If you ask the folks who are currently dipping their toes in the dating pool, most will tell you how awful it is. I think that’s really sad. Dating should be at least a little bit fun.
I’m fully willing to admit that it can be stressful and uncomfortable and occasionally make you question the entire existence of humanity. There’s a lot of crap out there. I understand why people are in such a rush to find “their person” and get out of the game. Sometimes my self-esteem is through the roof, and other times I feel like I belong among the ants, crawling around aimlessly in the dirt. The rollercoaster of emotions can be a lot to manage. But despite all of that, I enjoy dating simply for the sake of dating.
Lately, I’ve noticed significant growth in the Date-to-Marry movement, and I’d like to take this opportunity to remind everyone, females in particular, that this isn’t the only dating philosophy out there. In fact, I would highly encourage you to consider others.
You can choose an alternative narrative that is more aligned with where you’re actually at in life instead of where you think you should be. Your dating life doesn’t have to be defined by an expected end result. Date-to-Marry seems to have become the default ideology for women looking to date or actively dating. In reality, it can be quite problematic when pursued blindly.
I date because I find getting to know people exhilarating. I want to date a person because I find them interesting, attractive, or fun. I want to enjoy their company without feeling the need to critique which characteristics might make them a suitable life partner.
Date-to-Marry asks me to evaluate whether or not I’m willing to spend the rest of my life with this person when I’m still trying to decide if I have time to spend with them this weekend. It’s an insane question to ask so early on in a relationship and comes with insurmountable pressure at any stage. The determination to find a partner for the rest of your life puts added weight on an already overwhelming circumstance, creating unnecessary issues for all involved.
There are two specific flaws in the Date-to-Marry philosophy.
1. When you’re in a rush to reach a destination you miss out on the journey
The human brain naturally and actively passes judgments on people, places, and things to help us safely navigate our environment. Most evolved humans can accept that not all initial judgments are to be taken as fact and that existence and experience are nuanced and prone to exception.
When we enter a state of panic or desperation, our brain and body default to those primal judgments and accept them as truths so we can quickly determine which course of action will most likely bring us to a state of safety and stability.
Jumping on the Date-to-Marry bandwagon is a modern symptom of our innate need to belong. Adding that kind of pressure to finding a partner can cause you to operate in that primal state of panic and desperation. In the Date-to-Marry philosophy, rash judgments are almost encouraged. When there is such a strong desire to reach a destination, snap judgments rule the road, and the margin for error is expanded by decisions made in haste. Your mission to matrimony has you passing up potential partners that could be a great fit for your life right now.
Overall, our impatience as a generation affects the depth of our social lives. We scroll each other’s carefully curated social feeds or dating profiles, make assumptions, and decide that’s enough; determine that we have all the information we need to either pursue a person or move on.
I’m not advocating that we all swipe right on every profile that comes across our screen. By all means, save your emotional energy and courting efforts for those you deem worthwhile. But before completely dismissing someone after a few exchanged messages or one unchecked box, pause to consider whether you’ve given this suitor a fair chance to show all they have to offer.
2. Your idealistic expectations are diluting your experience of reality
We see the expectations set for us by society. We know we’re expected to be married by now, or at least on the path to it. We all feel the weight of expectation set in when friends or relatives ask if we’re “seeing anyone special,” as if the only fucking thing that we are supposed to do with our existence is tie it to another human. We see relationships play out in movies and listen to the stories that the songs of our time tell about love. These societal expectations are unavoidable; we see them everywhere. But it’s not the expectations we see that are the most harmful; it’s the ones we don’t see.
The reason you’re leaving every date frustrated and unfulfilled is because you’re idealizing individuals and romanticizing relationships. Heavily influenced by outside factors, you have subconsciously concocted an idea in your head of what love, dating, and your ideal partner should look like, and now you think that’s the only acceptable way to proceed.
So you try. Participating parties begin auditioning for the role of partner instead of being genuine. The performance causes conversations to quickly turn stale and makes every experience feel utterly and obnoxiously vanilla. To add insult to injury, those you do let yourself connect with bear the burden of being compared to the idealized picture you drew up in your head, an image they will never match up to. Now you’ve set yourself up for disappointment because it’s absurd and unfair to expect a person to be any more than a person.
When you’re dating for the sake of dating—without expectations or fictitious futures floating around in your head—you’re free to release all the things that you think you know, appreciate a circumstance for what it is, and get familiar with the person who is actually sitting in front of you. You can stop daydreaming about a life that would exist “If only.” If only he would propose, if only she lived closer… that mindset is keeping you from experiencing all the amazing, inspiring moments that make up your reality. When you find yourself imagining a future where things are so much better than your current situation, pause and remind yourself that the only place that future exists is in your imagination.
Adopting a narrative other than Date-to-Marry doesn’t make us anti-matrimony. I may be open to the idea of marriage, but I don’t want to have to make that decision right now.
My intent in highlighting the flaws I find with this philosophy is not to get people to lower their standards when dating or lose hope in finding love. I just want to show support for the women who are more curious than serious, the women who are too intimidated or turned off by the idea of marriage to let themselves give dating a real try. I want to encourage everyone to give those they’re dating the grace to exist imperfectly instead of clocking and calculating every possible shortcoming.
Good things can come when you slow down and keep an open mind. Allow yourself to experience dating and relationships at your own pace, in whatever way you choose.