Thursday, September 2, 2010

How and Why I Stopped being a Serial Dater - David Nugent

How and why I stopped being a serial dater
By David Nugent
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:38:00 03/22/2009

Filed Under: relationships and dating
I STARTED thinking about summer and summer romances this past weekend when, on a flight back from Boracay, a dear friend wanted to go over the last page of Vanity Fair. It’s the one-page questionnaire based on the old Proust Q&A about life, love and the fundamental questions of happiness.

The questionnaire actually goes back pretty far. Apparently the Victorians loved answering endless questions about what they desired, particularly about romance. And in thinking about the Victorians, undoubtedly among the most puritanical, repressed yet romantic of peoples, I got to thinking about romance, Philippine-style.

We Filipinos are funny about romance. It’s really a dance, and for most folk, a dance the whole clan, barkada and barangay get involved in. People say gossip is our national pastime. I disagree; we’re simply a people in love with love. That goes even for those of us who aren’t in love with anyone!

I’m the last person to assume to be authoritative about romance. The best thing I’ve done with most of my relationships is see them end, with a fundamental reason—I was in relationships for so many years and with so many folks for all the wrong reasons.

I eventually stopped being a serial dater. It’s important to sit back, take stock, and do the work you need to if you want to stop having failed relationships and start having great ones. No matter if they last only a weekend, a summer, or the rest of your life.

Looking back, I realize some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made are those that many others make, too.


The biggest mistake? Getting into a relationship just for the heck of it. Or to escape a family situation, or a family, or yourself. To escape for any reason.

A relationship isn’t an escape. Never get into it unless it’s for the most basic reason—because you love and respect that person.

And never expect that love and respect go hand in hand. Sometimes, they don’t. I’ve loved people I didn’t respect all that much, and I’ve respected some I wasn’t in love with.

I learned that one has to do more than adore the person you’re with. You must admire him or her as well. I think it’s important to keep in mind that neither love nor respect should be given too easily. Proving love and earning respect take time and patience.

We Filipinos are often suckers for giving our entire world away when we meet the shiniest new person around. Remember, real love and respect take time. When someone doesn’t have either for you, he or she is not worth yours.


Another big mistake I had was using my partner as panacea for not having dealt with personal issues I should have resolved before getting into any relationship. In the Philippines, we spend a huge amount of time not dealing with our issues, whether they involve parents, siblings or ourselves.

Here’s a suggestion: Before you fall in love—even before you think you’ve fallen—take a breather and call a shrink. We’re a people who should have a national therapy conversation. The most important relationship you should ensure is with yourself first. Unless you fix what is inside, no other person, no matter how wonderful he or she may be, will be able to do it for you.

A uniquely Filipino situation is that we often choose our partners based on what our families, friends and barkada like. You might think you’ve chosen a partner. But, buddy, you will be dating his or her friends, family, gym partners, wine and cheese buddies—basically everyone in the other person’s life.

And they’ll know all about your life together. And it’s frequently a disaster. It’s never just the two of you against the world.

Social position

So what to do? Fall in love with whomever you want to. Be brave. Go on, ask that girl or that guy out who doesn’t fall in your class. Maybe he or she didn’t attend your school, or read the same books. Maybe it’s not his or her English that’s so bad, but your Tagalog that needs a little work (I know mine does).

It’ll be ok; you’ll grow because you’ve expanded not just your social circle, but also your heart and mind. I find that people so preoccupied with their social position are usually those who aren’t classy. Real class isn’t about birth right or membership, it’s about behavior. The Golden Rule is what begets a classy person.

Another important lesson, this time for the gay guy and straight girl tandem. Remember, you guys will never be more than just friends. So don’t take the other for more than what he or she isn’t. Share clothes, share lives, but when it comes to love, you can love each other but should not be in love with the other.

I’ve seen time and again how the straight girl falls in love with the gay guy, and it’s not fair to both.

Thinking about all these lessons hasn’t scared me off love, it’s just given me a (hopefully) smarter perspective. And it brings me back to the original Proust Questionnaire.

When asked his favorite occupation, Proust said (way back in 1890): “Being in love.”

He could have been a Filipino.


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