What It Means To Date With Intention

NSA might be exactly what you need...

NSA might be exactly what you need...

But what would change about how we dated if we set aims, objectives, and purposes before we entered into commitment?

Over the course of 12 years, I’ve had relationships with eight men: lived with three, planned for marriage three times, and followed through with marriage once. But it has only been within the past six months that I have started dating with intention.

I met my first boyfriend when I was 15. I thought he was cute, funny, and interesting, and I flirted with what little grace and charm I had. To my surprise and delight, he reciprocated, called and invited me to the Valentine’s Day semi-formal. About a month later, he called from a family vacation to say that he couldn’t “do this anymore,” and the relationship ended.

It’s not an unusual story for high-school dating. But I’ve come to realize that every relationship had the same arc: I’d meet someone, we’d flirt and hang out, a relationship would be born, live for a while, and finally die.

However, my dating story could be told by nearly anyone. I never began a relationship with anything more in mind than the desire for a significant other. Nor do most people, or so I believe. But what would change about how we dated if we set aims, objectives, and purposes before we entered into commitment? Could we find more meaning in our romances if we planned ahead instead of flying by the seat of our pants?

My answer is a definitive and unwavering yes.

Currently, my eighth relationship has sprung from the ashes of my second — yes, the prep-school concert-goer I dated at 17 has become my steady again at 27. It was not something I expected — but I can say that every step of it was intentional.

We began as friends with benefits. I decided when I left my husband that I wanted to be single, but not celibate, so I came to my ex-boyfriend and friend of 10 years, and asked if he’d be interested in no-strings-attached sex. He was newly single after a long-term relationship of his own, and agreed to the arrangement, which worked well for several weeks.

I would go to his apartment, watch baseball games, drink beer, and eventually we’d go to bed together. Afterward, we’d talk about work, books, writing, and our past relationships. It was a true marriage of friendship and sex, mainly because we kept the two aspects separate. We may have had meaningful and engaging conversation while naked, but after the orgasms, we reverted back to the friendship that had sustained us over the past 10 years.

Eventually, more than friendly feelings began to surface.

I noticed the way he treated me had become more tender than friendly. When we showered together, he washed my hair. When we had sex, he’d hold my hands and we’d look into each other’s eyes like we were making love. When we watched TV together, we’d cuddle, and he’d compliment me like a boyfriend would.

When I told him that I could see us seriously dating in the future, he said that would “never happen.” I cried that night and began to distance myself, knowing that if he didn’t feel the same there was nothing but pain to be found if we continued.

That’s when I started dating boyfriend number seven, Tinder Guy. I thought if I wanted a relationship, I should start one with someone interested in the same. However, after a brief period of meeting for drinks, with his friends, and my divorce grief head-on (during sex, I might add), I realized I wasn’t ready to be anyone’s girlfriend.

My intentions reverted. I was determined to sit with my grief over my divorce before I tried to seriously date again.

But I wasn’t about to go without sex. I don’t deal with celibacy well. So I returned to my friend-with-benefits promising once again that the only thing I wanted from him was orgasms and company. And little by little, I began to enjoy my time with my friend-with-benefits for nothing more than what it was — to get the “boyfriend experience,” as he put it  without needing an actual boyfriend.

But hearts often betray the strictest plans of the mind.

I got drunk one night and told him I loved him. He got drunk a week later and said it back — new intentions needed to be set.

That was three months ago, and we’ve come to a state of commitment that makes sense for us. I haven’t built my life around him because I wanted to focus on building my career and independence. He hasn’t built his life around me because he’s experienced the backlash that comes when relationships progress too fast too soon.

We love each other, but have no plans to share a living space when my lease runs out. We don’t use the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend.”

The intention is to let this progress, but with caution. There is no rush to reach an end goal. Our aim is to be present, and to live there.

That might not be everyone’s intention when it comes to sex, dating, and relationships. Some may want to date with nuptials in mind, or through religion, or with the promise of babies. Some may want a relationship with an expiration date, or the option to see other people, or romantically committed, but sexually free.

No matter what plans you have for your love life, I can say from experience that it becomes less complicated when you start knowing your intentions. In all manners of life, we aim to get what we want, and dating should be no different.

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