Enmeshment

The word “dating” has almost run its course.

Words are powerful for the images and emotions they create, and because dating drives straight to the heart of us as mammals and intellects, it is an especially charged thing.

Removing the links to expectation and desire might be a start to some clearer thinking about finding people. Replacing the word – date, or dating – with something more accurate could get us shuffling along a better path. Detachment from dreams and attachment to reality seems to me a healthy goal, so why not call dating “mesh testing” or “compatibility examination” or “people fitment”.

Yes, all those clunky words won’t replace something so strongly held as dating, but even if we think for a second or two about what we’re actually doing, we might find a useful shift in our outcomes.

Partner in Crime

Online dating is as much of a dysfunctional circus as ever as I discovered last night. Not that I was on a date so arranged, but my friends regaled me with stories.

A catalogue of low-rent prospects…

Weirdos…

Out for whatever they can get…

We re-visited the predictable reactions of normal people to abnormal ways of finding possible boyfriends or girlfriends; it’s horrifying.

One subtle point was one friend’s astonishment at the speed with which people have sex and/or assume exclusivity (whatever that means.) In her mind, dating was about interacting with one or more people with the aim of better acquaintanceship. In other words, she’d be meeting and going out with as many prospects as she wanted.

Men interested in her bridled at her attitude to this, based on the assumption that once they’d met, sex was soon – and sure – to follow, and a monogamous relationship would ensue. This, mind you, between two strangers who’d met for perhaps two hours total.

Her thought was that dating should be time spent filtering and sifting possible candidates for consideration; the prevailing thought among the men she met was that all getting-to-know-you stuff would be compressed into a few dates, there’d be sex and voila! A couple!

Who would volunteer for something so asinine? How many failed interactions, how much emotional exhaustion, how much cynicism comes from this unthinking foolishness?

No wonder people run out of enthusiasm for the thrill and happiness and, yes, work, of marriage. We run a marathon before we run our marathon.

Ready to Date?

Freedom is great and all but freedom without thinking can devolve into chaos.

Take dating, for example. Freedom to choose with whom we want to go on a date, the time, the place and the circumstances strikes me as enormously valuable. We humanoids yearn for connection with others, for all kinds of reasons – if that desire is stymied, we’re all worse off.

Freedom has (as they say in the laywerly trades) attaching responsibilities. If we’re planning to sell ourselves to another (not in the commercial sense, but in the marketing sense) we should be honest enough to be worthy. It’s a matter of trust. If we are planning to project as single, stable, sensible, solvent and studious, we should actually be those things or live in a nearby neighborhood.

On the other hand, if you’re deceptive, dangerous, dilapidated and dishonest, that’s when the chaos begins. Some folks become so accustomed to being one thing and acting another that they think the results are normal. These people give dating and coupling and marriage a bad reputation. For acute examples, see Hollywood.

This is one circumstance where the Golden Rule speedily and demonstrably works in our favor.

Open, Sesame.

As a child, I asked questions, lots of questions, mostly because I was curious about everything I didn’t know, but also because it kept the authority figures talking. If they were talking, I could let my mind go elsewhere and they wouldn’t bother me.

Asking questions requires a specific mindset. The intellectual position taken by the questioner is:

I lack knowledge about this subject and you look to be the right person to inform me.

By contrast, the person of whom you ask the question automatically takes the opposite attitude, which is two-fold:

She is likely feeling a little superior because of the implied knowledge gradient, and she is in the position of helping me, an implied connection by way of assistance.

In dating terms, asking questions ranks highly as a skill worth cultivating. People like to talk about themselves, which has the added benefit of creating opportunities to discover common threads.

We should help that process along. When we start communicating with a complete stranger, we face a vertical cliff with only a few visible hand-holds. Questions are the ropes, carabiners, belay devices and chalk of dating – they will stop you from falling and dying on the rock face.

There is some evidence that availability is the single most sought-after relationship trait. When we first meet, it’s physical availability, and for long-term connection, emotional availability. Being available is about opening up and finding a way to help the other person do so as well. A simple question might just do the trick.

What do you think? Is availability the most desirable quality?