Do You Like Them, But Not Enough To Date Them? Here’s How To Tell
Most of my friends are artists. This means: good jewelry, eye-rolling at Damien Hirst, and constant debate on how the artistic value of a piece is derived — from its outside reception or from its own creative process. When asking if something's merit is based off its public reception, I can't help but think of dating. Am I more valuable when I have a partner? When there's a market for me? What then, if no one is trying to date you? Or better yet, what if you like someone, but not enough to date them.
When you really want a partner and it keeps not working out, it can be hard enough to picture yourself seeing someone — let alone seeing someone and realizing you're the one who's not into it. Or, if you're a cutie that who doesn't want to be in a monogamous relationship or if you like the new person you're seeing but don't really want to DTR, dropping the "I don't want to exclusively date" can be tricky.
Knowing you like someone but don't want to date them is hard, especially when "dating" means so many different things to different people. In an endless search for clarity in dating, I reached out to Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, and Thomas Edwards Jr., founder of The Professional Wingman, about how to know when you like someone but don't really want to date them.
You don't want it to be all or nothing.
A lot of pressure around dating comes from what we're going to tell other people — how we're going to quantify what we have with our boos to our friends, our moms, our Whole Foods cashiers. This pressure isn't just to be in a relationship, it's also to be in a certain type of relationship, a type that's palatable for others. But you get to make your own rules and your own timeline. If you enjoy spending time with your boo, and you're being clear and communicative about that, it's OK to have your own kind of unstructured thing, to go on dates without dating.
"Even though you may not want a monogamous, committed relationship, that doesn’t mean you have to subject yourself to being alone. Desiring strict companionship can create strong, healthy relationships without the need to be more than that," Edwards says. "Going on dates still allows you to have fun experiences with someone whose company you enjoy and who understands commitment isn’t something you may not be looking for right now."
Maybe you'll never be looking for "commitment" in the traditional sense or maybe you're in the midst of some serious life transitions and a LTR isn't possible right now. It's OK to enjoy someone's time without wanting more — as long as you're clear with them about it.
"If you are not interested in a monogamous relationship it is critical to be clear to the person you are going out on dates with," Dr. Klapow says.
You're still trying to understand what kind of relationship is right for you.
Lots of people have no interest in dating only one person. Come to a lo-fi basement show in West Philadelphia, you'll hear all about it. And it let be known, there is nothing wrong with not wanting to only have one bae. However, if you're someone who is pretty set on wanting an exclusive and defined relationship, it may be hard to be seeing someone who wants different things. There are also lots of people who do intend on navigating monogamous relationships at some point, but are currently not in a place to do so.
Understanding why someone may not want a relationship, or why you don't want the same kind of relationship your boo does, can take the pressure of, feeling like the "problem" is you.
"You are dating because you feel bad for them or guilty that they will be alone. You feel that dating is 'the right thing to do' given your age, your stage in life, what other people are doing. You feel that if you don’t date now you will be missing out. You feel that you will be more accepted by friends and family if you are dating," Dr. Klapow says.
Don't let the #couplegoals Instagram posts fool you — people date for all sorts of reasons other than just being in love. Maybe they want acceptance, maybe they're afraid of being alone, maybe everyone else at the college was linking up. Your current relationship status doesn't guarantee you happiness or happily ever after. It's OK to just spend time with the people you like to spend time with, away from the definitions and labels. It's also OK to want and even need those definitions and labels. Your relationship isn't for other people. "It’s absolutely OK to 'not date' or have any type of relationship with someone if you don’t see a future with them — even if that future only goes until tomorrow," Edwards adds.
You don't make them a priority.
But how can we tell that we're really not trying to settle down with someone? "The biggest sign is if you’re not ready to make a relationship the No. 1 one (or No. 1 (b) if you have children or extreme circumstance) priority in your life," Edwards says. "If you’re not ready for the responsibilities that come with having a partner then it’s likely you’re not ready — and that’s OK! As long as you’re honest with yourself first, then your date, it’ll make [your date’s] dating experience much better."
Maybe you'll never want to change your life to accommodate the people you're seeing, or maybe you're just not trying to right now. If you find yourself thinking about your own plans, your own comfort, and your own life before your boo's (and they seem to be upset by that), you may not be trying to date them in the way they're trying to date you.
You can't separate your current feelings from the vision you have of your life.
If you've always seen your life going a certain way — a wedding in a barn with lots of peonies (me) or being single Pringle forever, it can be hard to tell what you're trying to do with your boo right now, from what you see for yourself in the future. "Speak your feelings as they are now, not as a permanent state, 'Here’s how I feel about us today, as of right now, where we are in this stage of our relationship.' You don’t know how you are going to feel in a week, month, etc.," Dr. Klapow says. "Be honest about changes in your feelings good or bad — but recognize that feelings are dynamic. They can change over time." Knowing that your feelings can change, and being willing to speak when you start to feel differently can be helpful in dating.
"Telling the truth is a way of being a responsible, mature person and allows the other person to potentially be the same," Edwards says. If you and your boo are both waiting for the other person to say what's up, you may be waiting a while. Being the first to speak up can encourage your boo to do the same. "Be open to any possibility when dating, keeping in mind transparency and communication are always keys in those circumstances when things do indeed change."
If you're not trying to date, or if you're trying to date someone who's not trying to date — the best way to find clarity is to talk about it. If communication and consent are in the equation, there is no wrong way to have a relationship. As Blac Chyna once tweeted, "Remember that you were art long before he came to admire you, and you'll continue to be art even when he's gone." Whether you're the dumper or the dumpee, the "I love you" on the first date or the "This isn't going to work out" on the tenth, it's important to remember your own inherit strength, beauty, value, and merit — regardless of your romantic status.
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