Is Dating Only About Finding 'The One'?

Oct 23, 2020

What is the point of dating? Ask ten people and you may get ten different answers, but they generally fall into two camps. The first says that you should date people to find a potential partner for life. The second says that you should date people, basically, to have fun, and if something more serious evolves over time, wonderful.

The first approach can lead to a situation where you wind up putting a lot of pressure on yourself and the other person in order to determine whether they match all of the attributes and characteristics that you’ve envisioned in your lifelong partner. This presumes a lot. It presumes that you can get to know someone, really know them, right away. It also presumes that you know what you want in a partner.

Realistically, most people have a much better idea of what they don’t want, and what they do want is often a little bit more flexible. Getting to know someone, and getting to see how they fit in your life can take a lot of time, shared experiences and individual as well as relational growth.

A big downfall of this approach is that it requires you to be very judgmental, when you may actually lack enough consequential knowledge to make an informed choice. But an even bigger flaw is that it treats a mismatched pairing as a failure.

By comparison, the second approach is much less rigid. I’m not going to mince words and make you wait till the end of this article to figure out which approach is best. The second one is better. By a lot.

The reason it’s true is that it is much more in alignment with how human beings work in a relational capacity. It is very difficult for us to actually get to know someone while at the same time performing the mental trigonometry of playing out an imagined future life with that person, made up of a million micro-judgements and leaps in logic. By keeping it casual, you open up a space for learning about the other person, for them to learn who you are, and most importantly, for you to learn about yourself.

The truth is that different people bring out different parts of you. You can learn things about yourself that you wouldn’t otherwise know in lasting relationships as well as those that don’t work out. This self-knowledge is invaluable when it comes to finding a partner for life. You will, of course, learn lots of things about what you don’t want, but you may also learn things that you do want, and those things need time and mental space to reveal themselves.

So, if the person you’re dating turns out not to be ‘the one’, don’t fret. In fact, as long as you are clear about your boundaries, there’s no reason to stop dating someone just because they’re not ‘marriage material’. With the right attitude, you might have fun, get to know someone you may grow to care about and share some life-shaping experiences that will help you to learn more about what you want out of your life.