“How In Hell Do You Date Five Women? I Mean, Happily?”

“I get tired dating just one person,” the comments say. “How the hell do you date five women at once? You know, and keep them happy? And also work full-time, and spend two hours an evening writing?”

It’s actually pretty simple:

1. Our Physical Dates Are Few And Far Between.
If you’re dating me, at best you’ll see me every two months or so. And that’s a pretty dense schedule. Usually, it’s more like three or four times a year.

This is because currently, all my partners are long-distance – but even if you live in town, seeing The Wily Ferrett is a comparatively rare sight. As mentioned, I’m working a minimum of 10 hours a day, and usually my workweek is something like 55-60 hours when you factor in writing and exercise.

And I might travel to see you, but I’m a writer – and most of my vacation days are committed to conventions or book tours. (I’ll be doing one for the final ‘Mancer series book Fix this autumn! Mark your calendars, reserve your copies!)

So that’s one filter: If you need regular actual Ferrett, well, I am not the mustelid for you.

2. No Phone Time.
For me, phone or Skype time is like a physical date in that it’s a long block of time I reserve for you, and that’s really tricky with the work hours I’m setting already. One of my “DANGER WILL ROBINSON” signs is when a partner says, “It’s great texting and all, but I’d feel sooooo much better if we could just Skype periodically…”

It’s not wrong to ask for that, but it is wrong to ask for it from me. I fucking hate the phone anyway, generally tossing it away like a grenade whenever it rings, so that’s another filter.

3. But I Will Text You A Lot.
So do I ignore someone when we’re dating? No! I am a writer. I write at you. And generally, that consists of me texting you a couple of times a day to see how you’re doing, and sending you goofy photos of wherever I’m roaming that day, and forwarding on jokes.

I’m not with you physically, but my natural tendency when I’m with someone I love is to say howdy and share what’s going on. I’m there checking in, telling you what I’m up to, sending pictures of butterflies.

Basically, the communication flow is through texts, not phone or physical contact. And that works for me.

4. And I Will Want To See You.
One of my sweeties sent me a text the other day, saying, “Do you know how good it feels to know you WANT to be with me?”

That was the sign I was doing things okay.

The trick to dating a Ferrett is to realize that I always want to be with you – I just have a busy goddamned life, because I have a job to pay the bills and I have a career of writing I’m fanning the flames on and I have a wife, and that’s like twelve hours a day minimum. Seeing you three times a year is not my ideal situation – it’s just the reality on the ground after all the work is done. I mean, even if you were my only girlfriend, that “Let’s visit” time would still be maybe once a month. Maybe.

But I send texts because I think about you, and I wonder how you are. I do little happy-dances when I get the texts and you tell me what’s happening in your life. I mark the day on the calendar and I count down.

But a sad filter is that if you feel inadequate because text is what we have, well, that’s just what I’ve got to work on. Physical time is rare. I’ve always loathed the phone. I can do emails, but text is more immediate.

So… lots of texts.

5. And If You’re Sad, I’m There.
Emotional support’s also on the agenda here, because if you’re having a bad day I’ll be texting the shit out of you to see what I can try to do to help. If someone dumps you or you’ve got family issues, I am on call.

This should be part of the Standard Partner Package for anyone, but it often isn’t, so I found time to say it.

6. They Do Not Need To Date Public Ferrett.
One of my most frequent breakup issues is, “Someone needs me to acknowledge them in blog-space on a regular basis.” I have found, through rather painful trial and error, that the person who needs me to put “In a relationship with” on my Fet page is usually the sort of person who won’t do well with me in the long run.

The reason why is subtle: It’s not that I’m unhappy to mention the thrills of dating you when it’s an interesting post for the day. But generally, whenever someone needs to have me grabbing my bullhorn and shouting, “I AM DATING YOU!” that means they are, on some fundamental level, uncertain about the relationship we do have and needing public proclamations to feel better.

Look. If I can’t make you feel good about dating me through private methods, taking to the rafters does not help. Yes, I get a lot of attention sometimes. Yes, sometimes women flirt with me. (Sometimes they even mean it.)

But in the end, another and vital filter is understanding that “dating other people” does not mean “you are replaceable,” and if that can’t be addressed without blog-public acts of affection, then we’re not going to work out.

What you get is the real me. That has overlap, but it is substantially different from, the persona on my blog. (He’s smarter. He only gets to write about things after time has passed and he’s come to conclusions.)

So In Conclusion….
How I date five people and keep them happy is by finding the kind of partner who is genuinely happy with the kind of attention I have to offer. Which is why I have such a long-term dating process: Lots of people say they’re fine with all of this, which lasts until the NRE runs out. Then they start getting itchy, and that’s when the subtle requests for Skype dates or maybe a public post creep in.

But I think that’s all dating, really: finding someone who’s content with what you can realistically offer. And I think most dating disasters come when you try to become something that you’re not in an attempt to make someone else happy, and discover that you can’t do it.

And I think if you’re reading this and going, “God, I could never be happy like that!” then that’s awesome. I’m not trying to date someone like you. I’m trying to date someone who I mesh with, whose neuroses and needs fit with me, and that’s not you.

The question is, as it ever is, are you finding the people who mesh with what you have to offer?

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