How to: Process Dating

 A photo taken of a man (my friend) making breakfast for his wife. 

A photo taken of a man (my friend) making breakfast for his wife. 

In The Sound of Music, there's a song called "Maria;" and as I'm sure (or hope!) most of you know, it's the one when the nuns ask, "How do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?"

As a general note about me, songs pop into my head without any real explanation, and then I just go for days singing them. Lately, it's been this song. Again, I don't really know why; but for today, I'm using it as the outline for this post. 

In short, how do we "solve" a "problem" like dating? How are we supposed to "pin it down?"

Now, you may be thinking, "Why is Drew always talking about dating, and what gives him the authority?" Well, I respect you if you're asking this, and my answer would be that I don't really have the authority. However, I do have the passion to keep this particular conversation going. Why? Because I see it taking up a lot of headspace, for me and people I meet. 

So, how do you solve a problem like dating? To put it bluntly, we need to find a better, more eternal source of life.

Now, I'm sure some of us may push back on that notion, defensively claiming that we don't overanalyze or over-desire what dating might (notice I said might) bring: the opportunity to be understood, known, and loved.

Yes, dating can bring that, but it shouldn't be the resource for or sole purpose of our hearts. In effort to explain further, take a look at this quote by Ben Stuart, the author of Single. Dating. Engaged. Married...

The vast majority of the Scriptures cover the importance of a relationship with God. For some young singles I have visited with, this fact can seem hard to imagine. Dating is the largest issue in their view. What possibly could take precedence over finding the love of your life? I admit, when the desire to date is as close to you as your nose, it looks all-consumingly large. Yet if you can back up from the desire to date for a moment, you will see that there is a greater story playing out in history than the story of romantic love. Your relationship with a guy or girl, though important, is not the most critical relationship in your life, and it is not the relationship that God is most concerned with.
— Ben Stuart

As someone who can tend to put my relationship with God on "cruise control" so that I can aggressively pursue other things, this quote hits home. It's one I pondered while reading Ben's book last fall and have come back to now once again.

In summary, God longs to be the source of life and can (and will!) provide exactly what we need, right when we need it—dating, on its own, cannot do the same to that fullest extent. 

So, if that's the first question, then what about the second?

As some of you know, I recently conducted a survey about dating. I realize that it's not really statistically significant, but I do believe it's provided some key insights that help to guide this question at hand.

BE YOURSELF //

This sounds cliche, but don't disregard its truth. In fact, it points back to the comments above.

Here, this implies a confidence in who we are, which frees us from having to prove anything by dating. Why? Because we've gotten the priorities of our lives in line, with Jesus as our guiding light instead of over-relying on the potential ability of a possible mate to define or complete us.

Yes, this might mean that who or when we think we're "supposed to date" doesn't actually come to fruition. But, if we're being ourselves (meaning in Christ), then there's a peace that passes all understanding.

Furthermore, 89% of the survey respondents said they determine the potential of a first date (meaning how they decide to extend or accept a date offer) based on previous interactions. This, to me, begs the question, "Are we being ourselves in those interactions?" We should because that's how people are sizing things up.

BE KIND //

Again, this sounds like a given, but it's a good reminder. 

Specifically, people who took the survey mentioned wanting to feel safe when evaluating how a date or a dating relationship is progressing. There's certainly some risk involved; but even with that, we (especially as those doing the asking) can be kind to the other and create space for the other person to say, if they want, "No thank you."

As Christians, the other person is our brother or sister in Christ, and that won't change regardless of how the relationship continues. Another thing to consider: That person (who we want to date) will likely be someone else's later, if our relationship doesn't lead to marriage.

Our kindness shows that we respect their personhood and don't consider them as "some thing to possess." To close this point, Ben (the author referenced above) even calls out very clearly (in the book) that two people dating are still two people. It's not until marriage that they become one. (That can be hard to hear, but it brings home the need for kindness that much more.)

BE COMMUNICATIVE // 

Lastly, here's another "cliche" thing, but it's serious and shouldn't be written off as simply cliche. 

Specifically, there were quite a few people who referred to dating as "confusing," "unproductive," "meh," and "frustrating." That being said, and in efforts to be kind, we (those doing the asking) should be respectful of the other by clearly laying out intent, and do so at each step along the way. 

Furthermore, there was one respondent who said, "If someone approaches me with a request to take me out and also gives a specific day, time, and location, I'm that much more inclined to accept."

TO CLOSE // 

Thank you for reading along. I realize I didn't offer too many quantitative insights from the survey, but again, I was mostly looking for qualitative nuggets to guide this conversation. There's a possibility that I'll conduct another survey, taking into consideration the learnings from conducting this present one. 

Additionally, if I said something that struck a chord with you, please don't hesitate to reach out. I'm happy to discuss this topic further, as it relates to Christianity or anything else. 

Finally, I'm grateful for you. I'm also grateful to God for seeing me through season after season, and I'm hopeful for what's to come. My prayer is that we'll be faithful in it all!