By Jenna Ryu, USA TODAY

What is ‘hardballing,’ and how can one apply this technique to dating with intention? My feature with @USAToday shows how to present your truth to a prospective partner with confidence and diplomacy.  #interview #hardballing #intentionaldating

Jenna writes, “Finding love in the pandemic can feel hopeless, especially for those who find themselves settling for fleeting, unsatisfying romances. That’s why relationship experts are recommending a dating strategy to take charge of your love life: hardballing.

Hardballing, also called “dating with intention,” encourages people to be upfront about their romantic goals from the very first interaction. If you’re looking for a serious relationship, say it on the first date. If you’re not looking to have kids, express that early on. The point is to be straightforward.

“Most of us are afraid to be honest about what we want,” saysSusan Winter,a relationship expert and author of “Breakup Triage.” “Often times people want a serious, long-term relationship or marriage but don’t want to sound needy or desperate.”

Experts say hardballing can help singles find the right relationship without wasting time. But how do you do it without “scaring” someone away?

‘Hardballing’: How does it work?

Hardballing emphasizes the importance of being honest about your relationship goals. Does the person you’re going out with see marriage in the future? Do they prefer an open relationship?

These are heavy subjects for a first date, but it’s helpful to be assertive about your relationship needs. It saves time, creates clarity and eliminates vagueness.

While it may seem like an intimidating approach, relationship experts say it’s productive; when people hide their truths, it can lead to situationships, friends with benefits and other unsatisfying relationships.

“When we’re unclear about our goals and say, ‘Oh, let’s just let it flow,’ the relationship goes in a circular motion on a ride to nowhere,” Winter says. “So for a great number of people, permission to be honest and direct would be a massive relief.”

But there’s a difference between dating with intentionality and being too demanding, and it’s important to consider your partners’ wants as well.

“None of us have the right to walk into a new dating environment and say, ‘I need this and that, and you need to give it to me,'” Winter explains. “But you do have the right to say what you’d like to experience.”

For those looking to try hardballing, Winter offered tips on how to do it while being considerate.

  • Organize your must-haves and deal breakers for relationships: Many people, especially women, are concerned about saying they want marriage and children up front because they’re afraid they’ll “scare” potential partners away. “But if your partner doesn’t want what you want, you’re wasting your time,” Winter says.
  • Let your date tell a story: You don’t have to ask the person across from you about their five-year plan, but experts suggests asking what life they see themselves having— and comparing it to your own goals.
  • Be true to who you are: It’s important to compromise, but don’t feel pressured to to change to fit your partner’s goals. “I promise you there’s a lid for every pot,” Winter says.

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Jenna Ryu
Wellness Reporter
Jenna Ryu is a Wellness reporter at USA TODAY, covering mental health, sexual health, diversity, fitness, beauty, lifestyle and more.