Dating more than one person at a time

Dating more than one person or having an alternative relationship is an option when you have feelings for multiple people. There are a few things to think about if this feels like what you want. Brush up on the important things in a relationship, and how to deal with jealousy. The most important thing is to be open and honest.

This might help if:

  • You have feelings for multiple people
  • You’re thinking about an open relationship
  • You want info on open relationships

Three punks, one with mohawk

Having feelings for more than one person

It’s not uncommon to have feelings towards more than one person. The decisions we make about whether or not to act on those feelings affects everyone involved. If you want to date more than one person at a time, you should make sure that everyone involved is happy with the decision, and that you yourself are okay with it. Think about whether you are ready for the difficult emotions and situations that dating more than one person will bring. Always put your emotional health and wellbeing first, and that of everyone involved.

Deciding to date more than one person at a time

If you’re dating someone, and you haven’t talked about the rules of your relationship (including how exclusive it is), don’t assume that they would be okay with you dating someone else. Not knowing whether it’s okay or hiding another relationship is a certain recipe for self-doubt, guilt, and hurting people. It is always a good idea when starting to date someone to: 

  • Talk about what your expectations are, and what is or isn’t okay for both of you
  • Both agree on what you want your relationship to involve
  • Check in whenever your feelings change or something new comes up, so you can know for sure you’re both happy
Even if your partner is okay with it, make sure you think about whether you are okay with dating more than one person. If you’re: 
  • A jealous person
  • Insecure about how your partner feels about you
  • Not ready for difficult emotions
  • Cannot cope with stress and unhappiness 

Then you shouldn’t date more than one person at the same time.

The important parts of any relationship 

There are a few important things that should be a part of any relationship, regardless of the number of people involved:

  • Consent. An active agreement between people for the benefit, wellbeing and pleasure of everyone involved. If your partner doesn’t know that you’re dating someone else, they can’t give informed consent.
  • Recognising the effects of our actions. Think about the effects of your actions or choices on your partner, particularly sexual choices. Will your actions cause someone to be hurt, or create conflict? 
  • Respect. Always be respectful of each other’s feelings and choices. If you are not sure about how someone feels, ask them – never assume. If someone truly loves you, then seeing you happy should make them happy, and be very important to them.

Dealing with jealousy

 Jealousy itself isn’t an emotion – it is a word that describes a whole range of horrible feelings. It might be: 

  • A feeling of insecurity, or a fear of being abandoned.
  • A feeling of being left out or not good enough.
  • Worry that someone doesn’t love you or isn’t attracted to you.
Usually when we feel this way it feels so bad that we do anything we can to avoid it, and so we blame our feelings on someone else and their actions. Instead of blaming your partner or letting them blame you, use jealousy as a signpost to what you are really feeling, and talk about it with your partner. However awkward it may feel talking about your emotions, you will feel better for talking about it, and you will both know what is really being felt. Most importantly, jealousy is never an excuse for anyone to be mean, hurtful or abusive in a relationship. 

The most important thing about dating multiple people

  • Put your emotional health first, as well as the emotional health of others involved
  • Be open and honest, and don’t do anything you aren’t completely sure both you and your partner are okay with
  • If you or your partner don’t feel safe or happy, be honest about it - work with your partner to resolve it.
  • If your partner’s actions cause you to be unhappy, and you’ve exhausted all other options (talking, seeking help, etc.) then you should end it – relationships are supposed to be good for us.

What can I do now?

  • Be up front and honest.
  • Don’t assume you know how people feel.
  • Find out more about consent.

Last reviewed: 07 July, 2015
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