Dating, like other relationships in the human experience, is fraught with challenges that test it. It is not all the challenges that are faced in a dating relationship that is evidence of incompatibility of the partners or their unsuitability for a deeper relationship such as courtship and possibly marriage.
At any point in time when two people come together, there are always differences. This is irrespective of the fact that they may have many things in common. Even siblings have varying differences not to talk of dating partners who by legal, customary and religious standards are not closely related. There are, therefore, bound to be differences. The earlier they can be noticed in a relationship, the better able couples can handle such differences and convert them to strengths and opportunities in future relationships.
Developing the ability to discuss differences in a dating relationship is the fourth of the dating game rules. During those stormy seasons in a growing relationship, the ability to calmly discuss the differences is very helpful.
Here are a number of ways dating partners can handle their differences:
• Appreciate individuality and differences – Each person is unique in how he or she is wired by nature. Some people are temperamental, some are cool and calculated, some are able to handle stress effectively without qualms, others throw tantrums at the least discomfort or displeasure. Each person before your meeting has developed philosophies of life, religious beliefs, moral standards, etc. You are you and he or she is what he or she is. Nuances and foibles are part of our individuality and differences. People should come to relationships knowing and understanding that these are there. There is a proverb that says an announced war does not devour the cripple. Appreciating the individuality and the differences of each person in a relationship would go a long way in ensuring that these differences do not foreclose the relationship.
• Respect for each other’s boundaries – Knowing and understanding individuality and differences easily move dating partners to the next level which is the need to respect each other’s boundaries. Relationship experts and coaches have heard this kind of cliches often – Nancy is too emotional and I can’t stand it. In dealing with this rule, dating partners should learn to respect each other’s sacred space. Give them a chance to develop, to grow through and over their weaknesses. What the heck, anyway, you are just playing a game. A mindset to make your dating experience a sport would help you go through the challenge of individual differences.
• Willingness to put all the cards on the table – When the chips are down, you should discuss it. During such discussions, honesty and openness are important. All cards – all grievances, all ideas, thoughts and expectations, should be placed on the table. Placing all the cards on the table would achieve two goods. One, it would expose irreconcilable differences that would mean the termination of the dating relationship. Two, it would build trust, respect and let the other person feel that you care.
• Build on common grounds – If the relationship has been proceeding according to the rules of the game, you would by now have discovered some common grounds where both of you have agreements easily – religion, family, sex, finance, extended family, what is fun, preferences, etc. You can accentuate the areas you both agree and it would dim or douse the impact of the gray areas.
• Let go – As you progress in a relationship, you might discover that some of the things you hold too close to your heart are inferior to the one your partner is holding. It would be wisdom to drop the inferior for the superior.
• Forgive – Forgiveness is one of the fundamental elements of the foundation for joyful relationships. The time to learn the act of forgiveness which skill would be needed throughout a married life is before and during the dating relationship. So, if you are hurt or have been wronged by a dating partner, it is a good thing, as it provides you with the opportunity to practice the act of forgiving one another.