Should you state your dating goal even before meeting?

In Sync with the Opposite SexI just listened to the 4-CD seminar, “In Sync with the Opposite Sex™,” with Alison Armstrong. A close friend has attended a number of her seminars and highly recommends them, so I’ve been immersing myself in her work. This CD was recorded live, so you hear Alison’s fun presentation style and her wittily interacting with the participants.

I was especially interested in this CD set because it focused on dating. While I’ve learned a lot in my 3 years and 81 men, there is still a lot I don’t know. Alison shared a lot of information, much of it made sense, some new info and some common sense.

One of her points stood out for me. She encouraged daters to be clear on what you want and what you have to offer. And to state that even before you go on a date with a potential suitor.

Most of us are a bit reticent to state exactly what we want as we think we may come across negatively. For example, one of the audience members said, “I want to have a mutually adoring relationship with a man who wants children within the next two years and will financially support us. I will raise our children, keep house, cook, support his endeavors and have regular sex with him.” Some of us think that sounds unprogressive nowadays.

She even suggested that if you’re looking for a casual sex partner, say that up front. “I am looking for someone to have wild, casual sex with, but without long-term attachment. I offer no-strings-attached, safe sex on an hour’s notice, and will promise to always call the next day.”

Most of us would not have the courage to spell out our desires quite so bluntly. Alison’s point is that if you don’t say what you want, you’ll spend a lot of time meeting with, and perhaps dating people who aren’t interested in what you’re interested in. Yes, it will turn away lots of people, but that’s the plan. Rather than be in scarcity mode where you have to entice the opposite sex to give you what you want, why not be clear on what you want from the start?

I’m not sure. On one hand, her logic makes sense. That is if your belief and experience is you have an unlimited stream of potential partners regularly filling your email box and life. If, however, you’re like half the men online and 25% of women, you never get one contact, you can get in the mindset of not wanting to turn away anyone.

Alison’s point is that you need to weed out those who aren’t ever going to be a fit rather than trying to ensnare someone until he’s so taken with you that he’ll give you what you want to keep you. The latter, I’m afraid, just postpones the probability that one day he’ll wake up and say “This is not what I wanted.” And he’s either gone physically or emotionally or both.

For example, when my ex and I first got together, he said “I’m not looking for a relationship.” I did most of the pursuing and after 8 months of dating, when he got a job closer to me (we were a 2-hour drive apart) one of us (probably me) suggested moving in together. Throughout much of the relationship it felt like I was more committed to the relationship than he was. I should have listened — and believed — what he said. He told me up front what he was looking for by telling me what he wasn’t looking for. Had I told him I had marriage and family on my mind, he probably would have broken up with me. And would that have been bad? In retrospect, probably not. But who knows.

I think some of us believe we can change the other’s mind (see “Do you think you’ll change his mind?“) or that he’s just not clear on what he wants. Thinking this way is asking for trouble.

Some men tell me it’s off putting to hear a woman say, “I’m looking for a man who’s interested in marriage within the next 24 months and a family soon afterward.” They say it feels pressured, rather than letting a relationship evolve and see if they like each other, rather than feeling, “If I don’t propose soon, I’m dog meat.”

What do you think about being so straightforward from the beginning? Is this refreshing or repelling?

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28 responses to “Should you state your dating goal even before meeting?”

  1. Elena Avatar

    Another excellent post! I think people should be crystal clear in their minds about what it is that they want and, more importantly, what it is that they NEED. I never seriously thought about being as explicit and detailed as this coach suggests but I like clarity so I think I will try it.

    Now whether or not one needs to be so blunt and upfront with one’s dates, I’m not convinced about. Too many people won’t understand and won’t appreciate the “full monty” so to speak, i.e. total honesty, too early in a relationship. You’ve got to be subtle and perceptive, like a private eye, asking and reasking the same questions but in different ways and paying attention to the verbal and nonverbal responses.

