An Enthusiastic Endorsement for Dating Someone on a Deadline

dating short term benefits, short term relationships
Date Them, Even If You Know It Won't LastKhadijah Horton - Getty Images

I started seeing Willem* last fall knowing full well he’d be headed home to The Netherlands a couple of months later. Perfect, I remember thinking, while walking around L.A. on our first date. He’s hot, fun, and he’s leaving. I wasn’t being sarcastic—I was actually stoked to be dating this man on deadline. Even in the bittersweet end, I would still 10/10 recommend falling for someone short term and going all-in, knowing the ground will hit too fast and leaping anyways. Does it sound like a recipe for heartbreak? Maybe, but hear me out.

In my case, I’m busy with work, I have another (ENM) partner to tend to, and having gone through a categorically painful breakup just a few years ago, I’m not exactly lookin’ for love (or rather, its side dish of heartbreak I never order, but am always served). So the idea that there was feasibly zero chance of this thing with Willem lasting more than a season or going deeper than a fucking-friendship was golden to me. It was safe.

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Where we defend a controversial sex/dating strategy.Hearst Owned

Tuning out society’s idealization of long-term, exclusive relationships, I dove headfirst into Willem’s nurturing, sadistic waters, opening myself to him with reckless abandon by adopting a very acquiescent, “I’m just a tourist here!” attitude. I explored kinks with him that I never thought I’d try, but without the pressure of a long-term future over our heads, I felt open to. Lucky for me, he met my spread-eagle heart with open arms, resulting in the most fulfilling kinkship I’ve ever had—even if it ended quicker than a retrograde.

He could have all of me, I’d decided, because it wasn’t like he would have me forever. And somewhere along the way, my willingness to be not only fucked, but also seen and held by him made room for an almost-accidental emotional bond between us. What’s the harm in showing him my darkest depths—the parts that are blue and prickly, that I’d otherwise worry would scare him away? “Away” was already in the plan—we’d been racing towards it from the day we met. But instead of running, our mutual vulnerability made us lean in.

We lived in our own world for eight weeks, forgiving each other’s shortcomings because our lifespan together was too brief for us to be petty. In fact, I believe we saw the absolute best in one another because there was no need or time to hold back or judge. And by letting go of the need for this man to check all my boxes, he ended up checking ones I didn’t even know I had.

Willem and I lit up every room we went in together—even the beach in broad daylight—as we explored philosophy and questioned society’s ideals, becoming fast friends even though (or perhaps because) we weren’t aiming for that. And with his open grip on my soft spots, he created a whole new standard for my future lovers by showing me that enthusiasm without conquest is possible.

Okay, so I’m romanticizing things a bit, but, fuck it: I get to romanticize because no one knows how things would’ve ended up if it had played out long term! My fling with Willem lived and died in potential—how poetic is that?! A future it’ll never see, a past it never had, and the delicacy of every fragile moment it breathed. I regret nothing. Not even now, when I cook in my kitchen and I’m longingly reminded of how hard we laughed the time he made me dinner and sprayed pomegranate juice everywhere. Or when I drive by the Santa Monica pier and imagine our ghosts still roller skating in the sun. And I certainly don’t regret that just when we were starting to fall for each other, I had to watch him literally fly away (because at least my life isn’t boring).

Maybe the death and rebirth of a short-term cuffing is exactly what we could all use—a rollercoaster ride of flirtation, lust, peaks and valleys to remind us that perfect may not exist, but “really great” and “just for now” can be equally as valuable. To get us to actually seize the moment and connect with one another, instead of freezing in the face (and sometimes, in the fear) of possibility.

What if, by accepting a love without possession, we set ourselves free to feel more passion than ever before? Maybe saying goodbye before there’s anything to regret is the right thing to do. Before we move in together, slowly resenting each other's habits, daydreaming of the honeymoon phase we left behind. Before the monotony of our partnership chips away at our individuality, leaving us more a “we” than two “I”s.

No thank you. I’d rather exist in the falling of it all. In the instant “Yes” when he asks if I wanna go do…anything. In the crush energy. That loving-discovering-every-inch-of-you energy, where I’m constantly in lingerie, and he swears (with hearts in his eyes) that I move in slow motion. That energy that inevitably fades in the long run.

If I had to do it all over again—everything, even our last morning together where we woke up at nine and didn’t stop crying ‘till noon—I would. I’ve had my heart ripped out, seared, and served up with some A1 sauce, and I’d still put it on the line because if this experience taught me anything, it’s that even a short-lived love is worth it.

Could this all just be my flare for the dark and dramatic? Sure. But I’d argue that dating with a set end date allows you to be as loving and generous as you really want to be. Because when there’s no pressure of forever, why wouldn’t you be? Because the sweet sadness of an expiration date makes everything more precious. And not because I’m a hopeless romantic, but because I’m actually a very hopeful romantic: I think you should be open to “for now” instead of forever, too. You just might find love, and, if we’re being honest, it could end in heartbreak either way. So take the leap of faith and trust that wherever you land (with or without that person), you gave yourself every chance you could to love.

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