In this day and age, where information is literally at our fingertips and the story of a person’s entire life can be stored virtually and accessed in milliseconds, how does dating even happen? How do you meet someone and how do you determine their worthiness as a potential mate? Is it cheating to look them up online? Is Cyberstalking acceptable? What is the deal with “sexting”?
And how fast do you move into the various stages of dating?
Better question: are there stages of dating anymore?
Before we get into the heart of the matter, I should probably warn you that I am in absolutely NO way an expert on dating. As a matter of fact, I can still name every person I’ve ever seriously dated…and I can count the whole list on my phalanges without taking off my shoes. In high school, I only ever seriously dated one guy. And even that was actually prior to me being in high school… he was a freshman, I wasn’t quite there yet. Then I got grounded for the whole summer over my first ever C (a 79), effectively ending my relationship. I never got back into the dating scene during high school.
So, arguably, my ideas about dating are a tad bit…skewed.
As an example of my not-exactly-right dating views, I have to admit that I’ve never watched Sex and the City, I don’t like romantic comedies (for the most part; same as with musicals, I have a small list of exceptions), and I truly believe that sex and love are not connected, or rather, they don’t have to be connected. I’m exceedingly picky about the people I choose to date, and have been known to go years between relationships until I found someone who was worth my time.
Remember my post on Ayn Rand? Yeah, I kind of view myself as a Dagny Taggart in the realm of dating. She had 3 major loves of her life, and she didn’t date anyone in-between. But I’m also a bit of a Samantha from the aforementioned Sex in the City (just because I didn’t watch it, doesn’t mean I don’t know the characters). As such, sometimes I go through these stages where:
So, I’m not any kind of authority on lasting relationships, or how to find Mr. Right. But I am curious. I want to know about these things. My last few relationship ventures have been not exactly stellar… And instead of waiting years between relationships this time around, I’m trying to jump right into the dating pool.
But I have NO idea what I’m doing!! And it shows.
My mother’s explanation of dating and love may be to blame for some of my ideas on dating. For instance, my mom was dating 3 guys when my dad proposed. She wasn’t sleeping with any of them, and she was quite young (not quite legal), but she explains that that’s the difference between dating and the
not often never used term “going steady.”
As such, a part of me still believes in the idea of “dating.” You know, going out with several people at once until you choose one to put most of your effort and time into. Shows like the Bachelor make huge bucks commercializing this idea of dating. One guy or one girl choosing amongst a group:
Then there’s the love triangle formula, which is integral to about half the romantic interactions in movies: Boy meets Girl, Boy falls in love with Girl, another Boy falls in love with Girl, Girl must choose between the two, and true love wins out. You see it in all the YA books/movies: Twilight has the triangle between Edward and Bella and Jacob, Katniss has to choose between Gale and Peta in The Hunger Games, it’s hinted that Hermione can’t decide between Harry and Ron in Harry Potter, and on and on.
And all because once upon a time people were expected to explore their options before becoming monogamous in a relationship. There were stages to the dating process. You expressed interest in a person, went on a few dates to see if they were compatible and if you really wanted to be serious with them, and it was accepted that you weren’t exclusive. You might have been dating an unlimited number of other possible suitors trying to assess what qualities you were looking for in a possible mate. And once you’d weeded out the undesirables, down to the one you liked spending your time with the most, then you began to think about exclusivity.
I imagine it takes a while to get to that point, I’m thinking a minimum of 6 months.
But I don’t know for a fact… See, to the best of my knowledge, that’s not how dating works anymore. For some reason, dating has become a thing of serial monogamy. Instead of going on several dates to establish if a person is compatible, for some reason, if the first date goes well, people assume that means that subsequent dates are of the exclusive variety. Suddenly what should have been a tea party, Alice in Wonderland style, becomes just:
And the race is on to learn everything about each other. And then to move in together. And then to get married and have children, and cement the rest of your life to one person forever…
All before the other emotional stages of dating have taken place.
Attraction: The initial feeling of butterflies you get (well I get them) when you see someone who makes you swoon. You begin dating. It’s a time for exploration, getting to know each other somewhat. Flirting. This is the initial, oh so exciting stage of dating!
Uncertainty: It’s natural to wonder if the person you’re dating is really what you’re looking for. In a scenario where there are multiple people you are seeing, this allows you to compare partners until you find the right combination, eliminating your uncertainty.
Exclusivity: At this point, you’ve determined that the person you are with is really the person you want to be with, and you want to take it to the next level, emotionally. You’ve decided to become exclusive; to be with that one person and only that one person.
Intimacy: Now you’ve decided this is a person you trust, and you begin to open yourself up to the other person. Sharing your history with that person and finding out what quirks they have that you might not have seen before. Do they squeeze their toothpaste from the top or the bottom? You know, the important questions.
Commitment: He uses the term “engagement,” but lets be honest, not everyone plans to get married, or is legally allowed to get married, so we’ll use the term commitment. At this stage you’ve decided that the person you are with is really the person with whom you want to share “forever.”
That’s how it should be, but instead, what I have experienced is that people go from Attraction to Exclusive before they hit Uncertainty. The initial attraction stage runs ridiculously short, and then everyone’s in a hurry to settle down and claim their territory. They might even jump right into the Intimacy stage, trying to forcibly learn everything they can about their partner, because they’ve confused their curiosity (totally natural in the Attraction stage), with a desire for Intimacy… Then they entangle their lives to the point where, on the outside at least, they appear to be in the Commitment stage.
And then the Uncertainty hits. But since they’re already in a committed relationship, there’s no going back, just breaking up. If life were a romantic comedy, the two would get back together and live happily ever after because they would see the error in their ways, and realize that their uncertainty drove them from the person that was truly right for them.
But life is NOT a romantic comedy, and in life you rarely get a do-over. In life, people see the Uncertainty stage as proof of incompatibility and they end things. If the other person doesn’t feel the uncertainty, then someone gets hurt to the point where there is no mending the pain, and something that could have been great is flushed down the proverbial toilet.
I’ve experienced that a time or three…
So as I get back in the dating saddle, I need some help determining the best way to go about this whole dating thing, and I’m going to be looking into what the web has to say about it. Dr. John Gray’s article about the 5 stages is a start, but it’s awfully serious. So to lighten things up, here’s a video of a Dad laying down the rules of dating his daughter. It gives me warm fuzzies and a fit of giggles every time I watch it…