Over dinner with friends the other night we stumbled on the subject of relationships that don’t seem to be destined for the long term.
Sometimes when you start dating someone, things start out great. You’re sexually attracted to the other person—maybe even sexually compatible, if you’ve gotten that far—you like spending time together, you have fun hanging out. But then, a little while into the relationship, you start to realize that there are things about the person that don’t really mesh well with your long-term plan.
Not that anything is inherently wrong, you just know that you won’t be shacking up and having babies together any time soon.
The problem is, you like them, and you’re having a great time together, and you don’t really want to stop.
And why should you? It’s fun—emotionally fulfilling and intimate enough to be more than a booty call, but laid back and relaxed enough that you don’t feel stressed out; everyone is enjoying themselves.
But is it a good idea to let it keep going?
I did that once, and though I started the relationship knowing in the back of my mind it had no future, I didn’t want to worry about it then, and I just let it happen. But then I accidentally fell in love and then out of love and then it dragged on, and when it inevitably ended a couple of years later, it was much uglier than I ever could have expected.
However, I’d like to think that that’s a worse case scenario. In fact, it hasn’t deterred me from doing it again, other times more successfully.
My roommate raised the argument that there’s no point. Why waste your time with someone if you know it’s not going anywhere? You could be spending that time being available for the “right” person to find you, instead of being tied up in something that won’t last.
But I argue, that’s only true if you view the point of dating as a quest to find “the one.”
If that’s what you want—if you’re really looking to wife up and get out of the game—then sure, maybe this isn’t the approach for you. But for those of us who aren’t ready to go all in yet, there’s something to be said for taking your time.
When I was little, I’d lose a toy and spend so long looking for it, and when I finally found it my dad say, “you always find it in the last place you look.”
I feel the same way about dating—you’re going to look in a lot of places before you look in the right one, but maybe along the way you’ll find something you didn’t even know you were looking for. And you might want to stop and have some fun with it, because in this game, once you put it down, you don’t get to pick it up again.
(Well, sometimes you do, but that gets into the subject of ex sex and that’s a topic for a whole different column.)
Earlier this year my little brother was dating a girl, and it was going fine but after a few weeks he realized it probably wasn’t a long-term thing, so he promptly (and gently) broke it off with her.
I was talking to him about it the other day and he told me he wished he hadn’t rushed out of it so fast and that he’d given her more of a chance. His instinct about it not having a future was probably right, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t have seen how it went for a bit, just having fun and getting to know her.
I mean, what did he have to lose, besides time?
There is one caveat, though: both people need to be on the same page.
It needs to be mutually understood implicitly, but it needs to be clear. And this is much easier said than done.
Sure, you could have a conversation about it, but that would probably sterilize all that emotional fulfillment and intimacy, and risk turning the dalliance into a straight sex-only arrangement—lest either person come across as overly attached.
On the other hand, you risk entering into a relationship that you know won’t last forever, while the other person thinks it has future potential. And this is not only dishonest but potentially cruel; there is a s special circle of hell reserved for people who lead someone on just for their own personal entertainment.
But assuming you figure out a way for this to work for both of you, it can be great.
Not only is it fun to stop and take some time to enjoy the search, but it also helps you grow as a person.
Even from my worst and shortest relationships I’ve learned something—either about life, or men, or myself. And that knowledge has contributed to creating the person I am today— and in part the person I’ll be when I finally look in the very last last place I’m going to and find the guy I’ve been looking for all along.
Originally published on Date Daily. Republished with permission.
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