or being deceived, then what's the big deal about making it explicit? It's not that I don't believe you that you don't feel you're deceiving anyone, but if you think there's a solid chance someone would be surprised and upset to find out you're dating others, that's when it would be the right thing to make it explicit.

Before sex is when I would say the right time is to be very clear about this. If there's nothing wrong with it then just say it. "Hey, before this goes any farther, I just want to make sure we're on the same page. I'm not looking for a committed relationship right now and there are a few people I'm seeing." If you think the other person would walk out, they probably aren't on the same page then, right?
posted by cairdeas at 5:42 PM on January 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

Is it important that I be explicit about this?
It is essential.
How and when do I do that?
The first date and every date thereafter until you mutually decide you're exclusive or you decide to move on.

Not so hard.
posted by Floydd at 5:51 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Oh, hi, Dave! Dave, meet Jen; Jen, this is Dave."

If you haven't made any agreements to date exclusively, why does Dave have to know that you're dating Jen, and vice versa?

On the other hand, I think it's important that both Jen and Dave know that you're dating other people (even if they don't know which other people those other people are). I really like cairdeas's wording as a way to be upfront and candid without drama, though I would suggest adding "monogamous" in there ("not looking for a monogamous committed relationship") if that isn't what you're looking for. Not all committed relationships are monogamous, and vice versa.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:51 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

If they don't know, and would react adversely if they did, then yes, you are deceiving them.

If you want to avoid confusion/awkwardness/confrontations in this circumstance, then everybody has to be on the same page before they run into each other. It's only fair. And yes, I think it will require explicitness. (And I agree that cairdeas about before sex being the time to get them on the same page.)

If the "just so you know, I'm dating more than one person" conversations are too difficult, then move on to someone new. Don't skip the conversation just because you can't manage it. That's doing a serious disservice to the other person.
posted by hypotheticole at 5:51 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you think that your various partners would accidentally find out, then yeah, you should just tell them.

I was recently one of the partners in a similar situation, and then I found out. It really sucked. All it would have taken to avoid hurt feelings would have been for the "you" in this situation to just say, "Look, this is sorta weird and I'll understand if it changes things for you, but I need to tell you I'm also dating other people. It's not exclusive or anything, but still, I think you have a right to know." Instead I found out via facebook and felt like I'd been played.
posted by Sara C. at 5:56 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about events where it's likely that more than one person will show up specifically for me?

This is your situation to manage. If you are playing in a show and both of the people you are dating know about it [either because you are somewhat famous or because you have told them both about it] and they both show up expecting to sort of maybe be your date, then you are not managing expectations correctly. So you either say "Yeah come and see me but I'll be there with someone else" [and then it's a good time to explain what this means] or you pretty specifically don't tell them about the event or tell them that you'd prefer they don't go.

I know it's sort of nice to play this stuff loose as if everyone is fine with everything and no one has to be explicit about anything, but realistically if you know that everyone might not be fine with everything if they had complete information, and you have complete information, then withholding it in order to prolong the idea that everyone is cool with everything isn't that great.

There are many people who are totally happy to have casual dating relationships with multiple people. The way to make this sort of thing go great for everyone is to figure out whether the people you are actually dating are those sorts of people. If you're getting mileage out of the ambiguity [maybe I'm committed, maybe I'm not] then I wouldn't continue that. Otherwise what Sidhedevil says is perfectly fine "Hey Karen, this is Jen...". Introduce people and be cool about it. It might be awkward. Sometimes people can take a hint [and be cool, or maybe not be cool ] other times they can't and you're left sitting there thinking "gee it might have been a good idea to have worked this out a bit more beforehand..."
posted by jessamyn at 6:17 PM on January 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

How many dates have you been on with these people? If we are talking like 3-4+ yeah I think you need to make it explicit. If they are showing up to be supportive of your band then I would say you are likely to the point where you need to be explicit.

