Monday, July 15, 2013

Petey's dating manual: Either you're committed or you aren't

"I will spue thee out of my mouth"

When we talk about love, we usually refer to romantic love. And when we discuss romantic love, we always assume that it is exclusive. It is, of course, normal for romantic love to be exclusive. Exclusivity is to be expected. And yet every other type of love is naturally inclusive. Does my love for my brother preclude love for my sister? For my mother? For a romantic partner? Of course not; loving increases my capacity to love.

And yet romantic love is and should be exclusive. Perhaps it is because our romantic relationships are intended to be so intimate and intense that they require enough time to make simultaneous development of other such relationships impossible. Certainly, our needs as regards our romantic partners can be satisfied by one partner – and are best satisfied when we have that partner's exclusive attention.

We ought to remember, however, that love naturally includes others. For some people, at least, it is natural to develop many friendships at once. As friendships lean towards romance, it is reasonable to spend time with many potential partners before pairing off.

Unfortunately, our modern dating culture encourages people to commit very early in the development of a relationship; some people even commit to exclusivity before going on a single date. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with a relationship developing quickly, we should not assume that it is the norm. In particular, we should not be offended when a potential romantic partner is not yet willing to commit – especially if we have not expressed a desire for such commitment.

Instead, we should enjoy our friendships for what they are. And, as we develop interest in an exclusive romantic relationship, we should work towards that end. But we should always respect the autonomy of our friends. We should communicate our feelings clearly in appropriate moments and ways. And we should remember that where there is no commitment, we have no right to expect exclusivity.


Britney said...

This makes so much sense to me, and if certain people I dated had understood this concept I think things would have worked out better for all -- not that they would have worked out in the end, just the process would have been nicer.

Tara said...

I like this post and I'm really enjoying this series, Petey. Thank you for sharing! From what I see, everyone has a different level of trust and knowledge about the other person that they want/need before they commit. I have to say though that it is really hard to say "I'm not ready to commit" to someone when they ask you to commit before you're ready. I think I almost have enough self-confidence to be able to say that, but it's still so, so hard to balance hurting the other person's feelings with what is right for you at that moment.

Tyler said...

I'm curious as to how you meant for your scripture to tie into your other thoughts. I know that when Casey and I were dating, we got to a point where we weren't progressing but merely maintaining the relationship. The scripture makes me think of constant progress being necessary or you are being stagnant, which is rarely good.

I do agree about cultivating friendships until you find a good friend to date further.

Peter said...

Britney: That's the idea.

Tara: It's tough. When I have to say something that someone else doesn't want to hear, I take solace in my confidence that it's less painful than letting her wonder and much less painful than trying to make it work but knowing that it won't.

Tyler: The scripture was mostly for fun and, as you observed, can be misinterpreted. I didn't mean to say that the strength of a relationship ought to increase monotonically. In fact, I'm fine with people having questions and being honest about them: "I don't really know but I'm fine with continuing to date so I can find out." What I meant to express here was that we shouldn't expect commitment when there's no commitment. It sounds obvious but lots of people still seem to have that sort of expectation.