Friday, 2 December 2011

On Love and "Dating"

Note: I've addressed this to heterosexual males in my wording, but that's only because the people who have been asking me the questions are male. This is my way of saying, no I'm not palming your questions off, and no, these answers I'm giving you aren't that ludicrous. This is me explaining myself.

It's always difficult watching someone bang their head against a brick wall. We all do it, and I feel sorry for everyone who suffered through watching my mistakes. I am apprehensive about giving advice to people, but rather I try and explain my own thoughts as they apply to me.

Lately many people have come to me for dating advice. And dating advice isn't something I know how to give- because I don't know if I've had more than one or two "real dates". As soon as someone mentions dating, I get nervous. My own thoughts on the matter are extensive. I think everyone's are. But there are a few things I need to put out there before we begin this conversation:

1. I'm getting married in 8 days. This hasn't affected my outlook on dating, but it might affect your perception of my outlook. I wouldn't want to hide anything from you. Apart from my bank details.

2. If you want assistance to get into someone's pants, then I can't help you. Not because of my own thoughts on the issue, but because you'd have more of an idea than I would.

3. Through my understanding, if you're good at making friends (of both genders) then we have something to work with.

That last one is key, for one very important reason: I've been on as many dates with girls as I have with guys. Does that bother you? Then we might have different ideas about dating.

I watched a video recently about a man's struggle with depression and his thoughts on the topic. He presented some disconcerting ideas about love and friendship. He mentioned soldiers loving their comrades more than they love their wives. I personally believe that sentiment would likely be derived more from the purpose for which they selected their wives (and most likely vice versa) more than his idea concerning shared experience.

This is a tricky conversation for me to have with the person off the street because of definitions. What does love mean? I believe it is an active thing- not a presence, but a desire resulting in action. I am not talking about desire to be with a person, or to be physically intimate with a person, but actually a desire to perform this action called love. That might sound like a syntax error or a recursive definition, but it's the only way I can explain it. Love comes from a will to love. Will is choice. And love is a choice, and is not something a person can therefore "fall out of". Lust is a whole other issue.

Let's return to the topic of the video. I engaged this man in a discussion about "women". He felt that all the "women" in his vicinity were cruel and uncouth, a product of the society they've grown up in. The unfortunate thing is that he too has fallen prey to social conventions and thoughts on the subject that don't let him see past the way women in his life present themselves to the far more destructive issue of his own self-perception and his perception of women at large. Here we arrive at the first pillar of TSC's Guide to Dating:

i. If you don't have any female friends, things will be very difficult. If you do, then you can probably skip this point. If you don't, why? Is it external, or internal? I find it very difficult to believe that no woman would befriend you, all things considered, no matter where you live. So let's find out what you've done to set yourself apart from women.

Have you chosen to not make women your "friend" (as is the case with the man in the video)? Why is this? Is it because you believe in the inherent differences between men and women that make communication at the level of "friendship" difficult? There's a reason it's called "more than friends" (although I feel this detracts from the importance of friendship). It's not "more than friends" in the way that sponge cake is more than a cupcake. It's "more than friends" in the way that Doc's DeLorean is "more than a car". If you can't make it up to 88 mph, nothing's going to happen. It's got to be a car before you can go further.

My wife-to-be and I went on "dates" in the same way as getting to know any new friend. I could not deny her physical attractiveness, but there are many beautiful people out there, and we didn't bond over her appearance; we bonded over bush-walking and choral music, we shared experience to build friendship, valuing the discussions, not knowing whether we'd be remotely compatible as partners. And without needing us to be. The same story has been told many times in my life, but the girl isn't always physically attractive, nor even female. I've developed friendships with many people (as we all have) and through that, I've been able to reach a place where I know about a certain person enough to open up and have them open up, and that's miles before we've discussed any romantic interest between us.

