So you've been watching this guy for a while, no red flags have immediately mumped out, and you decide to try dating him. Don't relax just yet. Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
#1—Date for potential friendship. If something more develops, that's great; if not, oh well, you were looking for friends anyway. When I was in college, this was one of the best pieces of advice that I ever received. When you start a new dating experience with friendship in mind instead of courtship, it takes the pressure off, and makes your date much more fun.
You can also be more natural, more authentically "you." When dating for potential friendship, you won't feel like you have to be perfect and polished. You can let men know who you really are while also not divulging too much private information. And, friendship is the best foundation for a romantic relationship, if one should develop.
The "date for potential friendship" approach doesn't guarantee you pain-free, mistake-proof dating, but it's far better than approaching every first date as the beginning of an unending chain of events that leads to "You may no kiss the bride." In short: Stop being deadly serious about dating (which isn't attractive anyway), and start having fun meeting new friends.
#2—You don't owe your date complete candor and access to your life. Yes, it's crucial to speak the truth in love, but that doesn't mean that you spill your guts, particularly on the first few dates. Retain some sense of mystery about yourself. Christian Nice Girls, in an effort to be well-liked and compliant are prone to volunteer too much private information and to answer private questions they shouldn't. If your date asks you a private question that you don't want to answer, then politely decline to answer. You can say "I'm not comfortable answering that question right now" or "I like to get to know people better before I share private information like that."
#3—Ask and answer meaningful questions that are personal, but not private. You want to get to know him better, and you also need to note if he shows an interest in you by asking similar questions in return. Examples of personal questions include:
~"What makes you happy/sad/angry?"
~"What do you like to do for fun?"
~"What's your family like? What's your relationship with them like?"
~"What's your dream job?"
~"What are your short-term and long-term goals?"
~"What is your relationship with God like?"
~"What makes you feel the closest to God?"
~"When have you felt the closest to God?"
Private questions need to be asked before you agree to marry someone, but not on the first few dates. Examples of questions that are both personal and private include:
~"How much money do you make?"
~"Has anyone ever cheated on you?"
~"Have you had sex before marriage?"
~"What is your biggest regret in life?"
~"Who made you feel the best and worst about yourself as a child?"
#4—At an appropriate time, tease your date about something he would find funny. This shows that you have a sense of humor and are not completely beholden to his approval.
#5—Be careful to not go overboard with God talk. Remember that you aren't going on a date to learn more about God—you are there to learn more about the other person so you can decide if you want another date. Also, some Christian Nice Girls use theological discussions as a way of avoiding personal (not private) discussions, which ultimately is a way of avoiding intimacy.
#6—If you disagree with something your date says or does, disagree agreeably. For example, "I see that issue differently. I think…" is preferable to lying ("I completely agree") or becoming belligerent ("How could you see it that way? That doesn't make any sense.") Remember: conflict is the price you pay for intimacy. Conflict can be intimacy in disguise, so instead of running from disagreements, learn to approach them like Jesus did. When Christian Nice Girls learn to fight like a Christian, with both love and firmness, their relationships deepen and expand. And if your conflicts with a particular dating partner don't lead to greater intimacy and instead repeatedly rip at the relationship (and your self-esteem), you two are likely incompatible. You tried dating this person, and now it's time to move on.
#7—In advance, decide on your boundaries for physical intimacy and then hold the line. Christian Nice Girls' people-pleasing tendencies can lead them to compromise their own limits. For example, a typical CNG may decide, "Kissing is fine, hugging is fine, but no petting over or under clothes." And then, there he is. Cute, funny, sweet, and…turned on. His hand begins the initial descent into the "No Go" zone and what does the CNG do? She begins the mental gymnastics: "Did he meant to put his hand there? Does he realize what he's doing? Should I say something? What if I'm wrong and I end up embarrassing him? I won't say anything. Well, no, that was no accident—he definitely put his hand there. I'll just kind of knock his hand away casually, and he'll get the idea to back off. There. That should let him know to back off…I can't believe it. He thought I meant to put his hand someplace else even more alarming! This is moving way too fast for m, but I can't say anything now, or he'll think I'm a big tease. Plus I really like this guy. And all this touching does feel kind of good. But I know I'm going to regret this later. Oh man, now he's really turned on. It's too late to stop things. He'd be so angry if I put the brakes on now. I don't want to deal with that conflict. I'll just keep going. I can't believe I'm doing this."
This doesn't happen only to teenagers. A Christian Nice Girl at any age can find herself in a similar situation. Speak the truth up front about your physical boundaries. Yes, it feels awkward to discuss such private matters, but if you don't, then you may be really angry at and disappointed with yourself the next morning. And if your date won't respect your limits and keeps pushing for more physical intimacies, then he's a Mr. Wrong who slipped in under the radar. Show him the door.
#8—If a man asks for another date, and you aren't sure whether you want another date, say "I will get back to you on that." Then be true to your word, and get back to him after you decide. Remember that dating or courtship is designed to provide you with many exits, many opportunities to say, "This isn't working for me." Christian Nice Girls often stay in unsatisfying or unhealthy dating relationships because they don't take advantage of the following built-in courtship exits:
~The first date: these are designed to help you decide if you would like a second date, but there is no requirement to have another date. Exit at will.
~Multiple dates: these are designed to help you decide if you want to date this man exclusively, but there is no requirement to agree to an exclusive relationship. Exit at will.
~Exclusive relationships: these are designed to help you develop a closer relationship and determine if you could have a future together. But there is no requirement that you remain in the relationship, even if you have been dating for years or if he wants to continue dating you. Exit at will.
~Engagements: these are designed to help you prepare for marriage, but there is no requirement that you must marry your fiancé. Exiting is more challenging now, but it's still an option.
All of these exits are built into the system to give you the chance to say no. Why? Because marriage is one of the biggest decisions of your life, and you want to be married to the right kind of person. These exits give you the freedom to say at any point in a dating relationship, "Thanks, I'm flattered, really, but no thanks. I wish you well in the future." If a man you're dating doesn't want to understand or accept this, then he must have skipped Dating 101—and it's not your job to teach that particular class to him.
So, now you know how to spot a shark-finned Mr. Wrong, and how to successfully navigate the dating waters. Wait a minute…are those wedding bells ringing in the distance? Another Christian Nice Girl just got hitched.
Paul Coughlin is the author of numerous books, including Unleashing Courageous Faith, No More Christian Nice Guy and No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps. He also co-authored a book for married couples with his wife Sandy, titled Married But Not Engaged. Paul is founder of The Protectors, the values-based and faith-based answer to adolescent bullying, which provides curriculum for public schools, private schools, retreats, and individuals who want to diminish child-based bullying.