I’m a classic social introvert, which means that while I really enjoy being around people, I recharge my internal battery (metaphorical, I’m not a robot!) by being alone — preferably snuggled in my bed watching some sci-fi or reading some good literature. I’m also ethically non-monogamous, which means I date multiple people and all the people I date know there are other people I’m also dating.
These two identities are both extremely important to me, but they can feel in conflict at a number of points. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with the number of jobs (oh yeah, I’m also a total workaholic), friends, and lovers I have at any given time and just want to throw it all away and crawl into a tunnel in the ground like a snuggly chinchilla. It can all get a little overwhelming sometimes, but that also doesn't mean the challenge isn't worth the rewards of living an ethically non-monogamous lifestyle.
Here’s how I’ve learned to deal with the differences and live my life in the way I choose — whether you're in a non-monogamous relationship or you're single and dating, I hope you find my tips for dating multiple people as an introvert useful.
1. Consider Your Schedule In Advance
As stated in so much writing on ethical non-monogamy and polyamory, affection and love are boundless (as in, you can love many many people at one time), but there are only so many hours in the day. If you’re dating someone you like, you reasonably want to see them a fair amount. Multiply that by however many people you’re seeing, and suddenly your schedule is filled to the gills!
It can be super easy to fill up your schedule so much that you don’t have time for the solo ventures you want to do. Person A wants to hang on Sunday and Thursday, Person B requests Tuesday, you squeeze Person C in after your workout on Monday for a sleepover and meet up for a full date on Saturday, you grab a drink with Person D on Wednesday, and suddenly … where the f**k did your week go?
When this happens to me I get super overwhelmed. To help myself out, I’ve started doing my best to schedule dates in advance so I can think my time through more deliberately and realistically. Overscheduling is anathema to an introvert, because you never know when you might get overwhelmed and need to hide from the world for an evening.
2. Protect Some Time for Unforeseen Introvert Episodes
I never know when my introversion is going to hit me — it’s not exactly a simple equation of X days with other people times Y high-intensity situations equals Z hours of solo time per week. When I’m charged up and feeling great, I’m excited about everything. I want to see all the people, go to all the parties, complete all the projects! However, this is totally unrealistic as a constant practice. It’s like I’m projecting myself operating at Peak Me constantly, whereas realistically I operate at a range of 70 to 100 percent.
No one operates at full throttle all the time (or if you do, please contact me and tell me your secret) but if you’re an introvert you know that soon there will be a time when you need to chill out by yourself. If you know that about yourself, own it — and plan for it. Set a realistic schedule, not an idealistic one. You can always booty call someone you're dating on the day-of if you’re feeling jazzed — they will like that way better than if you scheduled them and then had to cancel because you’re overwhelmed.
3. Talk To Your Partners About Your Introversion
It's always a good idea to communicate important things about yourself to your lovers — feelings, desires, likes and dislikes. This is definitely true when it comes to explaining that you might need more alone time than them. Extroverts can have a hard time understanding why you want to leave the party early (or not go to the party at all). Explain it to them in advance and help them get it. Your need for alone time might be hard for them but it can also be great — if they are also dating other people, times when you want or need to be alone are great times for them to go on other dates! Alternately, they might disclose to you that they need a significant amount of alone time too. Either way, once you know each other's needs, you can support each other in fulfilling them.
4. Date Yourself Too
It took me a while to come to this revelation, but this is how I’ve come to think about carving out time for myself. I’m dating lots of other people, but the most important date is me!
I used to think that taking time for myself was something of a cop-out — I could go out and do something fun with a lover or friends, but I was too overwhelmed, so instead my introversion forced me to stay at home by myself. Flipping the script and turning this into a positive was critical for me to really start enjoying this time. The reality is, I need time to myself. I burn out otherwise and am not as good of a lover or friend because I actually just don’t have as much energy to share.
The other reality is that I love spending time by myself. I love going home after work, getting into soft clothes, hopping into bed, watching something embarrassing I’d never watch with another person around, masturbating, making simple dinner — whatever I want. And all those things make for a pretty awesome date, at least in my opinion!
5. Don't Be Hard On Yourself
Everyone is different and living life is complicated for all of us, regardless of how we live or love. These ways of living work well for me. They might for you, or they might not. But if you’re an introvert who wants to date multiple people but think you can’t do it — you totally can! You just need to be deliberate about protecting your “me time”. Otherwise, your schedule can run away from you and you might not notice until you’re confronted with a full week of sexy dates and no time for yourself, or no space to deal with that moment you hit the introvert wall and need to crawl into your personal space and recharge.
All relationships require energy for you to play an active role. This is certainly true of non-monogamy, where there is an explicit focus on (sometimes it feels like constant) communication around hard issues such as jealousy and other difficult emotions, diversity of wants and needs, and scheduling. When I'm feeling overwhelmed because I haven't been by myself in a few days, my energy to do my best at these social tasks is depleted. Simply put: if I don't take care of myself, I'm not going to do a good job taking care of others. Putting myself back in the equation has helped me to be a better companion, lover, and friend.
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