By CM Strawn 8/21/20
Note from me: I am not an expert in interpersonal relations. I have however lived a long life and weathered many storms. Some of those storms have capsized my dinghy a few times and very nearly drowned me. I like to think that I have come away with some helpful advice.
I have a few answers, certainly not all of them. But maybe I can help someone avoid the same rocks that sunk my boat more than once.
Dating is a way of finding someone you can live with – comfortably. It’s a way of exploring the potential of a permanent relationship.
It’s always better to find out early if there are problems. Major disasters may be avoided if you kick the tires before you make irreversible commitments. I say “may” because there is no way to predict the future – and life is a game of risk.
The only things that are certain are death and taxes. The first is avoidable if you know the Author of life. The second is inescapable in this life.
This handbook on dating is for young and old alike regardless of their dating experience.
Men are and remain befuddled by women. I am still mystified by the female gender, so I’m of no help here.
There are some who claim to have conquered the challenges of dating. Their advice is worth what you pay for it.
The most experienced hand at the dating game, will proffer advice that, they swear upon their questionable honor, is guaranteed to secure a date with whichever available female they choose.
These self-proclaimed experts are counting on the desperation of the selected female when they make their choice. Their target is the hungry, lonely look that a woman gets when she is willing to accept any bottom feeder that happens by.
This is not the way to get a date, regardless of gender.
So, avoid prowling places where singles are likely to gather, unless that happens to be a place you frequent. Where every you are, try starting conversations with someone you find interesting.
Number one: quality women are not impressed by pseudo intellectual pretenders. They are looking for genuine intelligence which is something that can’t be contrived.
A point of advice: Most women can see through a man like a pane of glass. So, don’t try too hard to be impressive. Being genuine is always the best approach.
Number two: quality women are attracted to men who are not looking for what’s in it for them. Men who put themselves aside and give undivided attention to another person will attract quality women.
I do have some experience in the field of dating which I am happy to pass on. Some of this experience may be helpful. But most should be taken with a large grain of salt.
The purpose of dating
The purpose of dating is not to satisfy the carnal craving that lives within the male. Dating is a way to spend time together to see if there is chemistry and compatibility.
Don’t settle for good looks alone. A shallow personality can lurk behind a flawless face.
Find someone who is genuine. If you find yourself comfortably revealing your innermost secrets, and they seem genuinely interested, you may be a match.
If they don’t talk much and just listen, you may be talking too much. Shut up and ask about them.
If they are unwilling to reveal much, it could be that they are a little shy and being cautious. It could also mean that they have something to hide. Be careful they could be an axe murderer.
Don’t decide anything on the first date. An impulsive decision could be fatally flawed, as mentioned above.
If sparks start flying immediately, it could just be a chemical reaction involving hormones. Just because there’s a fire in the kitchen doesn’t mean it’s a good match.
It is better to have a few more dates to see if there truly is compatibility before getting more serious. Also, keep the heat under control. There can be a lifetime of regrets when a fire is allowed to burn out of control.
Dating is mating. Don’t get in a hurry. Move slowly. Decisions made in moments will last a lifetime.
Hormones can convince a couple that satisfaction of the immediate need is all that matters. After the passion fades and reality sets in, they may realize they have made a mistake that’s irreversible – especially if passion results in pregnancy.
Abstinence is not easy, but it is eminently worth it. Even, and especially if there has been a previous marriage. Caution to old timers; it’s better to move forward on purpose than on accident.
Why quality is important
Why do you want a quality partner? Because a man (and a woman) needs encouragement to do better.
(You may have noticed this is from a man’s point of view. That’s because I’m a man. Nothing more complicated than that.)
Left to themselves, men are generally content to live in their comfort zones. (There are exceptions.) Once they reach a level of least resistance, men will maintain that delicate balance which satisfies their basic needs with the least amount of effort.
Not all men are slobs. At least, we don’t intend to be. There are a few men who will maintain their living space in a way that pleases the feminine temperament. Full disclosure – these men are the exception and not the rule.
A quality woman is the catalyst that pushes a man out of his stasis and into a better lifestyle. This type of woman has the magic that makes a man believe it’s his idea to do better.
When you’re dating, look for the person that inspires you. This may not be easy to detect especially if hormones have given you an insatiable appetite and your vision is blurred, and you mumble a lot.
This is tricky. You want to have that hunger. But once it’s satisfied there needs to be something more than biology. A diet that is based on dessert alone isn’t healthy.
