If you’re anything like me (and a lot of millennial women), you have a Pinterest board filled with wedding inspiration that’s been added to over the years periodically, and consequently, it seriously lacks a consistent theme. While it’s a mess and filled with wedding trends that are now considered faux pas (looking at you, mason jars), one thing stands true about it: It holds your hopes and dreams of a future dream wedding. Plenty of young girls grow up dreaming of the day they’ll walk down the aisle (which is understandable when you consider the number of movies, TV shows, and books promoting the idea of a “happily ever after”), but as we grow up, enter the dating world, and kiss a horrifying amount of frogs, we start to wonder if those dreams will ever become a reality.
Marriage-minded dating comes into play when people begin to crave a partnership that they know will end in wedded bliss, but finding the one you’ll spend forever with isn’t as simple as switching your app preferences to “looking for something serious.” Dating to marry is more involved as it requires intention, dedication, and the ability to turn down people who might be great but just aren’t the one for you.
According to dating experts, finding the one is all about knowing what you want from your love life and being steadfast in that mission. Damona Hoffman, a certified dating coach and author of the new book F the Fairy Tale: Rewrite the Dating Myths and Live Your Own Love Story, says, “If you’re not dating with a plan or relationship goal in mind, you’re probably just wasting a lot of your own time and the time of those you meet.” And while there certainly isn’t anything wrong with dating for fun, to meet new people, or even to learn more about yourself, (a lot can be said for the ways that going on regular dates can make you more confident and teach you what you’re ultimately wanting from a relationship!), you might not find “the one” that way. So, if you’re constantly hoping that your next first date will also be your last, consider dating to marry and keep these expert tips in mind along the way.
First, what does “dating to marry” really mean?
Not to be confused with altar-bound courtships from the days of old, dating to marry is all about dating with the intention of getting to know someone enough to see if marriage (or a long-term partnership without the fancy piece of paper if that’s not your style!) is a possibility for the future. I’m sure you have been or know someone who has been in a relationship that was considered “fun for now” with no real intention of seeing it through long-term. Well, when you’re dating to marry, that is removed completely, as it’s not considered a good use of your time.
Instead of going on dates for the heck of it or because they’re bored, those who are dating with a long-term partnership in mind are more intentional (think: picky, but in a good way) about who they choose to spend their time with, and they only continue to date people who they can genuinely feel that there is a connection and a potential future with.
Expert-backed tips to know when you’re dating to marry
Know you’re not alone in your search
These days, most of us start dating someone new when we enter into the “talking” phase; our days are often marked by texting with the hope that any potential chemistry will translate IRL. If we’re lucky, the connection grows into an exclusive partnership. If not, plenty of singles find themselves stuck in the land of situationships. While it’s become a relatively common practice, casual dating is not for everyone.
“Most people are dating with marriage in mind,” says professional matchmaker and dating coach Thalia Ouimet. “Of course, there is always the exception to the rule, but overall people across the globe are still into traditions—marriage being one of them.”
Despite the reputation most popular dating apps have for facilitating casual dates and hookups, the majority of online daters can still hear wedding bells in the distance. A Pew Research survey found that finding a long-term partner or spouse was the top reason adults across the U.S. are using dating apps. If you find yourself groaning at the idea of asking about someone’s favorite color over a cocktail or shielding those pesky “U up?” texts, you’re in good company.
Be upfront about your goals
If you’re dating with a long-term partnership in mind, you’re probably not interested in shallow conversations or static connections. Opting for a quick chat over coffee or meeting up at your date’s apartment for a “movie night” may sound tempting to some, but if your end goal is to find your forever, experts say that your intentions are everything.
When you feel ready to leap into dating with lifelong intentions, Ouimet suggests addressing what you’re looking for early on. “I would talk about your goals in dating on the second date. The first date should be light and fun [to] see if there is a vibe. If there is a vibe, let that second date be the time to ask 2-3 heavy-hitting questions like, ‘What are your intentions with dating?’ and ‘What does the best outcome look like for you?’” Communicating your needs and expectations clearly can prevent any confusion or misalignment. Plus, it ensures that neither of you is wasting time or energy.
Hoffman explains that by setting your sights on building a life with someone, not only do you attract a new crowd of potential partners, but you’ll also start to manage your dating life in new and better ways. “If you are clear and unapologetic about your goal of dating for marriage, the people who are interested in that goal will see you as a more serious option, and the ones who are not will be repelled by it… and that’s a good thing,” she says. “The problem is we are so concerned with being liked that we’re unwilling to express what we truly want—sometimes until it’s too late to course correct.”
Stick to your standards
Many of us have experienced a date or two in which we didn’t feel aligned with the other person. I’ve definitely encountered situations where I knew the connection wouldn’t last after the first few sips of sangria. Whether your date waves their red flags early on or simply doesn’t relate to your vision for the future, it’s important to keep your expectations and limitations top of mind.
“The Maya Angelou philosophy of ‘when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time’ will help you,” Hoffman says. “Be bold and clear about what you want in a relationship early on, and if you see that someone is not aligned with that, don’t try to change their mind or prove to them that they should want something different.” For example, if you are dating someone you like and learn that they never want children but you do, it’s not in your best interest to stay with them in hopes you’ll be able to change their mind later down the road.
Honoring your needs and desires is crucial in your dating life, but it’s also good to consider whether you’re ready to take dating that seriously. If you’re holding potential partners to high standards and expect them to present their best selves to you, check in with yourself. Can you provide the same for them? If the answer is no, hold off on dating until you know you can maintain a healthy and strong partnership.
Manifest your dream partnership
If you’re a little woo-woo like me, then the concept of ~manifestation~ can lend a hand in your dating outcomes. When you’re dating to meet your future spouse, Ouimet says that your mindset is key to bringing in that magic. Manifesting a partner can look like writing down a list of traits your ideal partner would have or even improving your dating profile to be clear that you’re looking for something serious. “The best mindset to have with dating is, ‘I am open to love and receiving love, but I also have my standards that I will not lower to please other people,’” Ouimet says. “You want to honor yourself and your desires. The right partner will be attracted to your wants because they are also on the same page.”
When you’re visualizing the partner you desire, try using positive affirmations. You can say them out loud or simply close your eyes and envision yourself spending time with this ideal person. Some good affirmations to try could be, “I am worthy of the love I desire,” “I am calling in unconditional love in a supportive partnership,” or “I am so grateful that a healthy and happy relationship is coming for me.” When you believe in what you’re saying, you’re more likely to exude the energy needed to make dreams a reality.