Michael Prewett


Are You Dating or Mating? A Guide

When it came to dating, I quickly found out that most people approached it differently than I did. I’d watch friends date multiple people at one time, entertain guys and girls that they knew they’d never be in a relationship with, and honestly, just have more fun with it than I would. They were going with the flow regardless of where it led them, while I was doing an analytical breakdown in my head of the future I could have with this prospective partner I had tunnel vision on.

I always felt like something was wrong with me. Like I was too serious or rigid or closed off.

Then, during an interview with relationship expert Tracy McMillan, I heard something that made the proverbial light bulb above my head go off: I’m not dating. I’m mating!

McMillan, who hosts the new series Family or Fiancé on OWN, explains that dating is very different than mating. “[Dating] is like you're with somebody that you don't see a lifetime relationship with,” she tells me. “You definitely know you wouldn't want to be with them for a lifetime, but they're fine for now. That's dating.”

Meanwhile, mating is taking things a step further and really figuring out if there’s mutuality within your relationship and an alignment of values, because you’re feeling committed. According to McMillan, this requires people to really take a look at what they prioritize in their partners, because those things can change when you switch from dating to mating.

“Is that hot guy really the best father? Is he really the best partner? What are the most important values that you’re bringing to your relationships? What are you prioritizing?”

While every situation is unique, McMillan can’t deny that the dating vs. mating pool is slightly skewed when it comes to gender.
Mating is taking things a step further and really figuring out if there’s mutuality within your relationship and an alignment of values. 
“Men often date, right? Women tend to want to mate. Not always, but when there's a disconnect, oftentimes it's because the woman wants to mate and she'll say, ‘Oh, we’ll just do friends with benefits’ or ‘We'll just do dating,’ but she really wants to mate.”

(Sigh. Not that I’m all too familiar with that life or anything.)

However, when it comes to mating and not dating, McMillan shares that the masculine energy is quick to call dibs when they meet someone worth committing to.

“I really have seen that masculine energy wants to lock down a feminine energy person if they're in love. So, they're going to want to start dating exclusively really quick. If he's moved by her and that's it, he's going to be like, ‘Alright. I want to be the only person seeing you,’ because he doesn't want to have to mate guard. He doesn't want to have to be like, ‘You're out there dating five other guys?’ He's not going to want that.”

She continues, “There's always a high desire partner and a low desire partner in every relationship. The lower desire person controls things in the relationship. If you really, really, really want to be in love with somebody and be exclusive, but they don't, it doesn't matter how exclusive you want to be. You need the person who's kind of like ‘I'm not so sure’ to be on board.”

In situations like these, honesty and discernment are really the best policy, and not just with your partner, but with yourself, too.

“The tiny dishonesties are far more corrosive to the eventual relationship success than the big ones,” McMillan explains. “Can they get through the relationship without saying some of their deepest yearnings? People can go years without saying that, and then one day, they either up and leave or it blows up. I always describe it as trying to hold a beach ball underwater. The beach ball is exerting upward pressure 24 hours a day and in order to not say the truth about how you feel or what’s going on in a relationship, you need to really work to keep that stuff down.”
The tiny dishonesties are far more corrosive to the eventual relationship success than the big ones.
These same truths hold weight when it comes to merging your two families together, a task McMillan has coached others through in her new series.

In Family or Fiancé, we see various couples attempt to get their families’ blessing on their engagements, and it’s not always pretty. In fact, some resulted in breaking up the engagement all together. So what happens if you’re dealing with a family member’s disapproval of your significant other?

“Oftentimes parents have an issue with something because they see something happening in the relationship that they're uncomfortable with. And oftentimes parents are willing or able to see things that the couple who is in love and maybe in the throes of a new relationship or a relatively new relationship is not willing to look at yet,” McMillan states.

“There are a number of ways to handle a parent's opposition to a relationship. And the first one would be, is there any truth to what they're saying? What are they saying? First of all, let's unpack it and then let's look and see if there's any truth to it.”

However, there are also moments where the family is projecting their own ideals onto your relationship, and in that case, it’s a good practice run on how to go through hurdles with your partner.

“This is just the first of many possible challenges and obstacles that you will face as a couple. So first and foremost, you get the opportunity to work with your partner and see what it's like to work with your partner in a problem that is not going anywhere. Like a lot of times, it's easy to just dodge a problem, because you just set up your life in a different way or you move to a new town or you quit your job or you break up in the relationship. But if you're committed and you're married and the parents have a problem, it's like you really get to see how are we going to work together as a couple to deal with challenging situations.

“You can work it out if your families are not in agreement with your relationship, if you are clear about why you’re in it.” 

Catch Family or Fiancé Saturday nights at 10 p.m. PST on OWN.

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