Thursday, February 13, 2014

Integrity in Dating




(Reprinted from Meridian Magazine, August 2011)

Integrity in dating. Is it an oxymoron or the ultimate challenge? Many will argue that all is fair in love and war, but if that is true, are you compromising your integrity for a fun Friday night?
By definition, integrity is the “adherence to moral principles; honesty. Or, “unity, wholeness.” Dating is fraught with misunderstandings, hidden activities, facades, intentions good and bad, and oftentimes, straight up deceit. And we do it all in the pursuit of love. It is ironic, isn't it, that the pursuit of one of the most wonderful feelings and emotions in the world, can create so much pain and sorrow? This is why dating with integrity is so important- to eliminate hurt feelings and confusion as much as possible.
Individuals must make it a priority to bring honesty and good communication into their dating. This includes focusing on honest communication regarding not only who they are as a person, but their intentions, commitments, and priorities. Dating is full of flirting, teasing, seduction, and game playing. Some will even insist that these are the primary elements of dating! But the more games you play, secrets you keep, and devious activities you engage in, the more dishonest and less integrity you bear.
Can you have integrity while dating more than one person? Yes, absolutely! Going back to the key elements of what defines integrity- are you honest with your partners? Have you done anything to mislead them? Are all parties absolutely aware of the level of commitment, intention, and intimacy you are engaged in?
All too often individuals (male or female) feel that just because s/he has not verbalized a commitment or his/her intentions, that the other party is on the same page, and that no one will be hurt. A lack of communication does not define honesty. If you want to be fair, open, and kind with your fellow (wo)man, you will be direct and honest in your communication.
Without a doubt, I know that there will be plenty of people ready to attack on this point, arguing that one date does not constitute a “what are we talk.” And I agree! Each party will have to operate according to their personal activities and choices. But never think that “Well, I never told him/her that we were exclusive, so s/he can't be mad if I am dating other people.”
I remember seeing it happen all too often in my singles ward days. A guy would think he was doing his “priesthood duty” to ask out every girl in the ward. A girl suddenly gets a phone call from this nice guy she's only met a few times, and happily accepts his date request. In the days prior to the date, she builds it up in her head that he must actually be interested in her. After all, he asked her out, right? Then the date comes and they have a great time, albeit nothing more than just friendly interactions. But she doesn't date that often, and this was the highlight of her year! She builds this date up in her head as something big. The next day she bakes him something (cookies, cakes, cupcakes, a five course meal- you name it, I've seen it all) and takes it to church. He graciously and enthusiastically accepts it. They talk again. They spend some time together chatting at whatever ward activity follows that week (FHE, Institute, etc). By Thursday night she's convinced they are dating. On Friday night he's out with the next girl he's asked out.
He will think he is full of integrity doing his “priesthood duty” asking out all of the girls. In no way does he consider himself a “player.” He is honestly and truly just being a nice guy, and getting to know everyone. But by Saturday night when she's come to accept that he's not going to show up on her doorstep with roses, she will probably never use the word “integrity” in her definition of him. Pig may be closer to her word choice.
But he never promised her a rose garden. He was nothing but nice, friendly, and polite- a true gentleman. But if he had made it clear he was only interested in taking her out as a friend, he would have potentially built a good friendship, instead of ruining his reputation and hurting her feelings.
Honest communication can build friendships. A lack of communication ruins relationships. 
Sometimes, just getting to a first date takes some integrity, and that includes having the courage and honesty to express interest in another party. Conversely, it can take great integrity and courage to turn down a date with someone you are not interested in in such a way as to not hurt the other party's feelings. Be polite and kind, and remember that it took courage and guts for him/her to ask you out. And always remember you are speaking to another son or daughter of your Heavenly Father.
Have reasonable expectations in your dating. The fictional young woman I just described was just as much much to blame as the young man. She did not have reasonable expectations. She lost her integrity when she began to build things up in her head, rather than engage in open and honest dialogue.
Additionally, another way to show integrity in dating is to remember to respect each other’s uniqueness. The same character traits that you may find incompatible in a dating partner will be what attracts that person a more compatible woman later on. Don't give unsolicited critiques! Allow each other to “let your freak flag fly!” Unique and quirky behavior may be a turn off to one person, but be the magnetic attraction in the next. Besides, what gives you the authority or superiority to change another person's style or character?
Integrity can be found in dating. Seek out individuals with high moral standards, honest communication, and clear intentions. And be sure to exhibit and maintain the same qualities in yourself. Do not just expect the other person to be open and honest. You must do the same!
I feel that I must also bring up another ugly part of dating- flirting with someone else's significant other.  How honest, fair, and kind of you is it to flirt with someone else's significant other? Are you showing any integrity when you attempt to woo away someone in a committed relationship? (Yes, absolutely the other person is at fault as well. But we'll leave the subject of the scum of cheaters for another day.) Have some integrity! Respect their relationship! Honor their commitments- and this includes just regular dating (not just marriage and engagements).
I have never been a fan of “covert dating.” This is a practice widely found in the DC area where couples will date each other, but not let anyone else know. Sure there is something to be said for not broadcasting every date and relationship too early on. I won't criticize that. But “covert dating” - which really is just dating with the intention of deceiving others so that you can continue to date more people without anyone finding out what you are up to, is pretty dishonest at a certain level. I even had a guy once tell me he was enjoying dating me, but wanted to make sure I wasn't going to tell anyone we were dating.
He didn't like anyone else “knowing his business.” (Full disclosure: this was over five years ago.) I agreed to his request, only to find out later on that he was dating several other girls under the same disguise. When I did find out he was dating a friend of mine, and I told her we were both dating him, he accused me of being the dishonest party. After all, I had violated our agreement. He never considered himself to be dishonest or that he lacked integrity. Personally, I never trusted him again.
Show some guts, courage, honesty and integrity in your dating! Remember that the other person has feelings too!  Show some respect for that person, their family, and all that they stand for when choosing to affiliate yourself with him/her.
Last but not least- and I hate that this has to be said, but it must- if there is one place I wish more people would show some integrity it would be in online dating. I'll put it this bluntly-
Saying it via text, online, in an email, over the phone, or via pictures on your phone- it is the same as if you had done it in person. If you would never dare act, do, or say such a thing in person, think twice, and never consider doing it online either. I am sick to my stomach over the things I have seen people do and say online. Online dating sites can be great ways to meet other people. Unfortunately, due to the disgusting sexual behaviors of too many people online, other people are afraid to get on these sites. Stop ruining it for everyone else. Have some integrity and get a life!
Dating can be a great and wonderful time in a person's life if it is done with the right level of integrity, honesty, and open communication. Enjoy your dating years! Don't make it into a miserable experience because no one can be trusted. Set the example of great dating yourself!!



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You Heard It Here First (book 1 in the Haley and Cam Series)

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