You meet someone while on vacation. Sparks fly. You know you’re not going to date forever, but you want to enjoy the time you have together: This is an example of expiration dating. In theory, it sounds pretty good — you both enter a consensual relationship knowing that it won’t last. But is it always a good idea?
“Expiration dating is dating on purpose,” says Laurel House, an eharmony relationship expert. “Only the purpose isn’t forever; it’s a purpose that varies from person to person and once fulfilled, the relationship ends.”
House says some people date with expirations when they are trying to become ready for a relationship, “but they need a bridge to get to the point of readiness.” Others might use what House calls an “expirationship” to grow and learn through new experiences with a new person who is totally different from their dating norm. Or some might date someone while on vacation solely for fun and companionship. If you’re curious about expiration dating and whether it’s a good fit for you, House offers some tips and insight into what it means to be in a relationship that has an expiration date.
How long can expiration dating last?
Basically, your “expirationship” can last a few weeks to a year — however long it takes to satisfy the need and purpose for its existence. If you’ve met someone during your travels, for example, the expiration date will be pretty clear. Otherwise, House says you’ll know it’s time to end it when you feel like “you suddenly woke up.”
“It’s generally very sudden and sharp with a strong knowing that the relationship is over,” she explains. “You might even wake up and look at your partner and wonder why you were with them in the first place. And that’s because you have ingested the information, made the transformation, gotten through and moved out from the space you were in, and now you are ready to move forward with your new self, and not with your old person.”
The benefits of expiration dating
Dating someone just for the sheer fun of it, knowing it will end (so it won’t take your heart by surprise) are just some of the benefits of expiration dating — but as House says, it’s best to have a transparent conversation with the person you are dating before you get into your expirationship. “That way there is clarity and you don’t have confusion about where you are or if you are on the same page,” she says. “That transparency is a huge benefit because there aren’t expectations beyond what it is. You can fully explore your purpose within the relationship and almost assume a personal identity that maybe you haven’t felt the freedom to explore in other relationships within which the end goal is forever.”
Freedom also means you don’t have to be so serious all the time, House says, and you don’t have to constantly be on a hunt for red flags that warn against forever.
“You can be on the receiving end without fear that if you don’t give enough of yourself, they won’t want to be with you enduringly, because enduring is not the plan,” she explains. “Sometimes it feels good to just indulge in receiving.”
The drawback of expiration dating
Humans can’t help being human, which means we can’t help how our feelings might develop sometimes.
“One-sided feelings beyond the expirationship expectation can arise,” House says. “Either you or they might start to develop real relationship-style feelings that can end up doing harm to the person who is experiencing them if those feelings aren’t reciprocated.”
Resentment and anger can also build if the person who is going to expire doesn’t realise that that was the plan all along. “You might start into an expirationship with someone who also seems to be in a casual place so you don’t feel the need to expressly communicate that intention, but what you don’t realise is that that is their natural easy-going start to all relationships until they feel connected enough to really open their heart and root into the relationship,” House cautions. “All the while you are still just dating on a fun level without developing roots that will slowly solidify your relationship together, because that was never the plan and your heart was never open to that.”
Who shouldn’t try expiration dating?
Expiration dating isn’t for everyone. For example, according to House, someone who easily and quickly creates attachments should not start into an expirationship. Additionally, “someone who is on a timeframe to move forward within a relationship — being to get married or have children, shouldn’t start into something that is scheduled to end,” she says. “Also, someone who has children and likes to involve their children in their relationships, opening the hearts of their children who then form connections and attachments should definitely not start into an expirationship unless they absolutely won’t include their children.”
How can we take care of ourselves emotionally and mentally when expiration dating?
Expiration dating is still dating, which means it has the potential to affect you mentally and emotionally, which is why House says it’s so important to be clear on your purpose, both with your head and heart. “Frequently check in with yourself first and then with your partner to see how you are feeling and if you are both still comfortable, satisfied, and fulfilled within the relationship as it stands, without hope or expectation that it will ever evolve into more,” she explains. But, House also points out that while a set date of departure on an expirationship is predetermined, if that’s the only reason to end the relationship, keep an open mind. “If the connection is so strong and meaningful that you want to try, give it a chance,” she says.
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