I just got off the phone with a potential client. She’s in her mid-60s, lives in New York City, is accomplished, and wants to find a partner now that she’s been divorced for a number of years. All of this sounds par for the course in terms of my regular clientele. Most people I work with are in the same predicament: divorced or widowed and looking to spend the rest of their lives with a loving partner.

Where the conversation took a turn, though, was when this woman (who we’ll call Susan), said to me, “I hate dating.” When someone makes such a strong comment, I immediately ask why they came to that conclusion. Too often it’s because of one bad experience. People tend to overlook the good and even “meh” experiences when it comes to dating and only remember the negative ones. Such is life.

But her response wasn’t actually about one terrible date, as I thought it would be. Rather, she said, “It’s too time-consuming.” This is something I hear all the time, too. Online dating can often feel like a full-time job, which is often why some clients decide to use my services. I can take the work out of the process for them so that all they have to do is go on the dates.

But that also wasn’t what she was saying. She was saying that going on the dates themselves takes too much time! She went on to say, “I just want to be in a relationship. I hate dating!” Despite my best efforts to hold it in, I let out a little chuckle. I said, “You know every relationship has to start with a first date, right?” “Well, yes.” “And there’s no way to just fast forward to the relationship part without the dating part.”

This is where a lot of people get confused. In their minds, dating is a means to an end, that “end” being the relationship. But I would say that the early stages of dating are the most important part of any eventual relationship. It’s where you get to learn about each other, meet each other’s friends, have a first kiss, and explore the world through someone else’s eyes. And you get to share things about yourself, perhaps things you’ve never shared with anyone else.

Yes, being in a relationship can be comfortable … sitting on the couch and watching Netflix with someone special can be the best feeling in the world. But I would never advise anyone to forgo the initial anxieties and butterflies to get to Netflix-watching. You will have missed all of the things that make this other person special. And they won’t know these things about you.

I know that it can feel frustrating to share your story over and over again when you’re dating. But rather than looking at the process like something you have to slog through in order to get to a relationship, try to think of this part instead as the necessary building blocks. Without those, any relationship (or building) will fall down. You need a solid base first. And that solid base comes from dating.

As I closed the call with Susan, I told her this: “You’re going to go on some bad dates. I promise you that. You’re also going to go on some great dates. No one can prevent any of that. But it’s a necessary part of the process to get to the outcome you’re looking for.” Think she’ll decide to work with me? Time will tell.

Erika Ettin is the founder of A Little Nudge, where she helps others navigate the often intimidating world of online dating.