I never used to understand the phrase “too much of a good thing makes you sick”. There wasn’t an amount of salami, or cheese, or fried chicken, or Dr Pepper, or curly wurly that could make me sick. Too much of a good thing was simply more of that good thing, right?!
Then I discovered tequila, and discovered that too much definitely could make me sick.
Meeting new people to date is a good thing and very much like this. It makes you feel wanted, desired, needed, and gives you a spring in your step that nothing else can match. So meeting two new people at the same time must be even better, right? Twice as many people, twice as good. Three people should be mindblowing, and four? Incredible!
Only, it’s not, is it?
Like London buses, meeting people often comes in waves. You’ll not match with anyone for ages for a variety of reasons, be that taking time out of dating entirely, being busy with work or perhaps even because you’ve been in an actual nascent relationship. You breathe and realise you’ve not logged into any app for ages and it feels good.
Only, something changes. You get bored one night, or your relationship comes to an end and you find yourself swiping again, hoping against hope that this time it’ll be different. And you match. Not once, but twice or even more. Matching with people that make you spend a little longer looking at their photos than you normally do, and making you read their bios three times with interest.
Conversations with both of them follow. They both seem fun, funny and intelligent. They can both spell. They both have interesting lives, and they both make you want to learn more about them, so you ask questions. And this is where it gets tricky.
In your mind you are learning new things about new people, but with very little to anchor it on. You sit on the same sofa as you’re chatting to both of them at the same times and are at the same stages of conversations. It becomes all too easy to mix up facts from one with the other, or ask someone the same question more than once. It feels massively disrespectful to not remember something that you’ve only been told a day or two earlier.
It gets even trickier when it comes to actually deciding to meet up. Assuming that both options remain equally attractive there’s no reason not to date both people, at least once. Do you suggest the same place for both as it’s an awesome venue and just hope that you don’t get a raised eyebrow from the staff? Or do you go somewhere else, knowing that one of those options is a definite second choice?
The first date happens. It goes well. Really well. You have a snog, and talk about a second date. Is this the point you cut the other person off and cancel? How rude is that? They could be even better for you, but lost out thanks to a quirk of fate meaning they were second in timings though nothing else. Do you change the messaging with them, or with the first person you dated? You’ve not discussed exclusivity, after all, and they may well be seeing and chatting to other people themselves.
These debates and questions continue until something gives. Either one or both of these early relationships come to an end, possibly in part down to your focusing more time on the other person. It can be exhausting, maintaining conversations and contact with two or more people who both think they’re the only person, not to mention expensive. Dating isn’t cheap at the best of times, and early on is not the best of times.
Some people are quite comfortable with this game. They keep people distant, have dozens of numbers in their phones of people to call and party with and never go any way towards actually getting to know them. The less they are supposed to know, the less trouble they get into for not knowing it.
Others, however, are looking for true love. They are looking for a relationship, and are willing to invest the time and energy to make that happen. It is impossible to balance more than one of these people for very long at all, unless you are openly doing so in a poly relationship or alternatively are a two-timing playa. And, with the latter at least, the longer it all goes on the more likely it is that someone gets hurt.
It would be easy if everyone were comfortable having exclusivity chats early on and then being comfortable with either result as they were able to adjust accordingly, but this rarely happens. Too often it gets avoided and put off, either deliberately or accidentally, with one party making assumptions and the other not disabusing them of those notions. If by accident then that’s one thing, if not then that’s Not Cool.
You’ll know when the other person wants to keep talking to other people. You may not always like it or accept it, but deep down you’ll know after a few dates. Then it will be up to you to decide how to deal with that, and also how you’ll deal with other people that you may be seeing or talking with.
Non-monogamous relationships aside (as I have no experience of those), most people aren’t too comfortable with people they are seeing and growing close to seeing other people as time goes on. And the longer things go on the more they resemble an awkward 69; it can be fun having two things on the go at once, but generally speaking you get a lot more out of it by concentrating on one at a time.
I think it’s a catch-22. We want someone to jump in and discuss exclusivity early on, but the nature of dating (which is just as you describe it) keeps everyone playing it cool, playing it safe. We’ve got one foot in this potential relationship, one foot out the door, and maybe a few irons in the fire of the dating app chat screen. The stakes are deceptively low (if this doesn’t work out, there’s more where that came from, right?), but when you consider the incidence of folks who have yet to find a healthy long-term relationship from a dating app, the truth is obvious — we’re doing this wrong. Best of luck from a fellow divorced parent of 4.
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It really is tricky, and there’s no way of knowing each time exactly how to play it.
Thanks for the luck, I need it! Good luck yourself, too!
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