Life Advice



Erika Ettin: Less outcome, more journey

Erika Ettin, Tribune News Service on

Published in Dating Advice

What is dating? Many think it’s a means to an end (that “end” often being a relationship), but I would rather everyone look at it as more of a dynamic process.

Not everyone will be “the one.” In fact, by definition, all but one will be. So many of my clients, wanting to find their future long-term partner or spouse, only have this one acceptable outcome in mind. And to them, they see anything short of that — which is most situations — as a failure. This is not how I recommend dating.

Instead, I recommend dating without being so attached to the desired outcome. I know that sounds backwards, but hear me out…

Not everyone will be compatible romantically, but does that mean that the whole experience was a waste of time? Of course not.

For example, one of my best friends is someone I met on Tinder in 2014. Were he and I meant to be in a long-term relationship? No. But we love having each other in our lives in a different capacity. Some dates might lead to business contacts… or pickleball partners… or partners for our friends.

Many people think of some arbitrary finish line as the ultimate conclusion, whether that’s a long-term relationship or marriage. So in dating, they have this endpoint in mind the whole time, trying to backfill into whether this person next to them drinking a glass of prosecco can fulfill that role. This mindset often causes dates to feel like interviews, which is not a pleasant way to spend an evening.

Rather, I would like people to start at, well, the starting line — meeting a new person. Maybe that person will get to Mile 1 (a date for a friend, perhaps) or maybe even Mile 10 (friendship), but not make it all the way to the end of the marathon. That’s OK! Maybe you needed to stop at Mile 1 or 10. Try to be open to all the possibilities.


I send a survey to my clients after each date, and below are two of the more memorable ones recently:

"She told me she had a great time and we texted all the way from leaving the bar until we got home. There was a lot that I do like about her but not sure this is really an ideal match."

"We have a ton in common and he would be great to do things with - but I didn’t feel any physical/sexual attraction. I think he would be a great friend but probably not my ideal partner/husband."

Why were they memorable? Because these two people were trying to use the first date as a benchmark of future compatibility instead of simply having a good time and planning a second date to see if there is more of a connection. A shift in attitude would help here.

So, continue going on your dates, but try to take the pressure off of yourself to assess everyone’s long-term compatibility. While that may be the ultimate goal, remember that there can be small wins in the process, if you’re willing to open yourself up to them.

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