Are you in your 20's or 30's and wondering what you're doing at a bar? Are you entering "relationships" and quickly wondering "where is this going?" Are you feeling like you can't let someone get too close or too far away so you're always feeling a sense of emotional limbo?

The good news is you're not alone.

This generation is facing a dilemma that those before it haven't. Your parents and grandparents may have had a different view about dating. Many were prepared and predisposed to date so they could find a spouse. They dated someone as long as they were spousal material and then dumped unsuitable candidates. Many didn't date just for fun, but were actually task-marriage oriented. Getting married in your early twenties, right after college, was commonplace and even desirable back in the day. Back then, some were fraught with grief and worry if they reached their mid 20′s without a significant love-relationship.

Not so today.

The 20 and 30 year old people I see on a regular basis seem to have one common thread: they don't WANT to be on a marriage track like their elders. They look to build careers or finish their education. They are more into having fun and having friends with benefits. When many start dating someone, these questions often come arise:

• What are we doing?
• Why are we going out?
• Is this going somewhere?
• I don't want to waste time if you're not in it for the long haul. Are you in it for the long haul?

Usually one person may feel more about the budding relationship than the other. This can make the other feel guilty that they don't share the same intense feelings of love. This can cause thoughts such as...

"I don't want to hurt them, but I don't want to lose the benefits."
"I don't want to lie to them, but I don't want to be on a marriage track."

It's as if they can't let someone get too close or too far away. Real ambivalence. Real conflict. Real confusion.

So what's a socially geared person (who really likes to make love and not just smoosh) to do?

Many are tired of being a constant disappointment to one person and consequently, surround themselves with a platoon of friends who keep them entertained and supported. Others prefer not to do what makes most of us anxious...trying to predict a future they can't predict. They elect to take things as they come and problem solve as issues arise.

I prefer this approach.

I encourage all of you to tell it like it is. Speak your truth. If the person you're dating refuses to listen because they don't believe you when you say "I don't want to get serious at this time", that's their issue. Discounting and/or disbelieving what someone tells you very often contributes to your relationship woes.

Besides with truth telling, everyone is clear. The parties involved know the boundaries, which makes being in the relationship less fuzzy. Which means, questions like "Where is this going?" won't be necessary because, if you're honest from the beginning, you'll already know.

About the Author

Gerry Heisler, Ph.D.

Gerry Heisler, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist with 38 years of experience as a clinician and assistant professor who has dealt with relationship issues.

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