I get inspired by real life and in real life I’ve seen two conversations about dating that sparked my interest and my concern. These discussions were primarily happening among Black singles, and made me wonder if some of the confusion surrounding dating, “courting”, and commitment was part of the reason I know a good handful of extraordinary men and women who remain single. There seem to be so many different interpretations of what these rather simple terms really mean. Are we complicating these concepts too much, or is it like my good friend said… “interpretation is the whole problem.”
For a little insight, I have had a very varied love life. I’ve been married and in relationship with that man for many years, but no longer. I have cohabitated with men. I have been in long term committed relationships. I have also been with a few liars and cheats for short periods of time… cuz they were stupid. I am admittedly sensitive with my mates because I expect to be protected in that space in a way I am not outside of it day to day. Yet I am very self-sufficient, and looking for a partner, not a come up. What I am not is a dater. I have never had time for that. I am not going to spend any of my time with you besides a coffee date or two to talk about intentions (if you like to lay eyes and the phone is not your thing) if we are not on the same page. You gotta come to the parlor and sit and talk to me, play a hand of parcheesi, and state your purpose. If our purposes line up then we can go to a picture show. Period.
So what really is dating? The act of going on dates perhaps. A date according to good old Merriam-Webster is a social engagement between two people with a romantic character. One can go on a date to get to know a person, sit across from someone they find attractive, to share companionship, to get to know people and therefore what they like and don’t like, or to determine whether they are compatible enough to start a relationship. Only the latter if those options coincide with determining what your mutual intentions are… but since everyone has some intentions, each stage should IMO. The point at which it is determined that your goals match is the point at which healthy and transparent dating, courting, or commitment commences. If your goals just entail going on dates and don’t involve future plans, you are dating. Just dating. Once your outings have moved from just outings to purposeful engagements meant to solidify a commitment to one another, that’s courting. Dating can continue indefinitely or we can just randomly and inconsistently date. There is nothing random, inconsistent, or indefinite about commitment. That is an bona fide intention.
Most problems enter the picture when people fail to communicate, fail to believe the others intentions, or accept intentions that don’t meet their own. Some people love the spontaneity of the unplanned, but if you have work, responsibilities, and certainly children… that might not be your ministry. You need a plan. Communicate that. Don’t call me Friday to go out Saturday, we need to make plans, well in advance. Some people like to play things by ear. If that’s not you, speak up. I am dating to find a partner in marriage, what do you want? That conversation and statement of intent does not mean you will marry him or her, but you are each clear about the goal. The rest is up to compatibility, personality, behavior, traditions, emotional availability, etc., but the basic intentions have been set. You will either commit to that goal as time moves forward or not. But until you communicate them, both of you, it’s like floating in the water with your sail down… you don’t have any idea where you are going or where you will end up. And maybe that’s cool with you… maybe it’s not.
I believe most of us want to find someone to share our lives with… but a whole lot of us are not ready. If that’s your goal, perhaps readying yourself and not dating just for the hell of it, should be your first mission. The desire to be in a committed relationship won’t go away simply because you lack the resources and tools to make it work… you’ll convince yourself and some man or woman you don’t want that commitment and just emotionally injure yourself further and waste their time. Heal yourself until you can be a healthy partner, and then be honest about what you want and accept nothing less than that.
Whatever your intentions… make sure you are clear. Disappointment usually comes from having unmet expectations. You don’t have to wait in suspense for things to happen when you have clarity.
Now run along… there’s a gentleman caller in my parlor awaiting my grand entrance and my bustle needs fixing.