We prescribe many rules to dating: “Never date a co-worker”, “Don’t date two people at once”, “It’s not fair to ghost someone”, “Rebounds never work out”, “He’s totally robbing the cradle by dating her”, “You can’t date him—he’s totally dating your friend”.
If you didn’t catch this week’s episode of ‘The Bachelorette’, JoJo’s Saga, you missed some real life dating drama. In short, JoJo confronts Robby about recently breaking up with his ex-girlfriend; JoJo is not concerned about Robby’s intentions of going on the show, but is concerned instead about Robby not being emotionally ready and distant enough from that last relationship to start a new one (because she, JoJo, bounced back into Chad, and obviously wasn’t ready—don’t worry girl, I’ve been there too).
After watching this transaction, I couldn’t help but think about how many relationships I know of that successfully came out of what we might consider these immoral beginnings—ones that broke our established dating rules. Just the other day, I asked this lady (let’s call her Sylvia) how she met her husband (let’s call him Bob). Sylvia had an internship, and a boyfriend, in another state; she met Bob on their first day of orientation, and things with her other boyfriend weren’t going so hot (she planned on dumping him once she returned home), so she invited Bob over to her apartment to have dinner. Well, her other boyfriend showed up to surprise her, and she ended up breaking up with him, and eventually married Bob, and now they have a beautiful family, live in a beautiful house, are still so in love, etc. etc. I work with several couples who met at work—we could wave our fingers and say, “never date a co-worker, it’s bad news”, but they are obviously in their happily ever after. There’s even Don Draper, who was totally dating Dr. Faye Miller, and we totally think he is going to end up with her, only to propose to Megan Calvet like literally at the same time he’s with Dr. Faye. It’s so wrong, and as viewers, we can’t believe that Don could be so shallow, but Megan’s obviously been good for him (even if he does eventually divorce her in the end). And, my long term boyfriend is totally marrying/married (not sure what the current status) a girl he obviously knew before he dumped me. I could sit here and say, “how dare!”, but it’s obviously working out so…
Dating makes us do some really, really immoral things, and act in ways that are completely outside of our characters. We think things, say things, send messages if, in any other circumstance, we would have enough self control to not do, but for some reason, dating brings out the id-driven behaviors in us. I always find it amusing when we accuse other people of being immoral when we have probably done the same exact things. Like, I’ve totally ghosted people before. I’ve totally been responsible of leading someone on, only to wake up one day, decide I’m not interested anymore, and stab him in the heart. I’ve totally been texting more than one guy at the same time. I’ve totally been dating someone, met someone else, and decided I didn’t want to date the first guy anymore anyways. Those things happen, and we are always quick to judge, to slap labels on, deem someone ‘immoral’, heartless, etc. etc.
Now, I’m not saying that saying you are in the “dating period of your life” excuses you from all moral obligations, and that you can just act on sophomoric impulses. We can’t just all run around, dating anyone, everyone, all at the same time–we definitely need a little more self control. In the story of Samson, the Bible teaches us that, while we are fallible, broken creatures, and we will make mistakes, we can’t use that as an excuse. Samson engaged with a prostitute, and while he can be forgiven for making the mistake once, he should know better the next time. In terms of dating, there certainly are things I should know not to do–I know better than to engage in physical manifestations of attraction with two people at once, or with a friend’s boyfriend, or with my boss to elevate my status in the company. But, maybe some of these other ‘rules’ should include some flexibility.
If I were sitting with JoJo in that moment while she grilled Robby, I think I would remind her that we all write different love stories—each person’s journey is different. Like, maybe Robby DID just break up with his ex-girlfriend, but then again, maybe he does really care for JoJo in a way that he never expected, or maybe meeting JoJo made him realize how dysfunctional his relationship was. Maybe Robby’s realizing that he really misses his ex girlfriend, or that he should have broken up with her way before. Maybe he’ll realize that he does need to spend some time being single, and without this experience, he never would have learned that. Or, maybe he’s realizing that he is ready to move on.
Whatever the case, I think we sometimes need to be a little more forgiving–we put these rules, expectations, moral determinations on dating that, in the end, don’t even matter, because it happens the way it’s going to happen anyways.