He Said-She Said: Ready to Date? Or Not
- Thursday, August 20, 2009
EDITOR'S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you've got a question about anything related to singleness, please CLICK HERE to submit (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: I recently had a first date with a guy who after the date told me he "had a great time," gave me a big hug and then said, "I'm not at a place right now emotionally where I can handle dating or having a serious relationship." My question is: Why did he go on the first date then? (No, I did not ask him that. I just let it go.)
HE SAID: After reading your question, I thought I heard a collective "Amen!" I would venture to guess there are many singles who have experienced this same situation, probably on both sides of the issue.
If you haven't known each other very long, and you didn't know of his intentions, he may be telling you the truth (and doing you a favor). It is a lot easier to accept an unwanted reaction after one date than weeks or months down the road after your heart is seriously invested.
Many singles, both male and female, want to go out once in awhile even when they are not looking for a committed relationship. It is possible for a person to have a great time on a date without it leading to something more. This may have been the case.
Sometimes, as we grow to be more "seasoned" singles, we can become prone to give kind gestures, like being asked out, more significance than they are meant to have. I'm not endorsing non-committal relationships or leading a person on. However, some first dates end up being an enjoyable evening between two people ("friends") without an emotional commitment or connection.
If this guy had told you what he was looking for, or you had known he was seeking a relationship, there's the chance he just didn't feel any chemistry between the two of you and, kudos to him, clearly ended it before anything got started.
Granted, first impressions are not always indicative of a person's true personality or a measure of a person's character, however it is often how we evaluate a person during an initial meeting. He may have decided that a relationship between the two of you was something he did not want to pursue based upon his first impression, and if that is the case, you are perhaps better off without him.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind on first dates or at the outset of a relationship.
Men Should Be the Pursuers
It seems as if the women's movement many years ago has left an environment of men not knowing how to properly pursue a woman and women struggling with the desire to wait for a man's advances and a yearning to expedite the process.
He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22).
God created man as the "hunter-type" to find (and protect) his wife. There's nothing wrong with letting a guy know you are interested or suggesting you should get together, however he should be the one who pursues you.
I hear from many women who get tired of waiting for a guy to ask them out and take matters into their own hands. The lack of initiative on a guy's part is often a precursor of what you can expect of him in a relationship and in his personality. Oftentimes the things that attract you to an individual at the outset are the exact things that turn you away later in the relationship.
Say "No" to Negativity
Oftentimes, we want to share our "time in the desert" with those around us. A first date should be an experience of unbridled excitement of possibilities, not an opportunity to share your recent disappointments. Save the venting and negativity for a close friend or family member, if you must share it with someone.
I know there is nothing better for men than to be happy (Ecclesiastes 3:12).
I have always approached a first date as I do a job interview, with a positive optimistic attitude, discussing and displaying the best I have to offer. I don't share any hardships I may have experienced in the past or pessimism I may be feeling. I want the other person to enjoy our conversation and desire to spend more time with me, not feel sorry or put up with me.
Most would rather spend time with fun, outgoing, happy people than depressed, cynical individuals, both at work and in relationships.
It Takes Two for a Conversation ... and a Relationship
Sometimes when you first talk to someone, as in a first date, it is not difficult to find things to discuss. However, it is important to be both a good talker and a great listener. This probably isn't something you hadn't heard before, but just a reminder to neither dominate a conversation nor be so quiet as to not share anything.
James gives us wise counsel for any relationship we enter into, whether it's a first date or a friendship.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (James 1:19).
In a recent article by the eHarmony staff called, "First Dates: Three Things You Should Never Reveal," they recommend topics that should be left for another time - your deepest darkest secrets, your romantic history, and your money matters.
There is no formula or guideline for first dates. Each can be as diverse and complex as each of us. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself or your expectations of another person; it's a first date, not a serious relationship.
Sometimes we don't even understand our own actions, let alone trying to figure out someone else's. We can only speculate at the reason why this guy asked you out and later said he wasn't in a place to handle a dating or serious relationship.
In any case, don't allow this experience to deter you from going out again, jade your expectations of another date, nor have ill feelings towards the guy.
Learn what you can about yourself in order to grow closer to God and be complete in Him. The rest, including a relationship, will take care of itself.
SHE SAID: I told Cliff that this is my first "Scripture-free zone" answer in all of the time we have been writing this column. So, please don't hold that against me. But know that my answer is from my heart and from a life that is committed to pursuing Christ and deepening my faith through study in God's Word. And now, all that being said, I am ready to preach.
First of all, this type of scenario really does chap me. Not only have I heard it myself after a date that seemed to go well, but I have heard it plenty of times from other female friends who have had this happen to them and have probably done just as much head-scratching as you are doing right now. What just happened????? Or … how could I have missed the signs?????
