Dating with Intention
So over the last few weeks, quite a few ladies (and guys too!) have pressed me to write on the topic of dating and I had been initially inclined to ignore the requests. Inclined to ignore at least, until I had encountered enough complaints (from both sides) about woes in the dating stakes to give this issue due consideration.
STORIES WE'VE ALL HEARD
One friend recounted a breakdown in the early stages of dating because the gentleman in question believed in “open relationships” and polygamy.
Another recounted about how he had been clear with his intentions towards the lady in question but she was still trying to figure out whether she was actually interested in the first place (after a few dates already).
Another instance I encountered saw someone who thought they were finally committing to someone in the early stages of a relationship only for 6 months down the line to have the other party to walk the relationship back to the realm of a “platonic friendship”.
This led me to pause and consider and to lament the pitfalls when looking at dating – it also made me in Martin Luther King Jr-esque fashion to declare like he did 55 years ago that “I have a dream!” Now the dream I refer to isn’t racial equality (although that is still a very relevant dream I hold fast to!).
My dream is that all parties when considering dating someone would approach the relationship with clear intention.
The urban dictionary definition of dating defines it as:
“Where two people who are attracted to each other spend time together to see if they also can stand to be around each other most of the time, if this is successful they develop a relationship.”
Now I don’t want to cast aspersions on people who choose to adopt a laissez-faire approach to dating. That is not the point of this post. What I want to do is to outline key considerations that allows people to pick one approach they want to take when approaching dating.
Also, I know some reading this are probably waiting for me to rave about the importance of dating intentionally and give a pious account as to why people should “date intentionally” and roll their eyes so far back into their head , they develop 3600 vision… Don’t worry – I’m speaking from both sides of the coin… I’ve been the “opportunist dater”. But I have also been the intentional guy who knew what he wanted pursuing a relationship to the ultimate conclusion (well… nearly ultimate conclusion!), so I will try to be measured.
THE ‘OPPORTUNIST’ DATER
This type of dating is not based on any deep considered thought on the prospects of the initial dating yielding anything meaningful. Now I qualify this by pointing out that it’s not possible to go around literally meeting everyone and immediately touting them as long term relationship potential. The point I’m making here is that dating without expectation is very much a part of the game here.
I have been that guy who liked what he saw and decided to pursue on that basis not knowing whether the yield was meaningful – a long term relationship was certainly not in my remit and couldn’t have been. How could I know that Beyoncé wasn’t in fact the Gorgon Medusa…?
Most times I found out after the fact and rest assured was proverbially turned to stone or knew within a short space of time that this pursuit was doomed to failure. Unfortunately it took me 3 dates worth £100 pounds each to figure that out (Doh!). I know many girls who have let their guard down just because they were opportunistic in their approach to a guy’s advances and found themselves worse for the experience. I am not denying the enjoyment of dating. I had some very nice dates in my day and had a very good time. The fact is however, the lack of/or failure to create expectation meant that in each of the experiences that I had as an opportunistic dater there was one outcome: Conclusion of dating with someone getting hurt.
THE INTENTIONAL DATER
I found that when this scenario applied to me my entire approach was different. I no longer was dating for solely enjoyment.
When I first met Ruth, I knew I met someone that I was attracted to. But I knew that my getting to know her had to be a considered, well thought out process as it would inform my decision on whether I would be able to build a life-long relationship with her. I had previously done that, but not to the extent that I had done that in this instance.
My line of questioning was at a depth that had been hitherto not considered. The establishment of motive for dating was crystal clear on both sides – we both were looking to meet someone to build a life with. And finally, we were aligned on our expectation from the period of dating all the way to the relationship we subsequently entered into. The key point of expectation is what is the key. The essential thing about the early period of dating for the both of us is that there was a target attached to the process we were in. It is clear that the way a lot of people understand dating there is in many cases no direction, goal, expectation to the process which is why we get hurt.
BREAKING THIS DOWN
The reality is that in all these cases “the pursuit of the opportune” actually trivialises the actual point of dating as even if you adopt my urban dictionary definition, you see that the end point is seeing whether there is compatibility of some sort, but that isn’t happening.
I’m sure we all know of (or have been in/are in) relationships where it is clear that both parties are nowhere near figuring out whether they are on the same planet and yet are still “dating” or “seeing how it goes…”.
Usually what happens is that one party demands clarity which the other cannot provide and then the relationship breaks down. If that could be established from the outset, then maybe much hurt and pain could be avoided. If I was dating someone who made it clear that they only indulge in serious interaction for 3 months, then I know I’m not getting her a wedding anniversary gift. It sounds very obvious, but so many of us are dating people who we do not have any expectation or idea over the direction and destination point of the process with this prospective other half…
I know there will be many that see my view on this as rather archaic. I don’t really mind to be honest. I want to see us as a generation have wholesome relationships that are founded on solid dating principles. If I was to give 3 tips that have guided me successfully through the minefield of dating, it would be the following:
1. Communicate mutually your intentions. It sounds so obvious, but it’s often missed out in so many opening conversations. The fact is anything that isn’t out in the open is an assumption. And to assume is to make an ass of ourselves… I have many a time got the wrong end of the stick, quipping “she digs me” or completely missed an admiring glance (luckily so one might say!) because I just assumed. You do not want to miss assume, especially if you’re potentially on to a winner
2. Set mutual expectations. What is it that you both want from this dating process? To be in an open relationship? To be married? To Netflix and chill…? If one wants A and the other wants C, then you know you have an issue that should preclude the dating process. Again – I see many relationships where there is misalignment there and people get hurt because one is expecting the moon where one can only give a slither of silver.
3. Be straight-forward and open. This is the one where grey areas really do the most damage. We tend to have our guard up during this period because we want to protect ourselves, but actually what is needed in this period is a degree of openness. Sometimes, that openness is what is needed to actually lay out the terms in as stark a fashion as possible. The prevarication based on a desire to not reveal your hand actually can mislead and cause the dating process to descend into a game of cat and mouse. It is not a thing of shame to say, “I like you and want to get serious, but am only prepared to move forward if…” In that single statement, there is intention, expectation and openness.
As a man of faith, I look to the first man in the dating game – Adam. When he saw Eve he didn’t waste time! He saw it, put a name on it, and the rest is history. It does appear to me that it does take some affirmative approaches and responses from men and women in order to effectuate good dating that doesn’t leave a trail of destruction. I used the phrase “dating game” but in all honesty I think that the problem lies in the fact that we have tended to treat it as such. That levity has caused us to lose sight of the fact that we are dealing with people and not playthings. The moment we realise that we aren’t on both sides, then the more considered our approach will be to dating.
22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib[h] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.