    So I think if someone knows that they want to get married within 24 months and then have kids and become a stay-at-home mom, all her prospective dates need to know is that she is looking for a serious relationship that will lead to marriage. Period. Now, once she gets past the initial dates with someone who seems like a compatible good match and they are exclusive relationship, she needs to state explicitly to the guy how she views/defines a serious relationship, see if his views are on the same page, and then go from there. But I think going into too much detail at the very beginning will only serve to turn people off.

  2. Lulu Avatar

    This advice to be honest would be good, if we could assume everyone was as honest as us. If a woman is attractive to a man, he may react by agreeing to whatever she says, just to have her, before moving on to a woman he perceives as more of a challenge, who doesn’t have an agenda on him. This kind of honesty from women may be a bit naive, in the long term. For a man to realise that a woman is ‘the one’ takes time to evolve. If the woman is too honest about her requirements up front, he may wander off in disinterest because no real challenge faces him. Why do I never come across advice to men seeking a wife? It must be because they are so in demand, no advice is needed!

  3. Christine Avatar

    I think it’s essential for me to be very clear in my own mind what my objectives are when dating someone. However, I feel that in every delicate negotiation it is never a good idea to put all of your cards on the table at once. It’s a process. Total disclosure too soon doesn’t allow for things to develop that you might never have imagined for yourself.

  4. Elena Avatar

    I’ve wondered the same exact thing! (No advice columns/books to men seeking wifes.)

    Very well said.

  5. Rod Avatar

    Yup, I agree with Christine. Although a woman may know that she wants to marry, have kids and settle down, if I knew that on date one, I think I’d run the other way, even if that wouldn’t necessarily conflict with my eventual goals. Id rather be ‘eased’ into it, knowing that being in a marriage was hard, having it end was difficult, and learning to be single was a challenge… another full time, long term commitment is going to be a huge change and its going to take time and exactly the right person to be ‘eased into it’ … or maybe that just means Im not ready yet.

  6. Mitsy Avatar

    I keep thinking about the online dating scenarios that I’ve experienced as well as others’ stories about their online dating situations. I think that honesty is good and expected by a lot of people. What makes online dating different than just meeting someone the “normal” way is that each person has an opportunity (a profile) to state in black/white what it is they are looking for. If a guy is not looking for something long-term, he has the chance (and really the obligation in my mind) to state that in his profile so that they woman who wants marriage and children doesn’t waste her time on someone like him. However, that is where the “honesty”card oftentimes gets lost in the deck. Too many men (and probably women as well) do not state what they are looking for. The reality is that many simply do not know what the hell they want. I’ve come across more waffling, ambivalent men online than I ever have in real life.

    I think a lot of people need to read the profiles as well as read in between the lines when doing online dating. In real life, it often pays to ask others about a particular person you’re interested in or who shows interest in you but you know little about. I think some of the harder question CAN be answered upfront and honestly. But a guy who thinks that a woman is not going to be looking for long-term commitment is most generally going to be disappointed if he thinks that casual dating is what many women want. I’ve talked to too many women to believe that the casual dating chicks are in the minority. And even if marriage is not on the woman’s agenda, she still is not looking to be cast aside once the guy decides that he’s bored or simply does not want to make any effort. A guy who is actually interested in dating and is not going to bail at the first sign of stress is very hard to find, especially online.

  7. bookyone Avatar

    Hi DG,

    While I like and applaud the idea of being upfront with one’s partners and prospective partners, in reality I’ve found that most men are more interested in head games than honesty. They call it the thrill of the chase. I call it BS. Grow up already! You don’t live in a cave and kill your dinner with a club anymore, so why the need to behave like a caveman when it comes to love and relationships?

    Of course if you really DO live in a cave, then I’m afraid all the therapy in the world won’t help, heck, if you’re that unevolved, it’s doubtful even Dr. Phil could save you. 🙂

    Best wishes from bookyone 🙂

  8. justme Avatar

    I agree with Christine, and being clear in my own mind is not as easy as it sounds. So I’m willing to give other people the benefit of the doubt.

    I tend to operate from my rational, logical side and discount my feelings, so I’ve often found myself thinking & saying I want one thing that makes the most sense when my heart is feeling something else that might not be the most logical thing. So I end up in conflict with myself, wondering why I’m not satisfied when I occasionally do get what I thought I wanted.

