Disclaimer: I am not an authority on relationships. Or love. Or anything, really.
What I am is a single 23-year-old Christian female whose friends are all getting married. And I mentor a fair share of high school girls who are trying to figure out this whole dating game…*cough I have a lot of way older friends also trying to figure out this whole dating game cough*
I personally view dating as a process to find someone to spend the rest of your life with; I don’t “date just to date”. I personally have no problem with casual dating (i.e. you can go on a coffee date and you aren’t automatically engaged). I personally don’t believe in soul mates.
These aren’t rules, these aren’t formulas, these are just some thoughts on dating – advice and opinions that I’ve given over and over and over. So very often, I decided a blog was in order. It’s not universal; it’s not fool proof. You might disagree. I’m completely okay with that.
Be Hard to Get
Notice I DID NOT say “play hard to get”, because dating is not a game. Or at least it shouldn’t be. A game infers there is a winner and there is a loser, also that there is a clock ticking down to zero. Dating should not involve any of these. Dating should be more like a dance – someone initiates, you follow their lead. You dance to a song or two. Maybe they dance to a rhythm slightly faster than you’re used to, maybe you step on their toes a bit. Song ends, and you both have the freedom to decide if you want to dance a while longer. No winners, no losers.
Be hard to get. Don’t link yourself to just anyone. I’m all for casual dates and getting to know different kinds of people – don’t be afraid to say yes to a date. But know that you have value outside of your relationship status; know that you are worth fighting for*. Actually fighting for. Know that someone should work – truly put in effort – to get to know you and they should earn the honor to call you their boo. Because it’s an honor for someone to be your partner. Be hard to get.
*If you don’t fully believe this, take time to learn to value yourself. Until you do, you can’t be in a healthy relationship. Don’t date someone and give them the impossible task of making you feel like you have worth, when you don’t even believe that from the very beginning.
Please Don’t Think You Are “In a Relationship”
Do you know how many times I’ve heard “I mean we aren’t dating… but we’re dating” / “He hasn’t officially asked me out…. but things are pretty serious” / “We aren’t in a relationship, but we’re in a relationship…”?? Far too often.
Dear, loved, sweet friends of mine: if you aren’t in a relationship, you aren’t in a relationship. I don’t know why A) this is such a hard concept to comprehend or B) why girls (for the most part) keep putting up with this. If he hasn’t asked you out, you haven’t been on a date. If he doesn’t know he’s your boyfriend, you aren’t his girlfriend. Texting does not a relationship make.
We make being won over far too easy when we are dying to be in a relationship. We’ll take anyone that walks in front of us. Girls are especially guilty of this, as the longer we’ve been out of a relationship, the more crap we put up with just to get back into one. Why?! That guy that you have to basically beg to text you back? Not worth it. The girl that you let tug at your heart strings every other week? Forget her. The person you have to make slightly jealous before they even notice you? C’MON. Respect yourself a little more. See point #1.
Stick to Your Standards
I think, for the most part, people believe they have high standards. They know what they want – or, more realistically, they know what they don’t want. Even when it’s superficial and shallow, most people have an idea.
So, let’s stick to them! I can’t stress this enough: It’s far better to be alone than to be with someone – cultivating a deep relationship and building a life together – that you don’t actually care for. Sure, they’re cute and fun and really, really nice. But those deal breakers you wrote down in the back of your journal? They are your deal breakers for a reason. You’ll realize that at some point.
We far too often take our new potential significant other and adapt our standards around them, instead of measuring them against our list and realizing its time for them to go. Why?! If I went to the store with my grocery list but decided to re-write everything according to the displays that caught my eye, I would come home disappointed. And broke. And on a sugar high. Sadly, that’s what too many of my friends do in their dating lives.
On a similar note, stick to your standards especially in the beginning of relationships. Because that’s when everything is cute and hilarious and we aren’t thinking straight – we put up with so much more crap and ignore so many more deal breakers in the early stages. I’ve noticed time and time again that how a relationship starts sets the tone for how it will continue. Sure, there are exceptions to this. But for the majority? If he isn’t prioritizing communication now, don’t expect that to change. If she’s overly clingy at this point, she’s going to be overly clingy as long as you date her. Oh they’re lying already?? Sure, that will definitely go away….. never. If someone isn’t measuring up, it’s not your job to change them. It’s your job to move on and find someone who is actually what you’re looking for.
