I used to believe that in order to date someone, I had to know within the initial 34 minutes of our first hang-out if I was going to marry them or not. I read somewhere once that you’re supposed to know in the first 34 minutes. I don’t know who said it, but looking back I would like to egg their house.
Mock me if you wish, but you know you’ve been there too. Especially after you hit about 23–dating isn’t a game anymore. It’s not just something to do because you aren’t doing anything else. You know, where the imminent threat of marriage is safely on an out-of-reach shelf because you’re 16. And there are laws against that now.
As an adult, there’s actually an END-game to dating. It’s called marriage. Or breaking up. Either way you swing it, one or the other is going to happen.
This article isn’t really about that though. Not really. As (not) fun as it would be to get into why we date, if we should date, (not) kissing dating goodbye, and all the dumb things I have believed about dating…this article is not about that. I’m not going to give you a five-step list on how to know if you’ve found the one. Maybe we will tuck that in the old back pocket for a proverbial rainy day. Or for never.
Whether you’re hanging out or “talking”…(Seriously what does that even mean? Everyone talks. I “talk” to my dry cleaner; does that mean we are entering into marriage negotiations? Am I going to have to have a dowry? Does my dad need to be involved? What about the Middle East?) So whether you’ve been friends for a long time, are currently dating, are unsure about the future of your dating relationship, or are still figuring it out–whatever season you find yourself in–chill.
Chill? CHILL?! Sage advice, I know. Here’s the thing: adult dating is extremely pressurized. Especially Christian adult dating. I get it. The temptation and stress to figure it all out within the first 34 minutes of coffee doesn’t just go away. The old ladies breathing down your neck at church don’t just go away. We’ve been taught that you HAVE to KNOW. And if you feel like you don’t know yet, well then just forget it.
There was a time in my life where I have been at aforementioned coffee, sipping a white mocha, while silently evaluating whether or not I could marry someone who has a 7-syllable last name.
Society tells us that if you can’t see yourself with His & Hers towels immediately then they aren’t “the One”. I wish you could see me face-palm. More, I wish I could face-palm everyone that says that.
We are missing the point.
But before we move on to what the point really is, let me tell you what I’m NOT saying. I’m not saying that if you go on a date, and you definitely aren’t feeling it, that it’s okay to continue wasting that person’s (and your own) time. If it’s not there, it’s not there. And that’s okay.
However, if you find yourself unsure of your future with someone, THAT’S OKAY. It doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It just means you need more time, that you do not really know them yet. Dating is meant to give you a window into a person. And people are far more complex than any coffee date will ever reveal. As my friend Josh likes to say, “Coffee is like the side-hugs of dating: it means you’re not.” Meaning, if you feel confused and don’t know how you feel it’s probably because you haven’t seen enough to know yet.
Yes, sometimes you’ll recognize when it’s not “it” immediately. But more often than not, truly getting to know someone requires time. It requires seeing them through various stages and seasons of life, watching how they treat their mom, noticing their reaction to stress or really terrible traffic, and if they have a clue what to do with you when you’re emotional or overly bizarre. And those things do not happen immediately.
Do you reveal everything about yourself in the first 34 minutes of meeting someone? No. Neither do I. It’s impossible. People are beautifully complex with layers of history. Don’t expect to have a wealth of understanding until you’ve spent a wealth of time with them.
The point of dating is ultimately, yes, to figure out if you want to marry that person. But beyond that, dating is a privilege.
Getting to know someone is a privilege. Getting to do life with another human being is a privilege. I don’t care if you end up with them or not. I don’t care if you go your separate ways and lose contact. Any amount of time that we are given to know someone, to see pieces of someone’s soul, is a treasure.
Dating isn’t actually about me. I often approach relationships with the goal of getting what I think I need from someone else. This is not the point of any relationship, romantic or platonic. In fact, approaching a relationship with this mindset will ultimately wreck it. Sometimes I have to remind myself that relationships are not my never-ending affirmation train.
Relationships are meant to enrich and challenge us as individuals. To add fun, color, and spontaneity. To impact another soul by listening, caring, and ultimately taking notice of who they are at their core. When we meet peers, we often spend most of our time self-promoting and analyzing. But instead of ensuring that we are getting what we “need” and are being seen, what if our goal was to truly see others? To place value, celebrate, and leave these individuals more confident in who God created them than they were before they met us? Before they dated us. Before they did life with us.
God made each and every individual with something to offer. Many of us have pain and burdens, but every single one holds something beautiful and worthwhile inside. Dating and relationships are about discovering the gold in others and celebrating it. It’s about realizing that even if the His & Hers towels don’t work out that there is something valuable about that person…and for a season you had the utmost privilege to bear witness to it. Leave them better than you found them. Let who they were leave you better than when you started. Help one another grow.
Dating isn’t about you. It’s about getting to know another individual that God loved enough to leave Heaven and die for. That God loved enough to craft into existence, every intricacy and quirk, like and dislike. And it is your duty and privilege to celebrate them.
It is NOT your duty to determine if you ought to marry them within five minutes. That may come, but not in the first date. Let yourself off the hook. And for heaven sakes, let them off the hook. You can never truly get to know someone with that kind of pressure shaping your expectations.
Let the desire to know the person God created drive you…not a desire to know if you should marry them or not. We have an opportunity to love and celebrate others. Let’s not waste it.