As a young professional, you might be wondering ‘Is there a difference between dating for a relationship and dating for marriage?’
I think so.
When my young professional clients mention to me that they are interested in forming close relationships, the first question I ask them is: ‘What is your goal?’ What I want to first understand, or rather, have them get clear on for themselves, is the type of relationship they are interested in having/building. The answers I get can be split up very generally into two categories: either they want to have a relationship with someone, or their goal is to get married.
What is the difference between dating for marriage and dating for a relationship?
The young professional clients who tell me that they are dating for a relationship tell me that what they want is to feel close with someone, to have the experience of being in a relationship and learning how to be in one, and want to share experiences with someone who they feel close and intimate with.
The young professional clients who tell me they are interested in dating for marriage are usually much more focused, ready to commit, and are interested in building a life with another person.
I have experienced both and in my experience, the approach and process to accomplishing each of the above goals have been different.
Dating for a Relationship as a Young Professional
When I was in college, in my late teens and early 20’s, I wanted to be in a relationship. I wanted to have a boyfriend. (You can read more about that experience here.) I didn’t just want it, in fact, I was quite determined to have a boyfriend and be in a longer-term committed relationship (not marriage, necessarily, but I was open to the idea of the relationship leading to that.) My approach to getting what I wanted (i.e. having said boyfriend) was simple. I met a guy I liked, thought he was cute, liked that he was great at sports, and thought he seemed sweet. He seemed like a good candidate at the time and we liked each other. So, we became each others’ boyfriend and girlfriend. I did not put that much thought into it and just went with the flow, (for good and for bad.) In the end it was definitely a valuable learning experience for me. At the same time, looking back, I wonder if I would have saved myself some of the anguish I experienced if I had put more thought into what was really important to me and what qualities I was looking for in a relationship.
Dating for Marriage as a Young Professional
A few years later, I was ready to date for marriage. And my approach to dating for marriage was starkly different than when I was interested in having a boyfriend. When I was dating for marriage I was very clear on a lot of things. I was clear about who I was and who (and I stress the ‘who’, as apposed to the ‘what’) I was looking for. I knew what kind of home I wanted to build. I knew what I was and was not willing to compromise on. I knew what kind of relationship I wanted to have and build with someone and I was looking for a person who had the qualities I knew I could build all of these things with.
If you want to get clear on what type of experience you are looking for or want to have, ask yourself what your goal is; what you really want. Whether you are interested in being in a dating relationship with someone, or you are seeking to get married (or both), you will have a much more successful experience when you take the time to get clear on who you are, what qualities you are looking for in another person, and what qualities you are looking for in a relationship. You may find that you are seeking different things based on what your goal is. The clearer you are, the more successful you will be in accomplishing your goal.
In support and admiration,