You are out at a bar and meet someone who seems attractive, interesting, and interested in you. He asks you for your number, and you offer it up freely.
The next day you get a call from him and decide to have coffee that evening. Coffee goes so well that it stretches out into dinner, and then a late-night drink. Maybe you go home together, and the next morning you feel that wonderful afterglow and the feeling in your heart that this could be “the one.”
You begin to string together images of moving in together, buying a house, getting some pets, and traveling all over the world together as a storybook couple. Within the week you decide to move in and see how it goes. Six months later, you are fighting all the time, can’t stand each other’s habits, and feel betrayed and hurt.
This is a common pattern that has developed in the gay community, especially amongst people who are searching to repair a fractured family experience from their childhood. Rushing in and out of multiple relationships can make one believe that there is no true love out there and that relationships are for fools.
Maybe the problem is not the people one meets, but the speed at which some modern relationships seem to careen forward into commitment and finality. The speed at which expectations and fantasies take over the reality of a relationship can overwhelm our ability to see the true person sitting across from us at the table.
This is where the very old-fashioned concept of dating might have a place in the hyperspeed modern world that we live in today. Slowing things down and really getting to know someone takes time, work, and focus, and can even be a little scary. At the same time, it can create a strong foundation for a truly powerful relationship to develop. By taking the time to actually get to know someone, we are investing our own energy more wisely and setting ourselves up for future success.
A concept that can be very helpful in this slow-dating approach is the idea of “qualifying” this potential new partner. Look at the qualities potential partners present, not only to you but also to the other people they interact with on a daily basis. Notice how this person interacts with friends, both when those friends are present and when they are not. Does he treat these friends with respect and kindness?
When out on a date, how does this new potential partner interact with the staff at a restaurant? Do you observe respect and generosity? Or do you observe demanding and demeaning behaviors toward the servers?
These are all cues to a person’s true life perspective and can give you insights into what living with this individual might be like.
Another important cue is to listen carefully to how a potential partner speaks about exes and the problems in his past relationships. These can provide valuable clues to challenges that the two of you may face in the future. Unless he has taken the time to do the work to untangle these past problems, the same issues will probably appear again in your future together.
These simple steps, and the time it takes to implement them, will make it easier to know the person you are dating, rather than the mask that he wears to impress the world. Relationships are a lot of work, and each of us has to be willing to make that investment of time and energy in order for the best results to manifest.
© Copyright 2010 by By John Sovec, LMFT. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.