Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

A Dating Tip I Disagree With

It’s no secret that technology has exponentially changed the way people date, and an article published today on Elite Daily argues that because of the explosion in the ways people can make a match, it’s very important to make sure you do this one specific thing:

“be honest about what you’re looking for in relationships right from the start.”

Even if you tell yourself you’re open to anything, deep down you’re usually either ready for a relationship or you’re looking for something casual. And if you don’t tell a potential date what you really want, you can’t be upset if they try to steer your outing toward something more romantic or more physical.

[…] You’d probably be frustrated if you spent three months hanging out with someone, only to find out they just wanted a FWB while you were interested in spending Valentine’s Day together. Solution? Save yourself and the other person the time and possible heartbreak by having an honest conversation up front.

Hmm, I not only disagree with this advice, but also I think it could seriously backfire. What if you think you’re looking for something casual (i.e. someone to have sex with, basically), but you develop real feelings for the person and want to pursue a more serious relationship than casually hooking up? If you’ve told the other person that you were only looking for something casual, you might be less inclined to take things to the next level. Or, if you do try, the other person might think you intentionally misled him or her.

On the flip side, you might think you’re looking for “a real relationship,” and you tell the other person that on a first or second date, and he or she might read that as “I want a relationship with you,” which can be…a bit intense that early on. And maybe you DO want a relationship with that person and you think you know that very early, and he or she does too, and then you pursue that “real relationship” more quickly or aggressively than what feels natural. What if in a few dates, you realize you’re better off as friends? Or that you aren’t very compatible at all? Or that he voted for Trump? But you have this pressure that you might not have had otherwise to stay put and not MOA because you said you were looking for a relationship and you don’t want to seem like you lied, or you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, because then the statement becomes, “I’m looking for a relationship… but not with you.”

I don’t know… what’s the rush with defining things? I mean, yeah, if you truly do NOT want a relationship and you’re only looking for sex and you want the sex right away and with no strings attached, be honest about that. But, otherwise, I think the default understanding in dating is that people want to … date, which means get to know other people and see who you click with, who you have chemistry with, and what connections develop over the course of several dates/weeks/months into “real relationships.”

Thoughts? Have you been “honest about what you’re looking for” only to have it backfire? Or has someone told you he was looking for one thing and later changed his mind?

Related: Dating Tip: Try Going Against Type and What Dating Advice Would Your Give Twenty-Something Men?

14 comments… add one
  • Northern Star June 18, 2018, 12:51 pm

    I think online dating makes it exceptionally easy to be honest about what you’re looking for upfront—without promising that what you’re looking for will be found with that specific person.

    If you’re vague in your profile and you’re vague in person, you’re just making the other person drive the relationship bus. Sometimes it works out. Most often, it probably doesn’t.

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  • Sonia June 18, 2018, 1:52 pm

    I’ve always appreciated the more upfront “I just want a FWB” because I knew whether or not to spend/waste my time. I did find that “open to anything” more often meant “FWB but I don’t want to say that upfront in case you think I’m a lech” so that was a hard lesson to learn.
    My bigger issue were the people that not only told you exactly what they wanted, but how they wanted and told me every weird freaky thing about themselves. It was overwhelming and I definitely feel like I had to pass over guys because I knew too much too soon. (and it was usually about sexual proclivities). I think a little less is more overall. Isn’t part of the fun to get to know each other? I felt being told meant it dictated that i HAD to accept them for everything they are and i might have if I hadn’t been hammered over the head with it. I’m trying to think of a specific example but thinking of my online dating experiences exhausts me….
    I used to say that I was ready for a relationship so that’s why I was online. I thought it was the most fair way to say it and save the option if things didn’t grow into a relationship specifically with them.

