Starting in Junior High School, the dominant dating script is to limit dating to one person. Why? I see middle aged people who are newly divorced who feel pressure to date one person, and not to feel free to date others. This is an extension of the Junior High script. Again, why?
Dating is supposed to be a fun way to casually get to know others. If dating is always mate selection, there is little wonder why so many prematurely commit to one person, and then discover they were too hasty in their decision. The monogamous script says that we can only date one person, especially if it is sexual. Again, why?
There are different motives and meanings for sex. Dating need not be limited to the “one and only forever” script. Why are people so insecure and possessive? There is a tendency to view being serious as a normal and good thing, when in many cases it is far from good or normal.
I have had clients who worry that anyone they choose to date will think they are serious and want to be exclusive. They fret over wht they feel is pressure to commit to each person they date, when they are not emotionally available to be exclusive. They are thinking with all the “shoulds”–tht they “should” cave to another person’s desires to be exclusive, even if they have no desire to do so.
Sex does not always mean exclusivity or being in love. Sometimes it is fun, a friend with benefits, or hooking up. Why must sex alwys mean you are headed toward exclusivity? Why can’t sex be fun and enjoyable without a definite commitment to a future together?
When a high school graduate goes to college, she or he may still date a high school boyfriend or girlfriend. In most of these caes, the high school student expects their college lover to be exclusive even if they are not seeing them often. Most of these relationships end, in part because of the all or nothing expectation of exclusivity.
For those who conduct pre-sex discussions (see my blog on this) and are careful about STDs, the only safe sex is not monogamy. There is a moralistic veneer under these expectations, where STDs are a ruse for a person’s insecurity about sharing a lover with others.
We have competing sexual scripts. The conventional script says you must be exclusive if you dat and/or have sex. Other scripts say it is fine to date several, or to have sex with more than one. Each of these scripts should be discussed with potential and ongoing lovers.
Any date is potentially a sexual experience. Each person has to think through competing scripts to find one that best fits their needs at that point in their life. This is why pre-se and after-sex discussions are important. You want to be on the same page to avoid hurt feelings and other problems.
Our puritan culture dictates that we must all be alike to be normal and accepted by others. It is time to be critical thinkers rather than succumb to convention. We must question any advice that says we must all be one way. We are all unique and we should find our way through this morass of competing scripts.
Possessing another in the name of love is not love at all. It is a desperate need to control another in the name of love. If possession is the norm, does this make it normal? No! It is time to move beyond the shackles of traditions that never were much fun, or very functional, for many people. Why not view dating as a recreational activity that allows us to get to know and savor our dates without committing our entire lives to them?
A famous sociologist, Bernard Farber, argued in the 1960’s that we are all permanently available to each other. This is because of the power of attraction, sexual chemistry and the reality that we flirt, notice and engage many people throughout our lives. This is why we don’t truly live in a monogamous society. Some are happily monogamous, but this does not mean all people must make this choice to feel joyous and intimate.