Conversation is a good indication that there is more to a couple than fireworks. If a couple can’t talk with each other candidly, the relationship will be shallow and may dry up quickly when there is a drought.
What makes a quality man? You’ve probably gotten the impression that I believe all men are mouth breathing troglodytes.
You’d be wrong. I don’t believe ALL men are cave dwellers incapable of selfless thought beyond their own basic needs and desires.
Most men over the age of twenty-five who have a wife, more than one or more children, mortgage, car payment, utility bills and steady employment are thinking of their family. They don’t have time for self-indulgent fantasies. Those are occasional daydreams, not reality.
Men between puberty and twenty-five who are unmarried live to satisfy their own lust for adventure and their social appetites. They have no responsibilities other than what they impose upon themselves for their own benefit. Making the leap from “Me” to “We” is a herculean effort best guided by the female.
I emphasize most men. There are exceptions to every rule. We won’t get into that here.
A quality man would be one who has an eye to the future and has implemented that plan. He knows what he wants out of life and how he plans to get it.
This man also has a strong moral center and believes in a power greater than himself. He has mature character, knows in Whom he believes and has an intimate relationship with the Savior.
A quality man knows that a family is something that he does on purpose, not by accident. He will be about preparing himself to be a good and thoughtful husband and father.
When he asks a woman on a date it is because he is interviewing a potential mate. He wants to make certain that he has the best possible partner for himself and a loving, nurturing mother for his future children.
Exploring the relationship
Dating helps expose common interests. Doing things for fun is a way of rejuvenation from the daily grind.
Routines of everyday living use up our energy like fuel through a race car. We are barely able to keep up and our energy is depleted rapidly.
Along with rest, recreation and hobbies that we enjoy helps replenish our energy stores. We recharge better when we share our leisure time with someone who enjoys the same things we do.
Being joined at the hip is not the image I’m going for. Having outings separately by consent occasionally is healthy for any relationship. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.
Difficult times – potholes
The best time to find out that you are incompatible as a couple is before you get married. If you discover your incompatibility after you’re married, things can get inconvenient, messy and very, very expensive.
Determining your ability to live together in reasonable bliss can’t be determined after only a couple of months. That’s not long enough to face any serious challenges together.
For a long-term relationship to work, you must be able to navigate the potholes of the marital interstate. What happens when one or the other – or both – of you get your nickers in a knot for no good reason? (Or maybe there is a good reason.)
How do you handle the deep potholes without the relationship getting broken?
Everyone gets angry, disappointed, upset, nervous, nasty or downright disagreeable sometimes. How do you act when you get out of sorts?
Some people think it’s okay to express every emotion that passes through their cranial cavity without considering how it’s affecting others. There are others who are more even tempered and don’t react to difficulties – until later. (Beware of the time bomb.)
Do you expect everyone to just “get you” and allow you your personality quirks without any explanation? Or do you use your words and try to explain why you’re not making any sense.
Maybe your emotions are turning summersaults. Maybe you don’t know why, you just know you’re upset. (This kind of emotional minefield applies to women – mostly. Men can have their little meltdowns, too.)
These kinds of crises can play havoc with a budding relationship, or one that has already blossomed. Regardless of what is portrayed on television, deep wounds can sometimes be inflicted during these emotional upheavals.
It’s best to find out about these problems sooner rather than later and figure out how to handle them. Every problem may not have a solution, but there could be a work around.
Life is full of challenges and some can be exceedingly difficult. There are challenges that test a couple’s metal – even a couple who think they can be open and vulnerable without the fear of hurting each other. (Please stifle laughter.)
Going through life’s challenges with someone you can trust is easier than going through them alone.
How do you know if you have that kind of trusting relationship? You must experience some difficulties together while you’re dating.
These difficulties must not be contrived. If they are, there is probably something wrong in the relationship already.
The kind of difficulties I’m talking about are the ones that hit you broadside below the waterline and rock your world. You want to know that your partner is going to come along side you and not distance themselves from you.
Finding this out early will save you years of misery in an unhappy relationship.
There are always surprises that catch you unprepared. No one can predict the future, except One. How you deal with the unexpected together will go a long way in helping you determine if you are a compatible couple.
The secret to a successful relationship
There are no guarantees in life. In fact, there is no guarantee that your relationship will last.
One thing is certain, there is zero risk in not dating. Living a life centered around yourself is safe. But it is a lonely life, in my experience.
