Life coach and author Demetria Lucas recently spoke about issues of casual dating, relationship titles, and whether someone who’s not in a formal committed relationship (but dates someone she likes) should be open to dating others as well. She gave great, pragmatic advice: yes, absolutely date more than one person if you are not committed, because more than likely the person you are interested in is doing just that.
I have this conversation often with women who find themselves committed to men who aren’t fully committed to them, and end up disappointed and hurt when the relationship doesn’t take the direction they’d like. This pattern of pre-relationship limbo and the road towards unrequited love is far too common, and it rarely ends well.
Admittedly, I’ve spent more time in relationships during my adult years than I have as a single woman. But my rule when single is to always have as many dating experiences as I can and enjoy the benefits of being a single—namely the exciting early stages of courtship and getting to know someone I like, as well as the freedom to sort of “float freely” without any real obligations. I love the beginnings of things, the moments before it all becomes complicated and the real work of commitment begins.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful to share a life with someone fully and exclusively—to firmly commit to loving someone at his/her best and worst, and to receive that kind of love back. And the single life can be taxing, especially when it seems endless.
Many of the women I speak to feel the men they’re interested in dating one-on-one contract some kind of relationship attention deficit disorder during the dating stage that prevents them from investing their energy and time with one woman. Those men want to explore all of their options, and I wonder why most women don’t do the same.
The mistake so many women make is that they see the dating experience as an endgame. When they meet someone they like, they feel that they are one step away from their happily ever after, and they immediately do what they are told not to (over and over again), which is not to put all their eggs in one basket.
While it could be true that your next date may be with the man of your dreams, the thing to remember is that your dream guy, that man fated to be yours, isn’t going anywhere. Even more, your dream guy will make his desire for commitment known, so you won’t be left wondering where things are going. This is how fate works, remember?
Until the official title of girlfriend comes along, it’s important to follow the advice that Lucas gives, which is to see dating as an activity—an activity that brings fun and joy to your life, not added stress. That stress, that frustrated energy that comes from focusing too much on the endgame, is transmitted to the person you’re dating… and honestly, it’s unattractive.
In Not Your Mother’s Rules: The New Secrets for Dating, authors Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider offer women advice on how to date in the digital age. For instance, the book suggests that women shouldn’t text men back for four to 24 hours (depending on age), not only to add mystery to the dating/courting process, but also because women should always appear to be busy to their suitors. Now I’m not at all for game playing or applying “rules” to the dating experience, but I do believe there’s something attractive about people who are happily living their lives when unattached. And we have to remember that focusing too much time and energy on a casual dating “situationship.” or even a budding relationship, puts undue pressure on the person we’re interested in seeing.
If we are busy making a life—dating multiple suitors, building other lasting relationships (like with our girlfriends), and investing our time and energy in things we enjoy besides some guy—the dating process can be a blast.
Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and solider of love. Follow her musings on Twitter @jonubian.