7 Women Reveal How To Enjoy Casual Dating When You Actually Want A Relationship

If you're craving a serious relationship and are dating around, you might feel "damned if you do, damned if you don't." Yes, you bump the odds of finding a good partner if you give your local dating scene a shot. Still, it can be draining to go through the motions of dating — especially if you're sick of matching or going on dates with folks who don't work out. So how do you enjoy dating when you want a relationship?

Well, it's all about a shift in perspective. As you're crafting the perfect Bumble profile or putting together a dope first date outfit, know that every coffee, convo over drinks, or museum date is valuable whether it pans out or not. With each date or match, you get to learn what you like (and don't!) in a partner.

And if a first date turns into a second and third one, relish the opportunity to be frank about what you want and need. You deserve to have your needs met! And the right person will happily do that. Last but not least, approach the situation with lightness. Find the humor in it. Focus on what makes the dating process — the flirting, the yummy date food you get to try out, the sex (if not, the hand-holding!) — fun. Here's advice from seven women about how to keep your chin up in the dating scene while looking for something serious.

Treat it as a learning experience
Bonnin Studio / Stocksy
The end of my last serious relationship was painful. But I took my time getting over the breakup and didn’t start going on dates again until I knew I was ready. Since then, I’ve mostly used dating apps to meet new people. I started out wanting another serious relationship, but that’s changed over the past few years.
I treat each date and the relationship that follows, no matter how long or brief, as a learning experience. I’d only ever dated two people before this stage of my life, and I realized I didn’t know as much about my needs and desires as I thought. Casually dating in multiple cities for just two years has been essential for getting to know myself better and understanding what I value most in a partner. It’s also fun!
I started out looking for a serious relationship, but that’s no longer an expectation I have on first dates. I see them as a lighthearted way to get to know new people — and if they turn into something more, that’s great! Identifying what the not-so-good ones can teach you about yourself will make your next long-time relationship, whenever it may be, that much stronger.

— Lucy, 22

To all the dates I've gone on before...
Studio Firma / Stocksy
Date all of the people you’re interested in until you feel like you’ve found a winner. We’re young and this is the time to have fun. That’s why you should weigh out all of your options and date as much as you want while you’re single.

— Kayla, 22

Soak up a change of scenery
Guille Faingold / Stocksy
For about a year, I felt pretty lonely and blue about being single, especially when all my closest friends were in serious relationships. Dating felt draining. I think part of the problem was that I was also unhappy in other areas of my life, and making concrete changes there really helped lift my mood: I switched jobs, expanded my friend group, and moved to a new neighborhood.
As a result, I felt so much happier and more confident in what I was bringing to the table as a potential partner. Around that time, someone asked me what I was really looking for when I dated, and I realized that although I wasn't ready to get married right that minute, I felt ready to meet the person I would marry someday in the future. That realization completely changed how I felt about dating. It hit me that there was only a finite amount of time in which I'd be single, so why not enjoy it? I had a blast going out on tons of dates over the next three weeks... And that's when I met my boyfriend. We've been together for a year and a half now and are about to move in together!

— Hannah, 26

Remember love will find you when you least expect it
Caleb Gaskin / Stocksy
My mother always told me that you need to be very careful about who you date, because you can’t control who you fall in love with. I’ve dated people and was always able to switch off emotion — until I couldn’t.
Neither one of us were prepared or expected to fall in love with each other. The feelings were so intense that we had to break away from one another to sort things out. I know that we’ll be back together, but healing had to be done prior to jumping into something serious. It’s like we have a soul contract. I guess you can say I was humbled. All in all, be careful, folks.

— Bebe, 22

Follow your instincts
Thais Ramos Varela / Stocksy
Dating casually while looking for something serious requires so much patience. I think you have to let things naturally grow, and then ask the question when you feel like it's the right time. This sort of dating also takes a lot of maturity, transparency, and communication. Have transparent conversations about what you're each doing. Are you monogamous, seeing others, on dating apps? A good person will be open to having these conversations. If they're being shady about where they're at, probably not a good sign.
It's super important to be comfortable communicating where you are, but it's also important to be open to what the other person wants. You may have to accept that they aren't looking for the same thing. And at the end of the day, why be with someone who doesn't want to make the same commitment that you'd be giving them? Thank u, next!
Don't get too serious too quickly! As hard as that is, keep your options open until you really feel like you're vibing with someone. And above all: Trust. Your. Instincts.

— Kennedy, 23

Friendship first is key
GIC / Stocksy
Even though everyone dates a lot more casually now, everyone’s still overall looking for relationships. Our methods just have changed with the culture. Knowing that made me feel a lot better! It makes me feel less bitter and cynical. I feel like everyone just throws their hands up and thinks nobody’s searching for connection, and it’s that we aren’t embracing the difference.
More people do hangouts or begin as friends, but overall, people are looking for connection. So, I guess, accept that the world isn't f*cked. We are all looking for something, but we’re no longer willing to settle for bullsh*t and are just creating new rules. It’s made me value making friendships more, and more prone to moving from friends to a relationship, which is increasingly what people are doing.

— Gabrielle, 26

Trust the process and keep a sense of humor
Mauro Grigollo / Stocksy
I think the key to enjoying casual dating is going into it with the right mindset. If you’re looking for a serious relationship, it’s inevitable that you will 'fail' — as in, maybe you and your date won’t connect IRL as well as you did on Tinder, maybe he ghosts you, maybe he keeps booty-calling you. So you have to be prepared for those moments.
For me, I went into every date ready to treat it like a good story or a life lesson. You have to find the excitement and sense of humor in the actual act of casual dating itself, not in what may (and, honestly, most likely won’t) come of it. If you go on every date expecting that he will be the one, you’ll drive yourself nuts. You just have to take the moment for what it is.
Also! Don’t think that going on one or even 100 bad dates means that your next date will be bad. All dates exist independently of each other. That’s something else to remember too.

— Alexia, 25

It will take some some trial and error to find a partner who's a good fit and ready to embark on a serious relationship with you. But the journey of self-discovery and intimacy-building with your potential SO (fingers crossed!) is a worth it. With these women's solid advice, know there is a way to thrive and genuinely enjoy the dating process in the meantime.