I decided my sophomore year of high school not to date until I got to college. My friends said I was being extreme, that I was missing out on a big part of the high school experience. Having not really dated in high school and hearing all of the horror stories about the dating scene (or lack thereof) at Harvard, I was scared coming up here that I'd missed my chance.
I knew there would be great minds, great people and great friends. But what about dating? Would people really be so busy that they'd only make time for random hook-ups if they weren't engaged to someone? Most of us will meet our future husbands and wives during these four years. Would people really be so work-focused that they wouldn't put the time and effort into making that most important choice and laying the solid foundation to make it stick?
In high school, most people look at dating in the short term: as a fun experience and a training ground for later relationships. I didn't date in high school because I saw dating as necessarily being a step towards marriage. I looked at my friends' relationships and saw how absorbed they were with their significant others and how upset they got when they fought or broke up with them. They dreamed and hoped about their relationships with their boyfriends and girlfriends like husbands and wives. The only things that distinguished a girlfriend from a girl friend were exclusivity and physical intimacy, qualities characteristic of relationships leading up to, and including, marriage. Anytime one takes a step towards marriage, one necessarily raises the stakes of the relationship--there is much more to be gained and much more to be lost. Once a relationship has become exclusive or physical, it is very awkward and often painful to get off that track without finishing the course laid before you, and with graduation and college looming, the possibility of a high school relationship turning into marriage did not seem realistic.
I'm not saying that people shouldn't date until they're ready to get married. For myself, though, I felt while marriage was out of the question, I could gain more by focusing on friendships rather than on a single girlfriend. Having a girlfriend takes a lot of time, and for me, I felt like the "opportunity costs" of dating someone in high school outweighed the possible returns of a relationship doomed to end after senior prom.
It's terribly unromantic to look at relationships from this distance. But too many people start dating without thinking or ever stepping back and assessing the relationship. Often they end up marrying the wrong person for the wrong reasons. That's what a lot of our parents did, and many of them ended up hurting themselves and us when they got divorced or were in bad relationships. More often, people just end up carrying a lot of guilt and regrets into a marriage.
So I spent my high school years focused on making solid friendships, particularly with girls. Learning how to be a great friend and develop great friendships, I figured, was ultimately the foundation of a solid marriage. For a long time I had looked at dating the way I looked at colleges: What do I want in a girlfriend? What do I want my girlfriend to do for me? Over the years, I learned from the people I admired that finding the right person depends more on my being the ideal person than on my looking for the ideal person. If I try to be the perfect boyfriend, and eventually the perfect husband for my wife, then I will find the best girlfriend, and with a bit of work and luck, the best possible wife for me.
I opened up the possibility of dating when I came to college, but I decided not to actively look for a girlfriend. Instead of scoping, I believed, I should pursue right goals for who I want to be--not what I want to do or have--and I will naturally run into the kind of person I want to be with. Dating and marriage isn't about getting what we want for ourselves, it's about finding someone who complements you so that together, you are more than you are individually.
It may seem strange to approach a relationship looking at who I need to be rather than who I want the other person to be, but so far it seems to have worked. I am dating the most amazing girl I've ever met. I've dreamed about meeting someone like her, and only hoped to actually date someone so incredible. I am still baffled (but grateful) that she saw anything in me. I am no expert, but speaking from my very limited observation and experience, trying to be the right person is the key to finding the right person.
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