Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Relationship Matters Four - The Dating Game

Hope for the Desperate and Dateless
Some singles have taken so many knocks in the rough and tumble of the dating game they have sworn off dating altogether. However there are countless benefits from playing this exciting game…by the rules.

Dating allows you to learn about yourself, others, and relationships in a safe context. You learn relationship skills such as listening, assertiveness, trust and honesty. It helps you to work out what you value in a long-time partner. Platonic dating teaches you sexual self-control and delayed gratification. You can get to know someone as a person without using sex to connect.

So what are the rules? Singles of all ages can end up damaged by getting intimate way too fast. Sexual self-control requires good boundaries, which means setting physical limits. Boundaries are not meant to be a killjoy; they are designed to protect you from harm. Your boundaries let your date know what you will and will not tolerate. When you are clear about your values, preferences and morals you solve many problems from the outset of dating.

Dating for fun and personal growth
Here is an idea that will revolutionise your attitude: Dating is not about searching for a marriage partner. It has relational value of itself. You can date for fun and discovery: discover things about yourself that need changing and discover things about the opposite sex. Adopt an attitude of giving, rather than just taking. See dating as a time to show others what being treated well looks like.

Experiment with going out with someone who is “not your type” just to learn about different people. You might have rigid preferences based on physical appearances: “I only date blondes/brunettes/redheads” or “I only like intellectual/athletic/creative types”. Without the agenda of hunting for a lifetime mate, you can open your mind to all types and be amazed at what you learn! However be guided by one criterion: date people of good character.

How do you find eligible singles to date? Singles in their 20s lament: “Where are all the great girls/ guys hiding?” Singles in their 30s complain: “All the good ones are married.” And older second-time rounders, whinge that other divorcees have too much emotional baggage! The best advice for divorcees is to forget searching for a new partner straight away. Divorce is a major trauma: go into divorce recovery, explore the issues of your failed marriage, grieve your loss and get emotional closure before you go on the “market” again.

Where do you find Mr Right and Miss Right?
Like in business, dating is a numbers game! Set a goal of meeting five new men/women a week. Here is a BLF (Blinding Flash of the Obvious): People who meet people go where people are: attend events, go to parties, join interest groups, take classes, join a gym, go on holidays where there are lots of singles and get over the stigma of joining an on-line dating service. Enlist the support of close friends to keep you accountable. Persevere through the rough patches. Don’t become discouraged or cynical.

Choose Character over Appearances
When it comes time to choose a wife or husband, what do you look for? We are indoctrinated with the Hollywood notion of falling in love and expect the full orchestra to strike up! However the euphoria of infatuation, caused by a rush of brain chemicals, is not a reliable yardstick for choosing a life partner. The attraction, that sets those chemicals racing, can be based on psychological factors such finding an unconscious match with the good and bad traits of your parents or projecting a fantasy of an Ideal Partner who will magically meet all your needs.

Choose someone with shared values, interests and goals of good character. You will be attracted to someone’s “outsides” but in marriage you experience their “insides”. You might be drawn to looks, charm, humour, intellect, talents and achievements and they might be fascinating company on a date but over the long haul all you will be left with is admiration, which does not nourish your soul. What is character? Someone who can connect emotionally, is not self-centred, has self-discipline, can be assertive, respects your individuality, is trustworthy and loyal, does not lie, does not blame, can face their faults without defensiveness and is committed to personal growth.

After the dating game is over, you can enter marriage, having had a richness of relational experience that did not damage you or anyone else. You will be ready to share your joys, challenges and dreams with someone you have chosen rationally for who they are on the inside.

And here’s a bonus: Not only will a loving marriage give you fulfilment in the personal side of life, your choice of a spouse will be a key factor in your business success.

This article was published in August 2007 in XL Extraordinary Lives, an international magazine for entrepreneurs and business people.

For more advice on dating, read Boundaries in Dating by Dr Henry Cloud and Dr John Townsend and How To Get A Date Worth Keeping by Dr Henry Cloud. visit

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