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The Perfect Number of Dating App Conversations You Should Have at Once

Lifehacker 10/6/2022 Brianne Hogan
Photo: Stockbusters (Shutterstock) © Photo: Stockbusters (Shutterstock) Photo: Stockbusters (Shutterstock)

If you’re currently using a dating app, you know how easy it is to fall into too many conversations. Who doesn’t like to sample a little from column A and column B? Plus, when you’re first getting to know someone, it feels like a good idea to keep your options open until you find someone you really click with. But is having multiple conversations really the best move?

According to Laurel House, an eharmony relationship expert, the answer is yes. “Online dating is an excellent way to diversify your dating opportunities. More than diversifying when it comes to the dating platform, you get to date people with varying religions, races, ages, life paths, professions, interests, etc,” she tells Lifehacker. “While you may historically only date one specific type of person, with access to an array of other ‘types’ now is the time to be an ‘equal opportunity dater’ and date differently. If you go in with an open mind, you just might surprise yourself and find that your perfect partner is the opposite of your typical type.”

If you do open yourself to dating different types, obviously the number of potential dates will expand. But that doesn’t need to be overwhelming, House says.

“The majority won’t pass the pre-qualifying phase and they are to be eliminated. What’s great about online dating is you don’t have to waste any in-person time, while minimizing hard feelings because you are ending it before it ever really begins,” she explains. So with that in mind, how many dating conversations is the perfect amount?

How many conversations should you have at the same time?

Having multiple conversations with different people doesn’t give you permission to be careless with people’s hearts. “Just because you’re dating a couple of different people, doesn’t mean that you are superficial, flighty, or a player,” House says. “That being said, you don’t want to communicate with more than nine people at once. Communicating with too many can numb your individual feelings, and communicating with too few can make you crave more.”

Her magic number? Three.

“You can meaningfully connect with about three people at once,” House says. “Meaningfully means that you are having honest, vulnerable, connecting conversations. You have moved your communication off the app and to the phone, possibly into real life. And you can continue to date three people in real life, as you further hone in and focus on what it is that you truly need in a relationship. In dating several people you have several choices, and with choices, you have the opportunity to make a thoughtful decision.”

Keep three matches at a time  

While it can be argued that most of us are hard-wired to latch our attention onto one person at a time, House says dating only one person at once can create “self-imposed pressure” to make it work since you don’t have any other prospects.

“In that pressurized place, you might feel and act out from a sense of lack, which might propel you to appear and feel fearful, insecure, needy, or desperate,” she explains. “When fear of losing someone is your guiding force, you may make poor decisions. When you’re out with that one person, you feel a high.”

But if you’re dating multiple people, she says that most of us will feel less of a high with each person, which is actually a good thing. “When you don’t have the dopamine high flooding your brain and your judgment, you can think clearly and are more apt to spot those crucial red flags.”

Don’t keep more than nine conversations at a time

If you like the idea of “more the merrier,” it’s helpful to keep in mind that communicating with more than nine people on an app can create confusion. It’s easy to forget conversations, facts, and feelings. And while details and facts are important, feelings are even more so.

“You might be having a great conversation with one person. You are sharing and connecting and feeling an increased interest in this particular person,” she says. “But if you then shift attention to one of the other many people who you are talking with, you might actually forget the heightened feelings that you momentarily had.”

Which explains why people frequently fall off when it comes to app dating—even potentially one of your magic three. “You might think you are having a great conversation with someone, and then suddenly they stop responding, but you can’t take it personally,” she says. “We don’t know what is happening on their end. Maybe they were communicating with someone else first and, despite having a connection with you, their connection with someone else accelerated and deepened more quickly—and it has nothing to do with you.”

How to date three people at once

How do you separate your feelings from each of your magic three? House says it’s a matter of strategy and detachment.

“While on a date with each individual, be all into that person at that moment. But then unattached once that date or conversation is over so that you can then be totally present with others. I call it all in, unattached,” she says. “This strategy allows you to be totally present with each person, thereby giving each individual relationship the respect and presence that it deserves. It is difficult to have a confident vulnerable connected presence with more than three people. You must be heart-opened, present, and aware within each individual relationship. That is difficult to do with more than three people.”

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