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{Single Saints} How to Play the Field Without Being a Player

Kaela Worthen Gardner - February 02, 2012

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I've been taught over and over to explore my options and not date exclusively too soon, but I've also been accused of stringing people along in my attempts to do so. Here's how to strike the perfect balance.

We've all heard it in every dating conversation, lesson, and fireside since we turned 12: don't date exclusively. Keep your options open.

Of course, we've also been taught, after we graduate and move on to the great big world of singles wards, that we should be seeking an eternal companion. Which usually requires, at some point, entering into an exclusive relationship.

But therein lies the question: at what point?

For me, that point is not one easily arrived at. Until I'm at least pretty positive I want to date this guy over every other potential male specimen out there, I'm not cutting off my options.

Unfortunately, this has led to some criticism from those around me. The man to whom I am now engaged accused me of stringing him along in the early stages of our courtship. My sister's boyfriend accused me of being a player because I was going out on dates with multiple guys at the same time (I was trying online dating at the time--you can read about it by clicking here) and told me I was being mean to all parties involved.

My mother, on the other hand, championed my cause, insisting that, until I was married, I needed to keep playing the field. Which meant I should never cut off options or turn down any dates--even if I was in an "exclusive" relationship.

I like to think I lie between those two extremes. If there are multiple guys I'm interested in, the only way I can know which one I want to pick above the others is by continuing to date all of them until one stands out from the rest. Then I'm totally willing--and thrilled--to enter into an exclusive relationship.

This will only work if you follow one rule, though: COMMUNICATE. I know I would be hurt if I thought things were going well with a guy and was head over heels for him, only to discover he was just lukewarm about me and still dating other girls. Make sure all parties involved know what the dating situation is. Tell him or her you're still seeing other people, and decide what physical boundaries are appropriate for whatever stage of courtship you are in: to some people, holding hands is just that. To others, it has more committment and meaning attached.

Someone who plays the field simply goes on lots of fun, casual dates. That's totally acceptable and encouraged within our Church. Just make sure those with whom you are going on dates know that's what they are. Someone who is a player goes on lots of dates with a person and misleads them into thinking the romantic relationship is something that it's not, leading to pain as they play with the other person's heart. That's not so nice. Communication is the key to doing the former instead of being the latter.

At least, that's my opinion. And since I'm now engaged to the man I once allegedly strung along, I think it worked out all right. But what do you think?

Your turn: Where do you draw the line between playing the field and player? When--and how--do you decide to enter into an exclusive relationship? When does it stop being acceptable to go on dates with other people of the opposite sex?

© LDS Living, 2012.
Comments 2 comments

racheljl said...

10:16 PM
on Feb 02, 2012

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I'm surprised I'm the first one to respond, but then again, I think you covered it rather well. The people who fall into the "player" category are doing it all wrong, for themselves and obviously for everyone else. Otherwise, dating can be frustrating even when it's done "right." I don't think there's much you can do when you're seeing several people and you're not sure who you like the best, or who would be the best match. When you're on the other side of it, and you're dating someone you're more sure of, but they're not, it can be painful. Finding a companion is a tough job sometimes that consequently requires work, patience, or both. Fortunately it's also fun sometimes. I don't think any of us is perfect at it, but even when you're doing your best and trying to stay close to the Spirit as to how to proceed, either you or someone else can get hurt feelings, and friends or family members may not agree with us. Thanks for writing this. Gives me something to think about. :)

azmomof6 said...

08:15 PM
on Feb 05, 2012

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I shared this with my boys this evening. Their ages are 15, 18, and 22. Even the youngest says that the problem is society's interpretation -- if you go out with someone ONCE, you are assumed to be going steady! (Not really so different from when I was dating 4 decades ago.) It makes it VERY hard for these young men to date when any attempt is misunderstood so badly. We all need to work together to teach society that there is a better way.
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