After going on fifty dates and one failed relationship in the world of dating in the United States I can say that there is a definite paradox of choice. Frankly, it’s overwhelming and I find that people are always constantly looking beyond their shoulder for the Next Person , the next thrill and it’s more than easy to flee a relationship when something isn’t going exactly to plan. The elusive sense of being happy takes precedence over commitment and growth. People I find become interchangeable. One minute I had guys gleefully messaging me on the phone and the next, they disappear without warning. This feeling that people are just set pieces, that we don’t value the relationships we cement- be it friendship, jobs or love- is a nagging feeling that I have seen a lot in the past year.
When you are faced with a huge amount of choice- people get overwhelemed and are never totally present in the relationship they are in. Furthermore, at times it ceases to fulfill a significant purpose other than having ” fun”. The one question I would get asked is ” What do you do for fun?” Frankly , I never knew what to answer to this. Anything given a chance can be fun. But my ultimate goal when cementing relationships is not to have fun it’s to grow and understand new things. I found that as time progressed people kept telling each other the basic facts of who they were, but not really went deep into the person’s character. Because dating in the states – at least in my experience- can be so quick and painless people move on just as quickly.
The reason is the possibilities are endless. There’s online dating, meetup groups, bars, religious groups, book clubs, coffee shops. This is especially the case with women, who can easily find a date if they know where to look. They can also easily find a hookup, a one night stand, a temporary relationship, friendship with benefits… but very rarely can people find someone who genuinely wants a long term committed relationship. Furthermore, things go quite fast, there is no sense of courting or getting to know someone, you go on a date you see if it works and if it doesn’t you never have to seee the person again.
This exchange always made me uneasy. If anything, when you go on a date, or meet someone for coffee you get the chance to meet a new friend or contact. The problem is that people come in with predisposed notions and won’t settle for anything less than what they want. If you aren’t exactly what they want they will more than happily dispose of your acquaintance. This was shocking to me. What happened to all the time you invested in getting to know the person and finding out who they were? Where does all that go?
The opposite problem you can find in El Salvador. The friends you have are generally within a limited social circle of job, who you grew up, your religious group or interest. People don’t get close to strangers. In general, people don’t just casually date either. Most people go into long term commited relationships – or a hookup if it’s kept secret- but they don’t date a lot of people at once. That’s because the choices are limited… there are very few men compared to a huge amount of women.
This creates a strange philosophy in that, if you do ” find a man” you latch unto him and even if the situation is less than ideal -you aren’t physically attracted to them, they are sexist, they have a lot of baggage, they aren’t compatible, etc – women are taught that you should maintain the relationship as much as possible, While the positive side is that there is an emphasis on family, the result is a lot of single mother households, rampant cheating and women who feel that it’s better to be in a bad relationship than be alone because her value as a person is placed on the shoulders of who they marry, Men on the other hand, can easily pick a huge array of women and get the best of the crop even if they themselves aren’t the ” best”.
Women in the united states and Europe are no longer bound as much to marriage as a status symbol.
All of this is due to the fact that we still have a weird concept about love, dating and marriage. We base a lot of our decisions on what the person looks like, what we are attracted to, the initial thrill of courtship than anything based on a permanent long term relationship. We are constantly dissatisfied suffering from a cognitive dissonance because the people we choose don’t fit into an ideal. We mirror what we want in ourselves in other people. We base our own happiness purely on the companionship of others. No one can possibly carry that burden. No one has the power to make us unhappy unless we let that happen.
While both cultures have different rituals of courtiship, of love and dating I find both sides to be dissatisfying. We forget that people can come into our lives- be it in an awful way or in a good way- and we can choose to grow and learn from it or sink in constant unhappiness because they don’t fulfill our ideals. We don’t have to stay in a relationship out of fear of being alone, nor should we BE in a relationship out of fear of being alone. Relationships are wonderful, they are also hard work and a constant source of growth. We weren’t meant to be alone, but if we do make the choice of being with someone, I believe that at least in my case it would be because we want to enrich our lives , find new perspectives.
Relationships can cause us to see the world from a different vantage point, it can be painful because we see ourselves and our faults and what we need to improve. We have to adapt and change our lives. True meaningful relationships will also cause a degree of discomfort and pain, but they will also achieve growth. They should not be so painful that it stagnates our own growth – so that we think we have no choice and continue to stand it- but we shouldn’t expect everything to be perfect either.
Human beings are messy creatures, the only thing that is pure and beautiful is the power of the spirit. The more we give the more we give in return. If we start to see our relationships on a spiritual plane- that is that they transcend what we are doing physically, the nature of transient problems, the power of now vs. the future… if we see our wealth based on the relationships we surround ourselves with , the amount we give and serve others and the way we grow to acquire qualities we can eliminate the huge bout of individualism and paradox of choice. In acquiring relationships as a means to grow, we can also eliminate a feeling of doing things just to ” latch on” or a fear of what society things is best for us.