The people we hang out with can determine the people we become. As Author Don Miller explains in his book Scary Close:
A year or so ago I read an article that said in the next five years we will become a conglomerate of the people we hang out with. The article went so far as to say relationships were a greater predictor of who we will become than exercise, diet, or media consumption. … After I read that article I got pickier about who I spent time with.
For just about anyone, this is an eye-opening concept.
But for those of us in the dating pool, these words are nothing less than a splash of cold water to the face. Think about the last person you dated. Do you want to become more like him or her?
There’s no doubt that people we spend a lot of time with influence us in ways that aren’t so easy to erase. Guys who I’ve dated in the past have influenced the bands I listen to, the phrases I use, the jokes I tell, even some of my favorite desserts. I like to think that I imparted to them a healthy appreciation of Taylor Swift, Jeep Wranglers and brunch. But regardless, their influence in my life lingered far longer than just the length of our relationship.
We’ve got every reason to be careful, thoughtful, and selective with who we let into our lives and our hearts. But somehow, when it comes to the dating scene, it’s easy to, well, settle.
I think settling means you hunker down with someone in hopes that you’ll rub off more on them than they do on you. If you’re single, you know who I’m talking about: that person you can hang out with, talk to, even enjoy a good game of date night putt-putt with. But, at the end of the day, you don’t exactly find yourself thinking, “Man, I wish I could just be more like that.”
No one has it all completely together, and in every dating relationship you and I will find ourselves as one half of a very imperfect equation. I’m sure guys I’ve dated would testify to that fact. But considering how much the people we date, and ultimately the person we marry, influence who we will become, it’s worth asking yourself, “Do I want to be more like this person?”
I spend a lot of time with teenagers, so I also often ask myself, “Do I want my kids to be like this person?” Girls, if your son treated women the same way your date treats you, would you be happy about that? Guys, if your daughter inherited your date’s personal character, would you consider it a success?
It’s good to keep our standards high—not because we have an inflated sense of self that tells us we deserve a “perfect” person, but because we’re growing people who know we’re easily influenced. We’re all works in progress. So the question is, who are you becoming?
Because there’s a flip-side to this equation. When we set our standards high, it forces us to raise the bar in our own personal lives as well. Want to find that guy or girl who will inspire you for the rest of your life? It starts with a look in the mirror, as we ask ourselves, “Am I living the kind of life that would attract that person today?”
If we truly become like the people we spend the most time with, then it’s inevitable that the people we date will change us, for better or for worse—just like we’ll change them. So let’s choose our influences wisely, and let’s accept our responsibility as an influence on others.
Surround yourself with people who embody what you hope to be. Wait for a date who inspires you.
Your future self will thank you.