Smokey Robinson sang about “my momma told me, ‘you better shop around’” (my dad listened to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, I’m not dating myself by any stretch). I am more of a pragmatist at heart than a romantic, so a certain about of shopping, haggling, and trading makes sense to me. Also feeding into this is the fact that I’m a guy, so mid-life crises (still not dating myself) also makes sense to me.

I can see this blog quickly getting away from me (it’s the potential pitfall of writing about singles’ issues while your wife not only reads over your shoulder, but keeps flashing back to the series of break ups the two of you had while dating), so let me try this another way. On a certain level, I understand (not saying I condone, approve, or otherwise give assent to) the idea of people trading up: to go prettier, smarter, funnier, wealthier in their next relationship – a terminal case of the grass-is-always-greener-itis. (Unless you are escaping a bad situation, then just run!)

It’s not much of an intuitive leap since too often we treat relationships like disposable commodities. However, what I can’t get my mind around is the idea of shopping to be shopping, or rather, trading simply for the sake of trading. A lateral move rather than a move up in anyway. I suppose in guy parlance, it could be seen as getting a little “strange” on the side; taking us back to the idea of folks getting tired of the same old home-cooking (which would really suck for me since I do all of the cooking in our house. I mean that in the literal sense).

The irony of all of this—between the stereotype of the mid-life crisis/trading the wife for the young secretary and/or the idea of getting some “strange”—is that the reason this topic has come up is because in my circle of friends, it has been the guys dumped. So obviously, this is an equal opportunity condition.

Selfishness and narcissism can rot relationships from the inside. The idea of entitlement, things being about “my needs” and “me first”, is antithetical to how relationships ought to work. Not having needs met; wanting to feel young, pretty, relevant, pursued again; simply wanting a change of scenery, these are symptoms of a poor idea of how relationships work (and while dating, maybe it’s best that they leave. However, these are things that ought to be worked through in a marriage situation).

We suffer from a relational disconnect. There is an emotional desensitization that comes with spending too much time with one person, especially when locked in the same routine. Relationships can only survive by continual reconnection. We combat the disconnect by being present in the relationship, investing time, self, and energy into it, prioritizing the person we wish to spend our life with.

I have a couple of friends who I see constantly. We worry about relational fatigue because we don’t want to get sick of each other. I worry about it less (now) because, for one thing, relationships change. If you take a look at your current circle of friends, there’s a good chance that a year from now, maybe two, the complexion of your circle of friends will be different. People whom you shared intimate secrets with one day drift (or storm) out of your life. People fight. Misunderstandings occur. Trust is betrayed. People move, switch social circles, life, circumstances, what have you – you wake up one day and realize that some folks aren’t as close to you or aren’t as much a part of your world as they used to be. There is a natural ebb and flow to relationships.

For another thing, we have a dynamic I pray will be sustained despite the aforementioned observation about relationships. It’s like we’re in a constant competition to see who can love each other more. The math is simple: Continual acts of love = continual reconnection. Not letting the relationship grow stale or old, valuing the time you spend together, not taking the relationship for granted. Distance may make the heart grow fonder, but only until the heart no longer cares.

Browse if you need to, that’s what dating is all about. Serially wrapping yourself in a relationship simply for the sake of doing so (for the sake of not wanting to be alone, or needing a new face to keep you company), is the height of selfishness. And you may want to seriously look in the mirror and examine yourself about that.

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