23 January 2013 18:15 | By Hugh Wilson, contributor, MSN Him

Multi-dating: how to multi-date

In the era of the internet, seeing several women concurrently is losing its taboo status...

Man with two women (© Getty Images)

If the popular press is to be believed, some men are constantly parading new girlfriends.

Simon Cowell is always being snapped on holiday surrounded by a bevy of beauties, some of whom are described as ex- or current partners. And hardly a day goes by without Russell Brand being spotted arm in arm with a new squeeze.

It’s hard to know whether these celebs are multi-dating - dating several women, with everyone’s consent, at the same time - or not, but it’s certainly true that multi-dating has become increasingly common in the era of the internet.

So how do you date several women at once, without losing your reputation as a gentleman? Here’s how to do it the decent way.

Why multi-date?

Why multi-date? You could ask why you have curry one night and Chinese food the next? Why you follow both football and cricket? Why you try a whole town of bars rather than sticking with just one?

It’s about variety, first and foremost, and a mindset that might be characterised as ‘try before you buy’. The more women you date, the more likely you are to find one you really like.

Science suggests that men are more prone to seeking multiple partners than women. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that, wherever you are in the world, men have a greater desire for sexual variety than women.

If evolutionary psychology is to be believed, the reason for that is simple. Human instinct is to ensure the continuation of our genes through offspring. For men, the best strategy is to sleep with lots of women. For women, it’s to sleep with only those men who are likely to stick around to look after the children. Seeking multiple partners may be hardwired into men.

That’s slightly different to seeking multiple partners at the same time, though. But with the rise of internet dating - where contact with numerous potential partners is normal - and the social phenomenon of later marriage and more years spent single, multi-dating has become more common and more socially acceptable.

Or at least, it’s socially acceptable if you do it right. Here’s how.

On Bing: more on evolutionary psychology

woman in bar (© Getty Images)

Clearly, multi-dating has its appeal

Be honest

Let’s be clear. We’re not talking about two-timing here, or going behind anyone’s back. Successful multi-dating means being honest with everyone concerned. And with that, you have to expect the odd knock back.

“Multi-dating is a relatively new dating import from the US, so if you're going to do it, you need to expect some quite mixed reactions,” says behavioural psychologist and dating coach Jo Hemmings. “Some people won't mind, especially if they're not that into having a committed relationship, while others will be horrified!”

You could test the waters first, by asking what your date thinks about people who do it. If she’s unambiguously against it, this is one occasion where exclusivity will have to rule.

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Man texting (© Getty Images)

When you're with one date, don't be texting another

Timing is everything

If you don’t want to be exclusive, at some point you have to speak up. But that doesn’t mean you have to come clean straight away. 

“In terms of letting your date know that you are - or intend to - multi-dating, my view is that you probably shouldn't say anything for the first date or two, as you are effectively road-testing partners at this stage,” says Hemmings.

“Once you're into third date territory or getting into a sexual relationship, I think it's time to be honest and state your intentions.”

And what are those intentions? You could sugar the pill by saying you don’t want to be exclusive “for the time being”, or until the two of you really get to know each other, or until you’re ready. 

You really can’t be sure what her reaction will be, but certainly many people who have grown up with internet dating, with its myriad romantic opportunities, will understand your position and even be happy with it. Some may not expect anything else, at least for a while.

“There's a fine line between 'dating' and having a 'relationship' and people have differing boundaries when one merges into another,” says Hemmings. “For some, you're pretty much commitment-free until you are in a long-term, living together situation. For others, once you've locked tongues, it should be monogamous all the way…”

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Woman with two men (© Getty Images)

The most important rule of multi-dating? She can do it too

Multi-dating etiquette

If you are multi-dating there are a few rules to follow, if you want to emerge with your reputation intact. Don’t take one date to somewhere another hangs out. Even if you have multi-dating consent, a little discretion is still required.

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And don’t be texting one girl when you’re out with another. Even if you’re doing it secretly, the etiquette of gentlemanly multi-dating states that while you’re out with Girl A, Girl A is your only priority.

Of course, there’s one more rule that you have to follow. “If you are going to date a number of partners simultaneously, it's also only fair that you totally accept this in your partner too,” says Hemmings. “No one-way traffic here!”

So that’s the deal. If you do it, they can do it too, and if they happen to find a reason to start being exclusive with someone who isn’t you, you’ve just got to suck it up and move on. Assuming you can accept that stipulation, multi-dating may be a highly rewarding - if necessarily temporary - stage of your dating life. 

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