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Mar 12, 2012

Stages of Dating

First of all, no. This isn't going to be some other rant about how the progression of dating should go. I hate those anyways. But I will share my experience about the developmental process of singles in the dating world. Partly from my personal experience, partly from the singles and married couples I know -along with countless in depth discussions about dating -and partly from crazy people.

So here goes...

Phase 1: Imagination and Fantasy

This phase can start as young as being a toddler. When we let out imagination run wild about married life, about relationships, about what it will be like to be "there." Over time, and as we hit our late teens and early twenties this begins to solidify into some sort of ideal image. Call it Disney, call it a delusion, call it young idealism. Whatever you call it, this is the stage where we are arrogant enough to think we know exactly what our lifetime partner will be like. If not precisely than we have a pretty darn specific set of images that we want to cram another person into. And we do that by...

Phase 2: Criterion Crafting

We select a bunch of criteria -most of which are very surface level -which are ideally supposed to reflect some characteristics that we figure we have to have. Sometimes, in the extreme, you can hear someone saying "I just know my bashert will have blue eyes" or something particular such as "he's going to learn at least 2 hours every night." We think about the way our date talks to the waiter as reflecting their kindness and the way handle the check as a reflection of their generosity. We assume that such things will bleed into all other areas of their lives and enlighten their inner character to tell us the secret of who they are in all other situations -like behind closed doors or under immense strain. Eventually we come to...

Phase 3: Shattered Expectations

There are two parts to this. First, we realize that nobody can live up to the ideal and fantasy we created in our mind. Secondly, we recognize that those tiny things, while they contribute to a person and our impression of them, do not define who they are. Hopefully experience shows us that life is more complicated than that and people have much more going on than just talking to waiters and picking up the tab. But we don't want to let go of the dreams we spent so much time building in our minds because it means losing the perfection, that person who will be everything we wish and want and hope they can be to bring us ultimate joy. In our minds, they are real. But we don't see them. So, we...

Phase 4: Grieving

Either let go -painfully -of those expectations, that perfect life in our minds... or we get stuck wallowing, feeling lost, depressed, and jaded; never moving on. Either way, we face the question if there really is someone out there for us. And either we decide for ourselves to make it work with someone, or we start laying on the blame. Recognizing the flaws, getting over them, accepting another person as they are... can be really tough. Especially if we never let go of our deepest hopes and expectations for our ideal life partner...

Phase 5: Searching for (and Finding) the Imperfect Whole over the Perfect Fraction

If we hold into the fantasies and stipulations, we reject parts of other people because they inevitably don't fit in. In the dating world, being subjected to that is frustrating, painful and a put-off. Over time, those cumulative judgments have an impact, and having to deal with it over and over again is exhausting. Ultimately, so many people just want to be accepted and loved, often for the things that we fear make us imperfect. We want to be with someone that can hold those things for us, who can appreciate us as we are, flaws and all. Who chooses us over their dreams. We can't be with someone who rejects a part of us, so learning to accept the entirety of another person (and be accepted by them) is ultimately the quest in dating**. You can't have a great relationship with someone who rejects parts of you and you can't build one with someone else if you reject parts of them. Because you can't have a relationship with fractions of a person.


**As an important post-script, I feel it's important to differentiate between searching for common values and accepting another person. The common values (and chemistry) are what bring people closer together. Accepting them is recognizing them as worthy by nature of their being human. Bottom line, not accepting can get in the way of exploring the values and chemistry two people share and holding onto our own fantasies of "what should be" gets in the way too.

1 comment:

  1. While I agree that one must come to the realization that they'll never find the "perfect whole" one must also understand that being able to accept someone else with their imperfections is not as base as simply deciding to do so. Two people who are being completely realistic in their view of each other, recognizing both strengths and flaws and appreciating the overall good in each other still may not be able to make their relationship work in the long run. Someone can "accept" another for the wrong reasons (i.e. not wanting to be alone, searching for happiness through a relationship)and though they may have a good relationship in the beginning, the jig will be up as soon as the "acceptor" is tired of putting on a facade. You are absolutely correct-- people do want to be loved and accepted for "the things we fear make us imperfect," but that requires sincere acceptance, not just the decision to give up the fantasy and look/find an imperfect whole. Good article over all. Thanks for sharing!