Gee. Although I wish I had come up with the term "expiration dating", I really must give credit where credit is due. It comes from a scene out of Sex & the City when the girls were trying to get Carrie to have sex with one of Charlotte's groomsmen, believing that the whole, "The best way to get over someone is to get under someone else" philosophy would work (I am absolutely not a fan of that, by the way). As Carrie was going down the list of all of the reasons why she thought it would be counterproductive to do so (including the fact that the guy lived out of town), she said, "What would be the point? It's not going to go anywhere. It would basically be 'expiration dating'."
Expiration dating. Whenever I hear that term, milk cartons immediately come to my mind. There is a time when milk is all good. But if you don't use it by the expiration date, you've got a coagulated mess on your hands. You have to toss it. What a waste.
If you're like a friend of mine who treats casual dating like an art form and you couldn't care less if something lasts for a couple of weeks or six months, do you. But if you are the kind of woman who is getting to the point where you are sick and tired of dating because it never seems to play out the way that you want it to, take out a few minutes to read this. Then ask a girlfriend to meet you for drinks so that y'all can discuss if what you've been doing is dating, or expiration dating.
So, What Exactly Are Y’all Doing, Anyway?
The interesting thing about the word "expire" is the fact that it means to terminate a contract, guarantee or offer. That said, a mistake that a lot of people make is they never even "put an offer on the table" to begin with. One woman I know, she has been telling me for a few months now, that she is absolutely certain that the guy she is currently dating desires marriage. Mind you, she hasn't asked him if that's the case. He never brings up long-term plans. She also hasn't been brought into any part of his world. She simply thinks that because they enjoy each other's company (and have sex) that they both want the same things (check out "One Overlooked Yet Obvious Indicator That A Man Is Husband Material").
One of the best ways to know whether or not you are expiration dating is to ask the person you're seeing if they ultimately desire what you do. Not only that, but do they desire to have it with you?
Unfortunately, some people would prefer to duck and dodge this kind of conversation, believing that with enough time and experiences underneath their belt, the person they're with will come over to their way of thinking. Girl, you are far too precious for that kind of gamble. Better to put an offer on the table and see if he meets you there than to assume for months (or years) on end and end up totally blindsided.
And what if you do discover that he digs you, but not enough to meet you where you are? You're grown. Keep hanging around if you want, but I'm seeing an expiration date in your future.
Are You BOTH Getting What You Want Outta This?
When you have feelings for someone, it's natural to want to do whatever you can to make sure that they're happy. This is fine, so long as there is reciprocity involved. But if you're the one initiating and sacrificing while all the other person is doing is sitting back and reaping the benefits, sooner or later, you're going to end up being disappointed, if not flat-out pissed off and fed up.
Probably one of the biggest causes of expiration dating is when the person who is doing the least amount of relational maintenance gets called to the carpet and suddenly gets all defensive and resentful. When it comes to individuals like this, they will date you for as long as possible, so long as you don't require much. Oh, but the very moment that you have needs, state them and expect them to be met, suddenly the clock is ticking. Suddenly, the situation that was oh so good has immediately turned bad.
Make no mistakes about it. If you involve yourself with someone who is only getting their needs met, this is a form of expiration dating. I say that because either you're going to wise up one day and move on or they are going to try and make you feel bad for having needs and will actually leave you. (It's a bold and arrogant move, but it happens all of the time, chile.)
Are You SPENDING Time or WASTING Time?
Not too long ago, I was talking to a male friend of mine about a woman he's been seeing for about five years now. He's one of the biggest commitment-phobes that I know, so when I asked him how he felt about marriage as it relates to her, he said something that I think a lot of us should pay very close attention to. "Lord. Here we go with the 'defining things' conversation. Why do women always need a definition? I've been seeing her for five years and if we're both having a good time, then it was time well-spent regardless, right?" My response? "It is if you both ultimately want the same things. Otherwise, you're wasting her time. What's worse is she's letting you."
If you're not paying close attention, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between spending and wasting.
As it relates to romantic relationships, if you're giving your heart and/or body to someone, believing that it will ultimately turn into a real commitment, you're spending time if they are doing the same. Otherwise, if they are basically treating you like "something cool to do in the moment", I don't care how many moments you share together, without a goal in mind on their part, you are setting yourself to end up realizing that you totally wasted your time.
Are You a Priority? Or a Pastime?
Author and former talk show host Greg Behrendt once said something that some of us should pin up somewhere in our house—"If he's not calling you, it's because you are not on his mind. If he creates expectations for you, and then doesn't follow through on little things, he will do the same for big things. Be aware of this and realize that he's okay with disappointing you. Don't be with someone who doesn't do what they say they're going to do. If he's choosing not to make a simple effort that would put you at ease and bring harmony to a recurring fight, then he doesn't respect your feelings and needs. 'Busy' is another word for 'asshole'. 'Asshole' is another word for the guy you're dating. You deserve a f—king phone call." Yes. Sir.
Let's go back to the milk point that I brought up earlier. Say that you go to the store to pick up a gallon of it. When you look at the container, you see that, not only does it need to be purchased by a certain time, it must be consumed not too long after as well. Now say that you bring it home and have a glass or two. Then you leave the container on the counter. All throughout the night, you keep telling yourself that you'll put it in the fridge. Then you go to bed, walk into the kitchen the following morning, and realize that it has to be tossed out (because milk is only supposed to stay at room temperature for a couple of hours max). The milk was fine. But because you didn't prioritize its needs, it has to go.
You're worth a whole lot more than some milk, but I think you see where I'm going with this. Things can be a part of our lives so much longer when we make them a priority. When they are nothing but a mere pastime, they tend to "expire" quicker than planned. Greg broke it down best. If the guy you're seeing isn't prioritizing you, self-love will make it abundantly clear that what y'all are doing is expiration dating. Only, he doesn't need to toss you. You need to be the one who is doing the tossing, sis.
Do You (Clearly) See a Dead-End Up the Road?
They say that all good things must come to an end. Eh. Yes and no. I mean, it's true that some things have seasons and we all will leave this planet at some point. But as far as relationships are concerned, so long as they are properly nurtured, they can go the distance; they really can.
Someone else that I know, although she's been exclusively seeing someone for about a year now, when I inquired about an update, she told me that she doesn't see it lasting for too much longer. "It's cool, don't get me wrong. But he doesn't check off all of my boxes, you know? I'm just kind of getting to the place of wondering, what is the point?"
A lot of us will stay with something, just so we don't have to be with nothing. Settling in this way is another form of expiration dating because if the relationship has no real purpose, eventually it will exhaust itself.
If you happen to see a dead-end in your situation, why not rip the Band-Aid off now? The sooner that you stop expiration dating is the sooner you can free yourself up to date with a purpose. It's when you can stop doing what you know is going to bite the dust sooner or later, so that you can get ready for what is totally worth your while. No expiration needed.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Here's Why You KEEP Not Getting What You Need In Your Relationships
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