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How to Date Someone Who Is Seeing Other People

5. Don't start telling yourself, "They could be The One."

Key points

  • When you first meet someone, they may already be dating other people or might be shopping around.
  • You should aim to get comfortable with the idea that the word “dating” means that you are not exclusive.
  • Managing your expectations and dating other people yourself can help you during this stage.

Dating can be fun and exhilarating. For some, it can also be anxiety-provoking or downright distressing. The quality of your experience might have a lot to do with your attachment style. If you have a secure style, you probably feel fairly confident in your being lovable and that other people will want to be around you. You also are not likely to be overly concerned with being rejected. After all, there are lots of people out there to date and from your experience, there has never been a short supply of love in the world. So, if a new dating partner was seeing other people, you might just choose not to invest too much in this person or just keep dating them to see if anything comes of it… no pressure.

If you have a dismissing/avoidant style, you might not care that much if someone you are interested in is dating multiple people. You also might prefer to date multiple people initially. That way you can have lots of affection and fun and sex, and not have to worry about all the messiness of an intimate relationship. But even dismissing people who want to have their cake and eat it too can get jealous and possessive of romantic interests.

Dating someone who is seeing multiple people simultaneously can be challenging for anyone, but it may be especially difficult for someone with an anxious attachment style. A pure anxious style in adulthood is known as a “preoccupied” style. When someone is anxious and also avoidant, this is known as a “fearful” style. People with fearful styles might push people away when they feel vulnerable (like a dismissing person), but they also have the temperament of someone with a preoccupied style. For the rest of this discussion, I am therefore going to include both the preoccupied and fearful styles under the “anxious attachment” banner.

People with anxious attachment styles characteristically fear abandonment, have a need for frequent and ongoing reassurance, and have a tendency to worry about the state of their relationships. They tend to derive their good feelings and comfort from knowing that they are cared for and loved by others (i.e., loving themselves is not enough). They therefore have a strong need for close relationships with parents, friends, and especially romantic partners.

Because they have an over focus on relationship partners and a very active “social radar” they tend to pick up rapidly on subtle and not so subtle social threat cues. These could include someone else’s facial expression, tone of voice, perceived interest level, being slow to return texts, not being responded to (for hours or days), or being given partial or misleading information (i.e., “something doesn’t add up”).

When a social threat cue is detected, they have strong emotional reactions (lots of adrenaline and intense worry) that add up to “emotional hijackings” and a compulsion to “fix” the situation to gain a sense of security or other reassurance that things are going to be okay. These fixing behaviors can include sounding accusatory when asking if the dating partner was seeing someone else even after one date, asking too soon for statements of care and reassurance, texting too much and too frequently, or ceasing to date the person because they are perceived as unsafe, unavailable, or deceitful. Because anxiously attached people have difficulty hiding their emotions, they may also look hurt or annoyed, or come off as neurotic and hostile.

The problem is that it's unreasonable to think that someone you just met and do not really know would not be seeing multiple other people even if you have had several wonderful dates with them and they seem to be into you.

Here are some suggestions that might help in navigating this situation:

  1. Assume that your new dating partner is seeing other people. Just ask yourself “Why wouldn’t this person be seeing someone else?”
  2. Be clear about your comfort level and communicate this with your dating partner. But you cannot and should not try to control someone else’s behavior this early in getting to know them. The information is for you to make decisions about your behavior. But, if you tell someone that you are not comfortable with them seeing other people and you are two dates in, then you should be prepared for them to move on.
  3. Unless they initiate the conversation, try to avoid telling a new dating partner that you only want to see them and not other people.
  4. Manage your expectations: It's important to manage your expectations and not to place too much emphasis on the relationship before it has had a chance to develop. Recognize that the other person is seeing other people and that this may impact the relationship's trajectory.
  5. Do not allow yourself to think “maybe he or she is the one…” Having this thought will put too much pressure on you and the other person and will make it hard for you to act naturally. Just keep telling yourself, “All this is, is a wonderful person who I am enjoying and have had three (4, 5, 6…) dates with. That’s all it is.”
  6. Strongly consider dating multiple people yourself until you exit the dating phase and become exclusive. This will keep you from fixating on the one person and keep you from going crazy.
  7. If you get attached when you sleep with someone then don’t sleep with them until you have an agreement that you are dating exclusively.
  8. Practice self-care: Dating someone who is seeing multiple people and doing so yourself can be emotionally draining. It's important to take care of yourself and engage in activities that make you feel happy and fulfilled outside of romantic involvements. This can include exercise, spending time with friends and family, pursuing hobbies, and practicing self-reflection and self-compassion.
  9. If you have an anxious attachment style, sometimes “less is more.” You don’t need to fill every psychic space with personal information about yourself. It’s okay to be slightly mysterious. Also, consider a short kiss and goodbye instead of lingering too long. It is always better to leave a dating partner wanting a little more than for them to think it’s time for you to go.
  10. Learn to enjoy the “experience” of spending time with different types of people. When you get lost in fantasizing about a (not-yet-realized) future, you are no longer in your experience. Too often we have a miserable experience because we have actually left the present moment with the person we are out on a date with. We have gone off in our minds to the future or the past and start experiencing (positive or negative) emotions that are not about the present moment.
  11. Consider seeking professional help: If you find that your anxious attachment style is causing significant distress or interfering with your ability to enjoy the relationship, it may be helpful to seek professional help. A therapist can help you develop coping strategies, manage your anxiety, and build a more secure attachment style.

If you can put these recommendations into practice, you might be able to hang in there long enough for you to actually know if you like this person and if they would be a good fit for you. You will also give them a chance to know the real you as opposed to getting to know your social defenses and anxiety. Then, after the relationship has had a chance to grow in a healthy way, you can have a discussion about moving on to seeing each other exclusively.

Facebook image: Cookie Studio/Shutterstock


Coffey, J. K., Bond, D. K., Stern, J. A., & Van Why, N. (2022). Sexual Experiences and Attachment Styles in Online and Offline Dating Contexts. International Journal of Sexual Health, 34(4), 665–678.

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