I think the first thing to recognize when it comes to dating is the common misconceptions associated with any type of dating terminology. For example, ‘dating’ to some people means being in a committed relationship with someone, whereas for others–myself included, ‘dating’ is testing the waters and seeing multiple people to discover your most fruitful options in a partner. Another common misconception is that dating, when defined the way I just previously mentioned, means sleeping around with multiple people and although that could be true for some, that is a personal lifestyle choice and doesn’t have anything to do with the actual definition of dating in itself.

Also, not being ready for a relationship doesn’t mean that you don’t mean well or have good intentions for yourself or your potential partner. It is not a right to be a player. It is not a right to be unfaithful. It just means that you’re still figuring things out in that department. It means that you want to know what you’re doing before entering what could potentially be the last relationship of your life. It means that you’re not rushing into any and everything just because the opportunity was presented. I mean, no one is ever really ‘ready’ to be with someone for the rest of their life after just a couple dates. That is the point of dating someone. Nevertheless, it is possible to date when you’re not ready for a relationship. Here’s the healthiest way to do it, in my opinion.

If you’re dating when you’re not ready for a relationship, make communication the first priority.

When I asked our Facebook community if it was even possible to date people when you’re not ready for a relationship, almost everyone who said yes required that the person needed to be upfront and honest about not being prepared for one. This is true and this is right. If you’re interested in dating, but know that you’re not 100% prepared to be in a serious relationship, just let the person/people you’re dating know that. It leaves the ball in their court and takes the pressure off your back. It lets them know that you respect them and that you also respect their answer after being honest with them about something like this. If they are cool with you wanting to figure out the dating world, but know that you’re genuinely interested in getting to know them, they will stick around, but they won’t be caught off guard or pressure you if things don’t turn into a relationship.

If you’re dating when you’re not ready for a relationship, be present during the ‘getting to know you’ stage.

First of all, if you know that you can’t divide your time and your spirit among a number of people fairly, dating multiple people is not for you. It is okay to date people one at a time and then to move on to the next potential mate after realizing that the one you’re with now won’t work out. Don’t be rude about it, but never neglect the fact that you do NOT have to stay in anything that doesn’t seem to fit or be healthy in your life. Now, if you’re going to date one person or multiple people, the most important thing for you to do is be present during every single ‘getting to know you’ stage. If you can’t do this, you’ll never find what you’re looking for.

If you’re dating when you’re not ready for a relationship, be open to all your options.

It’s important to be present during the ‘getting to know you’ stage because of what can follow. While you’re learning the person or people that you’re dating, you will start to really identify what it is that does or doesn’t make that person right for you. If you take it seriously, you can really make a decision based on what you learn about them while dating them. It’s important to understand though–especially if you’re dating multiple people–that you must be fair to yourself by being open to all of your options. That is the beauty of dating. The beauty of being able to connect with different people to find that missing puzzle piece; to find the one you don’t want to live without. Don’t let anyone take that privilege away from you so long as your upfront and honest about your intentions with anyone you become involved with.

If you’re dating when you’re not ready for a relationship, strive to learn more about yourself.

Always, always, ALWAYS date with the intention to learn more about yourself, the person you’re currently dating, and what you want in and out of a relationship. There isn’t really much else that needs to be said. If you aren’t taking lessons away from every encounter of the dating game, I’m not really sure what it is you’re doing out there. Always find a gem to hold on to.

If you’re dating when you’re not ready for a relationship, have an end goal that doesn’t compromise you or the people you’re seeing.

Piggybacking off the last point, when you’re finding out more about what it is you’re actually wanting to get in and out of a relationship, have a goal. Don’t mess with people’s heart and don’t play with your own heart. You can date without being ready for a relationship so long as you know that eventually, you do want to be in one. Empty dating is simple, stupid, and extremely damaging. Don’t do it. Know what you want and go after it!

If you’re dating when you’re not ready for a relationship, DON’T HAVE SEX until you are.

Contrary to popular belief, dating multiple people does NOT mean you are sleeping with multiple people. I promise you if you take away the sex and add a bit of courting you will find someone you want to be with. You will find someone that is worth cutting everyone else off for. You will find someone who truly prepares you for a lasting relationship. Sex always complicates things. If you are already having sex with multiple people you’re dating, tell them that you’re doing so. It’s unfair to them to withhold that information and it’s extremely unsafe.

Here’s to getting it right the next time!

This article was originally written by Editor-in-chief of Prime Fifty-Two, Isis Nezbeth, and can also be seen on Thought Catalog.