If I had been on a few dates with a guy, went to see his band, and was met 1 or 2 other girls he was dating in the process I have to admit I'd be pretty over it. I mean I wouldn't be angry or feel played exactly... but I would feel like I had been put in a situation where I was "competing" for a guy, which is not my scene and I exit that drama pronto. I'd also seriously question if there were any long term prospects if I was just one of several girls he was dating. What I'm saying is you may want to make a choice sooner rather than later because dating multiple people only works for short periods of time unless it is very casual and that is explicitly understood by all parties. That's not to say it's unethical or anything, but you don't need to be "deceiving" or "playing" anyone to nonetheless scare them away. Proceed with caution.

Of course the easiest way out is just not to invite them all to see your band play.
posted by whoaali at 6:19 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Unless you're dating every member of your preferred sex, Date B has no reason to believe that Date A is anything other than a friend.
posted by theraflu at 6:31 PM on January 11, 2012

There's also - if you're in that small of a scene where multiple people you're dating could show up to see your band, then if you operate this way, even if you feel completely like you're not technically doing anything wrong, everyone is going to become aware that you're operating this way. People who don't know will now know. Even if the women aren't there it will get back to them. Future women you might like to date will know. You will become know as that guy in the band who likes to be the center of dramaz with a lot of women as he dates lots of them without them knowing each other and invites them all to his shows together. Even if that's not how you see it at all. For that reason alone I would take care of this beforehand if I were you.
posted by cairdeas at 6:50 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Unless you're dating every member of your preferred sex, Date B has no reason to believe that Date A is anything other than a friend.

People can tell.
posted by jayder at 6:54 PM on January 11, 2012 [8 favorites]

Given that you think this might occur, I would definitely have that conversation with everyone you date. Cairdeas' wording above is really good. If I was casually dating a guy and ran into him when he was with someone else, even if I wasn't upset by it, I would not want strangers reading my facial expressions while I put two and two together. I would however respect him if he had been up front and kept everything on the table.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:02 PM on January 11, 2012

Uh, wow. Listen, I have dated people in parallel, and I assume people I go out with do too until it a) gets sexual or b) is explicitly stated, and if anyone did what Floydd is suggesting (inform me on every date that he's seeing other people) I would run assume he's socially retarded or a sadist.

As for bumping into people, I'm wondering why it would happen. Are you dating multiple people within a tiny community (i.e. shitting where you eat?) Do you live in like a 500 person town with 20 single people your age? Maybe you're in college? In which case, it might be best to not take dates to campus events? I say your best bet is to minimize the chance of this occurring, because the awkwardness that will ensue if it does is pretty hard to undue.
posted by namesarehard at 7:12 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't think it's essential to tell your various partners you're actively seeing other people right now as long as everyone involved *does* understand that you're keeping your options open. If I were one of your dates, I would feel like a contestant on a reality show if I knew the specifics of your love life with others, and that would make me uncomfortable. I'd just rather not know that much if we're not exclusive anyway. And, for Pete's sake, do not invite all your partners to your band's show or whatever. I can't think of anything more awkward than running into other people I knew a date was potentially be sleeping with.
posted by katillathehun at 7:30 PM on January 11, 2012

I think "dating" is a bit ambiguous here.

People seem to be answering as if "dating" means having an extended, emotionally bonded or sexual relationship with someone. In which case, yes, you should definitely be honest.

But if "dating" means that you've just been on, say, one to three dates with them, then I don't think you need to disclose it. I think it's pretty much taken for granted that you'll be seeing other people at such an early stage.

I think if you've actually had sex with one of them, you need to either tell the others, or quietly break it off with them though. I think in that case, people may assume it's exclusive and be upset if they find out it's not.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:51 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

"How do you handle dating multiple people..." You tell them you're dating multiple people.

End of story. Anything past that is just cognitive dissonance.

If you don't share this info then you're just being disingenuous. And let's be honest, who wants to date disingenuous people?
posted by Blue_Villain at 7:44 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

  1. You tell everyone you're dating multiple people. Clearly and plainly.
  2. If in some situation they meet each other, introduce them briefly and then find a way to make your time there about one or the other, not ping-pong between both.

posted by ead at 9:22 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't make out in public. Otherwise, go forth as usual.
posted by desuetude at 7:55 PM on January 12, 2012

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