Before we get into my specific advice on the subject, I want to make sure it’s understood that dating a few people at the same time is actually a very good practice. Why? Because people are more likely to settle down with someone who’s not a great fit when they only date one person at a time. It makes sense, too, because it’s human nature to get emotionally attached once you hang out with someone for a while. Remember, once you attach, it’s hard to detach. This is why it’s important to date a few people at the same time and avoid attaching emotionally to any one of them until you feel like you know that person well enough. If you make it a habit to date a few people at the same time, you will be much more objective in deciding which person is a better fit.
If you are someone who dates multiple people at the same time, first, good for you! You’re following the best protocol to meet a healthy partner. Yet, sooner or later, you’re going to have to ask yourself a basic question: Do I like this person enough to stop dating the others? How do I know when someone meets enough criteria that it’s time to stop dating others and commit to that one person? There are a few factors that can act as sign posts when you’re making this decision.
Level of Emotional or Intellectual Compatibility
Simply put, if you still like sitting across the dinner table from someone a few months into dating, you really, really like that person. Plus, the fact that you enjoy simply hanging out with them – say, having a random dinner – is a sign that this is someone you could enjoy being around for many years to come. If you find someone whom you like going to dinner with and you are physically attracted to him or her, you’re poised to win the ‘This is The One’ game show.
Sexual Chemistry (Hint: It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.)
Many romantic relationships end because the sexual chemistry dies and the couple realizes later there wasn’t enough emotional compatibility to keep them glued together. Listen: The dating gods never said that we’re all supposed to choose the one we’re most sexually attracted to. You want to be sexually attracted enough, but not to the point that it feels like pure lust at the expense of talking or emotionally relating to each other. Lust or great sexual attraction is not enough; you need good enough sexual chemistry and amazing emotional compatibility. (I want to trademark that, by the way.)
When someone consistently passes the friends’ approval test
If you date a few people, your friends will inevitably end up meeting a cross section of your dates. Because friends are friends – they say whatever they think because they love you – they will let you know in no uncertain terms what they think about every single date they meet. Though you should never let friends decide how you feel about someone you’re dating, it’s a good sign when they approve of someone you like.
When you’ve discussed it with your date and your date feels the same way you do…
Of course, I had to save this one for last. You can’t have a real relationship without both of you agreeing to make things official and monogamous. It’s time to stop dating other people when you feel ready, and when your chosen date has indicated that he or she feels the same way. In an ideal world, the transition into official boyfriend-girlfriend status would be smooth and totally organic. But the reality is that you will probably have to have The Conversation to make it happen. The conversation involves the explicit agreement that the two of you will now be monogamous, which also includes cutting off any contact – emails, texts, calls, etc. – with any other potential suitors.
Before you go…
The most important point is to never rush having the conversation about transitioning to a monogamous, steady relationship. I always tell my clients this: If the two of you are truly supposed to be together, don’t rush anything because you’ll have the rest of your lives to be together! Follow my steps to determine when to settle down with your chosen one, but understand that following the steps will take some months. The biggest problem people have in dating is rushing things. Sometimes I actually wish that I could show up on my clients’ dates and wrap yellow police tape around the entire table; maybe then they would approach dating and relationships more cautiously. Take your time, ladies and gentlemen, in dating. The goal isn’t merely to find anyone; it’s about finding the one who’s just right for you.
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve