Common responses include: to have fun, romance, companionship, a family, sex, a “soft place to land,” affection, love, excitement, security, marriage, a life partner, to love and be loved, and eliminate loneliness. All good reasons.
However, I think one of the most profound reasons is stated by Susan Sarandon‘s character Beverly Clark, in the American version of “Shall We Dance.” When asked why people marry, Beverly says, “We need a witness to our lives. There are a billion people on the planet. I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things … all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”
While not commonly acknowledged, I think this core “witnessing” is important. What it says to me is that we want someone who cares about us long term. Yes, we have family and friends, but we yearn for a daily confidant, someone with whom to share our everyday triumphs, setbacks, and adventures. Yes, we could do that with a close family member or friend, but when you share it with someone you are hoping to build a life with, it takes on a deeper significance.
I understand that not all people want or expect their sweetie to be their best friend. They don’t intend on telling that person their deepest secrets, as some of those may be about yearnings or fantasies of another person. Usually best to leave those for sharing with a best friend you’re not sleeping with. However, most people say they want their lover to be their friend, at least, and often their best friend. They want someone to “witness” their lives.
A man I’m seeing calls me every day to tell me about his day and ask about mine. While I find it more interesting to talk about deeper topics, he often calls on a break or when he can’t talk long. So the situation doesn’t lend itself to talking about philosophy, hopes, dreams, fears. However, I understand that he is wanting me to be a witness to his life, and he to mine. When we have more extended time together, we talk about more important topics. So I allow the “reporting in” chats to nurture the witnessing part of our budding relationship.
So, why do you date? What do you think about this concept of “witnessing?” Write your thoughts in a comment.
(Tidbit: A few years ago I met Susan Sarandon at Miraval, the world’s #1 ranked spa, where I was conducting executive women’s leadership retreats. We chatted in the locker room and she was charming. I could see her personally giving as thoughtful a response as her character Beverly did in the move.)