Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dating Part 2 - Buying or Selling

I learned a lot of things from my dating experiences since the divorce I went through.  My “wise counsel” buddy and I had many discussions about it, including the importance of buying and not selling.  It’s easy to treat the dating process like we’re trying to make a sale.  We just want to be accepted, loved, and appreciated, and it doesn’t matter so much who the buyer is.  But this ends up being a terrible approach if we’re actually looking for someone to be with long term.  What do we do when we’re buying something?  We hunt for exactly the right fit for us.  When we’re buying relationally, we’re doing our best to avoid relationships with people who are not what we need.  Many of us have seen relationships that were incredibly painful to be around.  Others of us have been in those relationships and don’t want to go there again.  So what can we do to avoid relationships with people who are not right for us?

I understand that Initially we want to have a “let’s just have fun and not over-think it” kind of phase.  I think this is a natural phase to be in early on.  Even at that stage, I think there are some preliminary questions like “Are you a Christian” that should come up.  But as a rule I think it’s reasonable to save the serious discussions for a little later if that’s what works for you.  But eventually the time will come where you are both becoming more emotionally invested.  So I ask, how emotionally invested do you want to be with someone you may not be able to be with long term?  The longer the relationship, the stronger the attachment and the more painful it is to move on.  On the flip side, I don’t think we want to be throwing away perfectly good relationships out of fear of the unknown or fear of commitment.  We should strive for a balanced approach that is motivated by wisdom and not fear and anxiety.  

How compatible are the two of you and does it seem reasonable that a long term relationship could work?  If you’re currently in the dating world, have you given much thought to what you’re looking for and what you’re desperately trying to avoid?  I’m sure there are things that down the road you would consider to be deal-breakers once you’ve bumped into them.  The goal is to identify them and proactively deal with them before you get too emotionally involved in a relationship.  If you’re not compatible and the relationship is not going to last, I think it’s better to find that out as soon as possible and move on.  I know it’s not intuitive because sometimes emotionally we just don’t want to be alone (even though we may not admit it).  But being with the wrong person allows emotional energy to be spent where it shouldn’t be and prevents you from being available when the right person does come along.  If we are in a place where we would rather be with the wrong person than be alone, I think that’s a red flag that we’re not ready to date.  This attitude probably means that we are unable to be happy and whole on our own and that we require someone to sustain us.  This kind of codependent relationship is very unhealthy and will probably not end well.  The best thing we can do is spend time on our own and learn to be complete in God and within ourselves.    

Early on in the dating process for me, I began to figure out what I was really looking for.  Here is a short partial list to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.  I was looking for a woman who:
  • has a deep, growing relationship with Jesus
  • believes in commitment
  • is humble and puts others first
  • is not proud and has the ability to admit when she's wrong
  • is not manipulative or controlling
  • is not abusive, selfish, or mean
  • loves children
  • can effectively manage their own money
  • exhibits self control
  • is comfortable for me and not draining/annoying to be around
  • has her own list of things she is looking for in a man
Notice the last one in the list.  In a dating relationship, I think it’s very important for both people to be buyers.  Each person in the relationship must be responsible for determining how comfortable they are and how well “the shoe fits.”  There could be things that make it not a good fit for them that you will never notice or know about unless they tell you.  For them to not take responsibility for their part is not just inviting their own future pain but yours as well.  

At the end of the day, a breakup is better than a bad marriage that ends in divorce.  The important thing is to not internalize negative messages about yourself when breakups occur.  When someone walks away, it doesn’t say anything about you or them.  It just says something about the two of you together.  Eventually, God will bring someone into your life who is right for you.  All we can do is trust Him, follow closely, and walk the path before us.  If we’re following Him, God will make sure we end up at the right destination.

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