Not so long ago, I was wondering about why things are so difficult with people in the dating world. It seems to work about the same as it does with kids. At an early age, you can just walk up to a kid and say, “Hey! You wanna be friends?!” and they probably will say yes, or they will call you a stinky pants and run away. I’ve seen my own kids make instant friends with kids on the playground before and they will never see them again. It doesn’t really seem to bother them too much.
Friendship, as with dating, when you are an adult gets harder the older you get. Sometimes people attribute that to “I’m too old for this bullshit” and they are usually fine with their own circle of people who will eventually begin to die off beginning in your forties and fifties. By the time you are in a home and too cranky to make new friends or date anyone, you’re hitting the end of your life yourself.
I could probably count the number of new friends I’ve made in the last couple years on one hand. Even then we aren’t that close.
One of the big reasons for this is not because we harden off like tree bark or something. It’s because as we get older, we develope a value system. For those who are heavy into the church, there is a preassigned value system that gets bought into. “Are you into Jesus? I’m into Jesus!” then they get married and the church tells them if they are a happy couple or not.
Okay, that was a little cynical. But I’ve seen it. Like, no, really.
The thing is that in your middle years, you have seen some stuff. You’ve been hurt. You’ve hurt others. You’ve made mistakes. But it’s less of sticking your hand in the fire and getting hurt and more that over the decades, you’ve build an accepted system of values. And given enough time, your values can get pretty dialed in.
When I was just hitting the dating scene in college, I went on a couple dates. Neither romances lasted all that long. A big reason was because I confused values with differences. One girl called movies “flicks” and for some reason that bothered me. Next! The other girl didn’t know the difference between R2D2 and C3PO. At the time, that was something I thought somebody ought to know if they were going to be around me. Neither of them worked out.
Those were not values. That was just having a large enough pool of available women to be ridiculously picky. There is a long list of stupid excuses I have had over the years to not be with someone. Those reasons had very little to do with values.
But as you get older, you do acquire values. You see how someone might treat a server or how they talk about their kids or how they treat animals. I once dated someone who said they would let their dog run all over the mountains and if it got eaten by a bear, then it got eaten by a bear. WTF?! There are important values that might not mesh with your own and it is up to you to decide whether or not it is worth your time to continue in a pursuit. After all, none of us is getting any younger.
Some values are okay to examine and you don’t have to tell yourself you are being picky. I’ve heard and seen for myself a lot of these kinds of things. The list is not in any order of importance, and isn’t exhaustive.
- Drug use
- Empathy (or lack thereof)
- Psychological disorders
- Behavioral disorders
- Their opinion of children
- How they treat animals
- Their views on monogamy/sex/etc.
- Communication style
- Personal hygiene
- Mental health
- Self-destructive behavior
- Respecting boundaries
- Honor, loyalty, respect, etc.
In my case, I dated someone on and off for three years. She hated coffee. She tried to get me to quit. That was a red flag and I should have stayed the hell away. It’s right up there with someone saying “I hate dogs. If you want me around you’re going to have to get rid of Penny.” Nope.
The vice wasn’t the problem. It was her desire to determine what mine were and how should could influence them that was. The nice little carrot and stick she used was she wouldn’t kiss me if I had drunk coffee in the last 24 hours.
When I was a kid, I was taught to identify values based on a person’s vices. A family legend tells that once someone asked what I wanted to do when I grew up. I said I wanted to drink beer and carouse like my uncle Gary. People laughed. My mom was probably secretly scandalized.
Vices reflected values. No matter that some of the best people I know have vices. And some of the worst I’ve known would have fit that mold of being squeaky clean and virtuous that I was raised to identify. I don’t have a lot of vices, because I was taught that having vices showed whether you were a good person or a bad person. As I have gotten older, I have learned that vices have nothing to do with being good or bad. But, my lack of vices probably means I’m not as fun at social events. And I was a judgemental prick for most of my adult life. And some of those who didn’t have vices that I was involved with turned out to be snake mean.
Values determine values. Vices usually just mean that someone has made a personal choice and it isn’t up to me to judge them for that unless they are hurting someone else with them. In my opinion, vices are fine in moderation. Just like anything else. I’ve got some of my own. You do you.
But values are important. Values establish foundation for boundaries. Somebody who is mean to kids or animals does not fit with my values. I could list what fits in with my values, but that’s my business. I’m not building a resume here. Sometimes values don’t mesh and they don’t have to.
I think people have enough wiggle room to allow for some variance in values. But some are that hill you are willing to die on.
Knowing who’s who in Star Wars is a lot less important to me now, and I also know it isn’t a value. The older we get the more specific we become, so that is where tolerance fits in. And if we don’t find tolerance, we have to have the security in knowing that we aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and it’s fine doing our own thing.
Values aren’t the pop you drink, the truck you drive, or other things like that. Values are how you treat yourself. How you treat others. Some of these were are all still works in progress. But it is good to understand what works and what doesn’t. Some are things we can live with. Others, not so much.
So when your friends are asking you why it’s so hard to meet new people (dating or otherwise), and a lot of that probably has to do with their value systems. Otherwise, not worrying about dealing with someone else’s systems might be a lot of work, especially if you find yourself tiptoeing around it. Or discovering a lack of values.