At my gym, there is a perfect view from the treadmills into where classes are held. As we runners slog it out, we can watch more interesting workouts through a big wall of windows.
One Friday, I happened to catch the end of a sort of modern-dance fitness class. There were women of all abilities trying to shimmy off the calories, but no one came close to the grace and funk of the instructor. She was fabulous. She had long, wavy hair that she didn’t even bother to put up, and cool, multicolored workout pants. She moved like a Cuban salsa dancer, then a ballerina, then a hip hop dancer. She sweat confidence, independence, and athletic beauty. I actually felt envious.
On my way out, I saw her by the front desk and complimented her on a really neat class. She was warm and smiley and invited me to try it out. She was a nice person too.
A few weeks later, I walked past her as she was chatting with a friend by the drinking fountain.
“So what’s going on with that guy?” the friend asked.
“Well, he’s been texting more lately,” the fabulous instructor said.
Wait, what? Granted, I only heard two sentences of the conversation, and I don’t know the background, but there is a lot of information in those words: “he’s been texting more lately.” Presumably, she and “that guy” have some history. There was some sort of relationship, or at least the lead-up to one. Recently, he decided to at least think about starting things up, possibly for the second time. However, he can’t commit to too much just yet, so he’s limiting their contact mainly to texts, though weekend nights might be on the table too.
Grooooooan. We’ve all witnessed or experienced this old texting-generation dating tale. I’ve done both.
My question is, why would a young woman like this, who exudes charisma and confidence at the gym, let herself get stuck in this frustrating relationship no-man’s land? What is it about dating that sometimes makes us wimp out, to settle or strive for less than we would in other parts of our lives?
I think the problem is this: in a dating relationship that is leading somewhere, not only do you have to date the whole other person, but you have to ask the other person to date all of you as well. And that is risky and uncomfortable…because the other person might not want to.
In my mostly unsuccessful dating career, I found one person who did want to date all of me. As my husband Kyle and I moved through our months of dating, toward engagement and eventually marriage, our relationship changed. We dated, got to know, and fell in love with all of each other.
When a person dates all of you, he or she also dates:
1. Your values and beliefs. Your core values and beliefs largely make up who you are. If a person doesn’t want to date this part of you, the relationship will soon be stuck in shallow. In our year of dating, Kyle and I didn’t agree on all the particulars of what we believed and valued, but we loved learning what each other thought and why. It strengthened our relationship.
2. Your feelings and vulnerabilities. You can’t always be the easy-going girlfriend who “enjoys” watching football, or the nerves-of-steel boyfriend whose family problems don’t affect him. As your relationship grows, you have to be honest about how you feel and what you need from each other emotionally. No one gets to date seriously without a little discomfort.
3. Your family. Eventually family enters the scene. As Kyle and I got more serious, we started working family time into our weekends together. This wasn’t always easy since we ended up dating long-distance. But it was important and often wonderful. The first time Kyle saw me holding my 6-month-old niece Sabina, for example, he knew for certain he wanted me for his wife.
4. Your hopes and future. If a relationship is possibly headed toward an engagement, your two worlds might soon be linked forever. A number of months into our relationship, Kyle was offered two jobs in two different cities the same week. He called to tell me the good news and to see what I thought. We wouldn’t be married for another year and a half, but the job he took would end up deciding my future home, and the home of our children, too.
I wonder if the guy my gym’s fabulous dance instructor is dating, or almost dating, or maybe cyber dating, knows much about her. Is he willing to take the risk and date more and more of her? Will she soon take the risk and ask him too? I hope so. Or, I hope she moves on and finds someone who can’t wait to date, get to know, and fall in love with all of her. Because she dances like she believes in love.
Photo: Flickr/ Edson Hong