    I’m pushing 50 and I’m only just now working on getting my two “sides” a little more in synch. I figure it’s safe to assume that at least some percentage of other people are in a similar situation. How many of us are so perfectly balanced that we know exactly how we think & feel all the time? That’s where time comes in — time to get to know each other and think about things (and feelings about things) a little.

  9. Gatti Avatar

    I had a whole page of qualities I was looking for in a date (and eventually a mate) and stuck to them. With every guy I dated I knew a bit more about me and what I really wanted. When I met the Sweetie I went back to the list and ticked every item. He had a list as well and I matched 19 out of 20. The last one was “live somewhat locally”. We’ve gotten quite used to the 70 mile distance, though!

    Each guy I dated was nice, and most were keen to see me again. But there was always some, if not dealbreaker, then quality or condition that just didn’t suit, like the guy who lived on an ocean going yacht and was planning to sail away in a couple of years when he retired. Very nice and all, but I just could never picture myself living at sea!

  10. nysharon Avatar

    Agree with Christine. I have been told by men that it is repelling. . Women need to face the fact that men are different from us. She is the prize he earns, so to speak. We do wish it to be different, but it is just reality. Example, I don’t want to grow old alone, but I don’t want anyone to move in with me tomorrow either. I usually say that I like to take it one date at a time, that I want a man (the right one) in my life in an exclusive relationship at some point, and I am not in a rush to get from point A to point B. I promise them that I will let them know if there is any shift in that view and if I don’t see it working (their behavior doesn’t match up with my needs) I will let them know. This has really worked for me with the men that I have dated. I think, and it is what men have told me, that when they hear a time line or a goal from a woman, they feel like a “project” and the woman is willing to settle for anything/one. When it is right for both of you, those discussions come easily.

  11. Jeff Mac Avatar

    I agree with what’s been said — I think the most important thing is to KNOW what you want. To actually say it might be less important (and potentially less helpful.)

    I mean, if a woman told me that she was looking for a man who wants to get married in the next 24 months, I’d walk in the next 24 seconds. To me (and I think a lot of men) that reads like:

    “Listen, buddy. I’m looking for a husband. If it’s you, it’s you. If it’s not, let’s keep the line moving, shall we?”

    Even if I liked this woman, it would make it sound like she was just looking to cast the role of “husband number 1” in the movie that she had already scripted. And, you know, I kind of want to write some of that script.

    When I’ve heard people say this kind of thing (men or women) it always comes across as if they aren’t seeing the person, but only how the person fits into their plan. Which doesn’t mean you’ll end up with NO one. But it does mean you’ll end up with someone who doesn’t mind fitting into your plan. And as DG says in the post, chances are, one day he’s going to wake up and go, “Hey, what about what I wanted?”

  12. Lulu Avatar

    DG, what on earth is the picture at the top of this blog? It resembles some kind of, if I’m polite, diagram in a medical textbook.

  13. Mitsy Avatar

    “Listen, buddy. I’m looking for a husband. If it’s you, it’s you. If it’s not, let’s keep the line moving, shall we?”

    LOL :0 Yes, that might be the thought process. But, with online dating, I think there should be a way of making it known (by one’s profile) what they are seeking as far as long-term or not. And in my book, long-term has the potential for marriage at some point. However, stating that you want to be married in x amount of months or years is a sure-fire way of scaring off even the most suitable guy. So, I would not encourage anyone to make it seem like a do or die proposition when it comes to wanting marriage and commitment. But, the guys who are strongly against committed, long-term relationships need not even message or e-mail a woman who states that she is looking for something long-term. It should be as simple as that on that issue.

  14. Dating Goddess Avatar


    You are so funny! Click on it to enlarge it. It’s the cover of the CD I’m mentioning. Two people intertwined.

  15. bookyone Avatar

    I still don’t understand what’s so terrible and taboo about letting someone know upfront that you’re looking to get married? It’s not a dirty word. I’m an old fashioned gal with old fashioned values, and nothing short of marriage suits my value system. At least if you let the other party in on your beliefs at the start, you know whether or not your relationship goals are a match, without wasting months or even years on the wrong person and possibly missing out on the right one because of this.