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  • Sue Jones June 18, 2018, 2:09 pm

    By the time I met my husband I was so darned sick and tired of ambivalent men who I hoped had feelings that would grow like mine did and who would eventually want exactly the same things that I did… so by the time I was dating when I met my husband I was in a no-nonsense phase and would not date anyone who did not want what I wanted in life. So my first date with my husband I got brave and said “I am looking for a monogamous long term relationship. I am looking for someone who also wants a monogamous long term relationship. I realize that we may or may not be the right match for each other, but I don’t want to waste my time with someone who doesn’t even want what I want” It worked. We have been together for 23 years. Sometimes you just have to be clear about what you want to weed out the ambivalent ones.

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  • ron June 18, 2018, 3:03 pm

    I agree with this rule. Be upfront and honest. If things change… fine, that happens. Again, be upfront and honest that what you now want from the guy is different than what you originally wanted. People in serious relations break up all the time, because their feelings, personalities, needs evolve over time — especially if the relationship starts when they are very young. Always be honest, but you should expect that major changes and learning events like college, the start of your career, a job transfer, death of a parent or sib are going to change your basic outlook on life and what you want/need from a relationship partner. As long as you are upfront, honest, and communicate well you are doing all you can to be fair to your partner/dates and give yourself the best chance for a successful relationship. Not being upfront and honest, with your self as well as dates/partners, leads to unnecessary problems, hurt, and time wasted out of two people’s lives.

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  • Peggy June 18, 2018, 4:42 pm

    Hi-I think Sue Jones said it just right. I used to say ,on my profile ( I am now in a serious relationship ) that “I don’t do casual” in any area of my life. I said I was looking to meet a compatible match with hopes of developing a serious,long term relationship. Worked for me anyway-I met my match on line!

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  • Fyodor June 18, 2018, 5:08 pm

    I mean, the advice isn’t bad, but it doesn’t seem to really hit the crux of the problem. It seems that most of the time when there are mismatched expectations it’s because men who aren’t really interested in a long term relationship are using the hope of a long term relationship to get women to have sex with them. The ambiguity is a feature not a bug.

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    • Meg June 20, 2018, 11:18 am


      This is such a trap. I wish men would realize there are plenty of women who want the casual and not screw with (literally and figuratively) women who are looking for something serious.

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    Copa June 18, 2018, 5:18 pm

    I take the honesty approach. I’ve had people tell me they’re looking for serious relationships before, but never interpreted that to mean *with me* early on. I’ve also had guys who say they’re looking for relationships pass on me, and yeah, the whole, “I want a relationship… but not with you” thing DOES hurt my feelings, sometimes a lot, even when I can logically understand that we weren’t the right fit, but that’s just part of dating. I’ve never felt pressured to continue dating someone just because I said I want a relationship, and judging by how often I’m rejected and ghosted, others don’t feel pressure, either. I know a couple that met online looking for casual and are now married. I prefer people be up-front; either way, you’ll have to see what develops, but I prefer not to waste my time. I don’t necessarily think you need to have this conversation immediately, but I don’t think it hurts.

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  • MaggieB June 18, 2018, 6:02 pm

    People change their mind about a lot of things over time, but being up-front and honest about your current state of mind still gives a date the best possible information to go on. I see nothing whatsoever to be gained by purposeful ambiguity. It seems disrespectful of people’s time, to be frank.

    It was only when I got too old and fed up with uncertainty and mind games, and became more up-front about what I wanted *if things went well*, that I actually found what I was looking for.

    It’s entirely possible to make it clear that you’re looking for marriage and kids (for instance) in the longer term, without making it sound like you want to get married and knocked up by your Tinder 1st date that night.

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  • MissD June 18, 2018, 8:10 pm

    I definitely think you should be up front about what you’re looking for. Of course, I think there’s definitely a diplomatic way of saying it so that it doesn’t sound like you’re proposing marriage before you’ve gotten to know someone.

    I just think it saves a lot of time and unnecessary bullshit in today’s shitty dating culture. It doesn’t prevent all heartache of course, but I can think of many many examples from my own 3 years of Tindering and OkCupiding where I was really glad both parties could be honest and up front about it.

