I have a confession to make. I’ve never liked dating. I really don’t like hanging
out with someone for a dinner (or even just a single glass of wine) making
small talk when I can sense in an instant that he’s not “The One.” I’ve tried
to be a better dater, a LOT. I’ve tried taking the advice of friends and books
and relationship coaches to just be flirty and let them see my feminine side,
but it wasn’t a good fit for me. And who is “The One” anyway? What was I hoping to find in these awkward moments? Was I just looking for attraction? Was I looking for a baby-Daddy? Was I looking to be rescued?
So I started putting some thought into what “dating” is actually all about. After
really looking at the result I want rather than the process of getting there, I
have decided to quit dating!
If you think about it, dating is a relatively new activity on the continuum of
time and history. Had I been born 400 years ago, chances are good that my
marriage would have been arranged at my birth as a means of retaining or
transferring property. If I had lived 200 years ago, I may have been matched up to a mate by my parents, community or a matchmaker for the purpose of producing children who could work the farm. But I was born in the 1960s into a society and culture that had turned its eyes toward finding love and feeling happy.
Marriage was no longer an institution that protected women, children and communities.
It was now about feeling good and feeling love – things that are important but
fleeting if not approached from the right perspective.
Now, don’t get all worked up here. I am not advocating a return to arranged
marriages to people we don’t know and have no feelings for. But, think about what
dating has become: a way to “try on” people, to find some sort of nirvana with
another person, to feel good about ourselves before we make a decision that
will impact the rest of our lives. Are we seeking a “feeling” at the expense of
our authentic self and a healthy, protective relationship?
In our current society, we have perpetuated this myth that “compatibility” is
paramount. If compatibility is the goal, then dating becomes a quest to find
someone with whom we have everything in common and few differences. But do
commonalities deliver the goods of a lasting a well-balanced relationship?
As I was preparing to teach my Personality Plus workshop, I really stopped to
dwell on the power of a complementary marriage. It made me ask myself, if I
were seeking an ideal mate, wouldn’t I be looking for someone who fills in the
strengths I do not have? If I am aware of my strengths, and he is aware of his
strengths, and we understand how each of us “completes” the profile of the
other, wouldn’t that be the ideal relationship?
Too often, I talk to men and women who have broken up with someone or gotten a
divorce because they just didn’t feel compatible with their significant other
or they just didn’t have enough in common. At the beginning, they were drawn to
the strengths that they were missing in themselves, but then wanted to have
someone exactly like themselves to live with. They try to “fix” each other
instead of appreciating what each other brings to the table.
This may sound old fashioned, but is it more important that your husband want to go
dancing every Friday night or that you know you can count on him to be a steady
provider and cautious with the family budget? Too often we get hung up on the
dancing part and dismiss the steady part. I think it’s very important that you
feel a spiritual connection to, attraction to and love for your spouse. My
point is, are we too focused on the trivial feelings and expectations at the
expense of the bigger picture?
So what does this have to do with dating? Well, I think that the deeper version of
dating is courting, and the true purpose of courting is to prepare yourself to
be in a relationship that is satisfying, challenging and complementary. Andrew
Farmer wrote, “No courting relationship should so warp our existing lifestyle
that, if it were to end, we wouldn’t have anything or anybody to go back to.” If
our courtship does not result in marriage, will I still have myself and my life,
or will I have to start over from scratch?
When we are young, dating is all about morphing ourselves into someone we think that
person across the table will like at the expense of what we have to offer. Two
people participate in each other’s lives and activities and friendships to such
an extent that they have lost their own identity, if they even had one in the
first place! When the breakup occurs, we lose our social life, our sense of
belonging, even our self worth.
As we get older, we (hopefully) get better at being real with ourselves, and that
will happen less. But now the risk is that we have become so picky that the
other person must have X number of things in common before we’ll let ourselves
be vulnerable and serious. I have drive and ambition, does he? I own property,
does he? What does my “list” tell me about myself or about him? That’s the real
question I want you to ask yourself too.
So here’s my plan. No more dating. I have used the Soulmate Secret to create my
list of characteristics that I value in myself, and will value in another, and
have released that list to God and trust that person will come to me. He may
not come in the package I am typically drawn to. He may not be a good dancer.
He may not have the same level of ambition that I do. But I will be looking at
his heart, and watching for his personality clues that will let me know we have
enough different strengths to bring together to make a stronger ONE. I want to
have some activities and beliefs in common, but how long would I really be interested
in someone exactly like me? The illusion of compatibility might cause me to
overlook the most complementary relationship of my life if I’m not careful. My
job right now is to prepare myself and become the person I seek to attract, not
to sit through meaningless coffees or dinners with people I have chased down in
the pursuit of a date.