Writing left handed

Are Serial Daters Just a Bunch of Emotional Polygamists?

I thought I’d heard it all—you try dating thirty men within the course of a year and blogging about it!—but emotional polygamy?  That’s a new one.

I’ve been called “immature,” “foolish,” “anti-feminist,” “selfish” and “superficial” but never in the history of my Great Date Experiment has anyone ever called me a polygamist.  And frankly, I’m not a huge fan of the word.

Emotional polygamy

Now THIS is polygamy...

Yesterday’s post on one night stands caused quite the stir, with readers on both sides of the fence weighing in.  Rather than debate the “merits” of casual sex, I’d like to provide an excerpt from a comment written by Nick at Late Round Draft Pick:

In the past month or so Kat, you have “dated” or been in some type of relationship/contact with three different men.  Take away the fact that there were no sexual interactions between you and these men, there was in fact some sort of emotional discharge/transference/connection, which in turn makes you NOT monogamous, and in fact polygamous in your dating life.

It’s no secret that the past month has been a bit crazy in terms of my personal life—and all three of the men I’ve been in “contact” with knew this.  Does this make it right?  I don’t know, to be honest, but it makes is less wrong in my opinion.

I don’t think I’m a horrible person—certainly not an emotional polygamist— but I decided to do a quick Google search on “serial dating” just to make sure.

According to an article on Online Dating Sites:

When we talk about serial dating, we are actually discussing the serial dater.  The serial dater is one who is artificial and whose life revolves around self indulgence.  This about this, a serial dater is someone who is immature and this is because he or she cannot focus on one person or one aspect.  They fixate on minor flaws and do not let relationships become more than a passing phase in their lives.

There’s that word again: immature.  Coupled with self indulgent.  Great…

In an article on Online Dating.org, the author claims,

A “serial dater” is a person who has a large number of short term romantic, physical or sexual relationships, but seems unable to commit or remain in a romantic relationship for any length of time.  Serial daters replace the comfort and intimacy of a “serious relationship” with a patchwork of relationships, or getting physical relations or intimacy, excitement or variety, friendship, and companionship from different people.

Thankfully, there’s a caveat.

There is one difference [between] a “serial dater” and a “player,” though.  The serial dater (ostensibly) has in mind establishing a serious relationship eventually, while the “player” has no such intention.  The classic serial dater wants to be in a serious or long term relationship, but has a difficulty committing to a relationship, has intimacy issues, or has unrealistic standards in their love partners.

Well then.

Judging by all of my ill-fated trips to Victoria’s Secret, I suppose there’s a possibility that I have “intimacy issues” and I’m definitely guilty of maintaining “unrealistic standards” but I definitely do not have trouble committing to a relationship—if I feel that said relationship is actually in my best interest and that of the man involved.

This—more than anything else—is why I’m still single.

Still, I abhor players and I certainly don’t consider myself (or wish to be seen as) one.  So you tell me: is it possible to be a “serious” serial dater or are women like me really just a bunch of emotional polygamists?

14 Responses to “Are Serial Daters Just a Bunch of Emotional Polygamists?”

  1. Nick from Late Round

    Is it better to be a “player”, who openly states s/he doesnt desire to be in a relationship, dates multiple people and shies away from “relationship” territory?

    Or to be a “serial dater”, who is searching for a relationship (but cant commit), dating multiple people, and getting emotionally involved for the short term, while ultimately not letting relationships “become more than a passing phase in their lives”?

    Additionally, the argument that “all three of the men Ive been in contact with knew this” is interesting.

    Let’s reapply with a simple word swap: “All three of the men Ive been “sleeping” with knew this”.

    In MOST peoples mind, the simple word swap changes the statement from serial dater to player/whore. Is that fair? Are they basically the same thing, with the intimacy level being different mainly on the focus of emotional vs. physical? Why do we (society) make such a harsh distinction between these two sentences, when they are essentially the same thing?

    More food for thought
    P.S. I’m not calling anyone who dates a lot a player, whore, whatever.. Im just using these terms to challenge the “social” norm of the labels, and show slight hypocrisy in their usage/meaning

  2. Jenny Rebecca Winters

    Kat, I don’t think you should take “emotional polygamy” as a bad thing. Aren’t we all, in one way or another, when we are caring and open people? I’ve been looked at as a perpetual “saver” of people (need money? sure! need food? take mine! etc.) , and I’m starting to recognize that I am more emotionally involved than I want to be, with those I try to “save”. So it’s not a bad thing, unless it HURTS.

