DEAR AMY: I am a 32-year-old male. I have been in a string of monogamous relationships for the past 18 years, the shortest of which was one year and the longest, ending in divorce two years ago, was 8 1/2 years. All of my relationships were back to back -- no courting period, zero to 60 really fast. I am at a point in my life where I am figuring out what I need to do for myself. I am truly happy on my own and have real self-confidence. I now feel ready to enter the dating world. I want to do it right and, for once, be choosy. I do not know how to navigate and have no idea what it means to see more than one person. What is the etiquette for dating multiple people? Is this implied and understood? Is it expected to be exclusive when things get physical? I know that it will vary to some degree depending on the other party, but I am looking more for what is ethical. I am still not 100 percent comfortable with seeing more than one person, as it is against my instincts to some extent, but I know it is best for me.
DEAR NERVOUS: If you are not comfortable seeing more than one person at a time, then don't. If you are a serial monogamist, then you will be in good company -- many people prefer this.
The obvious thing you need to do differently this time, versus the previous relationships you've had, is to take it slowly. Dating can be wonderful, but if you are launching yourself into relationships at first meeting, then you are not dating, you're flinging yourself toward your next breakup.
Dating is ideally a process of gradual discovery. If you aren't getting sexual and attached on the first meeting but are getting to know people first, then you can pursue other relationships casually and ethically.
You should expect to move toward exclusivity when things get physical, but talk frankly with any potential partners to see if they are on the same page. You will find that some people want to leap right in, but remember -- this doesn't work for you.
DEAR AMY: I couldn't believe your boneheaded response to "Distressed in Dallas," the college student whose mother investigated all her boyfriends. If more parents did this, fewer girls would end up abducted and murdered.
DEAR DISGUSTED: I am not aware of a rash of crimes against coeds by dates who could otherwise have been stopped by intrusive parents. Young people must be empowered to develop their own good judgment.
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