March 11, 2020
I got this text the other day from a 40-year-old male client of mine, someone I’ve been working with on and off over the last few years. It said, “I’ve been anxious to re-start dating (i.e. want this process to be done).”
I followed up with, “When you say that you want the process to be done, what do you mean?”
Every week, at least three clients say to me, “I hate dating. I just want to be in a relationship.” And my standard response is a question that I pose right back: “You know all new relationships start with a first date, right?”
There are so many shows out there—The Bachelor/Bachelorette and now Love is Blind—that rush people through some arbitrary obstacles (other attractive people, not being able to see each other, getting grilled by overly dramatized parents, etc.) in order to get to the “outcome,” and in the case of both shows, that outcome is marriage.
I continued to say to my client, “Dating is not something you can rush through to just be in a relationship.”
He replied: “I want to be married.”
Me: “I think putting that pressure on yourself makes it feel like every date is an interview for a wife. No wonder it’s so exhausting. As hard as it may be, try to take that pressure off yourself.”
Him: “What’s the alternative? Besides having fun, enjoying the conversation, getting credit card points for paying, etc? 🙂 Obviously I learn a lot from each interaction, both about myself and the other person.”
Me: “What, in your mind, is so grand about marriage? That stage requires work too. But different. It’s a moderately rhetorical question. Being married to the wrong person would be hell on earth, so why rush the part of finding her? Life doesn’t suddenly become rainbows and puppies when you’re in a serious relationship. You know that. That’s why I want to make sure you do take the time with the process and don’t feel every woman you meet is ‘the one’ or nothing. So many people think seriously dating and fun can’t go together. But they can… and should!”
I then shared that on The Bachelor (which I obviously watch for “work purposes”) there was a contestant this season, Kelley, who used the word “fun” a lot. “I want to have fun.” “Let’s have fun.” And, Peter, the bachelor himself, was bothered by this, replying, “I’m not here to have fun; I’m here to find a wife.” As if those things can’t co-exist. I don’t know about everyone else, but I think the goal for most people should be to have more fun in life, with or without a partner. Having fun does not lessen the seriousness of a situation… it amplifies the good ones.
My main issue with Love is Blind is that it reinforces this self-imposed (okay, Netflix-imposed) sprint to the altar. I know it makes for good TV, but does it make for a happy life? You need to take the time at the beginning of any dating or relationship situation to choose wisely. If you’re going to be with someone forever, why rush the initial stages? (And I’m not even addressing the “blind” concept of the show. Let’s just say that I wish they didn’t only choose conventionally attractive people.)
I know people are looking for that comfortable place where you can sit on the couch in your pajamas, but in doing that, you’re missing all of the good stuff—the butterflies and the basic information you need to know about the other person. Simple things, like whether someone is a night owl, or more serious ones, like whether you and your future partner can have serious conversations in a productive and non-defensive manner, can only be revealed by truly getting to know someone. It’s one thing to say you’re a certain way, but it’s another to show it. And time is the only way to show many things.
This show simply reinforces to me that the initial stages of dating should never be skipped just to have the “outcome” you want. What’s the point of the outcome if it’s not earned and grown with the right person? In the end, is it marriage for the sake of marriage, or is it marriage with a person who truly adds value to your life? I would always push for the latter since marriage is no prize if you’re not happy. There’s a big difference between “playing house” and making a home.
As I would say to my client or anyone else, it’s not “over” when you meet the right person—it’s just the beginning of a new, and often more complex, stage of life. And the “dating” should never stop, even if and when you find your person.