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Dating Without Timelines

3 timeline-free relationship milestones.

Key points

  • Recent Bumble poll: 72% of women respondents were looking for a long-term relationship, not marriage.
  • 31% of these women suggested they're no longer focused on traditional milestones like engagement and marriage.
  • Connection-oriented milestones would benefit couples looking for a timeline free dating experience.
Pixabay / Pexels
Pixabay / Pexels

Recent polling of almost 27,000 Bumble users in over 20 countries confirms that traditional dating timelines will continue to evolve in 2024.

Bumble, a dating app that caters to women daters, found 72% of women respondents were looking for a long-term relationship not marriage. 31% of these women suggested they are no longer focused on traditional milestones like engagement and marriage at all.

This data seems ironic to me given a common complaint among women daters is that men are not interested in commitment, marriage being one of the most consequential of commitments.

Yet we know that both marriage and divorce rates continue to drop. In 2021, the marriage rate in the U.S. was 14.9 marriages per 1,000 women, down from 16.3 in 2011.

As our definition of a committed, long-term relationship becomes untethered from marriage, we might start to move away from a stance of progress and toward an experience of connection.

Here are three connection-oriented milestones you can focus on, from a first date to maybe forever (with or without a ring):

  1. Physical intimacy. There are many mini-milestones that you’ll encounter with new relationships: first hug, first kiss, first time cuddling, being naked together, and having sex are a few of them. Over a year into a relationship, you’ll want to notice the depth of your sexual attunement and the comfort you have when talking about your sex life. Comfort and attunement are excellent gauges of compatibility, and getting to a place where you’re experiencing pleasure, ease, and novelty in a long-term relationship is certainly a milestone of sexual connection.
  2. Emotional intimacy. Throughout a long-term relationship, there is typically an unfolding of one’s story, and there are potentially stand-out moments of disclosure and vulnerability. The more secure in a relationship we feel, the more likely we’ll take risks with emotional connection. Acknowledging when you get to a place where you trust sharing most (if not all) of your emotional experience with your partner is a major milestone. Regularly being able to share understanding and validation suggests the depth and commitment necessary for long-term love. Married or not, emotional intimacy and connection are never things that are "achieved" but things you consistently show up to foster. Still, the depth of that connection is worth celebrating as a milestone.
  3. Shared dreams. There are no rules against pursuing individual and shared dreams outside of marriage, though there may be be cultural and religious differences between you and your partner. If you’ve always dreamed of traveling to a gorgeous tropical island or maybe visiting the Taj Mahal in India, making travel dreams come true is one example of a great milestone. Supporting each other through getting advanced degrees, saving money for a home together, and championing the launch of a business, are all great examples of becoming a part of each other’s dreams.

While traditional goals like engagement and marriage are still prominent in the relationship landscape, starting to gauge the depth of our relationship outside those constructs seems more and more important for modern daters.

If long-term relationships are to remain healthy outside traditional pathways, couples will have to communicate clearly and consistently about the state of their union, where it’s been, where it is, and where it’s headed.

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