If They're Not Husband Or Wifey Material, They're Not Worth It

I love the concept of dating. I love courtship, getting to know someone, those first butterfly-filled moments where you’re hyper-aware of everything you do and how they might perceive it, where everything they say is new and exciting. It’s a time that we seek over and over again because the kind of potential behind a first kiss is enough to counteract all the negative experiences we might have encountered in the past. And it’s also a time where you’re just figuring things out — there are no guarantees. You may end up becoming serious with this person, or they may just fall by the wayside and never be heard from again. It’s a time of limitless possibility and one in which, even if things don’t work out, it’s not going to really break any hearts. You took each other for a test drive, and just decided not to buy the car. It’s okay.

And my friends were always bewildered — and vocal about it — that I would go out on a lot of “dates.” I liked just going out to dinner with a man if he asked me to, or seeing someone once or twice before deciding that the chemistry wasn’t there for whatever reason. I would meet someone while out, be asked on a date, and go to some dinner/ movie combination that to my friends seemed incredibly old-fashioned. “Why do you date so much?” they would ask me. It seemed a strange question, as just one generation ago, that would be unquestionably the norm — to court someone and decide, rather objectively (before the heady rush of serious sentiments comes into play) that things are just not going to work out. I did this because I liked meeting new people, knew there were many fish in the sea, and wanted to meet many of them before I settled on one. And when I did decide to date, I always saw a serious future as an option with my boyfriends. Only when I knew we couldn’t end up together did I break things off. Now, that doesn’t mean you plan on marrying them or know for sure that they are “the one,” but if things keep going in this direction, that is where it should be headed.

This, of course, is quite the opposite of what many people today consider “dating.” Now, we tend to just fall into relationships with whatever is close to us, convenient, or has already been conquered. Friends will incestuously date within their group of friends, over and over and over. Friends with benefits whom people are not particularly interested in will become de facto boyfriends or girlfriends because, well, we need a date to a wedding. We will exist in a nebulous state of “sort-of dating” our “half-boyfriends” for years on end because it’s better than being single. And of course, if you ask these couples if they would ever consider settling down with said significant other, most would give you a resounding “no.” They would even justify with a “I don’t need to see a serious future with someone I’m dating, it’s just to have fun.” But could anything be more selfish, more unfair, more an insult to the both of you?

First of all, how do we know that the other member of this couple feels the same way? Perhaps what is just a game for you–something to pass the time until something better comes along–is something serious to them. How many couples exist on two planes of commitment, completely unaware that the other doesn’t share their intentions. And even if you are both completely indifferent about the other in the long-term, why become a couple? Why give your time, romantic energy, or half-hearted commitment to someone you don’t see yourself ending up with–for what are likely completely valid reasons? Why stay in this limbo?

It must be tightly interlocked with our deep, gnawing fear of being single. We just passed Valentine’s Day, and think of the hordes of people who used the occasion to spill out their hearts about how incredibly lonely they felt, how left out from a society they imagined as coupled-up, how less-than being without a significant other made them feel. And you don’t need to have a holiday to see this kind of behavior — even on a Saturday night, you’re bound to hear a friend complain about how they just wish they had someone to go out with — as though friends, family, or just themselves is not company enough. Sometimes I would see these kind of sentiments during the long periods of my singlehood, when I was going out on dates here and there but not feeling anything magical, and feel like the only person my age who didn’t care that I was single. I liked being single! Some of my best memories are walking around my city completely alone, doing everything I want to do in the day and not having to consider another person’s itinerary — seeing sights and being alone with my thoughts. Just sitting by the water with a glass of iced tea and a book was some of the most wonderful pleasures I can recall. Of course, my memories shared with significant others are just as beautiful — though in a different way. And loving running hand-in-hand with someone in the rain doesn’t negate an afternoon-long stroll by myself on a warm spring day.

But so many people, I fear, can’t quite enjoy this aloneness. They must replace it with someone — whether to calm their own anxieties or to fulfill some kind of social expectation of themselves. We all know that the twenties are a perpetual state of being asked “if you’ve found someone,” and it can become grating, sure. But that is no reason to succumb to the pressure and pass your time with someone for whom lasting love will never be an option. If you want to have a friend with benefits, or a one night stand here and there, more power to you! But there’s no reason to transmute those into half-hearted relationships just so you can claim, when put on the spot, that you have “someone” in your life. We all have many “someones” in our lives — family, friends, acquaintances, potential dates, our own quiet company. If this isn’t enough, perhaps you should think about why before you try and find another quick-fix partner to fill the void. TC mark

image – Sean MacEntee

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • Guest

    Goddamn, you’re smug.

