I have recently come to the conclusion that dating is like a college semester project that never seems to end. You start out excited about the possibilities of what you will learn, collect data, test your hypothesis about people, and then....what? Where is the big conclusion?? As a single person I would be inclined to say that the finale is reached when you get married. However, I am pretty sure that all of my married friends would quickly refute such a statement. Life and love is a never ending journey of exploration and dating might be just the beginning of the data collecting process.
I am fortunate to have many 'friendtors' in my life who offer life advice and regale me with stories of days past when they were in my shoes. This past week I had drinks with a friend about ten years older than myself and currently in the chapter of life where his primary concerns are his wife, young son, and what kind of house to buy. A slight contrast from my current list of 'worries' which is more along the lines of caring for my health, my friendships, and where to eat delicious food on a Saturday night.
We talked about work, mutual friends, fun things that he and his young son do together on the East Coast and then some medical anecdotes as his wife is quite the impressive medical brain. Naturally, he then inquired about the status of my love life and I shared that I have been dating someone but fear that I am becoming overly critical in my old age. He responded so quickly that it halted me from going any further, "BE critical!! This is YOUR future!!" Note the all-caps as if I was yelling at you because I am pretty sure he went for the dramatic effect to get my attention.
The comment dwelled within me throughout the rest of the weekend. Be Critical. Be Critical. Guess what happened next? A quarrel with my current beau.
As the weekend came to an end and all arguments had been settled, my mind went back to the comment from Thursday. I played back various romantic relationships in my life like a montage of vignettes -- a sort of highlight reel. An odd thing stood out in all of it: those I had loved the deepest were those I argued with most often.
I'm not trying to say that picking a fight is a great idea and I definitely wouldn't portray my past relationships to be riddled with quarrels. However, the relationships in which we never argued and I claimed to be blind-sided by the break-ups were often criticized to be less than authentic by my family and friends. They questioned if I was being the truest version of myself in those relationships or if I was simply enjoying life in an easy and shallow way to go along and get along. Such comments were never made about the more intense relationships of my past because you better believe that those boys knew where I stood on every issue.
Whether it is dating, selecting the type of food you eat, or selecting the right school or teacher for your children the advice is still the same: Be Critical. It's your life, your family, your choices.