    Case in point: I wasted 8 years on a man who CLAIMED he believed in commitment, but his idea of commitment, (my remaining faithful to him while he catted around with anything and everything that caught his eye), was not the same as mine, (exclusivity and monogamy on BOTH sides til death do us part). Had he been honest with me from the get go, (i.e. told me all he wanted was a casual dating partner), I certainly wouldn’t have wasted more than 8 minutes on him.

  16. Gatti Avatar

    Bookyone, I dated a guy a few times a few years ago and he wanted me to move in with him on about the third date, to love him forever and ever and live happily ever after. You could almost see the tire tread marks as I raced for the door…! If he ain’t right, he ain’t right.

    The dating sites usually give you boxes to tick like, “Some to write to”, “A Friend”, “Long-Term”, “Marriage”. Anyone with any brains at all will only tick what they are looking for! I saw some ads for “Having Fun Only” and one guy actually wrote to me. I wrote back that he probably couldn’t handle me… Ha!

    I think most people who date want a long-term relationship. But I’m beginning to lose my faith in some men, with the stories some of you tell.

  17. Gatti Avatar

    You might enjoy listening to this:

    Click on Listen Again to Drama.

  18. Arkady Avatar

    It’s not hard to think of examples when stating one’s dating goals too early would be a major turn-off to both men and women. This topic certainly should not be part of your first date or a second date.

    The reality is that we can’t help but read more into things that what they say and respond to the words we hear not only logically, but also emotionally.

    Imagine you are on your first date with a guy, and out of the blue he says: “I am looking to settle down asap.” Even if the woman who hears this is looking for the same thing, hearing this so early on is likely to raise certain red flags in her mind. “Why is he talking about this so early? Is he desperate? Will he want to marry me in a month?” Those thoughts run into many women’s minds in such situations.

    Similarly, the most sexually progressive woman who is up for some casual fun, is not going to say “I agree” if a guy expressly tells her early on in their interaction: “Hey, I am looking for a f-ck buddy. Are you in?”

    Certain things that are meant to happen are just not meant to be told.


    Dating Advice that Makes a Difference

  19. hunter Avatar

    ….I have said, ‘no marriage,’ often, and women still go out with me, it is almost like they don’t listen…..

  20. hunter Avatar

    …I have heard other women say, ’cause, once a woman is attracted to you, there is not much she can do..”

  21. Brian Avatar


    That’s exactly what my current partner told me. She told me exactly what she wants out of this relationship. Although it may feel pressured initially, but if you really like that person, you will surely work towards meeting those goals of your partner. Eventually, this will make an even more enduring relationship.

  22. greendaze44 Avatar

    Hunter, when women hear you say, “no marriage”. they probably think, he hasn’t found the right person yet, i.e. them.
    I dated a guy for 2 years that I absolutely adored, respected and loved, but he wasn’t ready to get married, so I said goodbye. It was very hard and I still think about him 13 years later. But I know I made the right decision. I was the first women he dated after getting divorce from a 19 year marriage. I understand him not wanting to marry the first women he dated.
    Right now, I am getting a divorce after 10 years of marrige and 1 1/2 years of living together before and the last thing I want to do is get into another relationship or marriage. So I just want to go have some fun. But being a women, I’m afraid if I say that on an online dating site, it would sould like I want to just get laid a lot. So I feel women do have to be careful what they say online. Although I would hope that any person knowing that I was recently out of a marriage would have the commen sense to know that I’m not in a hurry to get back into a relationship.
    I’m open. If the right person comes a long, it will happen as it happens, but part of being ready is being ready emotionally, so I don’t think the “right” one will come around for a while becasue I just won’t be ready for it.

    Here is one more comment. When I got divorced from my first husband, I then had a child from that marriage and most guys I dated assumed I “just want to get married” as quickly as possible. And I would say, I do want to get married, but to the right person. So when women have children at home, that is another thing that throws a wrench in things.

