The Serial Dater – A Special Breed

Dating 101
02 Sep 2023
10 min read
A Serial Dater - How to Know Are You One or Dating One?

A serial dater starts just like any other affair you’ve had. You’ve found a new squeeze, and they are showering you with attention and affection. Just wow. Even more, they are making all sorts of grand gestures. They want you bad, don’t they?

Is it even possible not to fall fast now? It just feels like you have found the right person! Things are looking rosy as Hell in your life… But whoa! All of a sudden, they kinda disappear.

They’re not answering your calls or voicemails. And if they finally do, they have a valid excuse. There was a serious family problem; they got overloaded with work; the phone turned off and they had no chance to let you know. So, you forgive… but then, the same thing happens again. What is going on?

If that’s your scenario, congratulations. You may have just become the “victim” of a serial dater. If you’ve never met one, we’ll show who this person is here and describe the key signs so you can identify the one timely.

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Who Is a Serial Dater?

We’ve all heard of serial killers and serial rapists – horrible people! What’s the one common thing here? They move on from one conquest to the next, hardly giving a thought to who they have harmed before. With them, it’s all about the conquest and the power, not the victims.

Well, welcome to the dating world of a serial dater. Of course, he does not cause physical harm to others, but he does move from conquest to conquest, be that people in real life or on online dating apps. Serial daters just cannot act any other way. There is no history of a long-term relationship for them.

Most serial daters are not interested in one relationship for the long-term. Their self-esteem is based upon the thrill of the chase, the conquest, and the “wash, rinse, and repeat.”

The dating habits of a serial dater may differ:

  • Many serial daters date multiple people at the same time – thus the “disease of a relative” excuse.
  • Others have a dating story of series of short relationships, one after another, with little-to-no time in between.

The latter serial daters are known as serial monogamists because they only date one person at a time. But a serial monogamist is motivated by the same drive as the serial dater who dates multiples. It’s really about the conquest.

What Motivates a Serial Dater?

“Serial daters tend to be people who are either addicted to power dynamics (having the upper hand) or very afraid of being rejected. It’s often a mix of both…They love the validation that comes from knowing somebody wanted to be with them, whether or not the feelings were mutual.”

Chloe Carmichael, clinical psychologist Ph.D.

If you think that serials daters are only men, think again. As clinical psychology research shows, the inability to choose only one relationship is rather related to emotional maturity than gender.

One thing for certain with most serial daters is this: once they feel that a new person they are dating is looking toward a serious relationship, they will bail. They are fond of the thrill of the chase, but also they must be the ones to do the dumping. Often, their low self-esteem just can’t handle being the dumpee.

Related reading: Insecure Men: How a Fragile Ego Can Ruin Romance

All in all, serial daters love being the object of others’ affection and being in control of those they date.

So, are you dating a serial dater, or are you a serial dater yourself? Let’s take a look at both of these scenarios, showing the most obvious signs.

Signs you've met not the right person but a serial dater

9 Signs You’ve Met a Serial Dater

“Serial daters usually love the chase but don’t commit. They’re addicted to the romance of early dating, but they get bored easily and move on”

Paulette Sherman, psychologist and author of “Dating From the Inside Out”

Before labeling someone a serial dater, be careful. First of all, it has a pretty negative tone. We could call that person a “player,” but the behaviors would still be the same.

Another point – some people are labeled serial daters when the behavior is really a temporary phase. Young people, for example, who are new to dating may date a lot of different people in the beginning but “outgrow” that behavior. And those who have just had a bad breakup may go on a “dating spree” to compensate – again, temporarily.

So what are the typical behavior signs of a serial dater? Let’s check out

1. Long Dating History of Shorter Relationships

Serial daters tend to have several affairs one after another or simultaneously. According to psychologist and author Dr. Paulette Sherman, “They can be charming and smooth, but they are only into things as long as they stay fun…and are usually the ones to break things off.”

2. Keeping Things Very Casual

There’s nothing wrong with casual dating if both parties want that and they agree to take things slow. But a serial dater will always keep it that way and often make plans kinda at the last minute, often on the same day. They don’t tend to pre-plan dates, want dates that last a long time, or have a romantic overtone.

Related reading: 14 Signs a Casual Relationship Is Getting Serious

3. Making Grand Romantic Gestures Fast

While doing a lot seems counterintuitive to keeping things casual, some serials daters will plan extravagant early dates. It’s part of their unique dating game. Once those first few dates are under their belt and their “victim” is hooked, they revert to “meh,” often last-minute dates or disappear for a while.

4. Always Keeping an Eye on the Dating Pool

When serial daters are on a date, they may flirt with others. The goal is usually two-fold. They want to make their current date feel jealous and “connect” with the next person they want on their “web.” They will typically spend more time communicating with members of the opposite sex than with their own.

Serial daters are always looking for the next potential partner. A committed relationship is not in their sights.

5. Being Active on Dating Apps

Why that’s the sign? Because a serial dater doesn’t want to lose is a huge pool of prospects on dating apps, along with satisfying the thrill of the chase.

Dating apps make it easy to create those profiles full of grandiose statements and quickly begin digital relationships. And they are often so bold that they will check a dating app while out on a date with a current partner.

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6. Your Relationship Became Stagnant

A relationship with a serial dater doesn’t evolve like “normal” relationships do. After first dates, serial daters seem to be keeping a dating partner at arm’s length – still planning just short dates and not getting into those deeper convos that characterize a relationship on the move forward.

They don’t answer any of your personal questions, and they don’t want to ask you any either. In fact, it keeps that relationship stagnant. For a serial dater, it seems normal; but for relationship-oriented people, it seems like the connection fails to move past the point of the first date or two conversations.

