Sunday, March 23, 2008

Insta-fidelity: Don't do it

My friend Sarah met two guys at a party. Both asked her out. The first one, Craig, took her to dinner, a movie, the usual, and she had a great time. He gave her a delicious kiss goodnight; they made plans to see each other again. She walked in the door and called me up immediately -- she was wracked with guilt about her impending second date. Should she tell Craig? Should she just cancel the second one? How was she going to get herself out of the bind she had created?

Amazing. One kiss and she already had herself convinced she was cheating on him.

First of all, let's review a Dating mantra: "Under five minutes is just friendly." One good night kiss doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this world. No disclosure of upcoming dates required. Nor do you get to be upset if your good-night kissee didn't 'fess up such details. (You do, however, get to be horribly outraged if they didn't admit they had a Significant Other.)

Second, every relationship is casual until proven otherwise. We all have our yardsticks: you've had the Big Talk, the Saturday night date is assumed, you've said "I love you." Whatever it is, pick one and stick to it.

But before you get there, you are allowed to date as many people as you please.

Until they've said "I want you, I need you, I love you, I would do anything and everything to be with you," you're just friends. Ok, maybe a tad bit more than friends. Maybe you've been dating for a few months; maybe you've met his dog or her sister.

But when you're dating, you're just dating. You don't owe him insta-fidelity; you don't owe her total disclosure. Until you're in a bonafide Us Against The World Relationship then, well, it's still You against the world -- and you're allowed to look out for number one.

This may sound like strange advice in this age of commitment-phobia and ever-older brides. But it's actually just the attitude to help us get over such fears. Commitment phobia stems from being over-committed to people you're not madly in love with, or -- more often -- assuming that someone you're not madly in love with is getting over-committed to you (which you wouldn't assume if you weren't the kind of person who also did things like that).

If you jump in head over heels every time, one of two things happens: you wake up three weeks later disillusioned but claustrophobic because they're still mad for you or you go too quickly and drive them away. Either way: splittsville; and repeated disappointment every time you throw your all into something and it fails yet again.

(Trust me, you'll get your heart broken enough times in life by the ones who really matter. No reason to set yourself up for misery more often than that. . .)

On the other hand, if you get comfy with the idea that not every date has to be Prince Charming, then you learn to spot the keepers too. When you don't expect too much from any one date then the really great people just leap out.

And when you spot those -- the ones worth having the Big Talk with -- grab 'em. I talked Sarah out of canceling her second date, but she didn't like him anyway. It's a year later and she's still with Craig -- Saturday night dates assumed.

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