The Honest Truth About Dating: It Doesn’t Have to be So Hard

Wow! I did not expect such a response from Monday’s Love Is post. In case you missed it, the post covered how love is not settling to get past loneliness. It’s a hard thing to say no when you’re lonely and know the person you’re dating just isn’t right for you. But if you don’t, it’s like taking the wrong exit from a highway…it just takes longer to get to your real destination.

Cheesy simile aside, the response from so many readers on how tempting it is to settle got me thinking. Since when did dating get SO hard? Does it have to do with the fact that our culture literally throws romance on every screen we see? From quizzes on BuzzFeed about what characteristics your future partner will have to the endless stream of Bollywood and Hollywood romantic movies…why is our culture so dating obsessed? Why do we pressure ourselves to date?

I think back to my dating experiences and I can firmly say that dating was necessary. I learned to love myself first and that brought me a confidence I didn’t have before. By the time my husband entered the picture, I actually enjoyed dating.

The Honest Truth About Dating: It Doesn't Have to be So Hard!
The two ways you can view dating.

What is dating?

Dating is a social interaction that helps you learn more about what you value in a partner, and what characteristics make you want to walk away (maybe run) from a person. Dating is not meant to be stressful. It should be fun, adventurous, and educational. A date is when one person intentionally asks the other person to spend time together with the wish to get to know the other person better in a romantic sense. It’s not a “Let’s chill” and it’s not a “Sup?” It takes guts to ask someone on a date, and the modern-day cowardice in increasingly unclear messages is part of the reason dating has gotten so far away from its purpose. That brings me to modern dating.

What does dating look like today? What did it look like?

One of my favorite conversations about dating ever was with a pastor and his wife. They were reminiscing about how back in their day, teens and young adults would go on dates every Friday night. Guys just took it upon themselves to ask a girl on a date because everyone wanted to have a date on Friday night. They said it was casual and that it was a great chance for people to get to know people instead of sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs, and wishing they had a boyfriend/girlfriend. And then if two of them really hit it off, they “went steady” (modern-day “exclusive”), and didn’t go on dates with other people. Sounds reasonable right? Oh, how times have changed.

With hundreds of dating applications out there connecting people, casual text messages sent at odd hours of the night, and open relationships on the rise, it’s no wonder that navigating the dating world today is more complex than ever. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen people date multiple people for years or multiple people in one day. Modern day dating can look like anything from a Facebook message to a formal letter.

You’ve got to do and accept what is comfortable for you. For me, I opted not to pursue the guy. I did that before and I just didn’t like being the initiator. I wanted someone to really make an effort for me, so I waited. Some might call this picky. Some might call this passive. But I  trusted that God knew better for me than I did for myself (as He’s proven consistently). That someone special did eventually enter the picture and he asked me via a phone call to dinner. Of course, I said yes.

The Honest Truth About Dating: It Doesn't Have to be So Hard!
Ah, reminiscing about the good ol’ days.

How do you know it’s a date?

Let me be honest with you. After “hanging out” with guys, and then finding out it was not romantic OR that it was when I didn’t think it was, I got fed up. I reached a point where I just point blank asked the guy, “Is this a date?” I didn’t care if it embarrassed me because I was done with games. When my now husband called me and asked me to go to dinner, I said, “Is this a date” and he said, “Sure is.” That’s when I allowed myself to feel butterflies. Those suckers were stuck in some sort of stomach sanctuary until he spelled it out for me. If you can help yourself from setting improper expectations, do it. It’ll save you a lot of anxiety and even …heartbreak.

Who makes the first move?

Like I already said, I didn’t make the first move. But sometimes women do and it works out! I’ve heard guys say that they like it when a woman takes initiative. I’ve heard men tell other women that it comes across as too strong. Do what feels right for you.

Like I mentioned above, I wanted a man who pursued me so I waited for him to make the first move. Did I let him know I was interested? Yes! Since we were long distance at first, we texted and I was attentive to his texts like he was with mine. Neither of us really played any games. We were mutually interested in each other and that came through in our banter. I did make the first move of moving from texting to face to face by asking him to Skype with me and you know what? He said yes. I didn’t wait for him to initiate every single move.

The Honest Truth About Dating: It Doesn't Have to be So Hard!
Worth it though.

When it comes to dating etiquette, these are my five main pointers:

  1. If you’re interested, gently make that clear. Aggressive/consistent messages are universally irritating. Move slowly and you’re more likely to get somewhere.
  2. Set boundaries that protect your heart. For myself that included not texting after 10pm, meeting his friends to make sure he wasn’t a no-no, getting him to meet my friends so they could honestly tell me if he was a no-no, no physical touch until we were official, and asking God to point it out to me clearly if I should not date him.

    Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23.

  3. Don’t assume anything in the dating process. Don’t over read into text messages and phone calls and emojis and profile pictures. Just simplify the process by eliminating anything that doesn’t come directly from one another. Seriously, remove the chaos of presumptions your mind creates.
  4. If you can’t recognize yourself when you’re with this person, that’s a clear sign it’s not healthy. Don’t alter yourself for acceptance. Stay authentic and believe someone else will love that. You were created with intention.
  5. Let it be fun! Learn more about who you are, what makes you tick, what makes you laugh, etc. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself. You’ve got to love yourself first before anyone else can.

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