7. Geeting Physical Early On

For the serial dater, part of the conquest usually involves sex. It’s almost as if they are keeping score on how many partners they can bed and how soon that can happen. Once that goal has been achieved, they tend to back off, look for another instant connection, and repeat the same pattern of behavior.

It’s not about the relationship – it’s about the conquest.

8. Not Having Personal or Serious Conversations

Normally when couples begin dating, they talk about pretty non-personal things – TV shows and movies you like, favorite food and drink, music, etc. Gradually, the conversation gets more personal and serious. But if you are involved with someone who, after several dates, is still only interested in superficial conversation, take it as a massive red flag that a serious relationship is probably not to be.

Relationship-oriented people enter the dating life to know more and more about each other – previous relationships, childhood, family dynamics, spiritual beliefs, values, and such. But a serial dater will never want to take it beyond the convo you had on the first date.

They reveal very little about themselves and want to know little about the people they date. Their goal is not to make an emotional connection but to have fun, have good sex, and move on.

Related reading: 42 Questions to Ask Your Boyfriend: Grow Your Relationship Gradually

9. Your Date Is an Extravert

That may appear too straightforward, but a serial dater is always an extrovert. They can “work a room” like a pro, with lots of greetings, and short conversations. They seem very open because they are always keeping an eye out for potential conquests. Introverts just don’t have the temperament to be serial daters.

How to deal with serial dater signs

4 Tactics to Deal with Serial Daters

Now that you know the serial dater signs and are suspicious that you may be dating one, you are probably wondering what to do. Our short recommendation: check that with your feelings.

If you are not feeling a strong connection, the solution is easy. Just walk away – you don’t need any master manipulators in your life. All the big gestures and professions of love are simply a means for control and their own fun. And now that you know the signs, you can steer clear of a serial dater in the future.

But suppose you are kinda hooked and really want a relationship with this person. In that case, you will need some tips and strategies. We share 4 things you can do.

1. Begin with a Realistic Attitude

Will a serial dater change and come to want a single relationship with you? The prospects aren’t good unless they admit that they are addicted to being a serial dater and express that they would like to change.

You cannot change them – like any addict, they must be willing to change. If they are, couples counseling might be a good start.

2. Do as They Do

If they admit that they are dating others simultaneously as you, you should do the same. A little serial dating on your part is not all bad either, as long as you are ethical about it and your dates understand that it’s only casual.

And it’s possible you may just meet a person who promises to have a healthier relationship. You never know. Plenty of attractive people (physically, intellectually, and emotionally) are out there looking for a real relationship.

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3. Protect Yourself

Serial daters may sweep their “prey” off their feet in the beginning. But if you are wise to their tactics and suspect your latest squeeze is a serial dater, take steps to protect yourself.

It’s so easy to get pulled in, but let your friends help you out here. They can give a much more objective perspective. Your friends can see what you do not. Be cautious and continue to have a social and dating life apart from them.

4. Play Hard to Get

One thing a serial dater cannot stand is not being able to “conquer.” If you suspect this person is such a player, then toughen up a bit:

  • Don’t be available for those last-minute dates
  • Post things on your social media accounts that show you out having fun with others
  • Prioritize your hobbies over their date nights

They’ll begin to wonder what more they can do to conquer you. That’s when you can begin talking about what you expect in a relationship. If they are unwilling to meet your expectations, the time for talking is over. Move on.

Related reading: How to Play Hard to Get

What a serial monogamist should do?

What a Serial Dater Can Do: Remain the Same or Change?

Once a person recognizes a serial dater in oneself, there are not many options available: to remain the same or change. Let’s see what is relevant for each scenario.

Remain the Same

If you like who you are right now and enjoy sprinting from one conquest to another or dating multiple people simultaneously without a serious commitment to a relationship, that is who and what you are right now. You won’t find any motivation to change in this case.

And there is nothing wrong with that unless you leave a trail of broken hearts in your wake. Because this way is not an ethical approach to dating. If you cannot be at least honest with the people you date, then you may need to rethink the pain you are causing others for your own selfish purposes.

Related reading: ENM Relationship: What Is Ethical Non-Monogamy?


The chance to change appears once you realize that serial dating is an addictive behavior.

This can happen once you become mature. If you were young, fairly new to the dating world, and wanted to “test” the wide world of dating, your serial dating may be only temporary. Ultimately, you’ll calm down and begin to look for a serious relationship that is more “normal.”

Alternatively, if you’ve engaged in serial dating behaviors for longer, you may suddenly feel it’s time to reconsider your dating style and get rid of that addiction somehow. You look at your past relationships and see that you have very little to show for them.

The liberating thought may sound like, “Is this the dating lifestyle I want for the rest of my life until I am old and gray and have no significant other to share my waning years with? 

If you decide to change, getting professional help is a good idea. You need to understand what motivates you to be a serial dater. Talking through your insecurities and your need for power and control will give you important insights into what drives you to be a serial dater and what steps you need to take to overcome this addiction.

That’s a Wrap…

A serial dater may return later when they decide to change. But you don’t have to sit and wait for that patiently.

If you think you might be involved with a serial dater, look for these signs and decide what you want to do about that. There’s nothing bad with serial dating as long as everyone is honest and upfront about the reality of the situation so that they may make their own decisions about moving forward.

Dating Tips Author
Shelly Standford
After a devastating relationship breakup, I threw myself into the dating scene by registering on Hily. I had over 100 dates - some absolute disasters, some pretty average, and some that were actually great. So many stories to tell and insights to share with you guys!

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