"Maybe it's a terminology issue, but I would tend to postpone engagement and marriage until after dating, not the other way around."
To me, the behavior typically described as dating, spending time alone with a possible mate in romantic settings, acting as if we are a couple (if only for the evening) is not something I want to do with a man I do not ALREADY know VERY well from having spent a LOT of time with him in group settings and in normal real-life situations; AND even then if I didn't already know that we each were interested in a something permanent, with each other, then I would have no desire to spend time alone with him anyway.
"Dating" (the way I define it) is a process of getting to know the other person really REALLY well, over a long period of time, to assess compatibility under many circumstances."
I agree. I just haven't seen much evidence that one-on-one dating achieves that. I currently know several single men, some of which are interested in me, and I have been able to get to know some of them really REALLY well without going on a single date with any of them. Maybe it's a difference of opinion about how we each define getting to know a person really REALLY well? The things I want to know about a person can quite easily be learned by spending time with them in group settings and observing them interact with the people in their daily lives and normal settings. Seeing how a man behaves while on a date doesn't really tell much about what he'd be like to live with IMHO.
"Starting relationships after a first or second meeting (i.e. going steady) tends to put the cart ahead of the horse"
I also agree with this statement. I would never consider starting a relationship with a man I've only met once or twice! I prefer to observe a person for a longer period of time, to really get to know them as a friend first, before I would ever consider something more permanent. I have known some people who because they didn't believe in having sex before marriage, hurried to marry somebody who was practically a stranger (one of my sisters did this). I'm not talking about that LOL. Even when there is a certain chemistry and immediate mutual attraction, I see no reason to rush things. I still want to see the person in normal, natural surroundings for a while first. Often the initial attraction quickly dissipates and I am quite relieved that I did not 'date' the person and instead can continue comfortably as friends!
"exclusivity implies a "commitment" of sorts, and why would you want to have that with someone you hardly know?"
I agree with this too. Dating to me is a level of exclusivity that I don't share with somebody I hardly know. On a typical date the two people are alone together, excluding their family, friends, coworkers, church family, etc. Also, on a typical date the setting is falsely romantic and intimate, a pretended 'coupleness' with somebody who is practically still a stranger. And the setting is usually anything but real-life situations. So I have never found such dating to be very useful in getting to really know what somebody is really like. Basically all that is learned is how skilled your date is at dating.
"So my advice would be to go on dates (I don't know if that is different from "dating") and see how you interact with a number of those dates - I'd shoot for meeting several men that way (not all at once, mind you). And take your time before deciding to "go steady" with any of them."
It's not that I don't take my time LOL. I wouldn't accept a marriage proposal from a man I barely know. The difference is I prefer to 'date' and spend time with a man in group and natural settings.
"I have seen many people come through here (myself included, again), thinking that they don't need such experience of meeting 10-15 people, that they can "tell" if someone is "the one" - in most cases, that does not work."
Again I agree. Part of the reason I'm in no hurry is because I realize I may not have even met my future husband yet. Plus out of the men I do know, I'm still observing and learning about them. Because I avoid the whole one-on-one dating, one man at a time thing, I can more easily meet and get to know several men at once while reserving for my future husband the exclusivity of 'dating'. For example, my daughters and I are ballroom dancers. I feel sorry for the women who go to the dances with a 'date' because they usually don't get to dance very much, end up staying home if they can't find a date, tend to scare men away with their trying to find a date/mate agenda, and the guys they date usually don't end up marrying them anyway. I have more fun, get to dance more, and meet more men, by going to dances without a date.
"As we mature through life, our lifestyles become more entrenched, we have kids, houses, careers, so the fit becomes much more difficult than meeting someone in college."
This is one of the major reasons I want to spend time with men during the course of daily life - both mine and theirs - rather than on 'dates'. I prefer to meet men through our kids' activities, in the neighborhood, at work, at church, at volunteer and social activities. That way I can observe how they behave when they are not on a date - what they are really like in their real life. And they can see what I'm really like in my real life too.
"It's really hard to tell if someone is "the one" until you spend a lot of time with them, and until then, I would not commit to exclusivity."
I guess dating itself is a level of exclusivity that I reserve for a man I already have gotten to know very well AND has already indicated he wants more than just dating?
And knowing that it's pretty common to have an initial attraction to a person that can quickly fade once you get to know them more is one of the many reasons I do not date.
Some men I know I felt attracted to at first but not anymore. Others I feel attracted to sometimes... And others I feel more attracted to as I get to know them more.
Conversely there are men who seemed intially attracted to me, flirted with me, but quickly lost interest and moved on to their next target if I didn't respond instantly. As I see them use the same lines on other women that they tried on me I'm relieved I didn't encourage them LOL. There are some guys who soemtimes seem interested in me but at other times are just friends. Some potential there - who knows? But it's really the men in the last category - the ones who seem more interested in me the longer they know me, seeing me acting like my real self, that have the most potential IMHO.
IF I ever remarry I don't want to lose myself in order to get or keep a man. I'd honestly rather be alone than do that again.
"Anyway, all I am saying is that you are a long way from even thinking about engagement and marriage"
LOL I somehow gave you the false impression that I would be willing to get engaged or married quickly, to a man I barely know.
"do some dating first (I don't mean "sleeping around" by "dating", I mean meet different people), and see where that takes you."
I think the confusion is that you maybe assumed that by saying I wouldn't date a man I wasn't engaged or married to that I would therefore engage or marry a man I didn't knwo vey well? If/when I marry again it will be to a man I have known for some time, spent a LOT of time with in group settings, then started dating when we became engaged, then married. And I wouldn't want the engagement to be extremely short either. In addition to dating during the engagement period I would want to go to pre-marital counseling, discuss money management, POJA, and stuff like that first.
And I wouldn't sleep with a man I wasn't married to either.