For a worthwhile relationship, for a lasting relationship, you don't need to see the same way in every aspect of your life, but to be open enough to engage with difficulties when opinions differ. And you definitely need to be friends. To people who say: "I don't date friends," I must say I don't understand your view point. I understand it if the purpose of dating is sex. Because, really, who wants the awkwardness of sharing something so intimate then having to face that person on a regular basis. What if they fell for you?! Ewww...

ii. You already know what a good date is like. You've been on many. How many times have you shared an activity with someone because you're both interested in something? Seeing a movie? Going to a floral display exhibition? Playing video games? A great date came out of spending time with a person (same or opposite sex) and it wasn't because the film was amazing, was it? Or the flowers blew you away, right? It wasn't because of anything you'd planned. It was because you both grew closer during the experience, and it was because of the compatibility of your personalities.

She might be beautiful- so beautiful you'd write volumes and volumes about her beauty, but what does that matter if you can't relate to her or communicate with her.

iii. Maybe it's her. Maybe it's you. I'm reminded of this video in so many different areas of my life. It essentially asks the hard question for budding game designers: do you have what it takes? To cut a long story short: Are you even ready?

In the video it suggests a well-rounded person is a big requirement of the job. What do you know about art, history, philosophy? All that helps you contribute something to the world of video games.

Now, I like video games, but if video games are all I know, then I don't have the tool set to be a good game designer, or partner. If you're struggling to find someone compatible with your claustrophobic corner of the world, then maybe you need to broaden your horizons. There are plenty of ways to both broaden your friend base and your interests by joining various communities. Lack of potential partners is a real problem. Over the last few years, a friend of mine has gone from being surrounded by blokes in his programming course, to enjoying the friendship of many more people. It can be difficult if you're working full time, or in a remote area, but the majority of us live near thousands of people, many of which engage in social activities that we can become a part of.

If you don't get out, you'll have trouble finding someone else who would happily share in your reclusive behaviour. They're out there. But probably not worth it. Classes, church groups, sports groups, board game clubs- there are many groups are looking for members, so if you have any interest it can only do you good.

iv. Do you REALLY want a girlfriend? More than anything? Then that'll definitely be an issue. If you see my first point, you'll remember that building great friendships is the best way to expose yourself to potential partners. And I don't mean "leading someone on" (that's an important issue, too). Don't do that. Be honest.

I refer to the guy we all know. We can't help but notice he's single, because he hangs off every new girl he meets at every party we go to. He keeps asking us why he can't get a girlfriend. He wants one so badly. He's "doing everything right". He's got books about it.

He scares off potential partners (victims) more than a serial killer. He remembers every girl who he has fallen for, and resents past "relationships" which the girl in question possibly never even knew about. It's to this person (and we all know one, or twenty if we study computer science) that I give this very important advice: Try not looking at every endeavour of friendship as a potential mate-for-life. But know that each friend you make time for, and each new friend you get to know improves your chances of one day being the right person at the right time.

And to each of the guys (and couple of girls) who have approached me about this issue, know that I love you. I want to make time for you, go out with you, to walk and talk with you. But also know that advice on this issue is very difficult to give, and the hardest answer to hear is: Maybe you're not ready, and your mind isn't in the right space. If you haven't seen me for a while, say hi, call me up, I want to see you again, just to watch a movie- or see a flower show, or walk through an art gallery. Maybe we'll have a life-changing conversation. Maybe I'll learn secrets from you. We can really have a conversation now that you know where I'm coming from.

Just wait until after I get back from my Honeymoon. Married life, here I come!


P.S. Thanks, Kim, for reminding me I'm not (completely) crazy. And thanks to My Love, for being the best friend I could ask for.

P.P.S. This piece wasn't meant to be a fail-safe guide, just an insight into my own thoughts on the matter, for those who have asked. And for everyone else it's me opening up a little. I've posted enough cat pictures lately.

P.P.P.S. Nearly.

"I go first?" asks Lilly