  • Wolverine_slasher

    This is so good. Thanks for this:)

  • Caitlin Abber

    Love this, Chelsea!

  • http://twitter.com/shoshkabob Shosh

    Fantastic. This is the stuff I always wonder b/c I waited to date for marriage and wondered why people weren’t doing the same. It always seemed to me that they were setting themselves up for heartbreak and I felt terrible.

  • Age

    As I am in a phase of my life where I’m finally maybe figuring things out, I choose to read this. Great article, don’t get me wrong, but this is where the problem lies…all these rules and/or expectations. I truly believe the “honeymoon phase” is a thing that can last forever. Marriage is now a caricature of itself and not as precious or ridiculous as it was intended to be. People start doing what only seems natural. Do we really want a mortgage, a joint bank account, and smelly farts constantly? Or is this what we see everyone else doing and it seems normal? Maybe I’m just cynical or still just as naive as I was 10 years ago, but for a generation who gets to be much more aware of everything we’re more unaware than ever. Just my piece. Peace.

  • Holly

    You speak only the truth. This is excellent.

  • Karen

    starting to fall for my f*ck buddy. bad idea, bad bad idea.

  • Solara

    This is the absolute truth. People date So-and-So because So-and-So showed interest in them, not because they actually like So-and-So, or they’ll continue to stay stuck in old relationships thy have clearly DIED simply because they don’t want to go through the process of finding someone new and being out of their comfort zone.

  • Aylow_10

    This is gooooood and expresses what I’ve been thinking for a while. (I love strangers.)

  • http://twitter.com/astronaves L☁

    While I agree with most of this article, I felt the author was kinda full of herself.
    Being with someone is not a priority for a lot of people, and suggesting that their lives are empty or devoid of meaning because of this is really condescending.  Not everything has to be serious or lasting.  A certain sense of peace comes to those who know they don’t need anyone else in their lives, which I don’t believe is comparable to the completely different emotion of being satisfied in a happy relationship.

    Chelsea, just because people don’t share your point of view doesn’t mean that they’re wrong or that their intentions and feelings can be easily dissected in a 6 paragraph rant.
    And see if that dating approach of yours worked, seeing as how you ended up breaking up with these boys you started dating because you considered them husband material in the first place.

  • http://twitter.com/teresaelectro teresaelectro

    I loved this article and totally understand where you’re coming from chica. However, I’ve been burned a few too many times on ‘dates’ and a scant few ‘half-boyfriends’ that I can’t keep putting myself out there the way you describe.

    So I’m all on board for not settling and passing up dating someone out of convenience. I just can’t keep fishing in an active effort to find ‘the one’. I have been told I need to ‘let go’ on more than one occasion. I forgive, I just don’t forget, my friend. ;)

    Plus, as I have a razor-sharp memory of most encounters and who has dated who – even remotely in my friends circle, I can scarcely find someone worth bothering to date. It’s not like I’m a hermit, just pick-y I suppose and not into dating people for ‘practice’ or ‘just to see’ if they don’t immediately take my interest.

    So what I’m saying is I half get you and commend your salute to singledom.

  • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers

    I understand and appreciate your perspective, but it’s sunny side up when you are the one in the relationship, isn’t it?  You are also a little condescending to those of us that aren’t so okay with being alone.  

    All in all though, I think you are right.  Especially about the part where you touched on dating someone “just for fun” and how it’s insulting to both parties involved.  

  • Enah Cruz

    I kind of agree with the part of not wasting your time and efforts and energy into something that you know won’t really last or isn’t really heading anywhere. 

  • sisterfriend

    Um I dont get some of these comments about the author being full of herself (your issues not hers) or the ones saying that she’s saying that life is devoid if you’re not with someone, she’s saying the opposite!

    Really well done and I really wish more people thought and behaved like you.

  • Katie

    It’s like you got into my head somehow. Sometimes I think I’m crazy when I try to explain to my friends why I actually enjoy being single. I’m so glad I’m not alone in feeling this way.

  • Madeline

    Finally! Someone who agrees with me. Trying to explain being 22 and never having been in a serious relationship is getting tiering. Especially when their definition of serious relationship is someone who they like spending time/having sex with and although they can’t see a future maybe one day they might…. Yeah that’s not my definition and I refuse to waist my time and love on someone I know isn’t right for me and I would hate for someone to do the same with me.

