Can You Be Committed to Multiple People at Once?

Is it possible to commit to multiple partners simultaneously?

Can You Be Committed to Multiple People at Once?

If you have been reading my posts this month, you already know that the cultural standard for defining commitment is a longterm relationship that entails sexual and emotional exclusivity. You also know that if you are consensually nonmongamous, this definition simply does not apply.

So how can you define commitment in a way that satisfies different relationship styles? If you would like to dive deeper into this conversation, please join me on March 19th at 10am MST for a workshop on What is Commitment Anyway? - register here. If you want a quick hit of the good stuff, here are a couple of ways in which you can consider commitment to adapt it to your relationship style:

  1. First define commitment, and then define it again. Who says commitment needs to be a one size fits all experience? When you have multiple partners simultaneously, you also have multiple needs, availability, and even hopes in your relationships. Take the time to honor the people in your life by tailoring your commitment to align with the relationship.

    A few things to keep in mind here are (1) consider doing this with your relational partner(s), (2) know that it can change over time, and (3) it helps to give some grace.

    If you already have a partner(s), consider making a date to define commitment together. Ask yourselves what are the behaviors that define commitment to you both and how you can grow within these behaviors. What are markers that are important to you in relationship? How will you know if one of you needs to deescalate the commitment? Doing this work together can help to level understanding about expectations and it is often a great conversation!

    If you have not done this type of work before, know you might need to revisit the definition a few times - I suggest making revisiting it intentional, such as an annual review. You might change your mind or decide your initial definition does not fit. As new people come into your lives, you might need to adjust to accommodate multiple relationships. It is okay to change your definition and behaviors. It can feel scary, but giving voice to the change can help with understanding the unknown.

    Defining commitment can feel like a herculean task, and it can also be really hard. What happens if you and your partner do not agree, for example? The more you learn about wants and needs and expectations, the better aligned you can be. If you and your parter do not agree, there needs to be more work done, and it is important to know that. Ultimately, give each other grace, as development can lead to changes, and this is a part of being human.
  2. Know thyself to know what you have available to others. It is important to know what YOU want, how much time you have available, and how you are willing to grow. These details about yourself help you find partners you align with, and give them the opportunity to make relational decisions with solid information.

    The quality of dating has gone down as the availability has gone up. While I am a fan of dating apps, folks who tend to perpetually be on dating apps and even doomscroll on them like they are a form of entertainment are missing the point. To develop relationships, you MUST be intentional. Dating apps are a great tool, when used with intention. And they must be approached with self-awareness.

    Now, if you do not want any kind of commitment, this is something you also need to be up front about, especially when dating. It is important to be able to distinguish between dating around and being consensually nonmonogamous. If you want to date without commitment - know this and state it. Dating does allow you interact with multiple people simultaneously, but with the end goal of monogamy. If you are consensually nonmonogamous, you can still date, but you will likely end up connecting with people who do not want monogamy. This is a slippery slope with a lot of caveats, so it is extra important to go into dating with self-awareness and care (I will dedicate a whole month to dating soon). Defining what you want - and how you think about commitment - can be very helpful.

In short, yes, you can be committed to multiple people at the same time. Likely the commitment will look different, and that is one reason why it is so important to get clear with how you understand the idea.

One of my goals is to help reduce the conflict experienced in romantic relationships by providing education about connecting with others that we are not formally taught. Sometimes, these suggestions can feel uncomfortable because they are so different than things "just falling into place." I encourage you to keep moving through the uncomfortable, as being intentional in our relationships can really be a game changer.

I hope to see you in the workshop.

In curiosity,

Dr. S. Kay Webb