Fantasy can be such an exciting and beautiful place. It’s a place where all dreams come true. A place where whatever you desire is possible — a Disney movie come to life.
Stop! Fantasy is just that: an escape from reality.
When I ask men and women to describe what they are looking for in a mate, they often describe someone that does not exist. How do I know? Because they don’t attach any negative traits to that description.
Then they meet a human being — with, you know, flaws. Yes, flaws. They are taken aback! This, they have to “think about.” Can they live with these flaws? Should they break up right now?
Marriage is the work of melding two worlds into one — not easy an easy feat. Yet, when that work is done, strength, beauty, love, and opportunity will open in ways that were never available before.
Here are five common stages on the dating path to a lifetime commitment. Perhaps by familiarizing yourself with the natural, normal (I cannot stress this enough) ups and downs,you’ll have an easier time judging whether you should pull the emergency brake or hang on for the ride of your life.
Step 1 - The Intro: Learning the basics about another person — where they are from, what they do professionally, a bit about their family, what they enjoy doing in their free time. This is the time to confirm attraction and an interest in exploring the relationship further. It’s best to avoid deeply personal conversations, as your date is still a stranger. This stage is most likely to include fantasies of who this person is and what the relationship can be.
Step 2 - Deep Sea Dating: Exploring the multi-faceted layers of your date’s personality — sharing topics that are usually reserved for close friends and family. Some examples are hopes and dreams, challenges at work or school, your vision for a family, and your pathway for personal growth. Keep an eye on communication patterns in this stage. Infatuation can become stronger here for some, although awareness of flaws and weaknesses begins to kick in for others.
Stage 3 - Disappointment: Here is where the reality of who your date really is comes out. Their insecurities, flaws, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses. Knowing conceptually that nobody is perfect is very different from experiencing it. There is deep disappointment when you realize that this person is not as perfect as you thought they would be, or as perfect for you as you had imagined. You need to recognize that although there’s great strength to this relationship, it’s different from what you had expected and from what you think you want.
Stage 4 - Emotional Intimacy: Many bail at Stage 3. Those who choose to see beyond and work through flaws will, in the process, build closeness in the relationship. The closeness in which there’s safety and security of not being judged, yet accepted for who you are. The recognition that although I am not perfect and you are not perfect, we can be perfect together. The realization that there is potential to build with this partner even with bumps, challenges, and imperfections. Stage 4 restores stability into the relationship after the disappointment of Stage 3.
Stage 5 - The Leap — Commitment: For many, this is the hardest stage. Realizing that this is the right partner for you is only the first step. Being able to make a permanent mental shift from “I” to “we” can be overwhelming. This stage can kick up fears for both men and women. Men often fear rejection and women often worry about making the wrong decision or getting hurt. These fears and anxieties can often bring the couple back to the feelings of Stage 3. At this stage, it can be very useful to work with someone to help tease out what is real and what is fear.
Ultimately, we all make a decision to marry based on our subjective dating experience and the potential we believe we see in a particular partnership. With guidance and prayer to The One Above we literally leap, not being certain where we will land. It sounds scary and often it is, yet you’re not taking the leap alone. There is a partner to catch you on the other side.
Wishing you the shortest leap to that longest relationship.
By Rachel Burnham