Illustration by Iris Bowdler
Dear Aunty Annabel
I am seeing multiple men and, whilst they are all aware of one another (having had a very clear conversation that I am exclusive with none of them), I still feel bad. I have feelings for one of them, and honestly I feel like I’m using the others to procrastinate and avoid getting too attached to any of them. I feel really guilty for this, and have tried to reduce my own guilt by telling them, albeit jokingly. I feel as though one of them is really into me, and this bothers me because he works in the same department as the one I am into. I realise I need to end it, not because there is anything wrong with seeing multiple people, just I feel as though I’m stringing them all along and karma will get me. What is a girl to do?
Dear Dilemma Dater
It sounds to me as if your eyes might have been bigger than your stomach (apologies – slightly grim turn of phrase, I know). In the age of infinite swiping, finding someone has never been easier, but I’m afraid you’ve discovered that this can be a bit of a poisoned chalice: how are you to decide who you’re really interested in when you’re so spoilt for choice? In the end, many of us bite off more than we can chew (why does this keep happening??) and end up in a dating quagmire.
First and foremost, well done for already having had a conversation with your bevy of beaus about exclusivity. As you say, there is nothing wrong with seeing multiple people provided that everyone is on the same page, but in your case, it seems to me that several lovers might just be too hot to handle. From a purely practical perspective, it’s not easy to schedule a full-on dating life with life as an Oxford student, but it’s also emotionally (never mind physically…) draining to be *cough* ‘amorous’ with multiple people.
I would discourage you from attaching a sense of guilt to your dating life: it should be fun, exciting, and enjoyable; not a chore or a challenge. Nevertheless, if you feel in your heart of hearts that you’re ‘using’ some of them and sense that one of them is becoming invested in a way that you don’t reciprocate, then I think it’s time to prune back. Be kind and candid: explain that you’ve really enjoyed your time together but don’t feel you want to progress things further.
I suggest that you have a frank conversation with yourself (I find drunkenly getting very close to your own reflection in the mirrors at Spoons very fruitful) about the one that you say you’re into: what would you like to gain from this: a fling? A relationship? Something casual? Whatever the answer is, you need to be realistic about your own emotional capability and robustness right now: if you feel vulnerable to ‘getting attached’ and sense that you will feel disappointed if he doesn’t feel the same way as you, then that’s something you should discuss with him. Alternatively, you might decide it’s time for you to step back from dating altogether and come up for air to clear your head.
So, this is what a girl is to do: have an honest conversation with the men you’re not interested in, have an honest conversation with the man you are interested in, and, most importantly, have an honest conversation with yourself.
Yours in agony,
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