I am both faced with AND openly comfortable with a clear separation between a) my desire for a healthy physical and emotional relationship in the now—this moment—and b) dreams/goals for a “long term” monogamous/marriage-type relationship, which, for me, has the great restriction of needing to marry within my faith. “Short-term” dating is a legitimate need/desire, right? I’m sure there are kindred female souls out there for whom I would be a great match and who would be great matches for me. How can I find them?
The timing of this reader question was perfect, arriving as it did shortly before sexuality educator The Redhead Bedhead was scheduled to teach a class on casual dating at the Tool Shed. I asked the Redhead if she would be willing to sit down with me and chat about our reader’s situation before her workshop, and we headed down the block to Divino to discuss short-term dating and maintaining a safe online presence over delicious bowls of pasta.
LAS: So, what’s your advice to our reader?
RB: First, I don’t want to disregard his online concerns, but a lot of people do anonymize their online presence, so that can still be an option. My advice for him online or in real life is the same. A lot of people go about trying to find someone to date by going where the people are, but what you want to do instead is go where the people like you are. You don’t just want to try to find people, because that’s like throwing a dart at a dartboard. You want to find people like you. Then your odds of finding people you want to hang out with increase exponentially. If there’s an activity you like, go find a meetup, go do that, if there’s a place you like to hang out…it’s all about increasing the likelihood of finding someone you want to talk to. [Note from Laura: I gave similar advice in my column, “How Can I Meet Like-Minded People?”
LAS: Rather than going at it with the specific goal of, “I want to hook up with someone!”
RB: Exactly. It’s kind of like when you go shopping for something, you never find that thing…but then you see it when you’re not looking for it. I hate when people give that as dating advice, but [what I’m suggesting] is broadening your search but narrowing it at the same time.
LAS: How would you recommend bringing up the idea that someone isn’t looking for a long-term commitment? In this reader’s case, he could only have a long-term relationship within his faith, but he might be interested in other people. How should you tell a potential date about that?
RB: You always want to be completely transparent. Not just about your intentions (long-term or short-term), but about what you have to offer, and about what else is going on in your life—what other commitments you have, what your plans are in the future—so that nobody ever feels blindsided; everybody always has the whole picture. You want to stay communicative the whole time. Sometimes people try to avoid the potential commitment thing by being like, “I just won’t call, and then they’ll know…” No! Stay communicative the whole time, and then everybody stays on the same page. And just be respectful—of their time, their personhood—and that way even if it doesn’t work out, it’s still not a mean thing, it’s just “we didn’t want the same thing”—and everybody can still be happy people.
LAS: I think sometimes people are afraid to be upfront about the fact that they’re not looking for a long-term relationship; they think, “No one will talk to me,” so they kind of hide it. It’s better to bring it up and have people be like “Nope!” and walk away immediately and keep looking for the person who does want the same thing.
RB: And there are other people out there who are also not looking for a long-term thing!
LAS: You mentioned earlier that you thought that finding partners online was still an option, even for people who need to be discreet about it. Online dating or social sites are one way that people can easily be completely upfront about what they’re looking for. Can you give suggestions about how to go about that if you’re in a profession where it would be difficult to reveal your identity online?
RB: I don’t recommend doing the “no picture” thing, because that always looks shady. It looks like you’re fake. However, the anonymized picture can work. For a while, I dated someone who was a high-profile lawyer. His picture was one that clearly he had taken himself—it was his feet, in cowboy boots, resting up on a bar where he liked to hang out. It gave me a little glimpse of his personality. He said in his profile, “I know—it’s not a picture of [my face],” and explained why he did this and when he would be able to send potential partners an actual [identifiable] picture, and also said, “If that’s weird to you, then maybe we shouldn’t date.” Be upfront about [your need for privacy]; don’t be mysterious about it.
Laura Anne Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXPress? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.