Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Competing dating philosophies

I apologize to you who aren't interested in all this relationship stuff. It's not usually like me to write about this kind of thing. I'm certainly no expert. But I'm reading this book, you see, and it makes me think of stuff.

This book advances a philosophy about dating that is completely opposite of mine. Now when I was in middle school/high school, I remember having this revelation that everybody was taking the whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing too seriously. It was a big revelation to me that maybe people ought to have these relationships merely for the fun of it. Then when you break up, there's no hard feelings.

As I got older, I began to change my mind. Now up until today, I have a different philosophy about dating. This is the way I look at it. Whenever two people start dating, one of two things are going to happen. Either it's going to come to an end at some point, or they're going to end up married. Very rarely do two people date each other for the rest of their lives. It makes absolutely no sense to date somebody if you know it's going to come to an end. First, you're just wasting each other's time. You could be moving on and possibly meeting somebody else you could marry some day. Second, somebody could get hurt that way. If you keep seeing the same person knowing you're never going to marry them, one or both of you are going to end up hurt. The longer you're together, the worse it's going to be.

So my current philosophy is that you should only date somebody if it's possible you could marry them some day. And dating is, in part, for the purpose of exploring that possibility.

But Dr. Henry Cloud disagrees with me. He has a whole chapter called "Dating is not about Marriage." Here's how he looks at it. He thinks that even if you date somebody you know you're never going to marry, there is still some advantage. The advantage is that you learn something about yourself and about other people. He thinks you should date just for the fun of it and for the learning experience. It teaches you people skills, it gives you practice, and it helps you figure out what kind of things you really like and don't like in other people, and it allows you to have a good time.

In some of his anecdotes, he's dialoguing with somebody who has as different philosophy. His method of debunking their philosophy is always the same. He asks them, "How is that working for you?" or "How long has it been since you've had a date?" And the poor ole bloke confesses that they haven't had any luck.

But is that a good argument? I haven't even tried Cloud's method, but I am enclined to think his method will work. But just because it works, does that make it right? The problem I see with Cloud's view is that he basically advocates using people. I think it's unfair to them.

There are some practical advantages to Cloud's method, too. I've always thought dating was paradoxical. On the one hand, you're supposed to have fun, but on the other hand, it's like going to a job interview. How can you have fun in a situation like that? Cloud's method avoids that paradox. Since dating isn't about marriage, there's no pressure. You're free to have a good time and be yourself. Forget about hurting anybody of course!


At 2/21/2006 2:30 PM , Blogger DagoodS said...

ephphatha, the way to avoid using people is to be honest with them. Be up front. Explain that you are dating to have fun, meet people, and explore the possibility of having another date. Whether you are on your first date, or your fifteenth, that is all you can do.

We should stop worrying about marriage, engagement, long-term relationships. Those things seem to develop quite well on their own without worrying about them on the forefront.

At 2/22/2006 4:44 AM , Blogger ephphatha said...

Dagoods, it is because for a lot of people those things do not develope on their own that books like this are written.

I agree that you should be up front about your intentions, but I don't think that really solves the problem. People can't always control their emotions. You can't just decide whether you're going to get attached to somebody or not. So attachment can happen regardless of what your intentions are. Whenever you date somebody, you put both yourself and the other person in a vulnerable position.

At 2/22/2006 7:54 PM , Blogger cellisangel said...

I agree with you on this one, Sam.

At 2/22/2006 11:27 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

I appreciate the support, Angie. :-)

At 2/25/2006 11:19 AM , Blogger Paul said...

I think that throwing sex into the mix is what complicates it for so many people. Even if you realize that the other person is not a candidate for marriage, you can always get sex out of the deal. And a guarantee of sex is something that'll keep you coming back, sometimes in spite of the hassle of enduring an imperfect relationship. For this reason, the relationship may not break up until there is another sexual partner lined up to switch over to. And when the relationship does break up, it is much more emotionally painful because sex was involved.

At 2/25/2006 7:46 PM , Blogger ephphatha said...

I agree with that Paul. But you know what I've noticed? I've noticed that NOT having sex also complicates things. The closer you get to somebody, the more you want to have sex, so you purposely start keeping your distance from them. You have to be careful snuggling, kissing, or being affectionate at all.

I just wish sex wasn't a factor, but I don't see how it's possible for the whole subject of sex not to mess with your thinking whether you're having it or not.


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