Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thoughts on Dating in the 21st Century

After being single, leading singles groups, and being in a “singles” church crowd, I have concluded that dating nowadays is quite difficult for most people.  Not many singles want to “play the game” because it is confusing!!  Questions pop up like:  Are we dating or are we “together?”  Are we friends or more than that?  Are we exclusive?  What does it mean when he (or she) does ______? It leads me to believe that our culture has adopted some very harmful practices when it comes to dating and having friendships with the opposite sex.   Dating nowadays is way harder than it needs to be, and would be much easier if we just followed a couple different guidelines of behavior.   

The first guideline is, we need to communicate clearly with whoever we are dating or thinking about dating.  The problem with today’s dating culture is that we don't talkInstead of defining the relationship or discussing the direction the relationship is headed, we rely on supposed "signals" or some sort of code (which is subjective and confusing) to determine what's happening.  (“We have been on 6 dates….do you think that means we are together?”) It is why it is called the "game," and has led to a lot of messed up hearts and ambiguity!!  We have lost the incredible value in being honest about what we want and what our intentions are in a dating relationship, which is far healthier and clearer. 

One blessing in disguise for Billy and I is that neither one of us knew how to “play the game.”  (He readily says that having “no game” worked to his advantage. Lol.)  So, instead of trying to decipher some elusive code, we simply talked about stuff right from the beginning: what we were, (we both wanted to be exclusive), physical boundaries, (awkward but necessary.. ), what we wanted in a relationship, everything.  It was quite liberating to not know what we were doing and be forced to talk about it!!  I can’t deny that it was a little bit uncomfortable, but having these conversations within the first 2 or 3 weeks as they came up brought so much peace and assurance that any discomfort was worth it. We didn’t have to wallow in the uncertainty that plagues many daters. Instead, we were able to determine early on that we were on the same page, and that prompted us to continue dating. No guessing games, no questions.  Stuff was clear. 

I urge you to do the same thing in your dating relationships.  Whatever you feel God leading you to do, communicate it early on with the person involved to see if he or she is on the same page with you.  If that’s the case, blessed are the both of you.  If that’s not the case, get outta there!!  You will protect your heart and not sabotage yourself from finding a relationship with someone who is on your same page.  If you have this communication early on in the relationship, you are not too deeply involved to go back to being acquaintances.  But undefined or not-on-the-same-page relationships for long periods of time almost always seem to result in heartache. I have seen guys get burned by the “friendzone,” and I have seen girls get burned by the guy who isn’t willing to commit.  And both are burned by the uncertainty of the situation until they finally decide to leave it. You can avoid a world of mess if you are intentional about communicating well and stand by what you want.
The second guideline is, we need to remember the way we are made.  Another thing our culture has adopted as common is that men and women can be "close friends."  The truth is, I don’t believe men and women can be close friends--spending a lot of time together, forming an emotional connection--and truly be platonic.  We just aren't made that way!  God made us to be compatible romantically and sexually, and that is a very powerful part of us.  If there is a lot of time together or an emotional connection going on between "friends," it is likely that one or the other party will develop romantic feelings.  Men in particular tend to be very sexually motivated in a lot of what they do.  So, ladies, what I have found is that if a guy wants to spend alot of time with you, calls you alot, wants to txt endlessly, wants to hang out alone, make no mistake about it--you are dating him, at least to him.  Guys don't do that with girls they don't like romantically!! Men who are dedicated followers of Christ may keep their sexual motivations in better check than other men, but they still have a powerful force churning inside them, originating from the purity of God’s design to populate the earth. 

Furthermore, if you scour the Bible, you will see that there are no close friendships between men and women, and there is a reason for that!!  Historically, we have not tried to maintain close friendships with the opposite sex because everything I am saying about our nature was understood.  It was an unspoken rule that men and women didn't buddy up because it is not in our nature to be completely platonic with the opposite sex. People were either married or single, and those lines were clear.  How much smarter they were in the ancient world...I wonder why we started changing that in the last 30-40 years? 
With all that in mind, make boundaries clear with anyone of the opposite gender you are not interested in romantically, verbally if need be.  Be wise about the amount of time you spend with someone, and be careful not to invest too much emotionally into an opposite sex friendship.  Because whether you agree with me or not, here’s another thing:  any person you are dating or would potentially date probably wouldn't want you to be "close friends" with someone of the opposite sex anyway.  That’s because, whether they are conscious of it or not, they realize the nature of people that I am talking about!!  It makes folks uneasy if their girlfriend or boyfriend is “good friends” with someone else of the opposite sex.  Keep in mind this is especially true for exes or past dating relationships--no one likes their boyfriend or girlfriend having dinner alone or spending time on the phone with an ex!!  I believe it’s because deep down, we really know better than to do stuff like that.
So, daters and single people, two things that should help you greatly with successful dating relationships:  clear communication and remembering how you are made.  Do these things, because it is important to date well. We all have a powerful nature inside of us that is God given and a good thing when expressed correctly.  It can lead to the beautiful gift of sacred sex within a marriage, or it can lead to confusion and heartbreak.  Be careful with your intimacy. It is one of the dearest things you have to give.  Be wise in how you communicate it, honor and protect it, and reserve it for whom God intends.