Dating and Relationship Advice

“He’s not husband material, so I’m not even going to bother dating him,” a close friend once told me.

The idea of dating just for the sake of it was never really encouraged in the environment I grew up in. After all, why waste all this effort on dating someone if it wasn’t going to end in something serious? There was a point when I felt like dating for "fun" or for anything other than aiming for something long-term was a waste of time, or even a display of “promiscuous” behavior. Call it a conservative, practical, or even transactional take on dating, but I believed in this perspective for a long time.

As I grew older and took the opportunity to live in other parts of the world, I began noticing that others dated for very different reasons. In fact, it was during a conversation with a friend, whose boyfriend was leaving town for college in a different country, that my mind about dating changed.

“If he’s going to be leaving, then why are you still together? Wouldn’t it be easier to cut your losses sooner than later if you know that it isn’t going to work out?” I asked, perplexed by the situation.

“Well, it’s hard to explain… I know we’re not going to work out in the long run, but I still love him,” she replied. “And anyway, even if we don’t end up together, I’m not really thinking about marriage right now. We’re still so young, so dating is really just for the experience at this point.”

It was like a switch flipped in my mind. Perhaps it was because it was the first time I had met someone who held such different views on dating than my own, or perhaps it was because her honesty took me by surprise. Either way, it helped me accept that dating for the sake of dating, rather than with the end goal of marriage, can be an experience in and of itself. Not only can it be a way to explore what’s “out there” to help you identify what you like or dislike in a potential partner, but it also takes off the pressure that tends to accompany intentional dating.

When you’re dating with a purpose, it can often feel like you’re constantly “assessing” the other party to determine whether they could be a suitable long-term match. But I’ve noticed that being on the edge and constantly trying to suss someone out often interferes with getting to know them genuinely and organically. More than this, people also change and grow as they get older—sometimes together, but sometimes apart—which makes it difficult to determine whether someone could indeed be a lifelong partner based on a few dates alone.

Of course, this “take it as it comes” attitude is probably more easily embraced by those of us who are in our early 20s than those who are slightly older and looking to settle down. But regardless, dating without anticipations helps remove any expectations, which can spell the downfall of budding relationships.

And even if a date doesn’t lead to marriage in the end, at least you’ll have gained a new experience—and that’s a feather in your cap that shouldn’t ever be regarded as worthless.