Sara Kuburic is a therapist who specializes in identity, relationships and moral trauma. Every week she shares her advice with our readers. Find her on Instagram @millennial.therapist. She can be reached at SKuburic@gannett.com.
Many people are resuming dating after a COVID-inflicted hiatus and feeling unsure about what the post-COVID scene will look like. During my recent Instagram Live with USA TODAY, I received a lot of relationship and dating questions, particularly about dating multiple people at the same time.
Dating several people at once is not a new phenomenon, but it’s growing increasingly common with the onslaught of dating apps.
I can't decide for you whether you should date multiple people at once, but I can pose some questions that can help you come to your own conclusion.
Is this something you actually want? Be honest with yourself and determine whether this is something you want or if it just seems to be a natural byproduct of online dating. If you've been encouraged by friends to “get out there” and meet as many people as you can, you may feel empowered, but you might also feel a lot of pressure. Do you want to connect with multiple individuals emotionally, mentally or physically? Do you want to give them your time?
What is your purpose for dating multiple people? Why do you want to date multiple people and what do you hope to gain from it? What is your intention? For some it might be connecting with multiple people before deciding to whom they want to commit. Some may simply enjoy a variety of experiences. Others may feel resistant to commitment, and this arrangement may allow them to avoid their triggers or fears.
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How do you define dating? Are you dating or are you just hanging out? It's important to consider how you define dating, and if the people you are "dating" have the same definition. Some people may consider daily chats and sporadic meet-ups to constitute dating. Others may only consider themselves to be dating someone once they’ve slept with them or had "the talk." Is dating different than being in a relationship? During the Live Q-and-A, I was asked how you know when you’re dating someone rather than just hanging out. My answer: You ask the other person.
What are your boundaries? Regardless of whether you want to date one person or multiple people, make sure you are clear about your boundaries (emotional, physical, material, etc.). Boundaries are a way of ensuring that you protect yourself, have your needs met and enable a healthy connection.
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Does this decision align with your future self? Whenever we make decisions, it’s important to pause and reflect on whether this decisions brings us closer to – or takes us further away from – who we want to become and the future we want to have.
Can I avoid becoming emotionally invested?
The question of whether one can date multiple people is commonly followed by another: How do I avoid becoming emotionally invested when dating multiple people?
The short answer: You can’t. If you want to genuinely connect with someone, you can’t avoid becoming emotionally invested. You can set emotional boundaries, but the stricter the boundaries (e.g. not sharing about previous relationships, insecurities or dreams), the less intimacy you will experience. The extent of vulnerability often predicts the degree of intimacy – and vulnerability often accompanies emotional investment.
Don't neglect the most important relationship you have
Regardless of whether you want to date one person or multiple people, don’t lose focus on the relationship you have with yourself. The healthiest relationships are rooted in being honest about what we want, need and expect – all of which require maintaining a close understanding of who we are ourselves. If any relationship hinders or harms your relationship with yourself, it’s not a relationship worth having.
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