I think so many people are afraid to say what they want. There’s fear of rejection, fear of being misunderstood, fear of not getting what they want, and so on.
But what if you just said what you want. If you want marriage say so (of course you may date and figure out you’re not a good match for each other, but at least the expectations were clear from the get go).
If you want a fling, say so.
If you’re not sure what you’re looking for say so.
People spend a lot of time and energy trying to figure out where the other person stands. That can be exhausting. Why don’t you try just being up front about where you stand and that will make things clear--and give the other person the message that it’s okay to be upfront too. Without information, people make up (usually wrong) stories in their head; you can avoid this.
And as I am so fond of reminding, be kind. If the person you’re starting to date wants commitment and you’re not sure you do, tell him/her kindly. “I’m so glad you told me where your priorities are. I’m not sure where I am about commitment right now. What shall we do about that? I’m open to finding out.” This says you’re listening, being honest, asking for input, and open. If you’re sure you’re not looking for commitment, just kindly say so and let that person go find someone who is ready.
I hear people bemoan wasted time with an ex. I hope any time spent with an ex can at the very least be a learning experience. What new did you learn about yourself? What will you do differently going forward?
Even if you do know you want marriage and are both of the same mind, take your time. Date for at least two years before you get engaged. Give the happy brain chemicals time to wear down so you have a better idea of who you are planning to marry. Talk through many topics (see my premarital blog for topics) especially money, power, kids, in-laws, careers, and communication skills.
Being clear isn’t the same as being uncaring, or riding over someone. It’s using I statements: “I’m looking to get married, are you interested in heading toward marriage too?”