Dating is the process by which one person gets to know another better. It begins with physical attraction, for if the parties are not attracted to each other, what is the point of dating? Because it is often hard to hard to judge a book by its cover, and because even the prettiest and most handsome looks fade, it is imperative to take the time to look beyond a person’s appearance if one wishes to forge a happy, long-term relationship. A healthy sexual relationship is wonderful, but if it is the sole glue holding you together, that bond will crumble sooner or later.
A critical factor in any relationship is the treatment that you receive from the other party. Do you communicate well? Do you talk about meaningful issues? Does he genuinely respect you? Does she view your aspirations and opinions as valid? Do you judge each other based upon peripherals, or are you able to grasp a deeper view of each other?
For instance, many men seem to enjoy expensive cars, and many women are drawn to such men. If we discard the theories about what cars are supposed to be extensions of, a woman is apt to assume that any man who can afford a pricey vehicle has a large disposable income and so, will treat her generously when dating. Some people, however, live beyond their means just to impress others. On the other hand, there are guys who prefer well-used vehicles because they simply like the cars, they prefer to spend their money on more important things, or wish to save for future needs. Just because they drive an older car, it does not necessarily mean that they are strapped for cash.
It’s exciting to fly away to an exotic locale for fun, expensive weekend dates. But unless your love interest was born with a silver spoon in his or her mouth, this is not going to be the norm over the course of your relationship. Simpler pursuits can provide you with genuine quality time together: the time that you need to get to know each other and understand if you are truly compatible. In keeping it real, you can take turns cooking dinner for each other, munching popcorn while enjoying a rented movie, going fishing, or taking long walks together.
After spending a little quality time together, it will become apparent as to whether or not you are forging a true connection. And it won’t take long, if you’re honest with yourself. Infatuation can be fleeting; what remains beneath and beyond a person’s gift-wrapping is what is real. Before you take marriage vows with that person, he or she will demonstrate the very sentiments in those vows. Your partner will stand by you and support you when you most need it, through the loss of your job, illness, or any other hurdle placed in your path. Remember how, as a kid, you hated to eat sandwiches unless your mom had cut off the crusts on the bread? Well, people are like sandwiches. To know someone properly, we have to look beyond the exterior to see what is inside.
A beautiful description of true love can be found in the words of St. Augustine, further embellished in the 2001 film, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. Starring Nicholas Cage, Penelope Cruz, John Hurt, and Christian Bale, the film takes place in Europe during World War II. In the tale, a fisherman leaves his home to fight with the Greek army while his fiancé, who is left behind, begins to fall in love with a local Italian commander:
“Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness. It is not excitement; it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. This is just “being in love,” which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it. We had our roots that grew toward each other underground. And when all of the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches, we found that we were one tree and not two.”
To cultivate the growth of such a beautiful tree, don’t try so hard. Don’t force love, for real love refuses to be forced. Keep your heart open to the one who will hold you when you cry, laugh at your bad jokes, and slay your dragons, the one who will allow, without reservation, you the “me time” that you need now and then, the one who trusts you, the one that you trust above every other soul on Earth. This is the person with whom you’ll want to spend the rest of your life. Forget the fantasies and fairy tales of love that you may have pursued. Just love and be loved. Therein lies your true happiness.