An Unconventional Starting Point: You
Yesterday, we noted that a conventional approach to dating just doesn’t work, if the statistics on relationship are any indication, and we decided to take an unconventional look at this most stress-generating activity.
In a nutshell, conventional approaches get your focus on the other person: Is s/he attractive? What will s/he think if I do (or don’t do) this or that? Is s/he honest, kind, employed, single, ready for relationship…? Of course, all of those things are important, but they aren’t foolproof, and they distract you from the most important tool you have to choose well: yourself.
Let’s look at you for a moment, and start with this question: Why are you dating? Are you lonely? Unhappy? Bored? Broke? Looking to hook up for sex? Following a list of “supposed to’s”? Trying to check “get partnered” off your bucket list? Your friends think you should? It’s okay. Be honest. There’s no judgment here. Just tell yourself the truth. If you can’t do that, the rest of this blog series won’t be very useful.
How you answer that question is the best predictor of how successful you will be in the dating and mating market, and success will be determined by the reason you identify for dating. What if you’re in the market because you’re bored and the person across from you is in the market because they’re broke? It might work for a while…until one or the other of you emerges from the temporary state of bored or broke and finds another reason to date.
Or what if you’re looking for a mate and the person you’re dating is just looking to hook up for sex? Not going to work. Someone’s going to get hurt, and we both know who that is. Better not to waste your lips, or other body parts, on that fated endeavor.
I’m going to assume that most of the people who will stick with this daily blog are looking for a life-long partner and they want to do that with someone else who’s looking for the same. This blog series can help you weed through the millions of folks who are looking for something different.
Again, it comes back to you.
Personal Growth Over Personal Fulfillment
Most well-meaning people go into the dating market seeking to find someone who will participate in a mutual happy-making endeavor. He expects to make her happy and she expects to make him happy, and so we make our first mistake, unwittingly setting our brand new relationship up for potential eventual failure.
That approach doesn’t work for many reasons that we’ll cover in this series. Briefly, however, any time you rely on someone else to make you happy, you’ve put them in a position to fail you. It’s your responsibility, and your responsibility only, to fashion your life into one that fulfills you. You don’t like the pressure of having to figure out how to make someone else happy, and they don’t like it, either. Avoid that dynamic like the plague, or it will become one.
So here’s Dating Wisely Concept #1: Personal Growth Over Personal Fulfillment. Go into a relationship for the primary purpose of personal growth, with personal fulfillment as a secondary by-product.
It’s Reality…Not Hollywood
Now before you shut down this blog, notice that I didn’t say that you should remain in a perpetually unfulfilling dating situation. Dating Wisely Concept #1 simply acknowledges that conflict will occur in every relationship–it has to, in order to provide you with practical knowledge about how you, the other, and the two of you together will resolve conflict…for the rest of your long-term relationship…because you will certainly encounter it every now and again.
Plus, the first 36 months of your relationship–after the 6-to-9-month hormone-driven honeymoon high has subsided–will help you determine whether your respective conflict-styles are compatible (the subject of future blogs), as you figure out whether your conflicts are a result of fusion or differentiation (stay tuned for info on that, too). That difference is critical when you’re trying to determine whether you and your date are well-matched. Rom com’s don’t include that part. They think it’s not sexy enough. Hogwash. Nothing could be sexier.
Romance Forces Growth…It’s Supposed To
There’s nothing like a romantic relationship to surface the places where we need to examine ourselves and grow. In the end, the unexamined self is not worth dating. You will only invite pain and sorrow into your life if you or the person you’re dating is unable or unwilling to examine him- or herself. (More on that tomorrow.)
However, if you and your date both go into your new relationship with the goal of personal growth over personal fulfillment, it’ll certainly be personally fulfilling, too. Not many people consider this approach, however, so it might not be easy to find someone who’s game. If s/he is, how exciting! It bodes well for your future!
On A Personal Note
On a personal note, this was the foundational principle that governed my approach to dating after I got out there in the market 2.5 years after my divorce. I dated a few frogs along the way to finding my prince, frogs who were in the dating world for reasons that weren’t compatible with mine, which was to find a life-long growing mate. I’m glad I didn’t settle for less.
Tomorrow we’ll look at our second principle for dating wisely: Use Dating as an Opportunity for a Do-Over (knowing now what you didn’t know then).