Saturday, October 26, 2013

Idle Thoughts -- Dating: Friendship or Business Deal?

Discuss the issue of dating: Is it a favor-debt or a friendship situation? Is there a way of resolving the problem of different expectations for dating partners in the twenty-first century ?

Jane English states that friendships should not be a favor debt situation in which we expect to do a favor and thus create a debt which we eventually expect to be repaid. Instead, she says we should have a mutual relationship in which we simply care about each other enough to take care of each other's needs.

Intellectually this is a very satisfying explanation, but little more careful thought makes you wonder if it's too simplistic. After all, we have all known friendships in which there's no doubt that both partners were actually friends, but in which one is regarded as a "taker" and the other is regarded as a "giver". Simple friendship isn't enough to eliminate this problem. There needs to be some sense of balance in giving and taking.

I think it is reasonable to apply the same rules to dating and other romantic situations. While friendship and mutual respect are essential, it is important that no one allow their romantic inclinations to permit themselves to be used as a source of favors by a party with no intention of ever returning them. Perhaps this would never occur in an ideal relationship, whether romantic or friendship, but it does happen in the real world.

Having said that, there also must not be a sense that I took you out to dinner tonight, so you owe me x amount of romantic physical responses. This would reduce every dating or romantic relationship to simple case of prostitution. That is clearly unacceptable.

Naturally each partner will have different ideas about what is a reasonable return for various flavors or benefits. It is an essential part of any relationship to work out these different understandings and reach one which is mutually agreed-upon. This is done consciously or simply through the daily act of living close to each other.

The issue of how to resolve differences may be a very different one in the future. Social media is giving us a whole new way of "checking out" an individual before we ever even meet them. The problem with this idea is that people often present a false image of themselves in order to impress others when posting on a social media site. However, if this could be overcome and a greater sense of honesty could permeate the system, it is possible that people could find ideal matches who share their sense of expectation in a relationship without the stress of having to actually take a risk by meeting the individual personally.

Considering the human desire to impress others, this may be an unrealistic hope. Still, it is an interesting topic for conversation.

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