Dearest Not Forever,
While not ALL good things must end, many do. And that doesn’t make them less good! There are endless reasons we might not see a future with someone we are dating. Maybe we feel like we’re too young to be settled down, or we don’t know where we’re going in life and how a significant other will fit in, or maybe we’re seeing someone whose values don’t align with our own in terms of long term relationship (LTR) goals such as whether you want children, to get married marriage, or belief system but aren’t in conflict with the immediate reality. Whatever the reason, that doesn’t preclude you from dating someone at all. If we didn’t date people who were wrong for us, we mostly wouldn’t date at all!
There are a few things I’d recommend keeping in mind:
First, figure out what you DO want, both in terms of a LTR and in terms of this current relationship. What are limits or boundaries you can identifying for when a relationship has run its course or is no longer working for you? Knowing these things in advance will help give you some clarity about how to approach your current situation with confidence and kindness.
Second, communicate honestly with your current dating partner about your needs and expectations. It may be that your partner is likewise not looking for anything serious and this aligns perfectly with their needs and expectations. It may be that they feel really disappointed because they were hoping for something more long-term or even something with the possibility of a future. If they aren’t totally on board with your thinking, it is important you respect their needs and wants as well as your own. Dating ‘for now’ has to be a good option for you both.
And what if the other person wants something long term, but would rather keep dating than break up, in spite of your differing goals? Well, that’s not an easy answer. It’s possible to make an argument that we are all adults and capable of making our own decisions - even when they aren’t in our best interest - and we should respect that at face value. It’s also possible to argue that we can hold ourselves to only pursue relationships that we understand as mutually beneficial, meaning if I want short-term and they want long-term, I can understand the ‘for now’ as only benefiting me and determine that that’s not the sort of relationship I want to be in. There isn’t a single right answer. Pursue this question with kindness, empathy, and respect, and make a decision that feels right for you.
Director of OSAPR
Thanks for writing! Honestly, this is a really mature and self-aware question. It’s impressive that you realize the distinction between right now and “forever” and are acknowledging that your relationship might only fit in that first category.
I want to start by stressing that this is completely okay. Something can be right for right now without being right forever, and it definitely doesn’t make you a bad or dishonest person for knowing that.
This can get a little complicated if the other person isn’t on the same page as you. Maybe they think this relationship is “the one”, but maybe they also totally just think it’s great for the time being. It’s impossible to know until you talk about it!
Of course, this is pretty situational and depends on the type of relationship you have, how long you’ve been together, and the type of people you are. You might feel the need to have a long-term conversation with someone you’ve been dating for a month or maybe it feels more appropriate once you’ve been together for six months. The timing is a personal choice but the point is that after awhile it will be a productive and probably pretty necessary discussion to have. It might be hard to explain that you see the relationship as having an expiration date, but honesty is important and it can help the other person from being blindsided or hurt (and help alleviate stress you might have about the situation!).
At some point, if you don’t want the relationship to last forever, then one of you will have to end it. But for now, just enjoy the relationship that you have. What’s important now is whether you are making each other happy and enjoy spending time together. And once that’s no longer true, or if your lives and priorities change so that it doesn’t feel right to stay together anymore then you can reevaluate. The question of whether you two will stay together for the rest of your lives shouldn’t need to dictate what happens today.