I don’t have an end game when dating.
I enjoy it and like meeting new people and learning different perspectives. I’m open to different dynamics and connections. Oftentimes, however, I question what I’m looking for when I go on dates. I don’t see myself abiding by the institution of marriage. Similarly, I don’t have a desire to have children. I’ve found comfort in my independence. I’m financially stable with a full-time job. I masturbate regularly. I have a plethora of hobbies and an active social life that fill up my calendar. I have endless amounts of love and support from my family and friends. There’s not much a romantic partner could give me that I already don’t have. So when the guy I’m dating asks me, “what are you looking for?”
I often say, “nothing at all.”
Kevin told me, “I’m not looking for anything serious,” after we hooked up the first night we met. It was nothing of real concern to me. I was seeing multiple guys at the time — fucking some, dating some, talking with some. All different dynamics, but all equally valuable to me. All deserving of my respect and kindness. It was comforting to know they were all humans looking for connection. Just like me. I gave each and every one of them my honesty. I made my intentions clear and was receptive to their thoughts and feelings. I genuinely cared about their health and happiness.
One night after a few drinks and a night in my bed, Kevin admitted to liking me. I had to confess I was into him, too. We were always on the same wavelength, he made me laugh, and the sex was great. It felt easy and light-hearted. Our mutual emotions were an added benefit, but it was clear from the beginning that neither of us was looking for a serious romantic relationship.
When Kevin and I decided to only see each other, I thought it was out of convenience. Dating multiple people, while fun and insightful, was exhausting. I was tired of coordinating my schedule, spreading my attention, and constantly managing my sex health (condoms and clinic visits are expensive). I wasn’t opposed to investing my energy into one person. After all, I liked Kevin. I enjoyed his company and the way he touched me. That was enough for me.
Our monogamy lasted less than two weeks. He drunk dialed me one night in distress, claiming he liked me but wasn’t “ready for a relationship.”
I was confused. I didn’t think we were in a “relationship.” I didn’t see him as my “boyfriend.” I didn’t think about our future together. I just liked spending time with him. Here and now.
I told him this over and over again. For me, being monogamous only meant we were loyal to each other. Choosing to be exclusive was more action of logistics rather than love. I had only known him for a couple of months and felt we were still trying to figure out what was between us. I cared about him. I wanted to hear about his day. I wanted to add ease and relief to his workweek. I wanted to include him in my fun and loving friend group. It’s in my nature to give anyone I care about those things; it didn’t mean anything more than that. I had done this with a handful of other guys I was non-exclusively seeing. Being kind and nurturing automatically meant something real and serious to him.
Kevin is not the first guy to mistake my openness for romance. A majority of my dating life has been this way. When I’m into someone, I want to give them my affection and attention. And it comes effortlessly to me because I want them to be happy and appreciated. I’m not thinking long-term about what it means to give someone my intimacy because I’m not looking for a partner. But it is consistently misinterpreted that way.
As a heterosexual woman in our heternormative society, it is expected of me to want a long-term monogamous relationship. I don’t. I like intimacy. I like connection. I’m willing to invest in people without the expectation of an outcome because I just enjoy spending time with them. And I’m accepting of the end when our time together reaches its limit. I recognize that people’s paths divide most of the time. That’s life.
I don’t believe I’m an anomaly. As our culture becomes more socially aware and strives for gender equality, women are allowed to want more than a husband and a family in life. Our culture claims to welcome women to deprioritize motherhood and marriage, but there’s still a disconnect in our dating culture.
Women are allowed to want more than a husband and a family in life.
Stepping out of that gender expectation is confusing to the guys I date. Even when I tell them I’m not looking for a long-term serious relationship, they still assume my actions are leaning towards one. I’m left with frustration because expectations and assumptions are made about relationships before they organically form.
In a way, I get it. As much as humans crave love, we’re more afraid of getting hurt than being open to others. Sometimes we want to categorize people to protect ourselves. These roles are so deeply embedded in our heads. We’re so used to these gender scripts that we hold them to be true. It takes work to unlearn and most people aren’t willing to take the time to do it.
But I won’t minimize my heart to fit into the social norm. I won’t make myself smaller to get people to understand me. Caring is the foundation in all of my connections. It makes me vulnerable and takes energy, but it’s worth it because it leads me to authentic and genuine people.
I won’t reserve that for monogamous relationships.