Some of you may have read my previous post on our family "Three Rules for Dating," and might be wondering how in the world any of us ever met our spouses! This post will hopefully shed a little bit of light on "how this could work." Far from trying to tell you how "you should do this," I'm rather trying to sketch out "how one could do this." My own experience has been far from pain-free, far from sinless, far from perfect, however, I do believe that I was spared much heart-ache and sin!
I went to a public high school with an academic magnet program, which was quite the unique experience! I had many friends and was friendly with everyone, guys and girls alike, but stayed out of the boy-girl drama, and had my closest friends at church. There were only a hand-full of believers in my entire school. But that was what I wanted-- a practice mission field. Going in with that kind of expectation helped me guard my heart very well. I knew I wanted to go on to college, that I loved studying and learning, and that I had no business giving my heart away just yet. I turned down guys who "asked me out," taking the chance to tell them about Jesus and Who He was to me, and also to explain that I viewed dating as preparation for marriage, not divorce, and that I didn't think we were really ready to think about marriage just yet. :) They usually looked at me a little strange, but accepted it.
What about prom? I went in a group with a "date" who was really a friend (one year I went with a school mate, believer, and my senior year I brought along one of my closest friends from church, who also happened to be my cousin). Both times we went out to eat in a group, had a great time getting dressed up and taking pictures, rocked out the dance floor and got picked up by our parents by midnight. Both nights formed some of my favorite memories of my high school career, and I had no regrets from any of it. Good, clean fun with my friends, getting to dress up pretty and do "special" things... what more does a high-schooler want?
This pattern of learning to relate to guys and girls in group settings, of not being opposed to going on memorable "dates" as friends in groups, and being clear about my own standards and desire to remain only friends came with me to college. (There was a year in between where I got my heart broken, but I'll share that in a final post.) My parents had asked me not to allow myself to be drawn into an exclusive dating relationship ("courtship" to be technical) until my sophomore year of college, and in hindsight I appreciate how wise that was. I had many guy friends, some of them fairly close (I think it's naturally easier for girls to relate to guys-- that's how it's supposed to work in marriage! Guys just aren't all... dramatic!), but it was always clear that we were just brother & sister, or friends if they were unbelievers. My closest friends were girls; my roommate, classmates, dorm-mates, friends from church.
Before I go on, let me differentiate between "dates" and "dating." In my mind, a guy and a girl can go on a date as a "get to know you." They might like each other (or just one might like the other), they might think they possibly could start liking each other, they might just have heard good things about each other. Going on a date --usually out somewhere, alone or in a group-- has the intention of getting to know each other specifically. However, it doesn't imply exclusivity. There were weeks and months where I went on dates with different guys, and wasn't a girlfriend to any of them. I only ever truly dated one person: the man who is now my husband, Ryan. And once we started dating and I was "his girlfriend," I never went on another date with anyone else! (I've heard other people call going on dates "just hanging out," and dating "courting")
Why allow one-on-one dates at all? Well, honestly, because sometimes there's just not much other way to get to know someone. Sure, you could get them into a group, but if it's just an excuse to talk to her, why not skip making everyone else feel like a third wheel, and spend some time getting to know The Girl. Oh yes, in case this doesn't go without saying-- I never asked a guy out, but rather let them ask if they were interested.
Ok so here's how I rolled. I had my own "Three Date Rule"-- I'd give any believing guy who asked one date. (Well, except for Presbyterians, because I knew my Baptist convictions were too deep to ever be able to submit to a Presbyterian husband. My RUF campus pastor loved to tease me about this!) If I liked something about them, and they asked a second time, I'd say yes to a second date. By the end of that date (as well as any group activities we'd done) I'd usually have a pretty good idea of whether I'd consider dating them long-term, with a view towards marriage. If they asked for a third date, and I was game, I'd tell them it was time to call my Dad and get his blessing (for guys that I went on out-of-town group dates with, to formal balls, I would have Dad interview them before date 1). He asked to meet with them, got to know them a bit, gave them the "what are your intentions towards my daughter" talk, and if he trusted them, he would give the OK, and we'd go on our third date. Usually by this point I knew whether I was interested enough to be exclusive, and we'd have the DTR ("Determine the Relationship" talk). With everyone but Ryan, I had be loving and honest enough to tell these amazing guys that I didn't think I was the right one for them (talk about making yourself feel about this big), and to make it clear that I didn't want to become exclusive or date at all any more. Hard as those talks were, they were much easier than a break-up would have been!! Stopping a relationship from becoming exclusive is way easier than having to back-track and get un-exclusive! I will also say that on dates or in dating relationships, the Beloved's admonition to not "arouse or awaken love until it so desires" is one to take seriously; emotional guardedness= emotional purity (and less broken hearts!)!! Fun as it is to feel all giddy and infatuated, if it clouds your thinking or leads someone else on, it's not worth it!
I also wasn't afraid to use the Dad card to scare off guys I didn't want to date. :) One was too chicken to even talk to my dad at all. Easy one to cross off my list!
Please, feel free to ask questions, make comments, or post your own dating do's & don'ts!