As I’ve read through Dr. Cloud’s new book, “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping,” I have been confronted with an ugly truth that should have been obvious but seems like a clouds-rolled-back, heavenly-choir-sang revelation: My friends and I are really out of practice at dating. In fact, I think most single Christians are. Maybe that’s because we had no idea we’d be dating for so long.

In our parents and grandparents day, you married early, for better or worse. That attitude still prevailed at the Christian college I attended where dating wasn’t exactly recreational – it had a very serious underlying purpose. After all, one of the best ways to make sure Christian singles weren’t tempted to have sex was to marry them off as soon as possible. So from jr. high on, we girls got the subtle message that a wedding was the ultimate goal. We were even encouraged to create lists of what we were looking for in our future husbands and to write letters to our unknown intended. Then, when new guys came into the picture, they were carefully measured against these traits. If they were found wanting in any area, why waste the time?

I Think We're Alone Now

So we didn’t “waste” the time. And as the years passed, the opportunities to meet guys seemed to dwindle, and when we did meet men, few measured up to those detailed wish lists we clung to. So we purchased cars, appliances and maybe even homes on our own. We learned our way around Home Depot and acquired our own power tools (or the name of a good handyman). And somewhere along the way, most of us stopped dating all together. We tried our best not to look too conspicuous amid all the marrieds at church and learned to simply shrug when asked that awkward question: “why is a nice girl like you still single?”

It’s a question I’ve never had a really good answer for. I know so many “nice” girls who almost never seem to date, especially now that they’ve passed that threshold into their 30s. I just spent a weekend at the beach with several of them and while we all have different ideas about relationships, I think one thing we can all agree on is the landscape has changed and we’ve been left stranded without a current map.

Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but dating seemed easier when we were younger. In college and right after graduation, we were all at similar places, struggling to find our place in the world. Now, we’ve staked our claim, carving out careers and lives that are almost a hindrance to dating. My first boyfriend earned that title simply because we had been in the same class and rode the same bus and he was forward enough to pass me a note after school. Ah, those were the days. Now there’s so much more to consider. Do we have compatible careers? Do I make more money than he does (and does that matter)? Can we find a church we can both call home? Do we want the same sort of lifestyle, family, future?

It’s no wonder so many of us have thrown in the towel, at least at some point during our dating careers. After all, who expected this to become a career? We thought we’d endure it for a few years in order to find “the one” and that would be it. Ask anyone still single in their 30s and I bet they’ll tell you they didn’t expect to still be dating – or not dating as the case may be.

Getting Beyond Giving Up

But it’s easy to detail the problems. It’s harder to get back into the game. Maybe that’s why most of my friends who have decided to do just that have done so through drastic measures. Specifically, a dating service. And since my own plan to start dating again seems stalled, I’m taking the plunge, too.