Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Judging Yourself While Dating

Looking Within
This post was born from some ruminations in my head about people going out with others who veer away from their personal standard of "normal," and how to come to terms with such differences/conflicts/complications.

Case in point - you've always been an omnivore, enjoying both meat and dairy (as well as vegetables) as part of your diet for 20-something years, and suddenly you find yourself on a date, or perhaps in an even a more serious relationship, with an individual who will not, per his/her beliefs, or cannot, per his/her biological constitution, eat the same foods you've always enjoyed at mealtime. Whether he/she does not eat meat at all, red meat, dairy or some other comestible you've come to define as a staple of your regular diet, you are now presented with a conflict of interests.

Does this person mean enough to me, given the rest of his/her personality, middos, dreams, desires, needs, etc, that I can handle this deviation from my norm?

Perhaps you've been one of the fortunate individuals who has always known what it means to have a loving home with two married parents, and the biological parents of this person sitting across the table from you haven't lived in the same home since your date was 5, or fought like cats and dogs until their bitter divorce a few years ago. This clearly has had some impact on your date, molded the way he/she has grown and developed, shaped his/her perspectives in ways you probably can't begin to comprehend.

Does this worry you, frighten you? Do you think about those statistics you read about regarding children from divorced parents being more likely to become divorced themselves?

These are simply two examples, among countless others, which can create mind-twisting dilemmas for daters.

The key to navigating these "deviations" from the norm - or rather, your norm - is to stop and turn inward. Your date's norm is clearly different from your own, and by the standard with which you were raised and have experienced life, they may be lacking or even seemingly "problematic" in some form, based on your own experience.

But that's not the way to determine if he/she can be a worthwhile spouse.

The key is to remain objective about your date, and his/her differences - assuming he/she is otherwise healthy, not plagued by harmful emotional imbalance or utterly unrealistic expectations that border on impossible and perhaps dangerous fantasy - and to judge yourself, not your date.

Hopefully, your date will be forthcoming, given the appropriate timing and length of the courtship, with all the ins and outs about him/her, including things that may not be viewed in such a positive light. Real marriage consideration requires knowing the whole picture, warts and all, and determining if YOU can live with this other reality as part of your own.

It is not for us to judge someone who comes from a broken home, automatically labeling him/her as damaged goods. They are what they are, and that is factual. Hopefully, he/she has learned to be resilient and grown from potentially negative experiences, rather than allow them to remain as destructive or caustic influences in his/her life - regardless if the issue or persons involved have become entirely resolved. One can live with a disruptive parental figure by placing the appropriate boundaries and developing healthy emotional reactions that maintain one's own sense of well-being, notwithstanding the parent's anger or personal imbalance. Such a person can also learn from positive parenting role models, and through self-introspection, develop a form of beneficial parenting that he/she would like to embody for his/her own future children, distinct from what was seen during his/her childhood and being actively cognizant not to fall to the trap of the modes of parenting he/she experienced.

What one needs to do as a dater is to look within. Given the reality of the person sitting across from me, can I acknowledge, accept, adapt and live with the challenges, difficulties, and "abnormalities" that are being presented to me, and will be a part of my future life should I choose to marry this person?

The decision regarding "can I handle this?" should not negatively impact on your view of your date. No one is perfect, and we are mandated to judge everyone favorably.

If you end up deciding your date is not appropriate for you, based on your self introspection, your choice shouldn't hinder your ability to suggest this person to others you may know - and allow them to evaluate the potential of their match with your former date without preconceived negative impressions that you may want to pass along.

Judging yourself, rather than your date is not an easy thing to do. But it's essential to figuring out the marriage potential of the relationship. You can't expect a person to change or willingly alter their habits and attitudes to match your own to prevent conflict. Take into consideration who they are and what they're about, and see how well it fits you and your ability to act in consonance with another person as a life partner.

Part 2 coming soon.

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