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Move Beyond Casual Dating: 3 Tips for Choosing a Partner You Can Grow With

You met at the right time and everything just fell into place. You’ve dated plenty of other people but it has never felt this right. You’re ready to move past casual dating and take the next step. A big, scary, exciting step. When you find someone you’re ready to take that leap with, it isn’t unusual to struggle with a lot of thoughts: does this have a shot at the long run? Is what I’m feeling real? Will they be there through all the times, not just the easy ones but the truly challenging moments as well?

Here are three suggestions on how you can give yourself a little assurance that you’re choosing a partner who’s good for more than just dinner and a movie.

What Does the Future Hold?

First off, find out what they want for themselves and their own future. You’ve probably already talked about it; now it’s time to run it through your own internal filter. Do they say that they want someone that they can just have fun with and don’t want anything more serious?  Well, if they do, then believe them.  This person isn’t going to want to grow old with you. Does that person say they aren’t interested in marriage? Again, believe them. The number one mistake people make is that they will hear an answer from a partner and they think that the other person will change their mind.  Well, let me set the record straight for you, they mean what they say and to take it for anything else is inaccurate — and you will be the one hurting down the road.

I Think I’m in the Right Place, How About You?

There is a subtle question that can be asked during a first, second, or third date: “What kind of relationship do you want for yourself in the future?” If they’re offended by the question or think it’s premature to ask, well, there’s your answer. They aren’t interested in growth. I find that many people don’t ask enough questions, especially in the early, golden era of a relationship. They worry that it will scare their potential mate away or that they’re being too inquisitive.

If you don’t ask, you won’t know. Consequently, many people go on dating the same person for months or years without really knowing if there’s anything more than the present. Curiosity is a key to growth. The more you know about a subject, the more of an informed decision you can make. You don’t go out looking at cars and settle on something without doing a little (or a lot of) research. The more you know about a potential mate, the better decision you’re likely to make. It shouldn’t be an inquisition, but rather curiosity at its normal, respectful pace. Ask, and remember to tell them where you’re at, too.

Trust Your Gut.

Many of my clients say that they knew early on if someone wasn’t right or if a person probably wouldn’t be someone they would stay with for the long term. But they ignored their gut reaction and later find themselves in a mess. Many have a good sense when there are red flags or other indications; my advice is to listen to that little voice inside yourself. You know yourself better than anyone. You know what’s best for you. A partner that you can grow with can benefit you in so many ways. Don’t hobble yourself by choosing the wrong person.


everything will be okDr. Janna Fond, PsyD, LMFT is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with a private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area.  She has helped thousands of clients over the years dealing with numerous issues from family and personal relationships to intimacy and deeper couples problems.  Her new book, Everything Will Be OK: Blending Psychology and Spirituality to Heal Ourselves, offers practical reassurance on how to overcome challenges that seem impossible to resolve. For more information visit