Dating and relationships are hard work. And trying to remain true to your values while dating can be even harder.
The media, and everyone around us, say to live by the “pleasure principle” — I want what I want, when I want it, because I want it. No regrets; no boundaries. And when I’m done wanting it, I can walk away. We might find some pleasure, but, sadly, very little fulfillment in that.
Here are some tips for living out your values and finding integrity in your dating life.
Define Your Values
Your values define what is most important to you and form your guardrails for life. They make up who you are, and what your relationship will embody. Your values are made up of many aspects of your life, including religious beliefs, purpose, relationships, career choices, finances, family, sexual ethics and positions on social issues. If you haven’t thought through your values, start now. Rather than having a list of preferences, build your list of values. When you are confused about pursuing a relationship, go back to your list. If you live according to your values, then you can be open with your dates about who you are and what you want. Everything else is likely negotiable.
Know the Truth
The bedrock of integrity is truth. This means being real about the movies and meals you like, and being authentic about what hurts you and bothers you. Do not tolerate any form of lying or deception in your partner or date, and do not lie. If you say you are going to call, call. If you don’t want to have a second date, say so. Nicely. Do not lead someone on. If an old relationship is still in your life, don’t cover it up. Without honesty, there is no relationship. The more honest you are, the better chance you have of finding truthfulness in others.
Live in Reality
This one might sound like honesty, but it goes further by asking us to be real with ourselves. Sometimes in relationships, we hope and wish so much for something to be true that we ignore the signs that it is not. Are you holding on to someone, hoping for them to commit, when the reality is they simply will not? Do you want to go deeper with someone who cannot? Are you hoping, even praying, their behavior is going to change, even though there is no evidence of change? Taking the blinders off can be hard, but living in denial is much more painful in the long run. Living in reality is another way to live with integrity. Don’t fool yourself about what’s real, and don’t try to fool others about who you are.
If you stay in a relationship very long, the true character of your boyfriend or girlfriend will begin to show. Character shows up after the excitement and newness of a relationship wears off, and it is what makes or breaks a relationship. There is a difference between compatibility and character, so don’t get blinded by what you are attracted to in another person. Character is how we treat others and what we tolerate in how others treat us. Don’t allow a date or partner to treat you any differently than a very good friend. Notice how they treat friends, colleagues, family, and the waitstaff at restaurants. Character and integrity walk hand in hand. Look for one, and you will find the other.
So, what about preferences? Preferences are naturally a reflection of who we are and what we like to do. A list of preferences can help us define what we are looking for in a date. The problem is, while preferences can help us narrow the field, they can also prevent us from being flexible and open. Knowing your tastes is important, but relationships can come in many different flavors. Preferences are not the end game. If you want to find more integrity in dating, then make your preferences the backdrop to how you live.
How do you know if you are dating with integrity? The more integrity you have in your dating life, the less drama and the more peace. New relationships will seem to fit better. Breakups will be more dignified. And you will discover a way of dating that reflects the best part of who you are and what you value.