Monday, November 14, 2005

"dating in your mind"

Someone was shocked and slightly amazed by a previous post I made in which I admitted that I had never been on a date. The admission was not one of shame … just a statement. Later, in a conversation with a friend he said that surely it wasn’t because of my lack of being asked. Actually … yes. I can’t say that I’ve ever been intentionally asked on a date. Oh, I’ve eaten dinner with and enjoyed the company of plenty of guy pals but none of them ever intended it to be anything more than hanging out with a friend … or at least I was unaware of it if it was otherwise intended. As a result, my weekends are relatively free to ponder the relationships of others and develop my own theories of courtship. From college to the present, I sit in the gates of the city like philosophers of old and advise any who come to listen to my sage advice. Don’t tell anyone, though, that I’m a quack, having never experienced what I preach about.

As a volunteer at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I have a large number of resources at my fingertips to assist me in my research. How would I recognize a man with godly, leadership qualities should I encounter one? How should women encourage men to be the godly leaders they were meant to be? What is a submissive woman? A pile of books was placed in my hands and this weekend I picked one up to answers some of the questions I had been pondering. I eyed it suspiciously … Did I Kiss Marriage Goodbye? … I was uncertain how this applied to my cause. I don’t want to limit my research to the Single demographic … however, I had been assured that there was much to be gleaned by this gem by Carolyn McCulley. Indeed, I was surprised by the amount of personal conviction handed to me concerning my own single state of affairs. I may have never dated … but that’s not to say that I haven’t dated in my mind.

Elizabeth opens the door and walks into the hall at 11:30 at night. Doors open and eyes peer out to see who just arrived. Soon Elizabeth is surrounded by inquisitive girls from her dormitory hall.

“So … how did your evening with Jake go?!”

“Oh, It was perfect! The two of us had an amazing time together. It felt like a date. It couldn’t have been better.”

Felt like? McCulley warns that if it “feels” like a date and no one has said that it’s a date … then “[i]t’s just two friends hanging out, but one of them wants more.” The danger lies in that while the guy is clear in his own mind concerning his intentions (“just friends”), the woman is not. She’s “dating him in her mind.”

Like a peanut butter sandwich that has all the peanut butter smooshed to one side, McCulley asserts that women have the tendency to “get all clumped up in one corner, distracted by one guy.” When he doesn’t come through to meet our expectations of pursuit, then we are disappointed.

How many times have we witnessed men appear to go through all the motions of dating but never revealing their intentions. They try women on “and then fade away if there wasn’t enough spark to attract them to pursue.” Sometimes this can go on for years between good friends, the men often oblivious to the internal struggle going on in the woman’s heart.

Searching for men of noble character will be addressed later, but for now let us women evaluate our own hearts. Are you dating someone in your mind?

McCulley has laid out a series of questions that may help you understand your own heart.

• Do I talk about him a lot to other people?
• If these other people don’t share my enthusiasm, and even caution me to not cultivate expectations, do I feel deflated and resent their input?
• Am I going to this event or meeting primarily because he will be there?
• Am I distracted in church or small-group meetings because of his presence?
• Do I break other commitments because he’s invited me to do something spontaneously?
• If he doesn’t talk to me or single me out at events, do I go home disappointed?
• Am I jealous of the women he does talk to or serve?
• If he declines one of my invitations, am I tempted to feel rejected?
• When he does pay attention to me, am I so oriented to him in a group setting that I don’t consider the needs of others around me?

Placing such claims on a man is “deadly to our spiritual growth and witness. Because these attachments are one-sided, when the relationship doesn’t occur in the way or time that we want I we usually respond sinfully.

Paul Tripp in his book "Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hand" has mapped out this path of sin. McCulley summarizes his point in this way: “Desire leads to demand, which re-labels itself as a ‘need’ and leads to expectation of fulfillment, which when unmet, leads to disappointment, and thus ends in punishment.” One quote from Tripp’s book resonated particularly with McCulley. “There is a direct relationship between expectation and disappointment, and much of our disappointment in relationships is not because people have actually wronged us, but because they have failed to meet our expectations.” Such a paradigm is not only destructive to our hearts now … but will also carry over to our future marriages. “No husband will meet all of our desires, so we should learn to protect our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus by not indulging this cycle of idolatry.”

So if we find ourselves “dating in our minds,” how do we change? McCulley suggests:

• Prayer: Take your petitions to God, for He’s the only one who can change a man’s heart, and this brings His peace to guard our own hearts.
• Pursuit: It’s not our job as women. Instead, we should have the joy of being pursued.
• Prevent Disappointment: Check yourself before you head down the slippery slope of desires, demands and expectations…When you find yourself closing your fist over good desires and making them demands, stop. Open that clenched fist and hold that desire up in prayer.

Remember, this is not merely a matter of wise living … it’s also a worship issue. McCulley concludes that “[o]ur real motivation for guarding our hearts is to preserve our trusting dependence on God with a peaceful spirit, whether we get married or not.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Click here to read the section about The Danger of Dating In Your Mind.