  23. sd Avatar

    I made it VERY clear (once I had stopped avoiding him like the plague for 7 months after initial interest shown) to my second husband that if he wanted to DATE me I had certain criteria.
    If he wanted to make it more serious (as he was saying from the first) I had even more deal-breaker criteria.

    I was very clear that I would TRY dating and only move forward emotionally and physically if my criteria were in synch with what he decided he wanted too AND he was moving in that direction actively.

    BIG mistake in some ways, since he was already COMPLETELY determined to have the relationship; this meant that he took whatever measures neccessary to convince me he wanted what I wanted and would be estatic to live this way forever.
    I think he even convinced himself he wanted what I said I needed too, sadly.

    Needless to say, it resulted in EXACTLY what is predicted above in a number of posts:
    Him resenting me and saying to himself: Hey, how did I get here? I’M NOT HAPPY with this life!

    So, lay it on the line BEFORE any big desire on the others’ part to have the relationship has formed, or run the risk of it eventually going bad.

  24. Sam Avatar

    If you don’t know what you want you can’t get it. I had a E-arguement with a man that was eager to take me out but I know full well he wants a family. I can’t seem to find a man that doesn’t want kids. I explained to him us going out was pointless and he argued with me about that — telling me clearly he just wants sex.

    The woman that said ““I am looking for someone to have wild, casual sex with, but without long-term attachment. I offer no-strings-attached, safe sex on an hour’s notice, and will promise to always call the next day.” If you call the next day that is strings… No strings means you only talk to set up sexual encounters to me.

  25. Lori Avatar

    I find I am having trouble with guys wanting to get into a relationship to fast. They want to go out on a date one day and then the next they are wanting to get serious.
    My thing is and I have stated this in my singles profile that “I am not interested in marriage right away-that I just want to meet someone to spend time with.” But still they want to close in on me right away. So, I told this last guy, that I was shy and quiet and that I wanted to just have some time to get to know him and vice-versa. So now he is like, “ok, so you want to take it slow”. So I do think that saying what you want at first and sometimes a second time is a good idea. Sometimes you just have to spell it out for some people because they do not always get it.

  26. Mitsy Avatar

    There is no fool-proof way to please everyone on some of these issues, but here’s “Mitsy’s” belief on how some things should be done.

    If you are dating online, then I think it’s perfectly fine to put that you want something long-term. I think it’s fine to even put that you are looking for a life partner or marriage, but realize that some will pass you by simply because the word “marriage” scares them. If they feel that way, then you might not likely want them anyway.

    There are sites for “casual” relationships or flings. I’d say if you are looking for casual sex or a no-strings attached relationship, don’t waste people’s time by putting your profile on the other legitimate dating sites. There are enough players on Match & Yahoo already.

    If you are meeting someone via the normal way (set up, friend of friend, etc.), then I think it’s HIGHLY desirable to find out how suited you are to the other person BEFORE you go out. Find out if they are wanting long-term, marriage or friends or short-term only. If the guy is wanting kids and you do not, then it’s a waste of time to meet. I corresponded with a guy online who was 48 and claimed he still wanted kids. He had been married only briefly several years back. I was upfront that I was well into my 40’s and that babies were not in my future. He wanted to meet me anyway, and thinking that if we hit it off, MAYBE babies were not his top priority either. It was a big mistake. He was a nice enough looking guy, but I could tell that I did not do it for him physically speaking. He made no plans to get together again. We did correspond a time or two after that and he ended up telling me that it was not the “connection” he was looking for. I was somewhat hurt by his comments, but in our conversation he did say I was attractive but that he did not feel the right chemistry. I took it for what it was and gave him credit that he was honest. At the time I thought he was a bit hurtful in his comments but later realized that it took some substance to be forthcoming.

    In the end though, I thought that the whole thing with the correspondence before and after (as well as the evening we met) could have all been avoided if I’d simply said “Look, you are wanting someone to give you children and if you are looking at 40-something women, then your chances are slim. Check out some 30-something women and good luck to you”. It would have saved me the grief of going through that and it would have saved him the drive to see me (2 hours). I felt like it was wasted time, but I did learn that it’s important to have some realistic expectations and boundaries when it comes to meeting men (online or otherwise). Sometimes it makes more sense to move on than waste your time meeting someone you know isn’t going to be a match.

