Conversations on Dating
Q. What different kinds of dates are there?
C.P.: There are many types of dates, economic levels, social subcultures, dress codes, and more importantly, many possible expectations of people. When in doubt ask things such as "What should I wear?" It is embarrassing to get all dressed up when the other person is not. There is a casual date with a new friend such as a dinner and a movie. Then there are blind dates set up by a friend with someone who you have never met. Then there are the dates with someone with whom you want to have a personal relationship. Until you spend time with someone, you don't know if you want a romance or a friendship. So there is usually an initial stage which lacks definition. Women tend to need definition more than men.
At some point, one may decide they want a date to be a romantic date. You discover that your close friendship has gone to another level, (and I'm not talking about the level of physical affection), but a desire to see that person regularly. Eventually you might decide to date only that person and you become a couple. People see you together every where. Your friends may make comments before you are even aware of it. There is a chemistry between you and life is good. Until you get to this couple stage, a lot of confusion and hurt comes from the guy and the girl having totally different perceptions and expectations about the type of relationship they have. So talk about it.
Q. My girlfriend wants to talk about "our relationship." How am I supposed to listen and respond to every word she says?
C.P.: When girls want to talk about your relationship, they often want clarification on your perception of which kind of relationship you have. She'll want to know if she is a friend, one girlfriend among others, or your only girlfriend. If you haven't given the matter any thought when you are first asked this, then she is still just a friend. If she is talking faster than you want to listen, then tell her to please summarize the conclusions of what she is trying to say. Men and women approach communication in totally different ways. Men want just the bottom line, just the conclusions, so they know where they stand. Women talk as a process, a way of working out where they are. They talk to explore ideas, rehash details, find out facts, analyze and draw conclusions. Now there are exceptions to this of course. Women expect that men will listen to every thing they say because it is so very important to them. Men are overwhelmed by details. The goal is to figure each other out and meet in the middle somewhere!
If she wants to know point blank if she is your girlfriend or not, don't say something vague like "you're my best girl". That will arouse jealousy over who is in second place if she is in first place. Be honest if you want to date other people. Nothing hurts a girl like hearing that your boyfriend was dating someone else at the same time. Until you are engaged or married, you are free to see other people, but you are also expected to keep your promises and have integrity in your life.
Q. I am nervous about going to meet my girlfriend's parents. Have any suggestions?
C.P.: Well if you are serious about this girl (dating only her), I would consider scheduling the first visit for a weekend other than a holiday weekend. Holidays can be stressful and often other family members are there (hey, how much pressure do you really want?). The parents may be tired from the double load of working their day jobs, doing house work, and trying to pull off a fancy holiday so tempers may be frayed. Ask your girlfriend about what her family usually does on the weekend you are intending to visit.
If you are invited by her parents for a holiday, ask her about her family's holiday traditions. If she is from a big family, they may be used to the chaos of lots of people coming and they may really like entertaining. If you are strongly encouraged to go, then go. Her parents are probably very curious about you and your manners. You cannot be too polite- so make sure to address her father as "Sir" at first. If this is too formal, he will say, just call me "x". Make sure you attend the church she goes to at home to see what type of Christian subculture she is used to. The college environment you have been dating in is radically different from being in her home. Instead of being seen as independent adults living on your own at college, you are seen as just children again - OK reality check! Remember, it is not your job to convince them that you are an adult if they are stuck in a time warp. Just play along. To them you are still a child.
If you, the boyfriend, are bringing home a girl, make sure to communicate to your parents ahead of time if she is just a friend or a girl friend. Remember this is stressful for the parents too! Make sure your girlfriend under stands how you view her, as a friend or a girl friend. Communication avoids awkward moments later.
Q. Some say you should wait until you are ready for marriage to start dating seriously, do you agree?
C.P.: There is a whole spectrum of opinions on dating. The most conservative viewpoint says you shouldn't date at all and emphasizes courtship instead of dating. According to the dictionary, courtship is when a man seeks the favor, attention or love of a woman with a view towards marriage. Dating doesn't have "a view towards marriage". It is social in nature. Should you exist in a social vacuum until you are ready for marriage? I think not. But that's just me. I think you really should spend time with people to think about the kind of person you could stay married to forever.
The trouble is you can easily fall in love with someone who is wrong for you. Love is a funny thing. Boundaries don't last long. If there was no struggle between what your heart wanted and what your mind said you needed, well, there would hardly be any love songs would there? There are no easy answers to these situations. I would say use your best judgment as to how involved you want to get, but the phenomena of falling in love short circuits your logic and judgment faster than you'd guess.
