I hate dating.
I love flirting. I love making out. I love sex. But I hate dating. It's emotionally exhausting having to rebuff advances from people I'm not interested in; it's terrifying to ask out people I am interested in; I have so many hobbies and interests that it's difficult to find the ever-important me-time while also searching out new partners. And there's the ever-simmering fear that almost all women have when going on a first date with a guy - is he gonna kill me? It kind of makes it difficult to enjoy oneself.
"But Natalie," asks my sock-puppet audience, "aren't you polyamorous? How can you be poly but hate dating?"
An excellent question! And one that I struggled with for a long time. There's a misconception that poly people must have several partners, or be constantly on the lookout for more partners. There are some poly people who are happy with that sort of high-intensity relationship style, and more power to them. However, I am not well suited to extended forays on the dating scene, and for a long time I made myself miserable trying to convince myself otherwise. I'm sure I'm not alone in this.
"So how do you do polyamory if you aren't into dating?" the sock-puppet audience asks. "Maybe I could get some good advice."
Gee, flattery will get you everywhere. Here's what I had to do:
Don't go tit for tat.
If you have a regular partner of any kind ("primary," "spouse," "boy/girlfriend," "live-in partner" - whatever your preferred nomenclature), don't waste your time comparing how many partners you have vs. they have. My main squeeze has had as many as seven partners at one time. I felt like I was getting left out or left behind when I didn't have as many partners as he did. But because I couldn't handle as many partners as he can, I instead started to feel like he should have fewer partners - not because he wasn't giving me enough attention, but because I was wrapped up in some weird idea of what was "fair." That's actually very unfair; as long as everyone's emotional and physical needs are met, he can have as many partners as he wants.
Be honest about how much you can handle.
Realistically, I top out at two "full-time" relationships. I don't have the time or the energy for more than that. I jokingly call myself a "lazy poly" because of it, although I get the feeling that two to three relationships is actually the norm for poly people. So if I'm at or near my limit, and I'm asked out by someone new, I either say (assuming I would normally say "yes" to them), "No, sorry, I'm not interested in dating at the moment," or, "Okay, I'll go on a date but I must be honest that I can't provide more than very intermittent attention." Some people are okay with just getting one or two dates; other people decide to look elsewhere to get their needs met. Neither of these are bad things.
Look for creative alternatives.
Are there ways to get the things that you want out of dating without actually going out on dates? For example: one of the things that I like is the date experience - going out to dinner, watching movies together, yadda yadda. Besides doing these things with my main squeeze, I go on "dates" with my friends. I get the date experience, but I don't have to worry about whether there's chemistry between us or whether my companion is going to be a surprise!racist or something equally distasteful. There also is no expectation of sexual behavior during or after the date, which allows me to relax more too. If I have a hankering for new people to get frisky with, I find that making out with people at parties satisfies that urge most of the time, and making out doesn't come with nearly the emotional complications/baggage that sex usually has.
Get comfortable with being alone.
Some people don't need this advice; they have fully accepted and embraced their introversion and are more than happy to spend time with just themselves. However, there are plenty of people - I used to be one of them - who don't actually want to be around other people all the time, but, because of societal pressure to partner up, feel guilty about preferring to be a hermit. Because I thought being alone was Bad, I made myself go on dates when I really wasn't into the idea. Now I'm more than willing to turn down a booty call because I made plans with myself to knit and watch Mad Men all evening. A girl's gotta have priorities, you know?
All this advice basically boils down to "know thyself." Although when you think about it, almost all relationship advice boils down to that. Once you can honestly articulate what you want to yourself and to others, your love life gets a hell of a lot easier.