Any way you slice it, it's a hard lesson to learn (for females) and it's just poor communication (however clueless or unintentional it was) from a man to a woman. I can see the back-story going a few different ways that may explain what happened here (although we'd have to ask the man in question [literally, the man in the question!] to see what he was or wasn't thinking). …
- Scenario One: A man has recently experienced a breakup or hasn't dated in a great while or has been deeply hurt by a former girlfriend or is carrying around a load of unresolved, emotional issues. Yet, time has passed and he decides it is time for him to date again. And so he sees you, thinks you're cute and asks you out. You have (from what you can tell by his words and actions) an enjoyable time. You are then blindsided when he communicates otherwise at the end of the date. He really doesn't know that he's not ready to date someone yet until he goes out on a date with you. And then it hits him. Uh oh. He's still got some work to do. But it's his stuff, and it has nothing to do with you. He needs to take some time to heal and process and perhaps get some counseling before he gets back out into the dating world again. In this scenario, I say you have to give the man a break.
- Scenario One and a Half: A man's been hurt before and so he already has done the work to process and heal (counseling, prayer, time, etc.). He really thinks he's ready to date again. He sees you, thinks you're cute and asks you out. The date goes "well," and then he delivers the bad news at the end of the evening. He really, truly, honestly didn't know that he wasn't ready yet. He thought he was (because he had already done some work to get himself ready to date again). So, again, in this scenario I say you have to give the man a break. He didn't know what he didn't know. But after a date, he then did. Again, it has nothing to do with you. Anyone could have pushed this button or triggered this kind of response in him. He just wasn't ready, and he thought he was.
- Scenario Two: A man sees you, thinks you're cute and asks you out. During the course of the date, he decides that he's not interested (You know … "He's just not that into you" for one reason or another). To finesse his departure and hide behind the ugly truth, he puts the onus on his emotional state: "I'm not at a place right now emotionally where I can handle dating or having a serious relationship." Instead of telling you the whole truth—that he doesn't feel that there is chemistry between the two of you, that he doesn't think you have enough in common or that he doesn't see the two of you going out again on a date—you get a more broad and general excuse. So in this scenario, I say the man does not get a break. Yes, the truth does hurt. But men, let me say this: we women may be the weaker and more fragile sex, but we can handle it. In fact, we'd MUCH rather know the real reason why you don't want to go out with us again. If you didn't connect with us, just say it and release us. It will still sting, but believe me when I say it will save us many sleepless nights, hours of discussing and interpreting with our friends and pints upon pints of Ben & Jerry's (combined with counteractive hours of cardio at the gym). Bottom line: you're not doing us any favors by not telling us the truth. Please, be kind ... which means be honest.
Now, I'm sure there are other scenarios that could possibly be at play here, but for now I am weary of "Dating Scenario Creation 101" and am ready to move on in my studies with you.
When a woman like you encounters a situation such as you did, I believe it will only strengthen your character, increase your discernment and fine-tune your dating "Spidey senses." By that, I mean that you are now aware that when someone asks you out what you see may not be what you're going to get. It may end up that he's not interested at all and he may or may not be ready to handle what is required when it comes to pursuing someone for more than friendship (spending time together, getting to know one another, dipping your toes in emotional waters, revealing feelings, etc.). Are you able to handle this type of preliminary rejection? Can you take it if a date seems to go well to you and then you are told that it really didn't go as well as you thought it did once it's over?
Keeping that in mind, you will then be more likely to partake in such an outing with more caution while you are guarding your heart. You will approach the date as more of an exploratory interpersonal mission: Do I like this person? How can I learn more about him? Is he someone I would like to spend more time with? Does he seem to have his act together or is he just a smooth talker? And why did he just use his salad fork when eating the main course????? Ewww! (kidding)
I was blindsided like this a number of years ago, and after a brief period of confusion (and bitterness … hey, just being honest here) it changed me. No, it didn't propel me all the way to general manager status at "Cynical Central," but I do believe it helped me to take a breath and not to put all of my hopes and dreams and desires into the success of one single date.
I'm not saying that this is what you did at all. Perhaps you are very levelheaded and proceeded with caution and truly thought this man was simply enjoying the date with you. I just know that I have missed some signs before. No, I wasn't planning the wedding in my mind just yet, but I know that I saw what I wanted to see and I heard what I wanted to hear and wasn't as careful as I could have been.
It's sad that we have to "armor up" or approach a date in such a way. But in this day and age, truth is relative. What you see isn't necessarily what is really going on. Don't be discouraged, though. Just see this as an opportunity for self-improvement.
You sound like you weren't dashed to pieces (emotionally) from this situation. And that is good. Hopefully, you have learned something and have become better equipped and informed and will be ready to get to know and carefully observe and assess the next man who takes you out on a date.
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com's Senior Entertainment Editor. She loves God, her family and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who's counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We're just average folk who understand what it's like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life's questions, and it's where we'll go for guidance when responding to your questions. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to living the single life, PLEASE SUBMIT HERE (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that He Said-She Said will be an encouragement to you.
**This column first published on August 20, 2009.
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