Due to requests to blog about dating, this will be the first of a series addressing various issues in dating as a Catholic, Christian, or any other person of the world who wants to date for the purpose it was intended: to find a spouse.
Yes, I used the “D” word. Before you get carried away, in this instance I am referring to that ever-confounding social structure known as DATING. (Cue scary theme music.) To get us started, I would like to lay down a definition of this fun word. Webster defines “dating” as “the series of social engagements shared by a couple looking to get married”. Excellent. So for the purposes of this blog, dating is something done to help people figure out if they are called to marriage.
This may seem obvious to some, but in our society today, dating doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with marriage. Dating around can be used to learn about yourself, meet sexual “needs”, or just used as a recreational pursuit much like racquet ball or dancing. Some people approach dating with one foot in, not expecting to get their heart involved. You know, the whole “no strings attached” approach. Not cool, and usually ends up with one or both parties hurt in the end.
Then there are the situations where perfectly awesome guys like a girl, but may be too shy or afraid of pursuing her directly. So instead, they form these pseudo-unofficial dating situations that can be really confusing to everyone involved. The guys or gals may have the best of intentions, and lovely pure hearts, but because it’s not common in secular society to pursue someone, we’re left just kinda guessing. This can lead to hurt and confusion on both sides, too.
Since we are human beings, whether we like it or not, we have feelings. We can deny it and avoid it all day, but in the end what we find is that when we like like someone, we get vulnerable. We want to be around them, we want them to like us, we start daydreaming about futures with them… And when that happens, it increases the likelihood that if they don’t like us back, we could end up with some serious heartache. If you have ever been on the wrong side of that scenario before, you know what kind of misery I’m talking about. It’s the kind of heartache that Dashboard Confessionals sung about incessantly.
So, what can we do to prevent this?
Be intentional. I know that modern society’s idea of feminism makes it seem that women should be tough and independent and can pursue whatever they want, including men. I hate to break it to ya, but most of the ladies I know want to be pursued. Why? Because it feels natural (like someone designed it that way… ha, weird).So use the “D” word. When you are interested in a lady, and decide you want to date her, use the word! Don’t be afraid! Say, “Hey, would you like to go on a date with me? I saw that the new movie with What’s-His-Name is out, and I know how much you enjoy comedies…” Or something to that effect. As a woman, I can’t tell you how awesome it is when a man is intentional about pursuing you – it takes all the guess work out of it! It prevents agonizing conversations like these:
Girl #1: I’ve been spending a lot of time with John Doe, and we seem to get along really well.
Girl #2: Oh yeah? The John Doe that you like like?
Girl #1 (smiling): Yeah, that’s him. He’s amazing, it’s just, I can’t tell if he’s into me.
Girl #2: Hmm… well let’s analyze everything he has ever said and done in your presence and see what proof we can gleam that he may be interested!
Girl #1: Sounds great! But then what?
Girl #2: Oh… Uh, I guess you just wait to see if he does something about it?
Girl #1: Ugh… I hate not knowing. I wish he would just ask me out already!
And so forth. These conversations are frustrating and can sometimes leave a girl in tears. Guys – you don’t want that, right? If you are interested in someone, have that conversation! You can do it! I remember when my boyfriend – who I will refer to as “Danger”, though he is not at all – sat me down after a couple dates to have a talk about his intentions and where he saw this going. I was so relieved! It made things so much clearer for me, and I definitely had less over-analyzing sessions with my girlfriends after that (I still had some, but those were just for funsies).
If you are just friends and want to keep it that way, don’t do anything to lead the girl on, such as:
- Inviting her out constantly for one-on-one time.
- Pinging her constantly on Facebook, Gmail, text, email, snail mail, carrier pigeon, whatever. If she’s like me, she’ll take that as a sign that you are interested. Give her some space, and ping your other friends.
- Don’t introduce her to your family, or best friends one-on-one. This is a big step for most girls, and it’s all too easy to read into it.
- Don’t buy her little gifts or go way out of your way to do things for her. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with helping her hang a big painting or move some furniture, or even give her some tech advice. But if you put your beer down, walk away from bro-time and spend several hours helping her find that spider she saw an hour ago that she wants dead before she can sleep, and you do these things over and over again, it can get confusing for both of you.
Moral of that story? You can have platonic girl friends, but don’t treat her like an unofficial girlfriend. If things start to look that way, and you get the feeling that she may be interested and you are not, have a conversation with her. Set boundaries, respect her feelings, and free her to be open to men who do want to pursue her romantically.
Let men pursue you! My good friend Rebecca once told me that a woman should be “actively receptive”. Being actively receptive means allowing yourself to be social, go to events, parties, meet-ups, et cetera. Allow yourself to have fun, meet people, and get to know them. If you are interested in a certain guy, be available to talk to him or open to hang out with him if he asks. You could even invite him on other fun group outings you are attending. This is actually how I started my friendship with Danger. I wanted to get to know him better, and he was new, so I invited him to group events and would be sure to introduce him to others and ask him questions. Pretty soon we found out we both loved angry rock music and swing dancing and he asked me out.
Also, it’s a good idea to practice patience. Asking out a fabulous lady like yourself can be anxiety producing! It takes a lot of nerve to approach girls sometimes, so be patient and encouraging. I know you want that handsome guy to hurry up already, but try to let go and let things happen as they will. Pray for both of you, that you will have peace and patience while waiting for things to pan out.
Alright, I will end here. Please remember that I am by no means an expert on this stuff. If you have any questions, want to clarify or complain about something I wrote, please leave a comment! I delight in reading them all, whatever they are.