Informed Consent: Efficient Dating in a Modern Age

As a clinician and as a researcher we are required to use informed consent forms. You have filled them out before – every time you go to the doctor, sometimes even when you go for a massage. It is a cover your ass document that spells out your rights as a patient/client/consumer.

The high points of an informed consent are pretty simple. It describes (a) what you are getting into; (b) what you can expect; (c) if it will hurt or cause discomfort; (d) the risks and benefits of the procedure or treatment; (e) your rights as a patient; (f) protection of your confidentiality; (g) procedures around payment and cancellation; and in the case of research( h) your right to leave the experiment without any penalty or loss of rights. Simple.

Makes sense – patients should know their rights before they sign up for something, and be able to make an informed choice and then move ahead.

Why the hell don’t we do this with dating or marriage? As I sat in a bar last night and watched folks attempt to do the minefield dance of talking up potential new partners I thought it would be so much simpler. Here is a draft for your consideration:

Dr. Ramani’s relationship consent

Please read the consent form below carefully. It is important that you understand what will happen if you go out with Ramani and the terms and conditions of any such liaison. If you have any questions, Ramani will be happy to discuss them with you.

  1. Dating Ramani may involve conversation, dinner, consumption of controlled amounts of alcohol, coffee, walks on the beach, hikes in the mountains, and sarcasm. Ramani is open to other activities after collaborative discussion.
  2. You can expect that some of these activities may be physically strenuous, and it is incumbent on the participant (hereafter referred to as the “date”) to be sufficiently physically fit. Conversation may require some skills in witty banter, and a sense of humor. Ramani enjoys staying up late, and would prefer if you do not text other women while you are on a date with her.
  3. It is possible that meals or conversation with Ramani could be at times aggravating, make you feel psychologically uncomfortable, or make you anxious. You are welcome to leave the conversation at any time without penalty.
  4. Hanging with Ramani can be quite fun and fulfilling, though at times her sense of humor may be quite unnerving as could her indifference and rather chaotic lifestyle.
  5. She will not kiss and tell (unless you are really good or really bad and then to only a limited audience with all identifying characteristics disguised).
  6. She is quite fine with splitting the check most of the time. She does ask for a 24 hour cancellation . 3 cancelled sessions implies a termination of relational contact. She does not text stalk – so if she doesn’t hear back from you, she assumes you are not interested.
  7. If you don’t like her, or find the whole enterprise unfulfilling, you are entitled to leave the dating context at any time without penalty or without loss of rights or privileges to which you are entitled.

Imagine how much more efficient this would be. I see an attractive man – we smile at each other, I hand him the consent, and come back 15 minutes later. No more banal conversations about “what you are looking for”. No more hurt feelings about unreturned calls, neglected texts, or cancelled dates. Just set down policies and procedures.

Would that it were that way. Because at the end of the day – as much as mental health folks try to make them so – relationships, love, dating – are not clinical. They are equal parts mystery and magic, exasperation and confusion. The real wonder is getting to know another person – and they may not fit you, or you them – but they leave some fingerprints on your soul, and you are likely changed by knowing them.

Every time we open our heart or mind to another, we take a risk. In my experience, if we can shut down our scripts, quiet our neuroses, and take a leap of faith – these risks are all benefits. There is no greater place to learn courage than in the arena of love and loss.

So, no, there cannot be an informed consent for love. Every story is new. There are no rules. Just stay present, open and real. And that is all the informed consent you need.


This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 19th, 2010 at 10:47 pm and is filed under Health and Wellness, Relationships and Sex. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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