In no area of life do we experience more pain than when it comes to broken relationships. Obviously an equally heart-wrenching experience is losing a loved one through death. The pain of divorce, though, can often be more devastating and lead to longer-term stress. Even the break-up of romantic non-marital relationships can take a heavy toll.
There’s nothing worse than running into and “ex” with whom you had a bad ending. It’s awkward. It can be painful. It’s sad. But it doesn’t have to be. Imagine running into an ex without all that angst?
Let’s face it, most of us don’t marry the first person we date…or even the second, or third. Some go through dozens of prospective partners before finally finding “the one.” And yet, in so many cases we throw ourselves completely in…and can wind up shattered in the end.
I think women fall into this trap more than men do. We have a tendency to romanticize things and read into a man’s words and actions way more than what may actually be there. Girls love to get on the phone and review and examine every nuance of what a guy said or did and what it can all mean (e.g. he really loves her but is scared, or shy or, wounded…you get the picture).
Men on the other hand, tend to start out with greater passion. They rise to the challenge to win over the lovely damsel and once captured, he may start to chill out or cool down. It makes for a very confusing and frustrating scenario. Most women hang onto the image of the guy they saw in the beginning rather than accepting the man he is now.
So when entering a new relationship, I think having a game plan going in can save you a lot of heartache and pain down the road.
First, consider this: the purpose of dating is to get to know the other person to see if they are a suitable match for you. (Sure, it’s companionship too, but if your goal is marriage, then you need to keep focused on it and not confuse things.)
Here’s what you want to find out:
- Do you have a lot of likes and dislikes in common?
- Do you share the same values and morals?
- Do you share your faith beliefs?
- Do you lead similar lifestyles?
- Do you have similar, or at least, coordinating goals?
- Do they communicate well?
- Do they have a good relationship with their family?
- Are they free to marry in Church?
- Are they addicted or dependent on anything?
Those are the kind of questions you need to be asking on the first few dates. That’s the meat of your mission…learn about the real person not the romantic image he or she may be putting forth.
Don’t be fooled. A man may very enthusiastically agree to walk around the outlet mall on a beautiful spring afternoon when you first meet him….but is that something he would normally enjoy doing? Nearly every woman will brave the elements for Mr. Dreamy at a football game in November, (snuggled together under a blanket sipping hot chocolate from the concession stand, of course)…but does she really care about football (or even understand it)? It takes time for the real people to emerge.
For that reason, getting all hot, heavy, and passionate before a commitment is a really stupid mistake. You think you know this person, but he or she may not be the person you think they are at all. Sure, you may have good instincts and some of it may be real, but you may be bonding with, or worse, making a baby with, an illusion.
You won’t really know the person until you see them in various scenarios and among various people.
- How do they treat non-essential people like the doorman, the waitress, or the guy trying to take their spot in the parking lot?
- How do they interact with your friends and theirs?
- Are they consistent?
- How are they with your family?
- Even better, how are they with children?
- Do they seem to really enjoy children or do they think they should be seen and not heard? (I remember a guy who got very uppity that a family at the next table brought their young children out to dinner at 8 pm on a Saturday – and they were quiet! Bad sign.)
- How do children respond to them?
- How about your dog?
- Are they kind to animals?
- More importantly, do animals seem to like them? Now I’m not suggesting your dog should make such an important decision for you…but children and pets tend to be much more real about their feelings…and they pick up on things we may not see or ignore.
Remember The Emperor’s New Clothes? It’s one of the things to look at.
Now, naturally introducing him or her to family and friends is an important part of the Getting-to-Know-You process, but be judicious about this. You don’t want to make someone part of the family until you’re absolutely sure you actually want them to be part of the family…and that they want to be as well. It all boils down to boundaries.
Over time you may see things you don’t like. Or you may decide you do like the person very much but you may find out that you have different goals. You may just like them as a friend. If neither of you have led the other on, and you aren’t sexually bonded, you’re free to move on…or remain just friends. (I made a LOT of good male friends over the years.) It may not be easy to walk away or accept just a friendship but it will be a lot easier than if you allow yourselves to get too involved.
The best part of all is that following these strategies has a secondary benefit…they set the groundwork for a happier and healthier relationship with the right one when you do meet them. Win. Win.
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