Dating with no commitment often brings different, and sometimes, conflicting emotions. If you find yourself in a casual relationship, here are some things to consider.
Does Dating with No Commitment Work for You?
Throughout your life, you have picked up messages about what you should – or shouldn’t – want in a dating relationship. You’ve also received messages about what’s attractive – and what’s not.
Is there a part of you that believes that you should be ok with a casual relationship? Maybe you believe that in time the person you’re dating will see how amazing you are and eventually want to commit?
Playing it Cool
There exists a toxic myth sometimes that you have to “trick” dating partners – especially men – into commitment. When you internalize this message, you may naturally believe that you have to pretend to be chill about the status of your relationship. If you believe that the people you want to date won’t want commitment, then you naturally will try to manipulate the situation.
You may want to pretend to be ok with dating with no commitment when in truth, this type of relationship makes you anxious.
Be Clear about What You Want
If you hide what you want in a relationship – or try to force someone into becoming serious with you whether it’s directly or secretly – this is ultimately an act of self-sabotage. The most effective way to get what you want in any relationship is to clearly communicate about your wants and needs.
When you stay silent about your needs, you will inevitably feel stuck or frustrated. Furthermore, if you eventually do become more serious with your dating partner, by pretending to be ok with dating without commitment you are laying a shaky foundation for your relationship.
Commitment Doesn’t Ensure a Healthy Relationship
When you’re dating without commitment, it may feel like this is the biggest obstacle to being happy with your partner. However, getting to a place of commitment – even getting married – is not a final destination.
Maintaining a happy, healthy marriage is a lot of work – it’s true that in any relationship there are ups and downs. Ensuring you start the relationship from a place of honesty, integrity, and open communication is invaluable. Many people prioritize commitment and overlook these relationship skills which may account for how 45% of first marriages end in divorce – and this number only goes up for second and third marriages.
Managing Mixed Signals
One of the most confusing – and painful parts – about dating with no commitment is getting mixed messages.
Is your dating partner telling you how much they value you? Maybe they act like you are in a serious relationship such as by meeting your friends or family or spending holidays together? Perhaps they even say they love you, but they just aren’t in a place of commitment.
If you are in a situation like this, this is incredibly frustrating and confusing. It’s natural for dating with no commitment to even hurt your self-esteem. Yet, there are people out there who value commitment, and are ready for a real relationship, and there are people who cannot offer this. This is not a reflection of your worth, value, or attractiveness.
Actions Matter More Than Words
When you want to make a relationship work with someone who doesn’t want – or says they’re not ready for – commitment, you may minimize how this hurts. Or you may naturally want to give more value to your dating partner’s compliments than to their lack of commitment.
Yet to have a healthy relationship, it’s important to date people who are consistent and clear. When a person you can have a healthy, committed relationship with is interested in you, there is no confusion or mystery. You may then choose to reduce this barrier by cultivating more self-love. The article, “How Do You Love Yourself? 3 Tips to Start Today” is a good place to begin.
Both Things Can Be True
At times, when getting mixed signals, it’s natural to want to figure out what’s the “truth.” Yet, it may be true that your dating partner really likes or even loves you but doesn’t want to commit to you. Dialectical thinking reveals that one, or more things, that seem like opposites can be true at the same time.
You may be valued by your dating partner and a serious relationship isn’t available with them.
Try Not to Judge
Yet, while your dating partner may have root issues that negatively impact their ability to commit, they also have the right to not value commitment at this time.
Practicing Healthy Boundaries
When you have healthy boundaries, you respect your partner has the right to not want commitment even if it hurts.
When you have healthy boundaries, you also honor your needs. For example, if you want a serious relationship and your partner doesn’t, you must walk away to find someone who is available. Holding on will only cause further pain, drama, confusion, struggle, and shame.
Letting Go with Self-Compassion
Sometimes, a person wants to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to commit to them because of how they feel about themselves. This is because of self-verification theory which was developed by psychologist Bill Swann. This theory states that people want to be with other people who see them as they see themselves.
Therefore, if deep down you struggle to believe you are worth a healthy, stable, committed relationship you may be drawn to unavailable partners. As psychologist Kristin Neff states, the “certain of rejection feels safer than not knowing what to expect next.”
You are Worthy of Commitment
If you resonate with the idea that you may desire unavailable partners because of how you feel about yourself, please know your feelings about yourself are not proof that you are not enough.
There are absolutely potential dating partners out there who you would be interested in who would also feel serious about you. You do not have to settle. The only barrier to a happy relationship with someone you value is deciding you are worth consistency and commitment.
True Connection and Commitment Exists
When you experience an unreciprocated desire for commitment this is a sign of misalignment. This is truly not the right partner to have a healthy relationship with for you.
This is an abundant world – there are many potential partners out there who do genuinely value commitment.
Try this exercise to help yourself live into a future life where you are in a committed relationship with a partner you love:
- Take a deep breath,
- Imagine the situation you are in where your desire for commitment is misaligned with your partner’s,
- What physical sensations are you aware of when you think about this situation? What about your feelings? You may notice feelings of tension, tightness, or a clinging sensation. Some people report feeling desperate or stuck here.
- Now take a deep breath and picture a reality where you are with a partner you find interesting and attractive. They feel the same way about you and they feel lucky to be in a committed relationship. Just as you feel grateful for them.
- What does it feel like physically to imagine this reality? How do you feel emotionally? You may feel lighter, relaxed, relieved, or at peace to name a few examples.
When you move forward, notice that it feels better to be in a reciprocal relationship. Use your feelings for a guide when you are dating to help you discern the right partner for you.
This loving, committed relationship is completely possible. Yet you must work on trusting that you can live into this reality. You do this by letting go of anything that feels misaligned to this future you desire.
About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
She is currently working on her book, Self-Love Made Possible: The 5-Step Guide to Stop Being Your Own Worst Enemy and Become Your Own Best Friend. To be notified of its release, please join the waitlist here.
If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM her on Instagram.
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