I hear the statement a lot. “Dr. Wright, I’m not going to find anyone here.” A month later, she’s missing appointments, and I find out that there’s a new boyfriend in the picture. The leap from swearing off all boys to having an exclusive relationship is drastic. My intent with this post is to convince you that exclusivity is moving much too fast.
The Principle: After age 18, get to know people in groups. Pairing up/dating exclusively is a courting and pre-marriage activity, not a get-to-know activity. If the end point is not marriage, don’t pair up. Stay in groups.
Learning About the Other
Some believe you learn about a person by getting them alone. Not true. You learn more about people when they perform in groups. Alone, a person can control the environment. In groups, the environment is unpredictable causing the person to respond more in line with their true selves. When engaging with friends, the transparency is more immediate. Siblings and long-time friends are the best, especially in public, social situations. Yet, don’t take any one experience as a pattern. And please don’t accept a couple of instances as justification to move beyond your rules.
The chief challenge is to unlearn some fallacious information and patterns you have learned about intimacy. You have learned that Intimacy dismisses boundaries and rules. We pair up as mates best with like-minded people who share our resistance of societal rules and institutions. Constant individualized attention is the indication of caring. None of these is sustainable.
You must relearn that Intimacy necessitates boundaries and rules. We pair off for the purpose of exclusive, deeper engagement that will engage our feelings and attachment. The relationship is consumated through a clear view of our complementary potential and a clear plan and commitment for our development together BEFORE it is consumated in other ways. That’s why the marriage contract works as an indicator. Before you even pair off, there must be an agreement about the target goal of the relationship. If not marriage and a contract, there is no need to pair. Pairing exclusively is not an effective way to try out relationships.
Identify these indicators that he is not the one. He doesn’t have to propose to you on the first outing, but make it a group event. Watch him as he makes room for you well before you join him in his bedroom. And believe his aversion to long-term commitment and his lack of fitness when he says any of the following phrases:
- “I don’t want a Relationship.”
Group dates, field trips with separate sleep accommodations, daylight meetings, and separate cars characterize no-relationship arrangements. Stay away from situations that put you and your feelings in danger. Drinking alcohol, late nights at his or your apartment, weekend trips together, cooking for you alone at his house are all one-to-one opportunities for your deception. And don’t underestimate your desire to please turning on you to promote unsustainable choices in the moment.
- “We Don’t Need Labels.”
No labels also means no depth of engagement. Keep it “job interview” depth of interaction. Never give your labor without knowing what job you are applying for. You should have the remuneration schedule in writing before assuming that you’re hired. Without the contract, you risk showing up for work to find someone else has been working your station.
- “Why Can’t we just keep things the way they are?”
If we kept things the way they were, we’d all be living with our parents with cartoon-character bed sheets. Grown people must evolve to support greater responsibility. If he doesn’t see you as part of his responsibility, he can never become one with you. If he can’t grow up, he will never grow with you. He can watch cartoons and play video games, but maturity is taking responsibility and having the courage to put it in writing.
- “Can I come through?”
It’s just a simple rule that works. Any texts after 10pm, no matter what it says, means only one thing. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that it means he values you, your time, or your company. Or, to say it another way, his value on you, your time, and company are low, and only important after the day is exhausted.
- “I’m not ready for marriage. I’m still young.”
This is perhaps the clearest expression of immaturity. It betrays a lack of awareness and a lack of responsibility. Marriage is not what you may think. Marriage is the opportunity to spend your waking hours living your dreams with a person who completes you and makes new dreams possible. Anyone who doesn’t want that has a really great system, and doesn’t need your intimate company at all.
Of course, these phrases can also be stated by women. The verdict is the same. I’m convinced that some women (and men) have adopted these phrases to protect themselves from hurt. They think that they can guard themselves by refusing to admit what they really want. Just because the reality hasn’t caught up with your present doesn’t mean that you deny your expectation. Talk openly about what you want. Stick with sustainable ways to prepare for it. No need to beware of the scrubs. They shrink away when you maintain your rules.