May 25, 2010

Rethinking the Purpose of Dating

I have been on this odyssey of self-discovery and, at the same time, trying to understand how to navigate this tricky road of male-female relationships. Obviously what I have been doing isn't working. I have had several long-term relationships that lasted 2-3 years. Most of them lasted way too long, but by the time I figured out it wasn't going to work, I was too invested to just call it quits. It seemed easier to stay and try and work things out rather than start over with someone new. Of course, every time you are in a 2-3 year relationship that isn't going anywhere, that is 2-3 years you have put off meeting someone else that could be right for you.

So I started looking at how I had been dating. I was dating to marry. If I met a guy online or wherever, I would line him up with what I was looking for in a husband. He had to be stunningly handsome, a strong Christian, and financially secure. And if he had tattoos, a motorcycle, or played the guitar, it would be a bonus. If the guy wasn't any of those things, he was out of luck. If the man did make it through my gauntlet of requirements, I would meet him once and probably never hear from him again, as I treated each date like a job interview. I was going to screen out those unsuitables before I wasted any time on them.
The problem is, I wasn't getting very many dates. I also was missing out on the chance to just enjoy meeting someone for the pure joy of getting to know them. I have been reading this book called How to Get a Date Worth Keeping by Dr. Henry Cloud. He encourages singles to date just to date and not to marry. The reasons are:
1. Most of us may know what we want in a person, but not what we need 
2. Most of us only date someone who is our "type," and you miss out on the opportunity to meet a different type, which may fit you better 
3. In order to find a mate, you need to date a lot, and you can't do that if you are so picky that you never go on dates 
4. Dating itself is useful because it will help you identify things you like in a person and also what things you need to work on to become the best husband or wife possible (For instance, if you find you are talking to someone and you are afraid they will think you are boring, you need to work on your self-esteem issues)

So, I have been trying this new method of dating, and so far I am liking it. I find I am meeting more guys because I am open to meeting them. It takes so much pressure off them and myself to take the marriage card off the table. I can just enjoy a date without stressing out about if they meet my checklist. I also am not worrying about rejection as much because the stakes aren't so high. I am not trying to fall in love or get them to fall in love with me. I can just be myself and enjoy learning about a new person. This is natural, because I like people. This isn't to say I don't want to be married, but it's not my objective in dating. I am trusting that God will show me that special person when he comes along. Until then, I can enjoy being a single gal.
In order to make this approach work and avoid being hurt or hurting someone else, here are a few tips:
1. Never show more interest than you have. Don't lead someone on. 
2. Be honest with the fact that you are dating to get out there and meet people. In our current society, things don't work this way anymore. Most people are either looking for a hookup or a long-term relationship. Dating seems to be an archaic term. Many people don't even know what dating means anymore. Dating seem to now mean we are boyfriend and girlfriend. 
3. Leave the physical stuff out of it. When you are just dating, you shouldn't be getting intimate with anyone. Intimacy is reserved for committed relationships. Until you decide you are ready to commit to one person you shouldn't be getting physical with them. 
4. Be yourself. Just enjoy your dates, and try to make sure the other person enjoys them, too. Make them feel appreciated and let them know you are interested in them as a person and not just what they can do for you. Don't try to impress someone. Just be your fabulous self. The right person will love the real you. 
5. Give yourself permission to date multiple people at once. This will keep you from getting fixated on one person. Until you are sure they are something more than just a date, you don't want to grow too attached or give them the idea that you are. 
6. Have fun on your dates. I know, it's a weird concept. Keep things light. Avoid heavy topics such as exes and emotional baggage. They haven't earned the right to hear these stories yet. Right now, you just need to learn who they are. In the right relationship, you will learn all their stories eventually.
Once you have been dating someone for a good amount of time (and no, I am not going to tell you what that time is, it's different for everyone), you will need to decide if this is just a date or a potential for an exclusive relationship. But this time, you will have done your due diligence and not just made a snap judgment decision based on a random checklist.
Your thoughts?

1 comment:

BAM said...

As always, I can see a lot of myself in what you say.

Also, though, I have some recommended reading: Against Love by Laura Kipnis. It is and is not what it sounds like. It is a polemic about love, marriage, dating, the history of such, etc. This book provides a very intriguing and thought-provoking perspective that helps one step outside the typical view of love and see it with fresh eyes. I think it should be required reading for human beings.