So, I had a thought recently.
Dating is hard. Revolutionary, isn’t it? Nonetheless, I am discovering how undeniably true it is. When you’re dating, you’re not married. You’re not technically single either. So you’re… Single-ish?
Just about this time last year, I was happily writing an article on Singleness. Shortly after that, I fell head over heels for this really awesome guy. (Ironically, we reconnected over the aforementioned article… Kudos to the power of creative forms of expression!)
Though I’m still relatively new to the dating game, I am realizing that this whole mid-to-late twenties adulting thing gets pretty real, pretty fast. “Later” becomes now, and suddenly, you have all these huge life decisions to make… With a magnified maybe in mind. Or, do you?
Dating is a hopeful promise, not a promise of permanence.
Moving from single to dating, causes the narrative to change. Questions go from, “If” and “When,” to “How” and “Will?”
How will this work? Will it work out? Do I put all of my proverbial eggs into this one basket? Or, do I hold something back… just in case?
Dating is a whole new bag of tricky, because it’s navigating the waters of life with someone else’s well-being to be mindful of. Someone you hope—but don’t entirely know—will be there 10 years down the road.
So, what is dating supposed to be like, then? If it’s not this magical merging where two become one?
Dating is being a single, but, with someone else. If that makes sense. It’s two singles knowingly and consciously evaluating their compatibility as life partners, past the warm fuzzy feelings and sans the rose colored glasses.
Dating is two singles coming together and figuring out if 1 + 1 equals 2gether 4ever. (See what I did there?)
But, they’re still two singles.
Ideally, dating is a season of life where two somewhat fully formed individuals scan the periphery of life and decide they’d like to take a journey of mutual discovery. In Christianity especially, dating is more than just companionship, or “no longer doing life alone.” That kind of fulfillment should be received in healthy community.
Dating is giving and receiving permission to get to know someone on a deeper level; it’s license to probe beyond what is commonly accessible, to see the mystery of what’s inside.
Healthy dating is difficult. It’s a period that reveals a lot; about yourself as much as about the other person. It is designed in such a way that you are almost forced to see how well you fit with someone, beyond attraction and first impression.
It requires you to be thrown together, often, in community and in multiple engagements. Most people are unable to continuously maintain facade or mask insincerity. Individuals become visible and vulnerable. When you’re dating there’s gonna be some unimpressive parts of yourself that you’re going to have to show.
Dating is a hope with a goal. Getting to know someone on such a deep level develops an attachment. It develops a mutual protectiveness and eventually, a love for the individual.
The hope is that, “Maybe this could be the person I get to spend the rest of my life with.”
The goal is to be well-equipped, ready and able to make that decision.
Again. Hopeful promise. Not a promise of permanence.
Dating isn’t guaranteed to end in marriage. We’d like to assume that it will. But, again, that’s the hope.
Dating can be scary because it’s daring to imagine your life around a possible future… but not necessarily build around it. There’s a temptation to treat the person you’re dating as a spouse, instead of a sweetheart. Dating is not equivalent to marriage and shouldn’t be given the same weight-bearing in big, life decision-making processes.
Dating requires a balancing of hope for the future with the reality of the present.
So, how do you balance the tension?
How do you keep a foot in both worlds and still keep upright?
First of all, it’s essential to know where to place your hope and in what proportions. All of life is a balancing act, and in dating, it’s balancing the level of your vulnerability with your level of commitment. It’s foolish to give your whole self to someone you barely know, or profess undying love after a first date… even if blue french horns are involved.
Secondly, it’s wise to know what your level of expectation is, compared to what it should be. In other words, don’t put the cart before the horse. Figure out between yourselves where you see your relationship going and at what pace. This requires maturity, vulnerability and clear communication. Sure, it has the potential to get uncomfortable. But it could be that while you’re dreaming of a white picket fence and white dresses, he’s just looking to hang out and have a good time.
Thirdly, please don’t assume that you’re gonna marry the person you’re dating. Understand that all the way up until the “I do’s,” you and your darling remain singles together. This advocates mindfulness, and encourages one to conduct one’s self well. That way, you can prepare yourself for the road ahead, without the unnecessary pressure of a preconceived end result. Allow the journey of mutual discovery to be deductive, rather than inductive.
Lastly, friends, continue to hope.
Of course it’s important to assess the end goal. But at the same time, let yourself be young, in love and keep going. Be excited. Daydream.
Just don’t lose yourself in the dream before its realization.
That way, no matter where you decide to put your eggs, you won’t count them as chickens before they hatch.