As we get older, time seems to pass so much quicker than when we were kids sitting out summer vacations while telling our parents we were bored. The sense that time is passing us by can feel overwhelming.

This fear that we’re running out of time enters our dating life when we get obsessed with the need to be in a hurry to find someone before it’s “too late.” I’ve even heard a twenty-nine year-old express his fear that if he doesn’t find a mate before he’s thirty, it’s all over.

But, as the old adage goes: “Life is what happens while you’re waiting for something to happen.” So, if we’re going to enjoy dating, we’ve got to pay attention to, and cherish, the life that is happening.

First, let’s face facts. Unless we have no standards at all, dating will introduce us to quite a few people with whom we wouldn’t want to spend the rest of a life. And that will likely be the majority of the people we meet.

It’s not that they aren’t nice, fine people. It’s just that for one reason or another they won’t work as life partners unless we overlook a lot just to have that supposed ultimate goal of dating: someone, anyone.

If we think of dating as just something we have to do to get a particular result, a soul mate who will become the man or woman of our life, we’re likely to experience dating as an almost unbearable obsession.

To use consumer terms, we’ll experience dating in terms of the products it produces. And some of those will be lemons.

We’re usually taught, however, to think of dating in terms of THE GOAL. That’s, after all, a major definition of any success in our culture.

You know – set your goals, work toward THEM, keep THEM in mind at all times, measure your achievements by how you have attained THEM. And then measure your own worth by whether you produced the product.

Applied to dating, this means success is dating that produces the result. And since most of the activities involved in dating do not, frustration, self-judgment, and disappointment are more likely.

There’s another less-consumer-oriented definition of success that sounds more like the kind we hear in recommendations such as: “Live in the present” or “Be here now.” It’s that success is found in THE PROCESS of dating, not some product.

Living in the process is difficult because it’s counter-cultural. It’s not going to fit with any corporate challenge. It means taking our eyes off of any goal and onto ourselves.

It means facing our fears of not knowing how things will turn out. It means not needing to have the answers about the future, and being happy without them.

Seeing dating as a process and, therefore, living in every moment of dating as if that moment itself is the most important thing there is, is difficult. It takes discipline and practice and reminding oneself to recommit again and again to doing so.

It’s also life-changing. It’s actually what some Buddhists call mindfulness.

It means not thinking “I wonder what the future is with this person” while we’re missing what is happening in the present. It means not moving into some fantasy about what this date could turn out to be, but reveling in the interactions, sensations, and voices of what is to be relished now.

It means actually paying attention to the people we meet and date to see who they are, and not what they could be for us. It means sharing ourselves while watching their reactions. It means building new friendships, acquaintances, and connections.

It means getting to know more about ourselves in the interactions we have with all different kinds of people, while finding out who we are, how we react, and what we really want. It means living our lives as the great adventure they can be, as a journey, not a planned tour, where around any corner we could be surprised.

It means never having to worry about whether that adventure will end or about what the end, the goal, should be. And in the process, dating and our life will be a successful adventure.

Contributed by

Bob Minor

University of Kansas
Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies
A national resource for information on gender issues and gay/straight relationships for organizations, businesses, educational institutions, and media outlets such as NBC and USA Today, Bob Minor, Ph.D. …

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