Today brings us to our last Dating Wisely post, so let’s wrap up our discussion with a nice big bow. You’ve been patient, and I’m grateful for your interest. We need more people like you—conscientious about the contribution you’re making in the world. The power of one is incalculable, and I hope that you’ll spread the hope just by becoming more and more solid in every relationship you have.
Until you’re in the kind of partnership you want, however, loneliness is a force to respect like a hungry lion. It’s not easy for human beings, social creatures that we are, to tame that beast. Still, I must caution you one more time to slow down. It won’t kill you…but too many hastily-entered relationships can.
Remember what Psychiatrist Murray Bowen said? The way people “handle [emotional and instinctual forces] in dating and courtship and in timing and planning the marriage provides one of the best views of the level of differentiation…. The lower the level of differentiation, the greater the potential problems for the future.” Take the time to get to know your date and to let your date get to know, so that your fantasies of each other can die before you try to require each other to live up to them.
Lose Some, Win One
And you may have to let a few dating relationships go. Statistically, most dating relationships end. If you date five people before you run into Mr. or Mrs. Right-for-You, you’ll break up four times before you find that life-long partner. Be thoughtful. If it needs to end, let it go. If the relationship isn’t a good match, it should end, and you’ll only do damage to yourself by trying to force a shoe to fit when it’s the wrong size for you.
Remember what the poet Galway Kinnell said: “We’re all seeking that special person who is right for us. But if you’ve been through enough relationships, you begin to suspect there’s no right person, just different flavors of wrong. Why is this? Because you yourself are wrong in some way, and you seek out partners who are wrong in some complementary way. But it takes a lot of living to grow fully into your own wrongness. It isn’t until you finally run up against your deepest demons, your unsolvable problems—the ones that make you truly who you are—that you’re ready to find a lifelong mate. Only then do you finally know what you’re looking for. You’re looking for the wrong person. But not just any wrong person; it has got to be the right wrong person—someone you lovingly gaze upon and think, ‘This is the problem I want to have.’ I will find that special person who is wrong for me in just the right way.”
And if you’re doing all this hard work to discover and be who you are, make sure you’re with someone who’s also doing the same. Still, focus only on your own development, and let everyone else focus on theirs. If you’ve made mistakes, learn from them, and put what you’ve learned into practice. Do over’s are one of life’s perpetual gifts. Respect them as privileges, opportunities in work clothes.
And of course, figure out what your sexual values and boundaries are and put them out there. If you’ve made mistakes in that arena, you can correct them, too. This is how you can come to trust yourself and be confident that you won’t make the same mistakes again. You can’t fail, if you learn from your mistakes. Perhaps a pithy little principle that made sense for me might make sense for you: “Never let a fool kiss you, or a kiss fool you.”
Then be cautiously optimistic. Go out there and try it all on for size. If the concepts don’t fit, discard them. But if the whole package has the ring of truth to you, commit to living it out in every relationship. No one ever regrets living a solid life.
I encourage you to go back and read these posts like daily meditations until the concepts come naturally to you. The first post in this series starts here: https://masculinemystique.com/2016/12/28/dating-wisely-1-0-yes-its-stressful/.
Also, check out my other blog series: on Why Men and Women Fight, starting with https://masculinemystique.com/2016/09/28/how-men-and-women-know-things/; on Fighting Respectfully, starting with https://masculinemystique.com/2016/11/15/fighting-respectfully-1-0-how-to-do-conflict-badly/; on Healthy Relationships, starting with https://masculinemystique.com/2016/10/15/healthy-relationships-nuclear-family-emotional-system/; on Healthy Families, starting with https://masculinemystique.com/2016/11/24/healthy-families-1-0-welcome-change/; and on Emotion Regulation, starting with https://masculinemystique.com/2016/12/07/emotional-regulation-1-0-wisdom/.
I wish you every success as you become who you are, and as you step into love with the right wrong person for you!