For those of us who have been unlucky in love, it can be easy to become swept up in the highs of a new relationship. But, a host of TikTokkers have recently taken to setting clear rules, akin to a newly employed probationary period. This, they claim, can leas to healthier and more fulfilled relationships.
The idea of trial-dating, or romantic probation, has grown popular on TikTok and other social media platforms with users who advocate for testing the waters before fully committing. Those who follow this practice enter into a 3-month trial period before conferring whether it is something worth continuing down the track. As part of this process, couples are initially asked to complete an agreement detailing what to expect from each other, including questions such as "What commitments should we make during this trial period?"
The purpose of romantic probation is to gain better insight into the needs of each other, in order to decide if the relationship is worth continuing. Although this period feels like a job interview rather than a date or a fulfilled relationship, advocates believe that it leads couples to greater understanding and respect—a necessary foundation to build a successful long-term relationship. It not only allows both parties to assess the suitability of the relationship but also allows them time to evaluate their own goals and wants in life.
Numerous psychotherapists agree that couples should take time to understand themselves and one another before fully investing in a relationship. Licensed couple's therapist Johnathan Dozier believes it is important couples are clear on what they want out of the commitment before going ahead. "The best way of doing this is by having conversations about what kind of relationship you want." He adds that "Too often in my therapy practice, I see couples consistently taking steps backward instead of forward, because they've not communicated effectively about their shared values and objectives."
During the probationary period, both partners can take their time to get to understand each other and knowing one another better – a feat not easily achieved with first dates or just another night out. It is given couples the opportunity to move in together without feeling tremendous pressure to do so, while still getting a feel for how compatible they truly are with one another.
According to Gary Brown Psychologist & Family Therapist, it also offers 'emotional security". As part of romantic probationary period, couples are able to talk through issues which could cause conflict later in the relationship. Brown advises couples to focus specifically on "managing conflicts, compatible lifestyles and expectations for the relationship" at this stage. He advises against skipping over these kinds of conversations. Without these preliminary discussions, it is more likely that issues may come up later on down the track and put strain on the relationship. With romantic probation couples can bypass such complications and jump into an overall stronger partnership from the start.
Having an emotional safety net provides reassurance during a time where either or both partners are scared or uncertain. With romantic probation there is less risk of falling too hard too fast and being overwhelmed by strong emotions that may skew judgment and hinders decision making. While many critics say trial periods are just delaying the inevitability—eventually people will have to commit—others believe they open up pathways towards deeper understanding and respect between both parties.