I think it’s best to start with a disclaimer: Just because I use these rules, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea for anyone else. Hell, it might not even be a good idea for me.
Before we talk about the wonderful world of dating, I think it’s very important to start off with some good, old-fashioned philosophy. And to start our questions off, why do you want to date anyone?
…because everyone I know is dating. Awkward, right? Everyone is going to these couples-only parties and you feel left out. You need to bring someone along to make things work. I’ll be blunt: it sucks to be in that situation, but don’t let it cloud your thoughts. Are those parties even going to be fun? Are friends who don’t want you there without a date even worth it? Oh, they invited you but it’s too awkward to go because you’re the 3rd or 5th wheel? Learn to live with yourself before you learn to live with someone else. Don’t get too caught up in awkwardness.
…because it will make me happy. Eh…I got some bad news for you. Though dating could make you happy temporarily, if you’re not happy right now, you need to address that problem. Dragging someone else into your problem isn’t the solution. If they want to help, that’s swell, but be upfront about it. Confronting something together is good, there’s no doubt about that. Strength in numbers. But don’t avoid the problem by finding someone to pull a happiness blanket over your issues. It’ll blow off eventually.
…because it will make me happier. I hear you. You’re happy already, and your life could be even better with someone else entering the fray. But why will it make you happier? I guess that’s a whole other set of questions. In any case, here’s what I want you to take away: it probably won’t. Don’t go into a relationship thinking it will make you happier.
…because I want to share my happiness. Okay, now we’re talking. The moment when you want nothing out of a relationship is when I believe it’s the best time to start one. Wanting to give something to someone else is good, because it means you have something to give, not just get.
For all of us, we will get something from a relationship, but it shouldn’t be the driving force behind initiating the whole process. Don’t think about the rewards. Live with yourself first. Enjoy your life. Find contentment solo. Then, when the spark happens, act on it. But don’t go into a relationship when you aren’t even enjoying your life. Solve the happiness thing first.
Does that count as a rule?
Let’s get down to the actual dating part. The physical acts will depend entirely on the combination of people that get together. How I act in one relationship will differ from the next because of the other person. There is such a thing as a bad ex out there, but I’d argue 80% of bad relationships stem from bad combos, not a single person.
I’m pulling numbers and percentages out of the void, and I’m indirectly doing some victim-blaming here. What a good start.
Rule Number 1: Don’t date coworkers. If things go wrong, work’s going to suck. Since we spend most of our lives at work, life is going to suck. Incidentally, most Japanese people date inside their work circle. With all the work, there’s not really any other place to look.
Rule Number 2: Don’t date good friends. If things go wrong, your social life will suffer. This is especially true if you have a small pool of close friends. Don’t date inside that circle! Friends of friends are okay.
Rule Number 3: Don’t think your partner will change. They won’t. Or, not in the ways you might want them to. If you’re not happy with them in the beginning, don’t think you’ll be happy with them later.
Rule Number 4!?: Don’t date to make yourself happier. There, I made it a rule!
As with all rules, they are meant to be broken from time to time. Use your own judgment. If your coworker really is the one that you want to share your happiness with, share. Don’t let these get in your way. Instead, let the above serve as guideposts.
And while we’re at it, I figure I’ll throw a couple of pieces of advice. Again, take these with a grain of salt. Think about them, but if you find they don’t work for you, laugh them away.
Wow. Lots of bold today.
Advice Number 1: Don’t assume things will go well. Assume they’ll go horribly wrong. Can you survive that!? I mean, just don’t put yourself in a position where you have a lot to lose.
Advice Number 2: Don’t overthink things. All I’m saying is, go out and give it a shot. If they’re not a friend or coworker, what do you have to lose? A “potential relationship”? C’mon.
These rules of mine, well, I often wonder if they’re doing me more harm than good. How many great relationships have I not acted on because of these? How many coworkers did I let go because I worried about some perceived potential problems? How many times have I stopped myself from dating because I felt like I wasn’t happy enough?
They’re comforting, in the end. When someone I like begins dating someone else, I just go back to the rules. Yeah, I missed out, but THE RULES! The rules are safe! They’re unbroken! They’re cast in stone and not cracking anytime soon! The older I get, the stupider it seems to protect something arbitrary that exists only in my brain.
Indeed, all of the above came out for a reason. I saw a friend group shattered because of group in-dating. I created enemies and damaged work relations because I dated a coworker. These things did not arrive without reason. But could the Jōchō of today handle things better than the Jōchō of yesteryear? That’s a question I’m not sure how to answer.
Like I said at the start, don’t implement anything above right away. Think about it. Does it fit in with your life?
Rules keep us from doing stupid things, but sometimes the stupid thing is the right thing.