“Date” Your (same gender) Friends
This is a concept I heard of when I was told to fear the Post College Slump (aka Worst Years of Your Life). I think it’s great wisdom: friendships change when people are out of school, some are working 9-5 while others are working sporadic hours, half your friends now have spouses while others moved thousands of miles away. It’s a different season of friendship; you can’t grab coffee between classes or pull an all-nighter during midterms week. I think “dating” your friends is important, equally if you’re single or married, for 2 reasons:
- You have to have the intentionality of dating to ever see them. Life gets crazy, people are tired, spontaneous “dinner tonight?!” texts aren’t as welcome as before. Plan ahead. Ask your friends out (if they’re far away, this might mean planning phone dates or skype chats). Suggest fun things to do. Don’t assume you’ll just “happen” to hang out with them…. do you ever just “happen” to find yourself on a date?
- You need to realize your relationship with your significant other (or future significant other) is not the only meaningful, fulfilling relationship in your life. At least it shouldn’t be. You should love your friends and be vulnerable with your friends and appreciate your friends… obviously in a different way than whomever you’re dating/ married to. But do it all the same. Send them cute texts (…or “bro” texts). Buy their coffee every once in a while. Celebrate their birthdays. Remind them they are valued in your life.
Hang Out With (other gender) Friends
So obviously you can’t “date” other gender friends… because that would just be dating. (Mind blowing, right?) But hang out with them! I don’t get why some Christians are so terrified of guy-girl friendships. I fully believe they can be great friends; however, they shouldn’t be absolute best, you’re-my-only-sense-of-community friends. Emotional dating is real and it should be avoided at all costs and it’s a tricky balance to find. Yet I think two healthy people can be close friends, if they keep boundaries and are smart about it.
I learn so much from my guy friends. As brothers in Christ, I love hearing their views on faith. I love having men looking out for me, as brothers should. Guys are so different than girls – mine blowing, once again! – and it’s great to have new perspectives on ideas in the world and passions that we share. Also, having guy friends teaches girls to see guys as actual people, not just potential future husbands (who then lose all value after we realize it won’t work out). I want to be friends with my best friend’s husbands. I also really want to be best friends with my husband one day. Therefore, I need to know how to be friends with guys.
Added bonus if you have guy friends who happen to be superb, stand-up men: It’s so nice to have a reminder there are great guys out there, living and breathing and in actual existence (this is easy to forget if you’ve recently been dealing with a douchebag).
Hang Out with Couples
What is society’s deal with making you think it’s awkward to third wheel? Obviously, I’m not a fan of sitting next to a couple in their honeymoon stage. I also don’t suggest spending all your free time with your best friend and their mate. But hang out with couples! You should want to get to know your friend’s new boyfriend, you should be curious about your roommate’s new girl. Once you approve, you should strive to get to know them as a couple. This cannot happen if you only hang out with half of the pair.
More importantly, learn from couples. Watch their dynamics. See how they love each other. See how they fight. Look to see what you want one day, what you respect. Also look for warning signs you should be on the lookout for. You can save yourself a lot of heartache if you learn from your friends’ mistakes.
Two of my best friends ended up with two hands-down amazing men. I fifth wheel with them often, and I never complain. Why? I’m actually friends with the guys (see above). They both have set the bar so high for the next guy I date, which I’m grateful for ( …although I joke that it means I’ll never find someone who measures up). I learn so much from interacting with my friends as a couple; I have absolutely loved getting to see their relationships start and blossom and grow to where it is today. I hate to think about everything I would have missed if I believed the lie that single friends can’t hang with their married BFFs.
Date. Don’t Sneak-a-Date
Let me be clear on one thing, and I don’t care if you’re so old fashioned you still believe in courting or you are so modern you thinks girls should ask guys: ask people on dates. Why this is a lost art form today, I have no idea. But I’m sick of it. In our world of already horrible communication, this is the last straw. Do you want to casually get coffee with a friend? Casually ask them to get coffee. Do you want to grab a beer with a pal? Ask them to grab a beer. Do you want to go on a date with someone? Ask them on a date.
Yes, I realize that’s scary. Yes, I realize you might get rejected. But do you know what is 100% more attractive than someone texting you to “hang out sometime”? Someone bluntly asking permission to take you on a date. Then giving you the option to say yes or no. Vulnerability is the essence of romance, as Ashton Kutcher once stated. Seriously, boys, take note (or girls, if you are that kind of feminist). They can say no and your life won’t end and everything will go on like before. Or they can say yes and you can then plan the best first date ever. Just don’t do the in-between. It’s annoying.
Similarly, do not, and I repeat, DO NOT, sneak-a-date. This is when someone doesn’t have the balls to ask for an actual date, but they use some kind of excuse to get you two alone. They then try to pay for the drink or meal, or do something else that is seen as “romantic”, thinking this now categorizes the hangout as a date. No, no, NO. If you want to be able to call it a date, ask for a date.