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Before I even tackle this subject I will openly admit I’m a solidly monogamous person.  As I’ve written before the whole idea of multiple lovers, hookups and sexual relationships with near strangers baffles me.  I can’t keep several plates spinning while I’m trying to write this blog, work on my memoir, get stage time in New York City and pay my rent.   I’m writing this though because this issue comes up all the time, and I’m annoyed that most of the articles I’ve found about this topic are written only for men.  I’ve based these tips on experiences I’ve had and what a lot of my friends have gone through.  I not advocating for any style of dating, nor would I say this would work for every person.

There are many variations on dating multiple people, too many to list here really.  The key to having multiple partners should NOT be about lying, sneaking around and deception.  Lies are evil.  As I have said before:

I would rather have an honest sinner than a phony saint.

The following are just guidelines.  It’s really about what any two people are comfortable with in any partnership.  If you only have sex with a person once, they really don’t need to know much.  But if you are seeing more than one person on a regular basis, communication is key to keeping everyone happy.

1. Let a new partner know early on that you are not looking for a sexually exclusive relationship: Of course this can change as the relationship develops.  Neither partner should assume though that a casual open relationship will turn into a committed monogamous one. When in doubt – communicate.

2. Avoid getting involved with people who aren’t also honest with their primary partners – A friend who has been polyamorous for years put it to me this way.  “I avoid being the ‘other’ woman.  If a man tells me he is in an open marriage, I tell him I will have to speak to your wife about this, just to make sure”  It might sound crazy, but if the couple is in an open marriage, this sort of request probably happens to them all the time.  It’s better to make sure everything is above-board, before you find some woman calling you a home-wrecker or threatening to kill you for sleeping with her husband.

3. Don’t assume one lover wants to hear details about any others – Some partners honestly may not mind this, but not everyone is different.  One woman might not want to know that another regular partner is younger, thinner, lives closer to you or has a cat.  If these relationships truly are separate, then there is no reason to share this sort of information.  Simply establishing that you are not exclusive is usually enough.  If you want a change in your relationship, then let your partner know.  NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING! 

4. Always use protection – If you are having sex with multiple people – DON’T BE AN IDIOT.  Use condoms and practice safe sex.  Other than the usual STDs we all fear, there is a strain of antibiotic resistant Gonorrhea going around New York City that is all sorts of awful. Spreading STD’s is irresponsible and reckless.  If you want to have condom free sex, then maybe you might want to find one primary partner and at least use condoms outside of the main relationship.

5. Beware of Social Media – If you tweet naughty messages to one woman know that anyone can see it. You don’t know who knows each other or which partner might be a regular cyber sleuth.  Facebook profiles are even more transparent – comments, likes, even old conversations with partners are there for life unless you remove them.  A simple comment like, “You are so beautiful” could get you in trouble if you post it where another, more neglected lover, could see it. Basically you have to treat all comments on social media as if you are standing on top of a mountain declaring them for the universe.  The internet holds no secrets.

6. Don’t treat you casual lovers like girlfriends/boyfriends – Again there are no hard rules to this, as some polyamorous relationships are anything but casual.   This is the number one complaint I get from both men and women about casual relationships.  You can’t expect someone who you see only for sex on occasion to get that emotionally invested in you.  They aren’t going to necessarily want to meet your friends, go to social functions with you, listen to your neurotic ramblings or bring you chicken soup when you get a nasty cold.  When these lines get blurred, people are more likely to get their feelings hurt.  Anyone can have a primary relationship and still have multiple lovers on the side, but not without some boundaries first.  You should never assume a regular hook-up is a girlfriend, or even wants that role.

7. Treat everyone with respect – This should go without saying in every dating situation.  I’ve seen a lot of alarming language on dating sites, where a man or woman will go on and on about their primary partner and then send an email that is just rude and inappropriate to a total stranger.

8. Don’t make anyone feel like they are last on your list – This might be OK with some partners, but overall you don’t want to make a person feel like you literally called up three or four people before you decided to settle on them.

9. Don’t complain about other lovers – This is just rude behavior.  If a woman complains to a partner about another man she is seeing, he is likely to assume she will turn around and do the same thing to him.

10. When in doubt communicate – Of course you can lie and sneak around, but there is a good likelihood that you’ll get caught.  When you get caught a betrayed lover might slash your tires, show up at your workplace and scream “Whore” as you walk down the street, stalk you or one of your other partners, text you incessantly for hours, post naked photos of you online, write Facebook statuses trashing your name, or even threaten you with physical violence.  Deception brings out the worst in people.  Some people are emotionally unstable, mentally ill, cruel, narcissistic or have deeply entrenched personality disorders.  No amount of open communication can prevent a person from reacting in a completely irrational or psychotic way.  However a string of lies is more likely to make a perfectly well-adjusted human being buy a ticket to a place called crazytown.

It’s really up to you and your partners – Other than practicing safe-sex and respect, it’s really up to each person.  When in doubt be open and COMMUNICATE. Some of the biggest problems in any relationship come from not understanding what both partners want.

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