Dating: What’s the Goal?

I was reading an article on As Told Over Brunch the other day called, “Dating: What is the Goal?” and it got me to thinking.

People often talk about dating as a meet and greet, as a time and a place where two people can spend time getting to know one another to find out if they’re compatible. Sometimes it takes one date, sometimes it takes a few, then at some point you either establish mutual compatibility or you don’t, but then what?  The article asks:

“What is the end goal to dating once you know the other person likes you? What if you’re not ready for marriage and weddings and presumed children – is there a detour road? Maybe a rest stop before we reach Vegas? Is that the ultimate destination?”

In the past, the general practice has been to date, “go steady” (i.e. enter a committed relationship), get engaged, and then get married/start a family. But what if you’re not comfortable with that track? Or what if you want to linger at one of the benchmarks a little longer than your partner? What do you do? Is the relationship over? Are you no longer allowed to want to get to know them? (Note: I believe even married couples are still getting to know one another; you never really stop.)

When you’re dating, there’s a lot of pressure to make these sorts of decisions, to know what you want, in what order and time frame you want it, etc. Because of course you don’t want to lead someone on if your wish lists don’t match, but sometimes it’s not so easy to figure out the specifics of what you want. Sometimes, quite honestly, I think it depends on the person. In this respect, the article and I came to the same conclusion:

“An ideal relationship depends on the person. Some people I want to be temporary. Others – hopefully, one – I’ll want for forever.

Sometimes I meet people and right away I know I don’t like them or that I just genuinely want to be friends with them. Other times I’ll spend a few dates with someone and decide it won’t work or say I’d prefer that we stayed friends rather than pursue a romantic entanglement (and I’ll genuinely mean it). And even though I haven’t been in a serious enough relationship to warrant evaluating those “ultimate” destinations (marriage, kids, etc.), I know that because I’m questioning myself and my wants so much in just the dating phase, that I’m going to be doing the same in any committed relationship, too.

Right now I just ask myself if I want to keep seeing someone, but at some point someone’s going to ask me a more serious question – do I want to marry them – and I’m going to have to have an answer. But what I say is probably going to depend on the person. Just as there are people in my life that I only want to date casually or know as friends, there are also going to be people in my life who I love, but won’t be able to see myself marrying…even if I want to stay with them.

So I don’t think there really is a “goal” to dating. Or at least not to mine. I’m not fixed on following that traditional path, but rather just hoping that if the right person comes along we’ll be on the same one.

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