Every girl who’s ever seen a Disney princess movie knows that a happily-ever-after-equals a fairy-tale marriage to a prince or true love (at least in the classic princess movies). From a young age, girls are programmed to believe that love, dating, and marriage are all intertwined and indefinitely linked. So it’s no wonder that when we grow up, we fantasize about our own future happily-ever-afters, one in which Prince Charming sweeps us off our feet and we get to ride off into the sunset in eternal bliss. And, as we all know, expectations don’t meet reality.
When I was in high school, I truly and sincerely thought that I was going to marry my first boyfriend. I desperately wanted to stay with him forever. He was everything—the first guy who held my hand and kissed me and beyond. The fact of the matter is, we were at two different points in our lives and had to part ways. Now, he’s getting married to his college girlfriend and getting his own happily-ever-after, and I’m with someone else. I remember how strongly I felt about marrying him because he was my first love and I wanted him to be my last. I wanted the Disney princess fantasy. But I know now that we would not be a successful couple if we never dated anyone else and eventually married.
Although it’s tempting to believe that you could stay with your current man for the long haul and eventually get married, marriage shouldn’t be the end goal when choosing a boyfriend. Marriage shouldn’t ever be one of your considerations for dating because it prevents you from meeting new people and growing up.
Here are a few reasons why you should date the guys you wouldn’t marry:
You’ll learn what you like and dislike in a partner.
There are far too many girls who stay in a relationship too long because they are comfortable. There are certainly benefits to dating someone for a long time—you learn all of their quirks, you know what to expect, you know how to talk to them and care for them and love. There are many positive qualities you admire in your partner, and it’s easy to get along day-to-day.
But once you find yourself in a 5+ year relationship with Tyler from high school, it’s hard to extract yourself from the co-dependency. Despite growing up and growing apart in different ways, you overlook the fatal flaws and deal-breakers in the relationship because it’s easier to stay and hope and pretend that it will end in a marriage. Here’s the thing: staying in a relationship for as long as possible isn’t a contest. You don’t win for making it through with your boyfriend who you will ultimately make you unhappy in a marriage.
You learn from your mistakes.
Dating to find your husband is a strategy that will hurt you more than help you. The whole point of dating is to figure out who you are and who you like. If you only date one guy and hope to get married to him someday, you’re preventing yourself from discovering your true potential in a relationship. You don’t know what you’re missing out on until you date a few people and discover that your first boyfriend from high school wasn’t really your best match.
Once you start dating for yourself, and not for the purpose of finding someone to marry, you learn about the kind of person you were in the past and discover that you’ve grown into a different person over the years. Everything is clear in hindsight, and dating around helps you see that past relationships you thought would turn into a marriage weren’t really right for you.
You learn how to compromise.
Realizing that the men you’re dating won’t all turn into happily-ever-afters helps you freely date without worrying that you have to make the relationship work and be perfect. You learn that you have to compromise in life and that the people you date come into your life for a reason. You learn about relationships and love and how you interact with a romantic partner—everything you need to know that will prepare you for the moment when you do meet your future husband.
You learn that people can be in love without an end goal.
You’re allowed to fall in love with someone you have no intention of ever marrying. Date them—go for the ride and see what happens along the way. When you date without the checklist and the expectations, you live and love as your true self and can enjoy the company of another without the pressure of a lifelong commitment.