Friday, October 28, 2011

Profiling a Serial Dater

Happily ever after. Love at first sight. Soul mates. Made for each other. One and only. People like to believe in the power of destined love. And while most of us know at least on some level that real world love isn't quite like that, still we long to find it for ourselves.

We singles tend to go quickly from expressing interest to an exclusive relationship. After relatively little passage of time, we expect to focus completely on each other, demonstrating our "loyalty" and love. As romantic as this sounds on the surface, I believe it is insidiously damaging to us. I strongly believe that couples should not become exclusive until they are a scant step away from becoming engaged to be married.

I am well aware that the majority disagrees with me, so let me explain.

We should compare people when we are dating.

No one is comfortable with the thought of being compared to others. But if we have any hope of a realistic viewpoint of our future spouse, we should compare the flaws to others to see if we are willing to live with them, and we should allow their strengths to shine against the behavior of others.

We should compare people to people.

When we compare, we should compare each person to other people, not each person to some perfect standard in our own minds. We can’t help but draw up a list of things we are looking for in a spouse. But face it; no one is likely to perfectly measure up to that entire list. If we date just one person, measuring them against pristine standards, we can’t possibly treat them as real, living, human beings. Instead, we are so focused on how they meet our needs, we never accept them for people with needs of their own. When we compare real people to real people, we are able to pare our list down to realistic essentials, adapting ourselves and our expectations to reality, rather than trying to adapt reality to our expectations.

I want someone to want me over all other possibilities, not just because I’m the main possibility. I want my future husband to choose me with eyes wide open, knowing that I’m the best choice and not believing that something better will come along, knowing that I’m human, but realizing that all other girls are human, too.

Love shouldn’t grow in a pressure cooker.

When we become exclusive, we create an environment rather like the show the Bachelor(ette). There is a reason so few of those relationships work out. They are in this romantic setting, with the freedom to completely focus on each other. Outside realities of maintaining a house, interacting with family and in-laws, dealing with paying bills and going to work every day, fixing meals, etc. are artificially minimized. The same thing is true in the beginnings of an exclusive relationship. If you can push the exclusivity back until you know each other to the point where you can welcome them into your real life, you minimize the shock of taking off those rose-colored glasses.

We should take the pressure off of dating. Dating can lead to marriage, but it doesn’t have to. We shouldn’t feel like it has to. We shouldn’t feel like asking a girl out on a date means that we have to close all other doors to dating. Preserving other dating relationships until things are legitimately serious helps us from feeling too pressured, and our choices too narrow.

Jealousy is a green-eyed monster.

We should not expect to be the one-and-only in anyone’s eyes. Sure, once things get serious enough to desire marriage with a person, we should drop our OWN dating partners in favor of that one. But even then, it is wise to develop the ability to allow our partners their own lives and their own choices. THIS is true love; being able to love without expectation of returns. You should trust the person you love enough to be able to make their own choices about when they are ready to date only you.

I used to believe much the same as others in my age range. I loved the idea of falling in love and becoming involved in each other. But now, if I had to point to one major mistake I made in the time leading up to my first marriage, it was that I became too loyal too fast.

After less than six months of knowing my ex-husband, the moment I began to date him, I shut down all other possibilities of dating. I believe that this focus on him blinded me to many of the red flags that I should have noted before our marriage. Rather than having healthy dating relationships and other men I could have compared him to, I was too quick to forgive and forget his behavior towards me, which eventually developed into emotional and physical abuse.

I am determined to never allow that again. If a man I date can’t handle me dating other men until I am ready, then I don’t want to date him. And I refuse to do anything other than trust the man I love to choose me with eyes open, and to trust me to do the same thing in return. Any discomfort I feel knowing he is dating someone else, and maybe even kissing her, is not worth cultivating into jealousy. And if he can’t trust me, I am willing to accept the considerable pain of saying good-bye to someone I love.

Jealousy has no part in my life ever again.


  1. Thanks for posting this wise advice, Silver Rain.

  2. I regret not dating more before I was married over 20 years ago. Like the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20.

    But, on the other hand, I question how well one really gets to know what a spouse will be like through dating. Unless the nature of dating has changed in the last two decades, or unless my experience is atypical, there always seems to be somewhat of a facade in a dating relationship. The bliss of love blinds us to reality.

    I should add that I do believe that "most" marriages can be "successful" if both partners make the relationship a similar priority.

  3. I really like the facet of choice in this. While, of course, that could drag on forever (the extreme that shows up is people who refuse to commit out of fear or other reasons), I think that is something so important. You shouldn't feel forced to become exclusive. If the timing for that kind of commitment isn't right for both people at some sort of similarish time, that in and of itself can be an indicator that it may not be a good fit.

    As is often the case, I definitely see both 'sides' to this -- anonymous brings up a good point about how dating that is too casual can really help prepare one for marriage, but I do think there is too much of a quick leap from 'hanging out' and friendship to exclusivity, too soon in the dating process. I think there is a lot in that initial process that can be learned and discerned, and then the more serious dating can give more 'real-life' experiences as more time and energy and focus is spent on the relationship.

  4. Anonymous—I think there CAN always be a façade in dating, but there doesn't have to be. I, for one, am pretty much what you see is what you get. (And I've been told that this is why men start a relationship with me, and don't follow through. Apparently, we women are supposed to be mysterious, because men like the chase. But I won't say what I think about that other than to mention that when a man hunts, even when he is successful, what he gets is dead meat.)

    Naturally, there is no real way of knowing what a person is like to live with. But the problems that come from that are pretty small fish. I think all the essentials you really need to know can be learned in dating unless one or both parties are playing the game, and putting up a façade. And, having been through a disastrous marriage based on a façade, I don't have patience for dating partners who don't face or present reality. But all of that is really a different problem from the one I'm addressing here.

    Michelle—it is true that some people won't commit. But that, again, is a different problem. Many commitment-phobes, particularly LDS ones, have little problem with exclusivity. It's marriage they get cold feet over. And the ones who do just like playing the field can be evaluated for that best if you have other relationships with which to compare them. Even if you love someone, you don't have to keep dating them if they won't love you back. But I think it is wholly possible to love someone and still date other people until BOTH parties are ready to commit for keeps.

    I like how you put your last paragraph. Much more succinct than what I'm saying, but exactly how I feel about things.

  5. It can take time to get yourself to the point where you aren't trying to put forward a facade when meeting new people, especially when there is the possibility of a close relationship. The hard part is trying to work out from the occasional brief meetings if what you are seeing in others is a facade or the real thing. I think friends can help with this, if you're willing to listen.

    I, personally, hate the chase. I'll be as honest about myself as I can and you do the same. Building relationships (romantic or no) is not a role playing game. Its not a game at all. It is an opportunity to learn and grow together, no matter what the time frame.


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