I should explain; after my wife of 28 years went to be with the Lord from cancer, I determined to stay single because it is too painful.
What is too painful, you ask, the relationship or losing someone you love? My answer is, “Yes” to both. After three years of being single, I missed the intimacy of a relationship.
It was hard living with another person and even harder losing them. But having someone to love and care about who returns that love and affection is infinitely better than being alone.
Relationships are hard. They require everything from both without the expectation of anything in return.
That’s not fair, I can hear you say. And I agree, it’s not fair. A relationship that works is sacrificial.
If you go into a relationship expecting to have all your needs met, you don’t belong in a relationship. Hire a butler.
For a relationship to last, you must put yourself out there holding nothing back. If the other person also invests themselves expecting nothing in return, the relationship is balanced, and both receive the best from the other.
Example: If one gives without receiving while the other receives without giving back, the relationship is lopsided and probably won’t last.
If it does last, the giving person will likely be miserable and exhausted from constant depleted emotional energy. The person receiving is satisfied and won’t understand why their partner is unhappy because they can’t see beyond themselves.
How do you find a sacrificial partner? By dating. A date is not a lifetime commitment. It’s a mutually agreeable meeting between two people to see if they have anything in common.
To complicate things further; a couple may not have anything in common, they just like being together. If their differences complement each other, they may be two halves of a whole.
It’s not necessary for two people to match perfectly either. If they appreciate each other and don’t insist that one conform to the other, the relationship can work.
The trick is to allow the other person to be themselves.
It’s great when you first start hanging out together. Everything seems magical. It doesn’t seem that anything could spoil this paradise of perfectection.
Truth is, you are two different individuals who see the world differently. Despite the fairy land of budding relationship where the sky is always sunny and troubles seem not to exist, dark clouds are on the horizon.
No relationship is without its challenges. Differences are an inescapable element in every relationship regardless of how long the couple has been together.
Learning how to navigate the waters of togetherness and avoid the hidden rocks that threaten to sink the ship of bliss is how relationship is developed. I call it learning to dance.
For a couple to dance, one must lead and the other follow. Don’t mistake the follower as less than the leader. Each depends on the other to move in unison.
A dance has a pattern of steps that each of the partners perform together. Each must learn their part for the dance to be successful.
If both attempt to lead, there is going to be chaos. And two followers will accomplish nothing.
With a leader and a follower, there are moments of independence during the dance. But they come together again in step.
Each partner knows the dance steps and what is expected from them. They complement each other. The observer wouldn’t know which one was the leader because they move together.
This coordination doesn’t happen immediately. The dance must first be planned, which requires input from both partners.
The dance steps are choreographed by both. The complexity depends on the elements of two individual lives that must be coordinated.
Spending time together, or dating, is the rehearsal. The dance steps must be practiced until they are done naturally.
Some dances need more practice than others. Especially when both partners have careers.
The “M” word – Marriage
After spending the required amount of time together dating, you are certain that you are the perfect compatible couple. What comes next?
You have made the choice to spend a lot more time together and get married so that you NEVER have to be apart again. What could possibly possess you to make such an enormous, life changing decision.
Honestly, you have probably visited every possible scenario that you can think of and there is no good reason to not get married. This is assuming you can stand each other after being in the same room for five minutes.
Marriage is a huge step which must be taken with the utmost gravity. The stakes are high. If things don’t work out and they fall apart, remember: It’s not the fall that hurts, it’s that sudden stop at the bottom that does the damage.
A good next step would be to consult a marriage counselor, or psychologist, whichever is appropriate. They can help you ask questions you never thought of because you live in the land of magical perfection.
After marriage, either one, or both of you may wake up one morning and wonder where the person is that they married. That person laying in the bed hogging all the covers, snoring so loud the windows rattle – and they’re double pane – is a complete stranger.
Take courage. That is the same person. They have simply undergone a transformation from being careful to being comfortable.
Now that you’re married, neither of you are trying to impress the other. The real person has come out of the closet into the full light of day.
This is the face of stark reality.
Don’t worry, they are wondering the same about you.
Remember all that work you did together while you were dating? Well, now the real work starts. The dance you worked out together has just changed and you need to learn a new routine.
If you think you will be able to adapt the original dance once and be done with it, think again. The steps are constantly changing, and you have to learn together as you go.
The good news is that committed couples are prepared for the unexpected. They look at life as an adventure and they love facing it together.
Keep a good attitude and forgive each other often. Don’t take yourself too seriously and married life can be the best experience of your life.