    I’ve learned some hard lessons with online dating. I wish I could spare others the pain I’ve experienced over the years, but we must all learn to take these life lessons in stride–hard as it may be at the time and hope for something better in the future.

  27. hw Avatar

    Well it is about time for me to comment. I have to say that dating has changed so much since the early 90s. I wish we could all go back to the “old” style where you usually met someone through friends or casually without so much PRESSURE! With online dating it is like trying to find the perfect dress for that special outing. Most of us still will not purchase clothes through catalogs or over the internet. I know if I am interested in something I find in a catalog or the internet, I want to see how the colors look in person and be able to feel the quality of the fabric. I do not go by the marketing description and rarely do the pictures do a garment justice. Compare that to online dating. You look through tons and tons of profiles tossing aside those that you aren’t even interested in “trying on” based on a few pictures and description. Maybe that person does not even take good pictures or like some, know what they want from a true relationship. I think sometimes we toss out people based on the impressions we get from a pic and some words. I am not pointing fingers here because I do it too. It is sad that dating is like buying that perfect dress. Whatever happened to making friends instead of trying for the perfect connection? There is so much pressure on getting it right in the first few interactions (email, phone and/or meeting). But really how can you get to know someone from just a few short interactions? I met my ex-husband 3 times over a year and a half before we totally clicked. We are still friends today but after 10 years we just grew apart in the relationship. I think NOT being your true self about who you are and your life goals when meeting other people does more harm than good. And why can’t most guys be friends if they find you the least bit attractive? I guess that last question leads to a whole new topic.

    P.S. Love the blog DG! I have recommended it to those that need insight.

  28. Mitsy Avatar

    Interesting post and yes, you do bring up some good points. For starters though, I DO buy a lot more clothing online than I used to. I’ve had more good experiences than bad when it came to buying things via the web. I am an e-bay addict. :0

    However, with online dating, it’s a crap shoot for sure. I’ve been a lot more disappointed with my dates I met online than any purchase I’ve ever made online. I think the commercials for e-harmony are VERY misleading to say the least. They give the impression that if you give them a try, then you are sure to find the right man or woman. I’m here to tell you that for every wonderful love story, there are probably three times as many disappointments with online dating.

    My own experiences taught me that a lot of men are very fickle and simply do not know what they want. Even if they do know what they want and if they find someone who matches “all” of the criteria, it doesn’t mean they will be interested long-term. I had so many first dates that never panned out to anything more or I felt like I wasted a lot of time on phone calls and e-mails and messaging only to be put-off or bailed on later. Even though I don’t long to be with any of those guys I met online, I still have the battle scars from feeling lied to, mislead or otherwise “used” in some way. I ended up feeling discarded or like I didn’t measure up to their expectations in some way. There was a total of three guys I met who seemed interested in me and I was not in them.

    Two of those guys came on way too strong and I felt no desire to get to know them further. I was also repulsed by their physical appearance…I won’t go into the details about that.

    The third guy was nice enough looking but had basically no personality in person. He was also the guy who had told me that his sex skills were his “best trait”. I didn’t stick around long enough to find out how good they were though. I decided they couldn’t be good enough to outweigh his personality and conversational skills.

    But, I was attracted to and willing to go out a 2nd or 3rd time with ALL of the others and that was within a 2-2 1/2 year period of online dating. I have not done the online dating stuff since January of this year and do not miss the turmoil of the process or wondering how good or bad the first meeting will be. Nor do I miss wondering if they will call or not if I feel there is some spark there.

    I’m currently seeing someone locally. He is not without his own issues, but I’d take him in a heartbeat over some of the flakes I met from Yahoo or Match. I really do believe that meeting “the normal way” is the best way, but if you live in a rural area like I do, the odds for finding someone the normal way are greatly diminished. So, it was just another way to meet guys. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for me and I’m not sure that I’ll ever go back to online dating. I got burned too badly w/it.