    I’m not afraid of being alone, I have a stronger since of self than that (side note: if you re afraid of being alone , WHY are you so afraid?? Maybe you should look for an answer to that instead of your net boy/girlfriend) but I am afraid of ending up with the wrong person just because they were convenient.

    • grace

      I just turned 23 and have just started dating my first serious boyfriend. I never was interested in dating other guys because I knew there no future involved. Wasting all that time and energy on boys I didn’t really care about is something I didn’t want to do. Though I admit, it took me a while to realize that. But I think it made me a happier person. Even if I was single now, I wouldn’t be fretting about why I was single. 

    • kim

      I’m about to turn 22 too and have yet to have had a real relationship. I’ll be graduating college in a few months and I’ve had so many friends and acquaintances get engaged or married, but I know it’s just not my time yet.  

      In the last 2-3 months or so, I’ve gone on more dates than I have in m entire life, but I’m not yet ready to commit or settle down so I don’t usually pursue more than a couple dates with the guys I’ve seen. I enjoy being single and all my freedom that comes from it.

  • Sophia

    “They would even justify with a “I don’t need to see a serious future with someone I’m dating, it’s just to have fun.” But could anything be more selfish, more unfair, more an insult to the both of you?” and THIS is why I loathe Summer in (500) Days of Summer.

    • Chelsea

      Summer admits at the end that when she decides to marry her fiance, she kind of immediately and inherently knew “what she wasn’t sure about” with JGL. What one earth is selfish about getting into a relationship and staying in one when you’re not sure? She hardly dragged things on – they were only together for a short time. She was also honest throughout the entire thing, and never gave him any illusions that she was ready to be married. She did all she could to keep things at a level where she felt comfortable while she figured out how she envisioned their relationship. Just because he was on a different plane and wanted to marry her doesn’t mean that she was some horrible feelingless monster. And in the end, JGL LEARNED from their relationship – he learned to look for the right signs, and to be able to determine when a girl was REALLY into him. He moved on and met another person. It’s really not the end of the world. Sometimes, things don’t work out. Sometimes, we try, not knowing what the outcome will be and we give it our all, but it’s not right.

  • Polly Ester

    I disagree it’s a waste of time to date someone you’re not going to stay with forever. 
    I find that a very illogical argument. 
    I’ve been with my boyfriend for 2 years and i have absolutely no illusion that we’re going to be together forever. We want different things in the long-term (I want to have children, he doesn’t) but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to give him my all now. i love him as he is now and there’s no way I’m ready for children for at least 5 years. So, for now we’re just enjoying our lives together. Where’s the rush?

    • Anonymous

      Because one day you’re going to have to break up for those very legitimate reasons when you’re already deeply in love and it is going to be LuLzYyyYy.

      • Oliver Miller

        …When’s the part where we call Fagan a misogynist?  Wake me up when that happens.

      • Polyguo

        “we want different things but i’ll love him well for now” “you’ll eventually have to break up” well, no shit…

      • Sam

         I’ve been in two serious relationships in the past, and both came with hard breakups. But in the grand scheme of things, the breakup moment is relatively insignificant compared to the entire relationship. We had great times together, and I wouldn’t give those up for anything. I’ve learned from them, and they’ve enriched my life. Love can be worth it, even if it’s not everlasting love.

    • Roy

       So you think it’s okay to continue to date someone even after you know that it’s not going to last? If so, do you have an open relationship that allows both of you to atleast actively look for the one you could imagine being together with for longer than a few years, while keeping your current partner as the back-up plan? Or do you imagine that when you find yourself ready to have children, or he finds himself ready to have kids (just not with you), the right person will just land in your life ready to commit to a lifelong deal of chaotic parenthood with you without you having given him a thought during your “what’s the rush?” phase..?

  • http://twitter.com/iamthe0nly Jordana Bevan

    i think it’s important to remember that we all have the same motivation in life, which is to do things that make us happy. sometimes there are layers of happiness — like sometimes we enter relationships we aren’t fully invested in, relationships that don’t fulfill us, because it silences a nosey parent or quells our fear of aloneness — and sometimes there is just direct happiness — like beginning a life with someone you love — but always we are acting for our benefit. so to say we shouldn’t enter relationships we don’t see “going somewhere” is, i think, not very fair. if we are honest with each other about what we need to be happy then i think any reason for a relationship is okay….. maybe..

