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Dating, Society & why it’s a mess

Let’s be brutally honest.

The divorce rate in South Africa is on the incline. Conversely the instances of marriage are on the decline. People are not happy. Yet all around, I am still hearing the stock standard societal prescriptors as gospel.

Why aren’t you married yet?

As recently as a week ago an old school friend asked me when he was going to see my relationship status change to “engaged”. I’m a 36 year old man who’s never been married. I guess I just haven’t met my wife yet? Perhaps she’s playing the world’s most insane game of ‘Hide & Seek’ anyone’s ever seen.

“Well how did marriage work out for you buddy?”

No need to answer, he’s busy going through a divorce.

The current system is broken. I personally believe people buy into the ideals and the hype. The promise, if you will, of how much better your life will be when you get married. Almost seeing marriage as the end point; instead of the beginning point. How is getting divorced a fun experience of life? It’s painful. God forbid you have kids, that really amplifies the drama for everyone – especially for the kids.

So my simple question is – why is it so surprising to people that I wait to get married? Especially that you and your prior experiences of personal growth (for both parties) put you in a better position to be more aware of what you want, without compromising on the core principles of who you are. Is it better to get married in your twenties when the chance of you both changing so dramatically raises the chance of get divorced? One in two chance. 1 in 2…

Why are we in such a rush? I understand from the female perspective that the biological clock makes things a bit trickier. I’m just not sure rushing into marriage just so you can have kids is the right way of going about it. Not in this day and age of adoption. One of my friends has a step dad that she is closer to than her actual biological dad. Just because you didn’t ‘make them’ doesn’t mean you can’t raise one of the world’s greatest human beings.

I’ve had three serious relationships where the women were all eight years older than me. I think mainly because older women in general have a better sense of who they are and what they want – in my eyes a prerequisite to having a successful relationship. If you don’t know yourself and love yourself then how can you expect another person to? However, to this point I have always felt that age is just a number. I’ve met 28 year olds and I’ve met 28 year olds. In the last six months I’ve met a 44 year old that behaved worse than a teenager and I’ve met a 20 year old that behaved with the maturity, poise and confidence of a self-aware fifty year old.

There are two aspects I’d like to discuss regarding this. Firstly, that as we pass through life we are given opportunities at every turn to learn about ourselves and others. It’s up to us to decide whether we use these lessons to better understand relationship dynamics and ourselves. Secondly, the people around us’ reactions to situations that falls outside of ‘the norm’.

I’ve recently experienced an ‘outside of the norm’ (my own prescribed norm for that matter) but being on a journey of self-discovery and constant improvement I’ve come to understand certain debilitating behaviours – like creating scenarios about the future that may not even come to pass. Trying to neatly box or categorise the scenario. I had to stop myself from letting preconceived ideas destroy the opportunity for love. To just breath. And just be.

It was a position I had promised I would never put myself in. I suppose we should never tempt fate. You should probably also know I have come to have a very strong belief and realisation that no-one and nothing belongs to us for any amount of time. That we should be appreciative of just 5 minutes with someone that stirs emotions in us that creates heaven on earth. That the mark someone leaves on us in life is not dependent on the amount of time spent with them – but rather the quality of the interaction we have with them. Kind of like being exposed to Swiss chocolate once. Just because you haven’t eaten it for years on end, doesn’t mean you won’t always remember that ‘Swiss experience’ and not compare other chocolate to that experience.

We hear so often things like ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ but how many of us actually practice that simple credo? Not many. Instead of judging someone based on the tattoos they have or parties they frequent or a job they do – I’d love people to think ‘that person looks interesting – I wonder what stories they have to share’. What a different world this would be; one cultivating a mind-set of understanding.  I doubt any civilisation ever complained about the level of understanding they experienced. Just ask the Native Americans.

The second part becomes a bit trickier, because this deals with other peoples own perceptions and experiences which we can’t control and can vary so much from person to person. It’s why multiple people can look at the exact same thing and all give different interpretations. And that’s okay. The problem comes in where we try and enforce socially these ‘ideals’. In some cases we don’t even know we’re doing it because we have become so entrenched.

It becomes the difference between asking questions to get to know someone versus having preconceived ideas and judgements and acting towards that person as though what we thought, is how they actually are. HUGE MISTAKE. I think about my experience. I have no idea what will transpire out of this or how long it will last; but does that matter? In a world where we have such hatred, ambiguity, game playing and underhanded behaviour, how many people would say ‘NO!” to a genuine opportunity to experiencing love? Seeing someone look at you in a way that feels as pure as the world’s first love? With no expectation. No hidden agenda. No games. Just all the beauty in the world shining through someone’s eyes as though a star had just been born in the galaxy.

You see, at the end of the day, it all boils down to our individual experiences and understanding of who we are and what we want. Taking advice from others about our dating is like making your mind up about a food dish based on what others experienced eating it when you’ve never had a single bite.

How many amazing experiences have we passed up because we based our next action on what society deemed correct? What we thought others would perhaps think of us? Why do we need to label and categorise things immediately, without making decisions based on what we know because we’ve experienced it? My motto (within  reason of course this wouldn’t pertain to murder) is I cannot have an opinion about something unless I’ve experienced it. Online dating. Older women. Younger women. Chocolate on pizzas. Skinny dipping in the Atlantic in June. It doesn’t matter. If you don’t actually put yourself out there to experience things you will never know. Yes you may prevent heartache and pain by being cautious and holding back, but doesn’t that help build our character?

One of the best descriptions about this comes from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross:

“The most beautiful people we have ever known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen”

We don’t learn to ride a bike by reading a book. It’s only in the actions and doing that we build our experience. It’s just such a pity that we become so scared to trust ourselves and do what we feel is right for us and become inclined to listen to others and let societies perceptions govern our actions.

At what cost? What magic have you missed out in your life because you didn’t trust your own instincts.

The good news is: You can always start today.


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