Clearly gauging all the emails and phone calls, I have frustrated enough people to the point where I need to write a blog post.
I believe we do not need to be “exclusive” meaning, “boyfriend, girlfriend” prior to engagement. Here’s why:
Dating is a delicate time.
If you are like me and at the point where you want to find your life partner and get married, dating serves two purposes. First, dating is the time when you get to look around, meet lots of people, figure out what you like and don’t like, and figure out what works for you. Secondly, dating is the time when you get to show someone else you are worth marrying. This can be tricky since the first purpose is very selfish in nature, it’s all about you and what you want and what you like. The second requires being more giving, showing someone what you have to offer, that you’re trust worthy, that you’re a real catch. This is a very delicate balance that has to be struck.
Marriage, on the other hand, is selfless. It’s all about giving to your partner. If you’re both giving to each other you’re both taken care of. In marriage you are obligated to one another. Committed, faithful, and never looking back.
The best way to date delicately is to remain open to others until you have fully decided to commit 100% to one person. At that time, you marry them.
HOLD ON! Before you go ballistic on me, let me explain….
Imagine this: Kyle and Kelly meet at a party and like each other. Kyle asks Kelly on a date as well as a few other girls he has met that week. He goes on all the dates and really enjoys his time with Kelly. He asks her out again. Meanwhile, Kelly is doing the same thing. She is dating lots of hot guys but also enjoys Kyle. They date more and more and in time spend more and more of their time together. Kelly slows down dating other men and Kyle slows down dating other women. Both have made it clear that they are ultimately looking for a life partner.
• At this point, had Kyle or Kelly indicated they didn’t want a serious relationship, or that marriage wasn’t in the near horizons, then the smart thing would be to end it. They are not on the same page. ‘
Kyle and Kelly start to get to the point where they are learning a lot about each other and growing closer and closer. Now…for most, including me in the past, this is the time when two people start to DTR, (define the relationship). People naturally want to commit to one another because they want to feel the safety and warmth of a loving, committed relationship.
However, I’m going to take this story in a different direction.
Kyle and Kelly never DTR. Instead, they just continue on as they are. They spend more and more time together. They enjoy each other’s company they grow close and start to share burdens and heartaches with each other. They start to really feel love for one another. They decide to meet each other’s families and make each other more integral in each other’s lives. They can still do all of this without ever declaring claim on each other. In fact, I think their better off if they don’t! On one level, Dating is the time to be selfish. This is the time to make sure you’re making the right choice because it’s going to be a permanent one!
So Kelly and Kyle continue on and they hit some rough patches. They both realize that’s normal, that really you only need to like 80% of a person, but it’s still a little jarring. They have been getting closer and closer to one another but neither of them is certain they’ve found “the one”. However, they both still see massive potential and work through their little quibbles.
One day Kelly’s sister invites her to a BBQ and introduces her to a few single guys. The guys think Kelly is hot so they chat her up and take interest. Kelly is flattered and flirts back (because she CAN, because she’s still SINGLE!). She decides to go out on a date with one of the guys.
• At this point it can go one of a few ways. Kelly can go out with this guy and think “Wow, this guy is awesome! I have to end it with Kyle!”. She can think, ”Wow, this guy is awesome but not worth giving up everything I have built with Kyle”, or she can think, “ugh….why did I go on this date…I love Kyle”.
• Either way, it’s ALL good and what dating is meant to be, AND since her and Kyle were not “exclusive” Kelly could test the waters with someone new without having to break up with Kyle first or cheat on him.
Kyle, of course, can choose to be upset by Kelly opting to go on a date with another guy, but my guess is it depends on how the date turns out. If it’s in his favor, he’s probably going to be happy that Kelly saw the light and was reassured Kyle is amazing. Which is how this story ends. Kelly thinks Kyle is amazing.
Kyle has a very similar experience. He realizes he is getting pretty serious with Kelly and thinks he’s in love with her. This feeling is scary given the gravity of marriage. He wants to make sure what he is feeling is real so he goes on a date. The whole time he’s thinking about Kelly. He then decides that night that he wants to marry Kelly. They have grown incredibly close, they know everything about each other and their friendship is unbreakable. She’s the one. Again, Kelly could be angry he went out with another girl, but Kyle was respectful and ultimately he decided his dedication was with Kelly.
What we are ultimately afraid of is being abandoned. We don’t want our partner to leave us for “someone better”. But I say…LET EM! If that’s what they do…then GOOD! You know NOW! If you give them the freedom to explore and they go out and hookup with loads of people and disrespect you, GOOD…you have now seen their colors! Get out while you’re ahead!
You want whomever you partner with to understand what it is they are looking for and what it takes to make a committed marriage work. As relationships become more serious you get to know that person better and better. There may be times when you wonder if what they offer is in fact what you are looking for. THAT’S OK! That’s healthy and normal and what DATING is for.
At some point in any relationship commitment slowly forms naturally. I doubt anyone would agree to marry someone who has been dating serially on the side. Dating is not only a time to be selfish but also a time to show what you are made of. If the person hasn’t shown you that they want to be with you and only you through their own silent commitment, they are probably not someone you should agree to be with. Let them have their freedom and see if they will genuinely make commitments without feeling obligated by you. But keep in mind, they are not obligated to you. They are not married to you. If at some point they feel they need space or to explore, a healthy relationship allows for that. A healthy confidant person allows their unobligated partner to explore other options.
What I’m trying to avoid is this scenario: Two people are committed to one another, things get more serious, and as they do, issues comes up. One person starts to feel like maybe this isn’t the right relationship after all, but…they’re NOT SURE. They want space, they want to see other people to figure out if it’s not the right person, or just a typical bump in the relationship road. But In order to do that, they have to break up. They have to go to their partner and say those infamous words, “I need space” or “I want to start seeing other people”. The other person freaks out, has a psycho moment and the person who approached starts thinking, “yep…it’s the wrong relationship, this chick is psycho”. It’s over. Or worse yet, the person doesn’t say anything but cheats behind your back.
If there was space and freedom in the relationship, when one person feels like they need to make sure they are choosing wisely, they can go and do their thing. They either come back or they don’t. Either way, you ultimately win.
Marriage is the time for ultimate commitment. Dating is delicate.