  • Larai

    I love you Chelsea! You did justice to my secret thoughts with this post! I applaud you!

  • http://ohmenver.tumblr.com/ ohmenver

    Someday-not right now-I want to be married, but I’m not going to date someone I could’t marry because I’d be taking him away from the opportunity to find Ms. Right. 

  • Guest

    Relationships aren’t simply a means to an end. In themselves they are valuable experiences that we learn from and enjoy in the moment.
    When you remove the “could I spend the rest of my life with this person” question from the table and instead simply focus on whether you enjoy spending time with them in the moment, and whether you have genuine romantic feelings for them, then you open yourself up to relationships with people far outside of your comfort level, people with drastically different life views and plans then you, people who have the potential to expand and alter your own understanding of life.

    Yes, break-ups are painful. Yes, being in a long-term relationship with someone who you know isn’t the “one” will inevitably lead to a break-up. But since when did the courtship and dating process get reduced to the most efficient and least painful way to end up with your life partner?

    • http://www.facebook.com/josh.burns82 Josh Burns

      Valid counterpoint.  I juggle the author’s and your perspective quite a bit in my own life.

    • http://twitter.com/HeyBerna Bernadette Anat

      Ditto that. And the more I learn about the delicate PARTNERSHIP of marriage (as opposed to the soulmates and puppies and rainbows school of thought), the more I believe my hubby-material-type-o-man, when he comes along, will be a VERY specific breed. One I could build a family with, but not necessarily have a batshit spontaneous life-altering rager with.

      And it’d be hella boring if that’s the only type of love I let into my life.

  • Guest

    “We all have many “someones” in our lives — family, friends,
    acquaintances, potential dates, our own quiet company. If this isn’t
    enough, perhaps you should think about why before you try and find
    another quick-fix partner to fill the void.”

    Well put, Chelsea. One of my closest friends went through a breakup and I was there for her every step of the way, which made us closer than ever. When she cried to me recently about “feeling so lonely” I couldn’t help but feel slightly offended, as if my friendship wasn’t enough and could never stack up to a guy in her life.

    Love this article!

  • http://twitter.com/fayerfayter Fire

    I dunno. The way I rationalize my singleness is by telling myself that if I’m not out looking for someone, when I do find that someone it will be an unexpected and delightful surprise — kinda like how purchasing a great album on a whim is a completely different experience from buying one you already know is great.

    Furthermore, I think those people who don’t know how to function out of a relationship merely have a different set of issues to work on. Some of us need to deal with social anxiety, some of us need to deal with character flaws, and some of us need to deal with relationship anxiety. Just be grateful you’re so well adjusted!

    • TW

      Why do you have to “rationalize” your singleness? Do you ever feel the need to rationalize being part of a couple?

      And life is all about growth, regardless of your romantic status. People will always be dealing with those things and being single often affords more time to reflect on how you should deal with those things. A lot of people use a bf/gf to cover up or avoid looking more internally, not saying you, just in general, and that stunts a LOT of personal growth. Which makes me again wonder why rationalization or justification is needed in being single.

      • http://twitter.com/fayerfayter Fire

        I’d say it’s pretty simple really. We can’t have it all — not at once anyway — so there are times when a person is single but wants to be in a relationship or vice versa. For a fleeting moment, someone in a relationship might yearn for the freedom singleness implies but in that same thought remind themselves why they choose to be with someone else. After all, with commitment comes sacrifice.

        If life were handed to us on a platter, we would still find something to gripe about, and therein lies the answer.

        We rationalize just about everything because we mostly do what we want, reasons be damned. However, it becomes more relevant when the payoff is not immediate. It’s similar to when you don’t want to do something, but know you will
        enjoy it once you get off your ass? You just need that extra oomph,
        either to keep you straight or push you forward.

        My rationalization is more in line with “stopped looking” instead of “okay with being single” — because dealing with people is complicated. And, if anything, there exists societal pressure to at least stay “in the game” as it is common knowledge that you must find someone to live life to the fullest /sarc.

        But I do agree that relationships shouldn’t be idealized.

  • Polyguo

    “it’s not worth it because it won’t last” by that logic I shouldn’t buy a dog.

    • Roy

       Unless you’re in the habit of taking a lot of dogs out before buying one, your analogy is a little screwed up. And if you get a dog, and are a dog-lover and have a home and finances for looking after one, probably the only reason it “won’t work out” is if the dog dies. Again, not the right analogy in this context since “till death do us ‘part” IS what the writer’s looking for.

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