    That having been said, I have needed to pull back from that many times. When I HAVE, I want to GIVE. But there are others that need my care–me and my husband. He needs me, and I need myself. It’s a struggle for me to go against my grain, but this is the same as emotional polygamy to me. In that vein too, there have been men I’ve come across to whom I try to devote myself to–more than one at a time. It’s almost impossible, because it hurts, but I’ve tried.


  3. Michelle

    Is it wrong to be a bit choosy trying to find a suitable partner that you can have a functional relationship with? I think you’re doing just fine, Kat, and taking the smart approach rather than so many of those people we know who, so desperate for a relationship, rush into something with the wrong guy. I admire your confidence and maturity to recognize what you need and want in a relationship.

  4. Allison

    When did dating become such a big deal? Isn’t it common to date a number of people before picking one to get serious with? Does it matter if you date three men over a year or three in a month? Dating, to me, implies a degree of casualness – that you’re getting to know someone, not necessarily ALREADY emotionally involved with them.

    I think the term serial dater, in these cases, sounds more like someone who will get to the brink of seriousness with one person, then jump ship to continue on dating with no commitments, while you’re just testing the waters to see who’s worth continuing on with.

    • Kat Richter

      True– there is a different between dating casually while figuring out what you want (and by “what you want” I mean the qualities, characteristics, personality traits, etc.,that you’re looking for in a partner not whether or not you want a relationship) and serial dating in the commitment-phobic sense. Thanks for pointing that out.

  5. Kate Ferguson Writes

    Yes, serial dating by definition consists of emotional polygamy – I think that’s difficult to dispute. But let’s look at the alternative: emotional “monogamy”; allowing emotional intimacy only with one person. Who has that? Emotional intimacy goes beyond the romantic. You can have completely different emotional relationships with your boyfriend, best friend, mother, cousin, pet dog… it doesn’t mean that you’re not “committed” to each and every one of them. Relationships are much too complex to make emotionally monogamous. If you are talking purely of romantic feelings, then it’s another story. But as I’ve been reading over the last while, serial dating certainly does not always lead to truly emotional encounters. There seem to be only a handful of emotional ties among the many samples of your Great Date Experiment.

  6. Grey Goose, Dirty

    I don’t think you are either a serial dater or an emotional polygamist, Kat. You’re just looking for ‘the one’ the best way you know how. If some of these prospects happen to overlap, well, that’s just timing. I don’t think that you discount one man in lieu of having another or jump ship when things get serious. If they’re not right for you, they’re not right. Doesn’t make them bad people, doesn’t make you a bad person, just makes you selective. Which you SHOULD be.

    I think you date like I do. In a quest to find ‘the one’ and if it’s not right, then why stay?

  7. mydatingprescription

    Huh. Well, by definition, it appears I might be a player although I have not had sex with any of the 22 dates I’ve gone out with so far. I personally don’t care much for labels.

    Kat, like Grey Goose, I don’t consider you a serial dater. You seem to be honestly trying to find someone with whom you can have a serious relationship. There is no reason to stick around in a relationship if the chemistry is not there. Your strategy is certainly better than the excuses I see a lot of young women making simply to stay in incompatible, and sometimes, dysfunctional relationships. THAT baffles the mind.

    As far as being a player goes, I don’t consider myself a player or immature. I am self aware enough to know that I’m not ready for a serious relationship. Like you, if a spark were to ignite, I would have to rethink my “prescription.” However, post divorce, I’m not willing to settle for less than I deserve. Those incompatabilities are only magnified once you’re married, and then you’re supposed to be there for the long haul.

    Better to cull the herd before you start planning the wedding, I think.

  8. Pete

    Terms to one side, do you want to be in a position of seeing 3 people a month for over a year, without finding a more longer-term relationship? The thing that would bother me the most if someone called me an emotional polygamist would be that question of what was I looking for that made me go for so many short term liaisons, or else what was I not finding, that made the short term liaisons not last a little longer.

    I’m in a slightly different position to yourself – after years of overly intense relationships, I’m now enjoying a 2-3 year stint of being single-and-not-looking, and I think that it’s really helped me find out a lot more about myself, what I want to do to make me enjoy my life, and what I might want for the future (both as an individual, and in a relationship). I feel I’ve got a lot from stepping back from relationships and reassessing. Having said that, it’s also left me with a slight question of how I’m gonna ‘get back in the game’ – I’d imagine that I’m at least a little out of practice at the whole dating thing, and no doubt now have a bunch of unrealistic expectations from relationships too – so I’m not saying that my route is in any way a better route than your own!


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