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  • anny21 June 19, 2018, 8:51 am

    I agree with what you’re saying- I have had lengthy discussions lately about this exact topic, because the culture of dating has changed so dramatically now that I think we have to sort of draw the line in the sand without putting pressure on the specific person- and that is hard, and something I’m still trying to figure out. How do you say, Hey buddy, I’m not interested in a purely physical/sexual relationship one night stand, call me when you’re bored type thing, I am available and would like to find a steady relationship but, I’m not necessarily saying its with you, I want to get to know you….it’s kinda hard, so dating without putting that pressure on someone specific for the first couple months (you can sort of feel out after two months if you’re both in the same head space) is an art 🙂

    I think with the change in dating culture, its more important to draw that line SOMEHOW, and you’re right- if you’re a guy who JUST wants sex (or woman, I just believe there are a higher percentage of men that are looking for a purely sexual relationship, and there’s nothing wrong with that) then just say that! Don’t lead people on, don’t string them along with a random text every week, or a check in, or saying something that is hopeful but you know you don’t want anything- be honest about that, because that’s when you hurt people. People deserve to know that truth… but, otherwise if you want to see where things go, go with it like Wendy said, totally agree!

    With all these options people have at their finger tips, I have noticed that men seem to throw their line to as many options as they can, and if any of them bite on a continued “casual” relationship without any sort of discussion of anything more, they will be content playing that role, because there’s always someone else to swipe right on- there’s an endless supply!

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  • SpaceySteph June 19, 2018, 9:37 am

    I kind of see both ways. When I started dating my husband I thought it was going to be something casual, but it turned into something more. If I had told him upfront that I wasn’t looking for anything serious then it might have stalled what otherwise developed.

    On the other hand, I do think that if you’re generally looking for marriage/kids/etc. then I think its good to be open about that. I think there’s a way to deliver it that says this is what I generally want but not what I want WITH YOU RIGHT NOW LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT!!!!1!1!!!one!

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  • dinoceros June 19, 2018, 6:54 pm

    My view is somewhere in the middle. I think that if you know you want something casual, you should say it. If you turn out to be wrong, then that’s your issue to deal with. I don’t think it’s fair to try to push that off on someone else because you were mistaken. If you turn out to be wrong, then you are the one who might be sad that the person you are dating doesn’t want to be serious. But if you just pretend that you are “open” and you’re 99% sure you want something casual, then you’re forcing the other person to potentially be in those same shoes — as the person who got invested in someone who doing really want to be with them. I’m not saying it’s BAD to be wrong about your wants/needs, but if you are, then that’s something you have to take responsibility for. I think I have a right to know if the person I’m seeing is pretty sure they don’t want a relationship, because I will choose to no longer date them. I think if you “don’t know” what you want, you probably do not want a relationship.

    Second, I agree that sometimes if you say you are looking for a relationship, people assume that means you want one with them. So, I think it’s fine to hold off on articulating that. I think more of the onus is on the person who doesn’t want a relationship to say something because that’s much more concrete than a person who wants a relationship at some point but may or may not have decided the person they are seeing is someone they want one with.

    I’ve never dated a guy who didn’t know what he wanted or thought he wanted something casual who was wrong. I have also never been wrong about that for myself. I did date a guy who knew he wanted something casual, but didn’t tell me, and then tried to blame me because I never told him that I was ultimately looking for a relationship. I explained to him that I didn’t know if I wanted one with HIM yet, so I hadn’t expressed that. But I did feel that since what he wanted WAS certain, he should have said something. I think it’s especially true if you are following societal norms for dating. It’s one thing if you only hang out to have sex, but if you go to dinner and meet each others family or friends, then I think you need to be upfront that you actually don’t want things to progress.

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  • Meg June 20, 2018, 11:15 am

    I agree with article. I think its important to say what you are looking for. I personally am looking for a serious relationship. So I say so but say “I am looking for a serious relationship with the right person.” and emphasize the last part. That way it takes pressure off and let’s us get to know each other and if the person ends up not being a match or worse yet a MAGA monster then you are good to go/run. And yes things can change but one can always change their mind – and being open about that is the most important.

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