“You Americans make dating so complicated. Either you’re dating or you’re not. Just call it what it is” That was so refreshing to hear. To this day that is one of the things I appreciate so much about my wife. There was never any question as to whether or not we were dating. From the start we had only known each other two weeks before it became obvious that we ‘liked’ and were ‘interested’ in one another.
What happened that we, in America, have made dating so complicated? Why can’t we just call it what it is? Instead we have to go through all these intermediate steps before we become official? As a youth pastor I think this is an important topic to speak on because this nonsense starts in the teenage years and carries into young adult and adult relationships as well. Christian kids aren’t any better when it comes to this nonsense. In fact I’d say they’re worse. What nonsense do you ask? What intermediate steps am I referring to? Try this; do any of these the following phrases ring a bell and resonate before two people become official?
“We’re just talking”
“Well, we’re talking but it’s not serious”
“We’re both interested in one another but we’re just friends for now”
“We’re hanging but we’re not exclusive”
“We’re exclusive but it’s not official”
“We both like each other and hang out all the time, but we’re not dating”
What’s The Point?
Last time I checked isn’t the whole point of dating that you talk on a regular basis, are interested (we all know this really means attracted to and not just physically even though it’s a key factor) in one another, hang out to the point that it is exclusive, meaning you don’t hang out with other people in the same manner and would be upset if they did? If actions speak louder than words then you’re about as official as can be without changing your relationship status on Facebook or whatever online dating service you’re a member of. No need to have a D.T.R. (define the relationship) and go through the awkward dance of trying to figure out what the other person thinks ‘this’ is, and put your cards on the table.
The Litmus Test
A number of times in the past few years I’ve had conversations with a number of people, both male and female, who would be guilty of making dating complicated. I ask them all the same two questions, “So if you we’re just talking to or hanging out with someone else would they get upset? And if they we’re just talking to or hanging out with someone else would you be upset?” If the answer to both of those questions is no then you’re not dating. If the answer to both of those questions is yes then guess what… you’re dating! Call it what is and stop playing games.
Don’t worry. I get it. I’ve been there. Who hasn’t been afraid of rejection and a little concerned that the person we’re interested in may lose interest? Isn’t that kind of the point though? Either you’re dating or you’re not.
Center The Pendulum
I’m a part of the generation of Christians who were told, dating is bad and that we should kiss it goodbye—we should only date for the purpose of marriage. We were made to feel totally responsible for someone else’s emotions. I think most of us would say that the pendulum was swung a little too far. I think we can agree that we need to be mindful that dating someone doesn’t become a means to 1. Exploit someone sexually and or emotionally 2. Allow our self to be exploited sexually or emotionally to get our sexual and emotional desires met 3. Not be single. At the end of the day you start dating someone because you are interested in them. When you decide to break up it’s because you are no longer interested in getting to know anything else about them.
Surely there are some who will scoff at my suggestion of simplicity fearing that young Christians will naturally date for recreation and create patterns and habits—becoming a serial dater—that aren’t conducive to marriage.
- Don’t you find it interesting and not all that coincidental that there was a rise in the number of young Christians who started doing the whole friends with benefits thing or would simply make out with someone they had no intention of dating, because dating had become this huge thing and yet their 19 and full of raging hormones?
- I’m talking about the transition from friendship, or more importantly, transition from not knowing much about someone but having a mutual attraction and desire to see if there is a connection beyond being friends or acquaintances. That after all is what dating is. Engagement is for the purpose and intent of marriage. I think many of my peers, myself included, we’re made to feel and think if we weren’t serious about marrying the person then we had no business dating them at all. I wouldn’t have known that I was serious about marrying my wife if I hadn’t dated her! When I became serious about marrying her and the feeling was mutual then we talked about getting engaged for the purpose of marriage. Like the old saying goes, “don’t put the cart before the horse.”
Why Why Why?
Primarily I believe we make dating so complicated on the front end because we’re scared of rejection and we’re scared of others finding out we got turned down (it’s unbelievable how much power the Facebook relationship status holds over some people). We don’t want to put ourselves out there express interest and be turned down, nor for others to find out. I used to be deathly afraid of rejection. There was a time I would never tell a girl I was interested in her unless I was sure that the feeling was mutual. Eventually I realized that my fear of rejection preventing me from even having a chance of being accepted. I realized if a girl got weird because I liked her and the feeling wasn’t mutual then she probably is not someone I would really want to date after all. Once I got over my fear of rejection realizing I was rejecting myself before I gave a girl the chance too, I never had to wonder ‘what if’ anymore.
Real Talk: Listen Up Fellas and Ladies Give Me An Amen
A huge part of sorting out the complication involved in calling it what it is falls on the shoulders of men. What I’m about to say doesn’t apply to High School because boys are dumb and girls don’t know what they want—the following applies to the young adult crowd, college and older. Fellas, women are liars. It’s not malicious or mean spirited, but in all likelihood she’s fibbing. She’s lying because she wants you to step up and lead the way. Lead the way simply means you put your cards on the table first and simply say, “I like you and want to date you so I can continue to spend time with you and get to know you.” I know what she said; that it’s cool, she doesn’t want to rush into anything, that things inevitably have a way of getting weird once you put a clearly defined label on it—she’s lying. Sure there’s exceptions to the rule but we call them exceptions for a reason. I know you’re trying to be a gentleman, not be pushy and take her at face value, and if what I’m saying is right then she’s playing games. Let me assure you she’s not playing games. If what I’m saying is true then she’s not playing games, she’s just doing what women do to protect them self and see what you’re made of. But she won’t wait forever. She’ll keep hanging out with you for a little while, but she’ll eventually get tired of waiting for you to speak up and say what you really want. Or she’ll say no thanks, but at least then you’ll know and not have to wonder, and you can be friends or acquaintances. If what I’m saying is not true then the ladies will let you (and me) know in the comments below.