Dating someone is tricky business. It is a bit like playing poker, we do not want to reveal our cards too quickly, yet if we hold onto them for too long the correct moment can pass and the game might be lost. In both dating and poker there is always a risk factor involved. If you never sit down to play a game of poker it is absolutely guaranteed that you will never lose a game of poker, however, it also means you will never win a game of poker. Similarly if you never allow yourself to enter into a relationship with another person it is absolutely guaranteed that you will never be hurt by the other person, but of course it is also guaranteed you will never share in the joys of a relationship.
While there is always the risk of getting hurt in a relationship it is possible to live out a relationship in a way that both minimises the risk of hurt and increases the likelihood of discerning whether or not it is a relationship that might be a keeper. Everything really comes down to prudence, which in modern times has sadly been reduced to being overly cautious. However, prudence is the pivotal virtue which gives us the ability to know what actions are appropriate for us in a particular time and place. Prudence is very much ‘practical wisdom’ for daily living.
So here is my list of three ways to practice prudence in a relationship. They are three ‘do-nots’ but each ‘do not’ should be seen as an invitation to ‘do’ something. The points are simple in theory but not always so in reality. Just as one needs to practice strategy and skills to win at poker, one needs to practice strategy and skills to win at dating.
One. Do not place all your hopes for happiness on the other person. This rule works for dating right through to marriage. There is a natural desire in a relationship to seek joy through the person we are with, and that makes sense, I mean if there was no joy in being with a person why would we bother? We all come to a relationship though with our personal set of needs, perhaps we have a tendency to be lonely, or, perhaps we have a low sense of self worth. It is important to try and discover what our particular needs are and be aware that we do not place them all on the other person because if we do that we will very quickly suffocate them. And we can become so suffocating that we kill off any future the relationship might have had.
Two. Do not neglect the rest of your life. When we begin a relationship with someone who brings us a great deal of happiness we can tend to leave other parts of our life to one side. We naturally desire to spend more and more time with the other person and that is not a negative but it can cause us to put aside the company of family and friends and focus solely on the person we are in a relationship with. Especially at the start of a dating relationship, there needs to be aspects of our life that exist, to some extent, without the other person, we need to remain who we were before we begun dating. Without that balance of other people and activities we risk finding ourselves back at point one putting all our needs on the other.
Three. Do not grasp for what is not there…yet. This is perhaps the most important point. If you really think about it, most of the problems we have in relationships come about because we try to jump ahead of where we are. Like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, we reach out to take the fruit because we do not want to wait. Often we grasp out of fear, we are scared that the outcome which we long for will not come to us. Ironically when we do grasp in a relationship we can end up taking a step backwards, we can do damage to the way we see the other person and end up being disappointed and hurt.
If you are dating someone, the relationship will last because you have played the ‘game’ correctly. If we suffocate the other with our needs, if we let the other aspects of our life lay empty, we will end up letting some card slip out to soon and others come out too late. And once that is happening we can grasp at the end result all we want, it will only serve to frustrate the relationship and we risk losing the game entirely.