Expiration Dating Is The Low-Stakes Approach To Relationships You Might Need

There was a time when people might have thought dating had only one definition: Spending time together to see if you were compatible long term. Though dating has never been that simple, in recent years the definitions attached to this phase have grown and changed, opening up more possibilities and potentials. These days, some people start dating with the intention to move forward together, while others date casually to have fun, not necessarily to find the one. There's friends with benefits, and then there are relationships that include more than just two people. In a culture that has become more open to communication, the options are endless for people looking for love.

Expiration dating might be the answer for anyone who wants intimacy, but isn't sure they are ready to commit to the big F — Forever. Some romantics out there want to have all the perks of a relationship, but not the heavy expectations or numerous milestones that go with it. Marriage, kids, mortgages: In this century these things are equally coveted and eschewed as more and more individuals take control of their futures and narratives. Traveling around the world rather than settling down is just as common as getting married and raising a family. Pets are the new children, and it's not strange to wait until you're a little older to get pregnant. With the shift in expectations between couples, expiration dating seems like a good answer to an age-old question: What if you don't want forever?

What is expiration dating?

For some, worrying about an expiration date with someone is a huge anxiety trigger. Maybe they've begun seeing someone but they know it's not going to work long term. Maybe their futures are too different and their paths can't merge. Constantly thinking about the right time to end it or if it's worth forcing it can actually be detrimental to the present relationship, and leave both parties feeling lost, or even resentful. Expiration dating is meant to take the worry and anxiety out of partnerships that aren't meant to be a "forever" thing, and allows people to enjoy what they have together while it lasts. Both parties enter into a relationship knowing and understanding it's not going to go anywhere, and they are good with that knowledge. They can have fun with one another, spend time together, and indulge in all the perks of dating without feeling bad that one day it will end.

Expiration dating could come from any situation, including if one person is moving away eventually or if only one person wants a family. People meet at the right place, wrong time and wind up putting so much pressure on things to work, that it eventually causes a rift so big it can't be repaired. In order to avoid hurt feelings or devastating relationship decisions down the line, people can choose to agree that their dating period will expire. Both parties have to understand that this is the case, otherwise the concept doesn't work.

Why it works

One of the biggest perks of expiration dating is that you can be with someone as long as you like, as long as you both know it's not forever. There is no set time limit: You can date for a year or 10 years. The main idea behind this type of relationship is that you enter it knowing that when the time comes, you will both go your separate ways. It takes the high stakes out of the interactions you have, and allows you to enjoy one another in a more present capacity. However, it is important to keep your wits about you when the breakup inevitably comes.

People tend to romanticize or create reasons to stay with the person they have been seeing, especially toward the end when all they can think about it what they are losing. This can be the drawback to expiration dating, especially because there isn't always a big, dramatic ending. Rather than anger or hurt, people who enter into these relationships have to leave one another even if things are going really well. Be it because of a new job in a new city, or a biological ticking clock when one partner doesn't want a family, forcing one another to end it can be tricky. However, as long as you both understand all the perks and take advantage of the time you have together, it can be a fun, intimate, and rewarding experience that will leave you with lasting memories.