7 Reasons You Should Date Before Settling Down

by Emma McGowan

I’ve been thinking a lot about why it’s important to date a lot before you get married lately. The thought process was started when a couple that I’m really close with broke up after a decade together. They were high school sweethearts and while they still loved (and love) each other deeply, they felt like they were missing some really major things as a result of never being with anyone but each other. I was heartbroken when I heard that they’d split — I had definitely put them up on a pedestal — but I ultimately understood where they were coming from. After all, I’m a firm believer that you should date a lot of different people before you decide who you’re going to marry.

Now, I know that goes against the old school wisdom of “one true love” and all of that, but I honestly think it’s essential to date around before you settle down, just like I think it’s important to have sex before you get married. Every one of my former boyfriends and lovers has taught me something, either about myself, about relationships, or about sex. I’ve been forced to confront parts of my personality that were nasty as a result of boyfriends calling me out on my bullsh*t. I’ve learned what is and isn’t OK for a lover to say and do to me, through experiences good and bad. And best of all? All of those experiences shaped me into the person who found my current partner, who’s definitely the best of them all.

Here are seven more reasons I think it’s important to date around before you settle down, even if you meet someone really, really awesome when you’re young.

1. Each Relationship Makes You A Better Person

I had one ex who told me that no matter how much hated mornings, it wasn’t OK for me to be rude to him the way I was being rude. These days, I’m like a freaking Disney bird in the morning. Another ex was emotionally abusive and while that relationship was really, really hard, I learned exactly what kind of BS I won’t tolerate from future partners. If you’re aware and conscientious and paying attention, every relationship — even the terrible ones — will make you a better person.

2. You’ll Know What You Want

Right before I met my current partner, I knew that I wanted someone who was ambitious and self-driven. Those were new additions to my usual list of “liberal, smart, relatively handsome, and good in bed” and came directly from the fact that a couple of my recent exes were not ambitious or self driven. I was done with men who were happy to wallow in dead end jobs; good for them, but it wasn’t for me. I was clear about what I was looking for in a partner, so when he appeared in my life, I knew he was what I wanted.

3. And What You Don’t Want

Here are things I won’t tolerate from any relationship, be it short term or long: disrespectful language, walking out on a fight, pushing my sexual boundaries, and controlling behavior. I know from experience exactly what all of those feel like, from previous relationships.

4. You’ll Learn That There’s No “One”

But instead that there are a lot of different ones, who can all offer you something different. This is really important because I think a lot of people end great relationships because they think there’s some mythical “one” out there who will be everything their current partner isn’t. When you date a lot of different people, you realize that no one person is perfect for another person and that relationships take work a lot of work — not some rom-com perfect fit — if they’re going to survive. That’s an important life lesson.

5. Each Relationship Brings New Experiences

Whether it’s sharing an apartment for the first time or traveling to a new country together, each relationship brings you new experiences — and those experiences are so valuable! Oh, and also: so fun. Dating someone helps you see the world through their eyes and exposes you a whole range of new things.

6. You’ll Be Better At Sex

Yup, fact.

7. You’ll Really Know You’re Ready When You’re Ready

Unlike that couple I mentioned at the beginning who didn’t lock it down in the entire 10 years they were together, despite a lot of pressure from their friends and family, a person who dates a lot before settling down isn’t left with all of those “What if?” questions. Instead, they know that they’ve checked out the options are, absolutely, ready.

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