Feeling attracted to someone has a powerful influence upon our decision-making process. For many of us love is developed somewhere along the dating journey and is a powerful force that can feel like a surfboard without fins—we feel helpless and out of control as we plummet down the exhilarating wave.
However, we all do have fins we can attach before we hit the surf. Or if we’re already out there, feeling the pull of the swell, surfers can ride boards without fins, and we must learn to use the rails and position ourselves so that we can enjoy the ride without face-planting on the reef or loosing balance as the barrel forms over us. We can and should guide love’s force, especially at the start of the wave. Before we set out on the adventure it’s best to practice some ground rules for safe, healthy relational living.
While in the dating stage of a relationship being “careful” is not a word we often associate with “falling” in love. But falling into the depths of love is risky. Perhaps diving rather than falling is possibly a better way to approach the emotions that overflow when we become deeply interested in someone. Falling does not have a plan, diving does. They both have the same intensity and sensation of velocity but only diving has a plan for deep water.
Dive in with your eyes open. Healthy relationship decisions will be confirmed by friends and those we trust and will reflect understanding and the ability to go at the pace that is right for the couple. Opening ourselves to the constructive input of others guards us from catching a wave that’s not suitable to us, as in the early stages when feelings can cloud our ability to see aspects of a person’s character that we would normally be able to identify as warning signs.
Know the depths of your dive. I think most people know theoretically the effort and work required to sustain a healthy relationship, yet when we enter with a belly flop we’re winded before the triathlon-marathon even starts. Healthy relationships grow and change by sustaining an open-learning attitude toward our partner, and as we grow to love someone these feelings help us forgive one another and find creative solutions to our inevitable relational problems.
Dive into and with the currents. If we do decide to move beyond dating into a longer term relationship we need to see this as a fluid, flexible partnership where we must constantly adapt. People will change over time, this is a good thing. People may even change in order for you to consider them the right person to date and with whom to develop a life-long relationship. Marriage and long term relationships are able to keep romantic passions alive as individuals develop relational problem-solving skills, exercising our ability to forgive and seek forgiveness and learning to compromise.
Dive together. We often assume it will be easier because we are together. Actually we will both be equally as tired (and here is where I will soon insert a link to my article about the benefits of being single) yet hopefully we will find ourselves tired during different stages of the marathon, able to encourage and en-passion one another when sickness, work demands, worry, childrearing, etc. become areas that we are navigating both individually and together.
So, Love-Surfer, rather than falling off that careening course into an unplanned plunge, it may be better to enter with some kind of purposeful dive, come up with your breathing still manageable, ready and expectant for the journey ahead of you. A healthy relationship is never boring, and a long relationship does not have to feel long. We decide by our attitude and actions how each day will be approached.
Some questions to ask as we consider dating a person:
What do my friends think of the person? Why?
Does the person make time for me just like I would for him/her.
What evidence do I have to trust or distrust her/him?
We should always evaluate where we are now, where we are going and most importantly who we are going with to get there. Happy Surfing, and, as surfers say, if in doubt don’t paddle out.