Question: Is it OK to date more than one person at a time?
Answer: The straightforward answer is you are free to date more than one person until you commit to being exclusive with one person. The whole point of dating is to figure out what you eventually want in a spouse. Dating allows you to discover what you can’t live with, or without, and to learn more about your own values. Dating around can be a fun stage of being single!
If you are starting to get the sense that one or more of your dates would be hurt to find out you are dating other people, then that may be a sign that dating more than one person may no longer be appropriate. Let’s start by defining what you mean by “dating.” If dating means a couple of casual dates, along with light conversation and very limited to no physical intimacy, then you are really just getting to know someone and dating around is perfectly ok.
Now, if dating means consistent weekly contact for two months or more, coupled with long conversations about how much you are attracted to each other and some form of “making out,” then dating more than one person may start to feel like a betrayal. Even if you are not explicitly stating it, the amount of time and intimacy you share implies your interest is serious. If there is any confusion about exclusivity, then I would advise having that conversation. When another person’s emotions are involved, then we are called to take responsibility for those emotions. As Christians and as Catholics, this is one way we care for others. If you know that your date would be hurt or surprised that you are still dating other people, then your best bet is to be up front. No guilt or judgment; just be honest, so your date has the full picture before the connection between the two of you continues to deepen.
But maybe you’re just trying to decide how you feel about dating exclusively? It’s ok to take time before deciding to date just one person. That is the difference between dating and formal courtship. However, if you are using “dating around” as a way to prevent yourself from getting close to one person, then you are really using your dates. You are looking for the “goodies” of a relationship (like companionship, intimacy, and simply not being alone) without the responsibility. Leading someone on is not the same as figuring out what you want. Make sure you are comfortable with the difference.
It can be confusing, especially when we see examples of finding a spouse while dating multiple people in shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette.” Everyone knows there are multiple contenders, so what happens between two people on a private date is ok, right? Ah, no, not exactly. Prior to the most recent engagement on “The Bachelorette,” the heroine of the show slept with one of the men she chose not to marry two weeks later. Not the best formula for going into a life-long commitment of monogamy.
Which leads us to the “The Big Rule.” You know, the one that says you shouldn’t be sleeping with your dates prior to marriage, and certainly not while dating other people. Sleeping together prior to marriage is against our Catholic values for multiple reasons. We believe that the physical intimacy you share with another person is as close as husband and wife. Sex is a beautiful gift designed by God and meant for two people in a lifelong commitment. Even if you try to convince yourself that it’s just sex, emotions get involved along with potential for disease and pregnancy. Not great “date” conversation. It’s likely someone, including you, is going to get hurt. I would strongly advise against dating multiple people when sex is involved, and I would advise against being sexually active until you are married.
I was going on casual dates with different men before I met my husband. Once Dan started asking me out, he made sure to ask for the next date before the current date ended. A great sign he was interested in making sure we spent time together again soon. It was a natural progression as we both stopped seeing other people. About two months into the relationship, he introduced me to a friend of his as his girlfriend. I was surprised and I must admit very excited! But, we never had the “discussion.” So I had to ask. I think the conversation made us both nervous, especially when you are trying to sound casual as you ask, “So, are you seeing anyone else?” Luckily, we both felt the same, that we were interested in being exclusive. It was an important turning point in the relationship. To allow feelings and the bond between us to continue to grow without being exclusive would have jeopardized the integrity of the relationship.
So, the answer isn’t really black and white, as much as do what you believe is right. In the end, it’s your personal decision. I’m hoping your faith, strength of character, and values will help you decide the right time to start dating exclusively.