Monday, September 7

Just Make Sure You Get Their Names Right

The current question of the day (both online and off) seems to be whether or not it's okay to be talking (you know, about marriage) to more than one someone at a time. The overwhelming majority of people have responded with an outright no, saying that they would end things pretty quickly if they found out that this was the case.

I'm actually quite surprised at this reaction, especially since it's by the same people who also complain about how far and few between good potentials are. These aren't commodities we're talking about here, and in my opinion saying no is just as strong a gesture as saying yes, and I guess for me it takes more than the indecision of my opposite for me to declare the former.

In reality I suspect it's more to do with having a different idea of what "talking" actually means. I consider it as a kind of due diligence; fact finding of the obvious to see if there's anything there to base something on. I'm also looking to see if I get on with the person, not as a spouse but more as someone new; someone who I don't even know I like as a person yet. As such I don't think either of us really owe each other kind of exclusivity or commitment - that stuff comes a bit later, and usually after some kind of declaration. I will say that I'm probably a bit peculiar in that I have remained friends with potentials even if we (mutually or otherwise) decide it wouldn't work out, so perhaps I'm able to remain some kind of dis-connectivity during the process which others aren't? I don't think this compromises the process itself though.

But the fact is that we all consider multiple people all the time. Perhaps it's on a less official basis, but each time a single person who's looking meets someone of the opposite gender, they'll be sizing them up even if that is being done covertly or even subconsciously. I'm sure no one has a problem doing this or even being sized up themselves in this manner, so I don't see how being introduced in a more direct or formal manner becomes an issue. As mature people as long as we know where we stand we should be able to handle and choose how to proceed.

So I guess what I'm saying is that the explicitness of a situation shouldn't dictate the level of commitment you owe someone, unless that's precisely what's being made explicit (for example via an engagement or even a "let's go steady" proclamation). And by definition before any point of commitment you have the option to bail, be it because of someone else or any other reason - it's why we'd happily talk to someone who might be leaving the country in the next month for good. You know, just in case they don't.

But it is true that under a formal approach people aren't there just for friendship, and also that for most people marriage will be a monogamous thing. As such there are certain specific rules which do apply, many of which will dictate whether or not you can even talk to more than one person at a time:

  1. Honesty. Proactive honesty at that. Tell them that you're not at a stage at which to commit and are still figuring out where you are. As adults, they have a right to either stay or end it (something you should respect). In the latter case, you could choose to give them the exclusivity they want. The point is that this should be a bilateral and explicit dialogue.
  2. Availability. You should be as engaging as you would if you were only looking at one person. Talking to two people doesn't mean you give them half the attention each, so no delays in returning calls or emails. Of course there is a practical limit to this and for lots of people that's just one. Don't look for numbers if you can't deal with them.
  3. Non-abuse. Probably the most difficult to stick to. Don't let the attention get to your head, don't lead anyone on and don't play any games. Consider it an honour to be in the process, not a right. You're talking to figure out if you can marry someone and if they could marry you, not to set up multiple options and backup plans. Focus on establishing what you need to know as quickly as possible and once you do (or know that you won't), let the relevant parties know. Do not keep anyone hanging. If you find that you like more than one person at the same time, well then you need to choose who you want to be exclusive with immediately.
  4. Reciprocity. You have to be okay with your opposite doing the same. If you're not (perhaps you're at a point where you need their attention to proceed), then you should tell them and let them decide if they're ready to change the situation. Although this point can come at any time, it's a bit unreasonable to expect it from the start (love at first sight aside). Personally I assume it as the default position (that they are looking at other people), but I'll always ask anyway.
  5. Clarity and objectivity. That means no comparing potentials to one another. And definitely not mixing up their names or what you've said or done with each other.
To be honest across all these rules it's probably difficult to talk to more than one person anyway, and if you did not for more than a few days at most. However it is possible to legitimately look at more than one person at a time.

Perhaps I'm just unlucky in that potential rishtas arrive like buses for me - ones on a six month route - so I really can't afford to write people off just because I'm two emails into talking to someone else, especially if I don't even know the current person all that well (and in all likelihood won't marry them for some other reason anyway).

Similarly I wouldn't want to say no to someone I do actually like, just because she's yet to realise how awesome I am. If anything allowing her to talk to other losers will just increase the chances that she'll say yes to me.