You've heard the phrase "play the field" and I kind of agree. Except that it's an expression we use to experiment sexually and I don't recommend that. Sexual experimentation can clutter your ability to think straight and reason through what's good for you. One good sexual experience can cause you to over look the important qualities you desire in a person long term. Before you know it, you may find yourself in a cycle of dysfunction without a beginning or an end. The temporal good can keep us from the lasting better. It can give a false sense of security and make it very hard to break it off when/if the time comes. Unless you are willing to break off what is questionable, you are never given the opportunity to find better.
I'd like to think of "playing the field" as an expression we use to meet a lot of different people, explore the world, go on dates, take risks, make adventure, and get to know yourself in vastly different scenarios. Who are you? The only way to know is to take time to figure you out. What do you dream about and hope for in the future? What are your core beliefs about love, life, the world?
While busy cultivating life in the smallest and biggest ways (I emphasize small) take notice in who you get along with. I don't think we put enough emphasis on getting along. Who makes you feel amazing? Who inspires you and awakens the desire to live life fully!? Getting along is by far one of the most important defining reasons why your marriage could work. Choose someone you simply get along with. A clear indication that you are not getting along is constant nagging or fighting. A not so clear indication could be an underlying tension that hovers.
My husband and I had our own experiences of dating history prior to dating each other. Upon meeting each other, our dating history was "old wounds" that healed over and shaped a part of who we were. We wanted to do everything together. I remember thinking that something had to be wrong because I didn't know friendship could exist with someone who I had romantic feelings for. It does. And now I know without friendship there's no way we'd be ok! Three kids later, and we still enjoy each other. It can be crazy and out of control at times with three littles, but away from our children - away from the daunting every day responsibilities, the piling bills, financial stress - I would choose him any day to come with me for a "time out."
One thing I wish I understood when I was dating and before I got married is that sex does not and should not seal the deal. Every one of us will find ourselves sexually vulnerable many times before we are married...and that can be as powerful and as simple as a kiss. Point is this; it is not a done deal because you compromised your standards or slipped romantically. This is no reason to get married. So what, you messed up...gave a piece of yourself in a way and to someone (maybe several) you wish you hadn't. It happens to the best of us. Sexual mishaps can either strengthen who we are or can hinder our self-worth. The choice is ours. *BUT you have to wait to engage in another relationship until you come out of it in full strength. It's not wise to enter into a new relationship while you are still bleeding at the loss of a prior. It's not wise to connect intimately with another person if you are still wounded. The danger in "carried over heartache" can result in mutual cynicism, judgment, & unforgiveness - all of which may give you a sense of understanding but none of these will bring the fruit of trust, affirmation, and forgiveness.
The expression "choose wisely" is exactly right. Love is a choice. The idea of falling in love or "finding it" is not real. It may feel real, but we all know feelings are fleeting. It is your choice to love who you choose! It is no ones fault but your own if you choose to love someone you dislike. You are but a victim of your own doing.
Love is not found in the church, in the bars, in the bedroom, at work, at school. . .There is no safe place because love is not found. Love is purposed when observation is given the chance outside of our heightened emotional or physical state. Character is learned, understood and trusted only with time (how much time, well that depends on the situation). Trust should be established before marriage is even a thought. If you have trust issues now it will escalate in the future.
It is unwise to get married because you are sexually involved, you desire to be sexually involved, because you are pregnant, you are lonely, you have a child, you don't foresee anything better, because you can't live without them, because they are crazy good in bed. . .At some point you will feel very differently. Feelings take us to both wonderful and dreadful places. It is trust and good character that will successfully carry you through every good and bad day. Being happily single is far better than being miserably married. I think we all know this to be true for everyone else, but it can be difficult to understand for ourselves. That's why we need each other. No couple does well in solitude. If you are isolated from the world around you, there will be problems.
Before committing to someone ask yourself these questions:
- Does he/she encourage me to be an individual?
- Does he/she allow me to dream and cultivate my gifts?
- How does he/she respond to my weaknesses? BIG one. Is he/she affirming and on your side? Does he/she push you to the forefront and demand you to fix yourself?
- How does he/she operate in relationships at work, with his/her family & friends - with your family & friends?
- Do you admire him/her?
- Do you respect him/her?
Play the field. Get to know yourself and other people before committing to someone for life. A good working relationship will be confirmed through peace, friends, and family. There will be an overall sense that "this is good" if in fact it is good.