Recently read a cynic’s perspective on dating and it got me to thinking…
I think it is essential to define the purpose of dating before getting too deep into whether dating must be a “game” or not. All of us were created with a longing for true intimacy…to be loved completely and totally by another individual…warts and all. Obviously, true intimacy is a rare jewel that we have to work for and even fight for to obtain. It simply doesn’t come easily.
None of us want to be hurt, but true intimacy is simply impossible if we are not first and foremost willing to take the risk of getting hurt. I have met so many people who have been hurt by past relationships, didn’t take the time to grieve and heal properly, and are back out there actually using dating as a means of medicating the wounds from the past relationship (or in some cases, relationships). This leads to a vicious cycle that will eventually make them very cynical with impenetrable walls around their heart. (Met any of them?) They live with the incorrect belief that all they need for true happiness is to find Mr. or Mrs. Right. Their walls might guarantee that they will never get hurt again, but they also guarantee that they will never find the true intimacy that they long for. These are the people that see dating as some type of game that must be manipulated. For them, it is a scary journey of mistrust where you have to constantly guard and protect your heart.
In the popular animated movie “Shrek”, Shrek, the ogre, while on his way to rescue the sleeping princess, makes a very profound statement to Donkey. He says “Ogres have layers.” Since seeing that movie a few years ago, I realize that what is true of ogres is also true with people. We all have layers. Many layers. Dating is simply the process of peeling back those layers and getting to know another individual. At each layer, we decide whether or not we want to continue to pursue the relationship or if we have discovered enough to know that the individual we are getting to know isn’t the one for us. Relationships don’t have to end in knock-down, drag-out, who can cuss each other the most, fights. We can simply get to the point in the process that we say, “You are an awesome person, but not for me.”
Unless it is a completely blind date, you know a little bit about the other person’s outer layer before the first date. Physical appearance, occupation, basic interests, hometown, etc. all fit into the outer layer of an individual. This is basic common knowledge that requires no real level of intimacy to discover. We base our decisions on who to go out with on a lot of what we see in someone’s outer layer. For example, if someone isn’t physically attractive to us, we will most likely not have that first date to find out anything deeper about that person. That isn’t being shallow, it is simply being true to what we are ultimately looking for.
The process demands that the layers be peeled back in order. It simply doesn’t work any other way. Granted it would be nice and convenient to be able to know all there is to know about a person on the first date without having to risk anything of ourselves. You can’t get to layer 7 on the first date…the relationship is not yet mature enough to handle information at that level. This is basic selfishness. We want the other person to let their guard down and be real with us while we keep our hearts guarded. We want them to assume all of the risk.
The slow process sucks because part of the pain of ending a relationship is looking back at the time invested. It isn’t fun to get to level 9 or 10 with someone only to discover that things are not going to work out. It is normal that we feel like we have wasted that time. It wasn’t time wasted because hopefully, if it was a healthy relationship, we have learned a lot about ourselves and life in general having gone through that process. We should walk away with an even clearer picture of what we are looking for in a mate.
We need to learn to enjoy the process. The exhilarating hope of finding the true intimacy we crave is what must keep us going. It is out there…that rare jewel. Most are unwilling to fight for it or are too scared of getting hurt in the process. Yes, we will get hurt along the way…it is ok. We’ll make it. And, when we are resting in the arms of the one who knows us intimately, we will look back and realize that the fight for true intimacy was well worth it.