Some think we should date lots of people, get lots of experience, then it will all work out. Sadly, while the ‘shopping around’ rule may work in many cases, it won’t with romantic relationships. This can cause more hurt and confusion and reinforce unhelpful myths. Thinking, pursuing, and selecting the right experiences and dates seems to be better.

After delivering a talk a while ago, one guy came up to chat with me. I always say and believe that dating is meant to be fun, but not at other people’s expense. So we need to think through why we’re saying yes or no to people and what kind of relationship we want to invest in. In other words, we need to think through how and why we date before/as we date.

This guy, politely but fairly bluntly, said he disagreed. He thought people need to go out with lots of people, date lots of people and then see what happens. He had had lots of experiences and it helped him decide what he wanted.

‘Me Me Me’

Let me say again, dating is meant to be enjoyable, we’re meant to enjoy meeting someone and enjoy falling in love. But when we do it with only ‘me’ in mind, people get hurt.

If we date someone and just think of our needs, lead them on, dump them when we like, use them short term, so that ‘I’ can decide what ‘I’ want, people will inevitably get hurt and become collateral damage.

Playing with a phone in a shop, or downloading a beta app, or trying on a pair of jeans in the store, is fine. Shopping around and testing items before you buy is fine. But when we treat people like that, as if they’re just there for our needs, and can be returned with no fuss, it’s not fair.

People will inevitably get hurt and become collateral damage

We wouldn’t want to get hurt or led on, so we shouldn’t do the same to others.

But We Need Experiences, Right? 

I hope this guy I spoke to would agree that we should not intentionally hurt people in any type of relationship, including romantic ones. But when we just think about ‘getting experience for me’, we often unintentionally hurt people.

Now I do think we need experience in one sense. I mean, we can’t marry someone or say we’re in love with someone we haven’t spent time with. But getting experience for ‘me’ is different to trying to build a relationship with someone, where you both think it could work.

Getting experience for ‘me’ is different to trying to build a relationship where you both think it could work

If experience is all about ‘me’, then I think it can be damaging when it comes to a relationship, but if the experience is about trying to build a relationship which is mutually enjoyable with someone you think it could work out long term with, that’s different.

This way is about trying to build, pursue, and experience a mutually healthy relationship. Now, this way may still lead to some problems, or even a break-up (Read What Do You Do If You’re The One Who Got Dumped?). I’m not saying this way is foolproof. But when it becomes about ‘us’ rather than ‘me’, we don’t treat people like items.

Unhelpful Reinforcements

If we do just jump from one relationship to another, it can actually reinforce unhelpful myths too.

I know those who’ve said that because they have dated lots of people and been on loads of dates and experienced more break-up, they know more about dating.

However, many suggest that this can actually reinforce negative behaviour. For example, if a relationship ends after someone gets bored, or the relationship starts to take more hard work, then it teaches that this should always signal the end of the relationship.

But all relationships take hard work, all couples need to work through tough situations. If these low points always signal the end, then we will never be able to turn our dating relationships into long-term stable relationships.

It can cause us to have less chance of committing to one person

Also, there is research that suggests that too much choice, too many dates can be overwhelming. And it can cause us to have less chance of committing to one person and one relationship. (Read One Big Reason Why Dating Feels Overwhelming.)

Selective Dates

There are people who do overthink too much or are crippled by fear of getting it wrong. So they avoid asking people out. If so, we may need to think about why that is, and how we can begin to change that (Read 5 Rules To Follow When Talking To Someone You Like)

But what I was trying to say to the guy who wanted to chat to me was that just having experience without thinking through our mistakes or what type of relationship we want, can mean we get hurt and hurt others. We can be left more confused while reinforcing unhelpful myths.

Taking the time to think about what a mutually healthy, enjoyable, and God-centred relationship looks like, can really help. Selecting the right dates, instead of just any dates, can help us avoid the dangers and give us the chance to build something special with someone. Which is what we all want really.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we did take the time to stop and think through how we are dating/want to date, and why. Then we can try to build something with the best people for us, rather than with just anyone.

Do you think selective dates may be better long term than loads of dates? Comments welcomed below. 

Originally posted 31/5/2017