1

Treating People Like Objects

young couple on benchBe careful who you leave behind.  You just might have turned your back on love and happiness.

I figured I would start with the bottom line.  Dating should be about beginning your commitment to marriage when a suitable partner comes along.  But sadly, dating today seems to be about perpetually waiting for “the right one,” while passing up on a suitable one.

There is that terrible concept again: a suitable partner.  No one likes to think about marrying someone because they are “suitable”.  They want undeniable feeling and magnetism, confirmed compatibility, strong physical attraction, and (most of all) confirmation from God that this is “the one.”

Suitability means that the person will make a fine spouse for you.  You are “suited” for each other for reasons that are practical.  I won’t get into the particulars of what makes for practical suitability.  I want to make the point that there are people who come along in our lives who are lovable and loving and would make a wonderful spouse.

Because we don’t like this pedestrian approach to finding a spouse, we have become little children playing with toys, treating a person like an object to be used at will, with no consideration or regard for that person.

It’s a terrible thing when we treat a person like a toy we think we can play with whenever we’re ready, assuming they will always be there.  But I can tell you with much certainty that this childish behavior is alive and well in the dating scene (and in marriages, for that matter).

Why is this happening?  Perhaps it a pride. Anyone should feel lucky to have us. We can treat them however we like. Perhaps it’s even deeper and uglier than that.  Perhaps we have never grown up; we are still childish, not really capable of love and responsibility.

It’s not easy to admit that we are childish. But if we can admit it, we can start to change and take responsibility for ourselves.  And in turn, that responsibility allows us to treat the people we are dating like people, not like a toy.

When I speak of treating another as a toy, I don’t just mean for happy enjoyment through interaction.  I’m also talking about what we do when we are no longer amused.  Dropping the toy when you are suddenly done playing.  Not playing with the toy for long periods of time. Doing harmful things to the toy purposely or ignorantly to the point of breaking that toy.

Many relationships suffer from being the type to drop out when uninterested. Maybe you display your boredom in a conversation or change the subject abruptly.  Maybe you don’t call or get together for a period of time because you are too busy, and are quick to try and get together when you have nothing else going on.  Maybe you talk to the person like they are a child, or are often snarky, easily perturbed, and snappy.

Much to the amazement of many, people actually have feelings and intelligence.  When they feel hurt, they might not be around any longer to risk being hurt again.  When they are mistreated or ignored, they have the intelligence to decide not to allow further mistreatment or being ignored any longer.

Often couples break up because of this childish treatment. They make some other excuse as to why it happened (usually a blaming of the other), and walk away having learned no lesson at all.  They move on to the next person, ready to repeat the same pattern.

A mature person dates much differently.  They treat the person with the dignity they deserve.  They show respect.  They care what the other thinks.  They consider the feelings and interests of the other.  They learn how to adjust attitudes, and balance their time.  They are fair in their dealings with the other. They assume the best in the other, and are compassionate when dealing with their faults and failures. They realize that they are not God’s gift to dating, marriage, or love.

To treat someone like a toy is to assume that you have endless opportunities for love and marriage.  It’s just not so.  Yes, it’s true that there are endless eligible singles out there in great wide world, but you don’t have practical access to them.   You just don’t have the time, situation, availability, convenience, energy, or financial resources. The people who come into our lives need to be considered.

Being a grown up is about making a choice and taking responsibility for your actions.  Stop playing with toys and choose to have an adult exchange and friendship with a person.  Give that person an opportunity to be the person you’re looking for rather than dominate the relationship and be quick to judge them as the wrong person.

That bottom line again:  Be careful who you leave behind, or pass up on.  You just might have turned your back on love and happiness.


Anthony Buono is the author of Would You Date You? and founder of Avemariasingles.com. For thousands of Catholic singles, Anthony offers guidance, humor, understanding, and practical relationship advice.  Visit his blog at 6stonejars.com


  • Christopher Fish

    If you believe in God then a person is not an object.
    If you don’t then a person is only a special and interesting type of object the moral consequences of manipulating a rock and a person remain the same. aka none.
    It is our modern birth control mentality that has taught people their spouses are objects for the satisfaction of their appetite. We are told it over and over again in movies and other popular literature. Sex without consequences. Kill/Abort the consequences if they dare to burden you.
    This is a widespread problem that runs much more deeply then dating, but how could it not be seen there. When spouses objectify one another , then what can their children be expected to do with perspective spouses.
    Unfortunately there are many people who, while not actively atheist, are practical atheist, or practical agnostics. They may give some lip service to the existence of God and right and wrong, but you would never be able to tell by the way they act and think.