I had two conversations with divorced friends today where the topic of dating came up. One of these friends has dated several women since his divorce a couple years ago. The other has chosen not to date at all in the two years since his divorce. But oddly enough, both said almost the same thing.
The non-dater said, "I don't have time for all the head games involved in a dating relationship."
The dater said, "I'm not into the head games that go on in dating. I want a real relationship."
You know what? I'm not into head games, either. In fact, I don't know too many people who are. So why do we play head games if not many people enjoy them?
My theory is that our culture has taught us that the "proper" way to find a mate is through dating. Dating has its own set of unwritten rules, just like any game. In our culture, feelings come first, then commitment. And like all games, dating has winners and losers: some people win the one they "love" and end up with a spouse, while others "lose" and end up with a broken heart.
But what if we decided not to play the dating game, or at the very least, not to play by the rules our culture sets? What if we turned the whole thing on its head and determined how compatible we were, then made a commitment, then let the emotion of love follow the commitment?
It sounds unromantic by 21st century American standards, but it has worked in other cultures, most of which have much lower divorce rates than ours. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this form of courtship is the norm, and dating, as Americans practice it, is an aberration.
I am not opposed to romance. I am not opposed to "falling in love." But I would love to dispense with all the games and make a practical decision to commit to loving a certain person, and then carry through on it. I suppose that during the time between the initial commitment and the actual marriage, it is possible that we'd discover that there were good reasons not to carry through. This is a chance I would be willing to take. At least the relationship wouldn't be about how well each of us played the dating game.
Instead of playing games, wouldn't it be refreshing to just be honest? One of us could say, "Hey, I think we would be a good match. If you are willing, I would like to commit to investigating whether we are as well-suited for one another as it appears to me right now, with marriage as our eventual goal."
Maybe this is courtship for adults. Whatever it is, I wish I could opt out of the head games and give it a try.