Everyone needs social interaction - no arguments there. Look for a large church which has a college fellowship group to meet people. Dating is complicated by the fact that people delay marriage for career reasons. When you find yourself out in the world working, it is really hard to find someone you want to date! Everyone seems to be already married. So you can't wait too long either. IMPORTANT: Read the book Understanding the Male Temperament by Tim LaHaye. It provides an eye opening framework for understanding which personality types are compatible.
Q. Should I only date other Christians?
C.P.: Ah, another hot question! Some people say only dating Christians is the only way to go. After all why waste time, money, and risk emotional brokenness on some one who is with out question someone you can't marry? By the time you get to marriage, you'll have a string of bad relationships behind you and not a lot of hope ahead of you. Many people whose parents divorced wonder if they have a decent chance at staying married. The less emotional wear and tear you endure before you are married, the better the chance is you'll stay married. But marriage doesn't come down to a chance, it comes down to a commitment, a fact independent of emotions and circumstances. So there is always hope. There is a lot written about this topic, so I have put links on this page.
If someone asks you out who is not a Christian, ask yourself, is there any possible way I would be interested in a romantic relationship with this person? If the answer is no they will always be just a friend, then dating as friends is fine as long as they have no romantic expectations of you. The trick is you don't know what's on their mind ahead of time because you've never had a personal conversation with them. Managing expectations is important. Maybe suggest a double date to find out what's on their mind. Double dates can be easier first dates. If you are not romantically interested and they are, then say no to a second date. Stay free to find someone who does interest you.
If you do have romantic leanings towards someone who is unsaved, don't go out with them so you can witness to them. This is very risky behavior. It is not your responsibility to date them so they can see the light and become a Christian. God can send someone else for this purpose if they have an interest. The trouble is there is a quirk in human nature called falling in love. It happens effortlessly and quickly. You could end up in a sexual relationship before you know it due to their lack of restraint. Oh it may seem terrific and right for you - but it's not right in God's eyes. Why is God such a prude? It really seems so impossible to obey Him. Yes, it may be practically impossible. But since God is no respecter of persons, you are still required to go with His program which is no sex before marriage. The purpose behind His rules against immorality is emotional wholeness and health.
Q. How do girls expect to be treated on a date?
C.P.: Traditionally the man does the asking, the planning, and paying for the date if it is a romantic date. This shows interest and initiative on his part. If he does a poor job of planning, that's a bad reflection on him. If it is a date between friends, then you can go Dutch treat and either can invite the other. In either case, if you are out on a date, you stay with that person until the end of the date. Don't unexpectedly go off with someone else you happen to meet if you are having a bad time. You have dedicated that time to that person. If you can't respect their feelings enough to do that, don't accept the invitation. You should open the car door for her unless she objects. If you feel unsure about buying a bouquet of flowers, then just get one large flower (not a rose yet!) or buy her favorite snack food (you have to find out what this is on the first or second date), or a small stuffed animal. Take her to the best restaurant you can afford (life is too short to eat bad food). If you are going on a picnic, pack a cooler with ice and go to a gourmet deli together to buy sandwiches and drinks. In any case, do something to make it a special occasion, not just life as usual, yawn.
Q. Why is it that Christian guys never ask you out?
C.P.: Great question. A lot of Christian girls end up dating unsaved guys because the Christian guys play it safe by not getting involved with any one until they are looking for a wife. This leaves the Christian girls in a social vacuum. Guys: you should be able to go out on dates as a friend with a Christian girl - just make that clear up front. OK How do you do that? Say something like "Are you going to the movie at church on Saturday night? Would you like to go with me as friends, just a very casual outing?" If things don't go right, well it's all about learning to communicate with the opposite sex. Married couples are still always working at that.
Q. What about meeting someone on a web matching site?
C.P.: I'd stay away from this as there are just too many possible problems with this (predators). It is just too easy to lie. If you meet someone nice who lives out of town, you can't relocate if you get serious since you are working on a degree. School should be your first priority for now. Church, your campus fellowship group, or your current friends are a better source of possible dates. When you are mature enough for marriage, ask God to send the best person for you. Don't beg God for Him to send somebody! Have enough self respect to know you'll be OK with just you and God for now. In fact until you have this kind confidence, you will repel people.