I have a friend who only dates people she can truly see herself settling down with. It doesn't matter if she has chemistry with someone; if she can't picture herself loading up a U-Haul and moving in with them in somewhat-near future, it's on to the next one. She takes dating very seriously. For her, the idea that you might date someone you don't see yourself living with in the future makes absolutely no sense. Then I have other friends who just follow their hearts — and, ahem, other parts — when it comes to dating and let the chips fall where they may. On the one hand, that seems like a much more chill way to approach romance, but what happens to those casual relationships over time when they realize they don't ever want to live with that person? Should they call it quits right away? Or is it OK to stay in a relationship that really isn't going anywhere? According to the experts, the answer is: It's complicated.
"Depending on your age, living together might not be that important. If you want to get married and have kids down the line, then you have to rethink if this is the right relationship for you in the long run," Stef Safran, matchmaker and founder of Stef And The City, tells Elite Daily. This makes a lot of sense, but it doesn't mean you have to be laser-focused on the future if you just want to have some fun right now, adds intimacy expert Allana Pratt. "There’s nothing wrong with a summer romance where you know it’s not going to go anywhere, where you enjoy each other’s company and learn about love," she tells Elite Daily. (Solid advice in any season.)
Relationship expert and A Conscious Rethink editor Steve Phillips-Waller agrees. "There is no rule that says a person must only enter a relationship with a long-term future in mind," he tells Elite Daily. "It is entirely acceptable to enjoy what’s often called a 'situationship' in which two people do many of the things that couples do, but in a casual, less official way."
While it's totally fine to want a casual relationship, where it becomes an issue is when one of you actually wants more — and if your goal is to ultimately live with a partner someday, this is where it's time to speak up. In that case, it's time to be open about your desires and intentions. "One of the saddest things I see in my line of work is the fact that couples miss out on so much because they don’t communicate their intentions clearly," Chris Seiter, a relationship consultant and breakup specialist, tells Elite Daily. "If you don’t want to live with your partner, you should communicate that as soon as you realize this is the case," he says.
It's just as important to be real with yourself about what you want, even if it's uncomfortable, says Pratt. "If you’re honestly looking to be in a long term relationship but you tell the Universe you’ll settle… you’re putting out the message that you’re not worthy of having it all."
If that's the case, Cherlyn Chong, breakup recovery specialist for professional women, suggests putting the relationship on a limited timeline of two to three months, maximum. "Three months should be enough time to get used to the person and take an objective view if they are someone you can be with long-term," Chong tells Elite Daily. "If you just aren't feeling it, then it's OK to let them go at this point."
What it ultimately comes down to in this situation is embracing what you want from the relationship and being transparent about it, concludes Pratt. “Be honest with yourself," he advises. "Ask if the relationship is still a net benefit to both parties. Are you both still growing, evolving, honoring each other? If so, enjoy the partnership.” In other words, just relax and trust your instincts.