Dating With a Brain

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Dating With a Brain
By Becky Whetstone, Ph.D.

We know the world is full of unhappily married couples, but guess what – it’s also full of unhappily dating couples. That’s right – I’m talking about unmarried men and women in committed relationship who are hopelessly incompatible and remain together even though they don’t have to. The question, of course, is why?

Well, the answer is complicated, but some of the most common reasons people continue to date someone they don’t like or get along with are: the fear to be alone, fear of the unknown, and hatred of the dating scene. Also, many times a person either enjoys unhappiness and turmoil, or has never experienced peacefulness and contentment and thinks it’s normal to be unhappy with another person. Any way you look at it, it’s sad.

But one thing I’ve been seeing lately is that some single couples who knew there was trouble almost from the start ignore the obvious and start amassing material things such as houses, puppies, and furniture … things that quickly complicate the relationship and become an anchor that weighs down two people who otherwise might walk away.

That is why I am calling today for singles to take drastic action and to begin a new and different process of dating and getting to know one another. It’s a process I call, “Dating With a Brain.” Yes, instead of acting on instinct like animals, singles will now engage the cerebellum and use  thoughtfulness, mindfulness, and self discipline when it comes to dating and love-related decision-making.

Once this occurs, we will see the end of unhappiness as we know it. There will be no more road rage or divorce. Flowers will bloom, kindness will rule, and we all will live life the way it was meant to be lived – joyfully and peacefully.

Hey, I know what you’re thinking – that using the brain to make wise relationship decisions is extraordinarily difficult, and almost no one can – or will – do it. Call me a dreamer, but I think it’s possible. I know, because I do it myself.

Here are the guidelines I suggest that singles use to begin the process:

1.    Be happy with yourself. This is important, because you won’t make a great partner if you don’t like and respect you. Self esteem forms the foundation for the healthy relationship that you will eventually have, and if you start with this, you will accept nothing less than decent and respectful behavior from others.
 
2.    Be able to be alone. If you can be alone, then it means you can wait for a relationship that is healthy for you, and that is worth waiting for. Too many people feel that they cannot be without a relationship, and this sets them up for one mess after another. Example: Bob dates Sue, who he doesn’t like that much, and then dumps her to upgrade to Debbie, who he does. What Bob doesn’t know is that Debbie doesn’t like him that much … and, well, you get the idea.

3.    Stay busy and interested in life. One of the chief reasons people rush into unhealthy relationships is due to loneliness. If you stay connected to friends and activities, then you’ll be less likely to leap into something that isn’t right.

4.    Give people a chance you normally wouldn’t. Guess what – the person who is a great fit for you may not look like you imagined, have the sense of fashion you’d hoped for, or live as close as you’d like. But if the person is kind, decent, and has integrity, give him or her the benefit of the doubt, and see what unfolds.

5
.    Date. Too many singles soar from one or two dates to love and going steady. I’ve even had singles tell me they don’t know how to “date.” Well, here’s how: If you are interested in a person, go out, then continue going out, and go out some more. You don’t have to narrow it down to a one-person commitment right away. Keep your options open as long as you can … see what’s out there, and even if you do decide to date only one person, it doesn’t mean you have to declare he or she’s The One. Spend time getting to know one another, be patient, let the closeness progress or … or not.

6.    Believe people when they show you who they are. If you go out once or a few times and your date is late to pick you up (or isn’t ready when you get there), drinks too much, talks about or does things that cause you to feel uncomfortable, tries to push you farther than you want to go, doesn’t do what he or she says she will, expresses beliefs and values that are wildly opposed to how you believe, comes on strong — and soon pulls back, shows a lack of honesty or integrity … then save yourself  weeks, months or years of misery, and end it.

7.    Hold on to your heart. Don’t give your heart away – allow a person to earn it. In a healthy relationship, friendship, compatibility, and companionship come first, romance comes second. If a person wants to rush it, then assume he or she doesn’t have your best interest at heart.

8.    Ease into commitment. Commitment is an important decision. It means: I’m off the market and I want to go out with you and ONLY you. Think about it.

9.    Commit, but take it easy. OK, you want to be exclusive. Date, enjoy, love the person. But don’t move in, buy a house, puppy, or anything else together that will make it difficult to break up should issues come up that make it unworkable.

10.  After time, get serious. A couple needs to see one another in many situations over time. Do that, and if after a year or more things go well and the person continues to be decent, kind, honest, then take it to a serious, committed level – still, don’t buy things together unless you’re willing and able to get stuck with all of the financial commitment.

The things I mention here sound difficult, but they are doable and will ensure that you don’t end up in relationships that ultimately cause you to feel miserable and trapped. Your brain is ready and willing to do the work, if you’ll let it.

Copyright 2007, Becky Whetstone, Ph.D.

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