5 Reasons Why You Need To Lose Your Attachment To Dating Outcomes

Research shows that Gen-Zs might be onto something with their new 'NATO' dating trend.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | February 09, 2024

According to Tinder's 2023 Year In Swipe report, a new dating trend has emerged that redefines traditional dating norms. "Not Attached To an Outcome," or "NATO" dating, is an approach where individuals focus on enjoying the present moment and the process of getting to know a potential partner without placing excessive pressure on the future trajectory of a relationship.

NATO dating involves embracing the journey rather than fixating on a specific end goal or outcome and allows relationships to evolve organically for a more relaxed and enjoyable experience. This approach does not dismiss the possibility of a long-term relationship but emphasizes savoring every stage of the dating process, treating each experience as a chapter in one's personal narrative.

The Benefits Of NATO Dating

Here are some reasons why NATO dating is worth a shot.

  • Pursuing mindful partnerships. The philosophy of NATO dating creates a strong foundation for a mindful partneringdynamic, which involves approaching relationships with a sense of awareness, intentionality and presence.Mindful partners are fully engaged and attuned to their own emotions as well as each other's, and place a great deal of importance on active listening, open communication, empathy and a holding a non-judgmental attitude in a relationship. Dating mindfully also involves taking breaks when needed in one's dating journey, which has become especially important due to the widespread phenomenon of dating fatigue. Research shows that this can often stem from becoming overly invested in finding "the one" and then facing frequent disappointment if a connection does not work out as planned. A NATO approach frees individuals from this overwhelming pressure of waiting to reach predefined relationship milestones.
  • Prioritizing personal growth. The NATO approach implies that no matter what happens in one's love life, it will not occur at the expense of one's personal growth. Instead, it will only fuel it. Self-discovery and personal growth are prioritized such that whether a date goes well or not, it becomes another keepsake in a memorable collection of personal experiences and lessons "for the plot" of one's life.
  • Embracing singlehood. Research shows that believing that happiness can be derived from multiple sources, not just romantic love, enhances positive feelings about singlehood. A NATO approach can empower an individual to nurture and create a life they love outside of their romantic life.
  • Seeking meaningful experiences. The NATO approach encourages an openness to new experiences, which is associated with experiencing greater well-being and meaning in life, which enhances the quality of a relationship.
  • Assessing true compatibility. While visualizing a future with a potential partner isn't wrong, sometimes we get ahead of ourselves. Adopting a NATO dating approach, at least during the initial stages of dating, allows for a more objective evaluation of compatibility.

Individuals can take the time to get to know someone and cherish the dating period while deciding whether or not to emotionally invest in them. Distancing oneself from the outcome allows them to question pre-existing expectations and self-imposed timelines and instead assess what they truly want in a relationship.

How To Avoid Abusing Or Being Constrained By NATO Dating

It is human to seek connection and experience deep attachment. Not becoming attached to an outcome does not have to mean that one should ignore or dismiss romantic feelings for another person or think of their dating journey as completely out of their control.

It is also crucial not to use "NATO dating" as a means of evading commitment or sidestepping emotional intimacy. While this approach promotes a healthy mindset of intentional dating, an overemphasis on the present without considering future potential might hinder individuals from investing in relationships that could possibly flourish. The key is to take the time to assess romantic compatibility and establish mutual trust and safety before deciding on a future together.

Further, not being attached to the outcome does not mean that a relationship must be without a clear destination. A NATO approach could be unhelpful in the later stages of an established relationship, when the outcome inevitably does matter.

Individuals must communicate openly about their expectations, desires and boundaries to ensure that they are mutually comfortable with the relationship's pace and direction. Research shows that defining a relationship can provide an essential sense of clarity, increased intimacy and commitment. It is best to decide together what timelines and labels feel right, if any, based on the unique bond you have.


NATO dating focuses on the beauty of the present moment. By remaining open to possibilities while ensuring mutual understanding, individuals can cultivate relationships that align with their true desires and values. If one uses this approach to date more intentionally, they can build deeper and more satisfying relationships in the long run or, at the very least, build a collection of enriching experiences "for the plot."

Not sure if you've got what it takes to embrace a NATO dating approach? Take this personality test to gauge your need for control in a relationship: Relationship Control Scale

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