Let me tell you about a rather ridiculous first experience on Match.com:
A client of mine, Kate, had just signed up for online dating and did not know the first thing about the process. (She made one big mistake: she didn’t ask me!) So when on the first day someone sent her a message to “chat” on the site, she thought, “Okay, sounds fun.” Things seemed really intense right away with this guy. He divulged all his emotional history in twenty minutes of painstaking instant messaging. He asked her to meet him again online the next day. Kate didn’t know how to say no. (She does now.) Within minutes of her greeting him the next day and explaining that she had just begun the process and was just looking around on the site, seeing what might happen, this guy lit into her angrily. He wrote: “The people on this site are looking for true love and marriage. You are just jerking people around. People like you should be banned from the website.” She turned off her computer and did not check her Match.com messages for another month.
Was he right? No! Not everyone seeking to meet people and date are in the market for commitment and eternity. Some are simply looking for companionship and fun…eternity does not enter into it. That guy was probably the one who should be banned from the site since he is a bully and clearly volatile, but the point is: knowing why you want to date and communicating that information can be the difference between a great dating experience and a disaster. Kate did the right thing to explain her intentions.
Recreation vs. Ideal Match
The first step to successful dating is to figure out what you want from the experience. Why do you want to meet someone? It sounds like a simple question with a simple answer, but it isn’t really. Many factors influence your decision to date and not everyone comes from the same place—and that’s okay.
Factors that enter into this decision include:
- How long ago you were in a relationship
- How your last relationship ended
- What stage of life you find yourself in
- Where you are in your professional life
- Whether you have, or want, children
- The list goes on….
So you need to ask yourself: “Do I want to date to have some fun and enjoy life? Or am I ready for commitment?” Whatever your reasons are, being clear about what you want and why is the key to feeling satisfied with the result of your dating journey. Trust yourself enough to know what is right for you and that, no matter what, your dating needs are legitimate. Kate’s desire to take things slow with her dating experience was perfectly normal. The man who berated her for that desire was entirely wrong. Does he have every right to seek commitment and love? Sure, but not to judge others who may not want that. The key is: have the courage to speak your truth to your dating partners.
Reasons for dating usually fall in two categories— recreational or finding your ideal match.
- a valuable learning laboratory for gaining experience and increasing self-awareness of relationship needs
- friendship, fun, social opportunities, sex
- still finding the balance among all the responsibilities of adult life
- not ready for a committed relationship
Ideal match. Finding a life partner is a process –
- meet new people
- experience them
- decide if one of them is the right person for you
Being able to communicate your dating intentions can seem awkward at first but with preparation and practice you can learn this essential life skill. If you are not seeking a perfect match, you could say, “I would like to spend time with you and I want you to know that right now I am not ready to date for a serious relationship” or “I’m so happy we met, and I would like to continue seeing you. I want to tell you that I am not dating to find a long term partner right now, only for companionship”.
If you are seeking an ideal match, it is just as important to be clear about that. If you meet someone who isn’t on that page, you could say: “I’m not sure where this is going, but if you are dating just for fun and companionship and don’t think you are ready to consider a serious relationship, I want you to know that I am. I’d love to keep seeing you but I need to know what your intentions are.”
Remember too that if you join a website or hire a matchmaker it is important that your information and profile include your dating intentions. You can always change your mind and revise that info down the road!