For those in the dating pool, intentions can vary greatly. Perhaps you already know that marriage and children are a non-negotiable for your future. Or, maybe you're only ready for something that doesn't require much commitment. Regardless of what your intentions in a relationship may be, new research proves that sharing them — and doing so early on — may result in your happiest and healthiest romantic partnerships yet.
Online dating hub eharmony recently published the results on a survey about desirability and the most important factors when looking for a partner — and physical attractiveness wasn't nearly as high on the list as you might have suspected. In fact, the study showed that 54 percent of Americans polled valued honesty above all other traits for a potential mate. That means it was found to be even more sought after than kindness, humor, intelligence, and looks.
Eharmony's survey also showed that a whopping 70 percent of singles are seeking serious relationships versus casual ones. So how does it all connect? Well, according to various experts, being transparent about your intentions when dating may be a big way to exemplify your honesty (as well as determine someone else's) even in the early stages.
According to Sydney-based psychotherapist and couples counselor Annie Gurton, being honest and clear about what you're looking for in a relationship is for the benefit of both of you. And for the best chance at success, she believes the two of you should have the same intentions. "It's all about making a match," she explains. "Some people want a casual relationship, maybe with other partners or maybe without any talk of commitment, and they are best with someone who thinks the same way and not with someone looking for long-term commitment."
That said, licensed psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Seth Meyers says that while that might seem obvious, our behavioral patterns or bad dating habits can easily get in our way. "For some people, meeting someone who doesn’t seem so interested in a committed relationship can make you attracted to them in an unconscious way," he elaborates. "If you are someone who is looking for a serious relationship, and you meet someone whose intentions are casual, it’s like they are playing hard to get and you are attracted to the chase, not the person. You might have this desire to be the one to change them."
Gurton agrees that it's common to have clouded judgement when entering new relationships. "We often struggle to clearly see another person’s intentions because we are so overwhelmed with looking for someone who thinks the same way we do" she says. "It's called ‘Confirmation Bias’ and it means that we look for agreement and can willfully ignore signs and expressions that someone is not actually thinking the same way we do."
So what happens if you're not on the same page? Gurton admits that relationships lacking this kind of commonality might have a tough time ever getting on track. "If two people who have different intentions become involved, there will be difficulties from the start," she says. "Whatever type of relationship it is, there needs to be trust and accord, and if one finds themselves in a relationship with someone who wants something different, distrust and unease will quickly arise. One will feel trapped, the other will feel that the other doesn’t want to commit and therefore feel rejected. Both will feel unsafe."
Okay, so now you know what to look for. But what exactly can you do to ensure that you and your potential partner are likeminded in your intentions? While Gurton notes that the obvious answer would be to come right out and ask even before a first date, she admits that there's a reason this could backfire. "Many people who thought they were just looking for something casual have fallen in love and found themselves married," she explains. "I always think that the first couple of dates should be lighthearted and just getting a sense of whether you like and are attracted to the other person. Then a conversation about what you think your intentions are can come in date three or four."
And Meyers adds that what someone does might be just as important as what they say — if not more so. "Focus less on the words they say and more on their behavior," he says. "What matters more is making sure they follow through with action, which includes showing up on time, calling when they say they will, and making plans to see you." The expert even has a great rule of thumb to follow if you not sure. "Relationships are meant to be a source of comfort, not stress," he continues. "If you notice any sort of dynamic where there's a pattern of conflict or anger, especially early on, that’s a sign of a disconnect. Meeting a partner you think that you might end up with shouldn’t feel so different from how you met your best friend, which, in all likelihood, was a smooth process."
Adding to that, both experts believe that communication is key — which includes the messages you're sending. "The starting point to finding a romantic partner that will last is knowing who you are and what you need in a relationship to feel safe and secure," explains Meyers. "Attracting likeminded individuals who desire the same thing you desire is all about knowing who you are, what you need and looking for that match in the other person."