My roommate and I found ourselves discussing dating for some reason tonight. It is a subject that comes up regularly, I think because nobody in this house really falls into the traditional model of dating. I was raised to believe that the purpose of dating was simply to find the “one and only” and served no purpose other than that. If you were with someone who you couldn’t see yourself with long-term (or forever) then you shouldn’t be with them… dating is a means to an end, and not an end itself. In my old age now I don’t think this is right for most people, particularly people in college and early career (or adventuring) phases.
I’ve been around the block a time or two. I’ve dated a few people, been engaged once, and had friendships to varying degrees from bang-buddies to deep non-sexual friends. Sadly, there is a lot of pressure to settle for a person if you love them, even if there are important parts of your future plans that don’t align. We are told that things will just work out, which roughly translates to one of you will give up, give in, and possibly harbor resentment. It seems there must be a better way, I believe we should encourage dating just for dating sake.
The women I have loved have wonderful lives, probably in part because we broke up. But our relationships were not failed relationships. They involved two people who had adventures and experiences together, challenged each others beliefs, and had a lot of damn fun. I learned a lot about myself during that time, and because of those lessons I am a better partner now to my current lover. Dating should be a way to explore how you handle emotions, intellectual stimulation, new sexual experiences, and explore new cultures and environments. Maybe you find someone you can do that forever with, but more likely than not most of your relationships will end, but again, that doesn’t mean they are failures.
There are so many people in this world. There is no reason to settle quickly when your long-term goals don’t quite match up. If you want kids and your partner doesn’t it is better to enjoy the dating and end it when it is time to move on instead of abandoning the things that are important to you. Whether it is marriage itself, children, or your lifestyle choices you can find someone that matches up… and the search is a lot of fun.
If I could go back and talk to my past self I would encourage younger Peter to enjoy dating more, stop looking for “the one and only”, and look at each relationship as a success if you learned something from it or had great memories. There is no rush to lifelong partnership, in fact, it is all a journey… something to be enjoyed and experienced as fully as possible. And even if the person you are dating is a perfect match there is no rush to marry because there is a lot of life ahead of you. You can marry at 30 and still have plenty of kids or whatever else you want. Don’t rush younger Peter, enjoy the ride.