10 comments:

Allie Riedy said...

Why do girls fantasize so much? Well, I have my own personal opinion. I think it has to do with our ability (tested in studies) to multi-task better! I know that sounds weird, but think about it: Girls, you know how easy it is to sit in class, listen and take notes, but at the same time be thinking about what you'll make for dinner, the homework you have to do, and a thousand other things. But at the same time you can be thinking about "that guy" in the back of your head, it never really leaves your mind. However, it seems like guys are exceptionally skilled at putting anything they want out of their mind. It's like they can refocus completely. Or, this is just what I've noticed anyway.
So maybe that's why girls can imagine there's something there with a guy when there isn't, because they constantly think about him, even when he's not there?

j.ro said...

Good post. Helps me to realize what's going on inside the oh-so-difficult-to-comprehend female mind. ;)

If I could offer advice to those being pursued: be forthright! If a guy is noble enough to tell you his intentions, tell him the truth about how you feel. Most Christian women have a desire to be kind and compassionate, but be honest within that compassion. An ambiguous answer only causes the guy to "date in his mind," when the gal really only wants to be friends.

Though it will take a small degree of confrontation, the guy will be much better off in the long run if you are straightforward. Personally, the battle I face in relationships comes in trying to figure out how to serve my sister in Christ in the best way possible. If she only wants to be friends, then that's how I want to serve her. If she is interested in more, then I want to be assured of that direction so I can romantically pursue her with confidence. Like allie said, most guys CAN refocus, IF they are given that direction. It's that hellish ambiguity where guys are slain by the slings and arrows of the Enemy: fear, doubt, impatience, anxiety, and in extreme cases, hatred.

erin said...

I have been learning a lot about expectations lately. It hasn't been really focused on dating relationships, but more focused just on life. I expect certain reactions from people. I expect a certain amount of time from friends. I expect certain outcomes in situations. Ect, ect, ect. And yes,I find myself disappointed quite often. And I even find myself sweeping up my hurt feelings often. This quote hits it right on the head..."There is a direct relationship between expectation and disappointment, and much of our disappointment in relationships is not because people have actually wronged us, but because they have failed to meet our expectations.” ...

So how do we stop expecting things? How do we guard against that? Well, Psalm 62 is about expecting the Lord. It says, "My soul waits for God ALONE, for my hope is from Him."

It's a hard lesson because, let's be honest, it's awfully abstract. I know how to expect God to do something for me or to lead a certain direction, but how on earth do I just expect Him? Well, I haven't figured it all out yet but I know that if I expect only the Lord then I will not be disappointed because He does not disappoint.

CM said...

I don't think this is necessarily a girl problem. Personally, I've had the same issue with thinking about "that girl" or about how great it would be to be in a dating relationship or married, etc. (Sometimes I wish she would walk through the door, introduce herself as Mrs. Miller, and then all my problems would be solved - ah, fantasy!)

I do agree with j.ro - ladies, if a guy expresses intentions for something more, don't be scared! In fact, in a guy's mind, he's just risked a huge amount of his pride and confidence. (Although... isn't this a moment where the woman has absolute control? Mu ha ha ha indeed.)

WATERFALL DESCENDER said...

Hey...I've been posting comments here and there, and I recently saw this email from a very dear friend of mine from Paddlers for Christ, and I just wanted to share it with you. He founded Paddlers For Christ.

Hey Drew. My wife and I courted while we saw each other. She is
the only one in my life I had to ask permission before starting to
see her. There was much more involvement of the people in her life
during our courting than I was used to. I didn't know what to think
of it at first, but afterward I see there are tremendous benifits
and blessings to submitting to courtship rather than going by our
current society's damaging dating methods. I am going to make a
bold statement here, but in my opinion, a single women needs
protection in her life when it comes to a relationship with another
man before marraige. This protection should come from those who
care and love her and want to see what is best for her. It really
helped Jan and I focus on our friendship, relationship and whether
each other was God's choice for us for marraige. We did not get
blinded by the physical part of the relationship that can cause so
much damage before marraige. Now this was not my conviction, but it
was my wife's conviction; at the age of around 20 she committed to
the Lord she would not kiss a man on the lips until her wedding day
and she kept that commitment. It caused me then and now to have
great respect for her and I can not tell you what a tremendous
blessing it has had on our marraige. Out of all the women I dated,
none comes anywhere close to the amount of respect I had for Jan
while we were seeing each other. We received a lot of council
together and myself a lot of discipleship by the people in Jan's
life. It was sort of like boot camp at times as it tried our
relationship and got us to work through issues people now a days
normally do not face until they are married. With us, marraige has
been mostly a breeze as the foundation was set up right. We have
had very little strife between us while married, nothing like what
we often see newly married couples go through. In the newly wed
Sunday School class we attended after getting married, we were
really taken back by all the avalanches of problems we were seeing
in other couples that had not had a courting type of relationship.
I give courting a whole hearted thumbs up in my opinion! In Christ,
Mark <><


I just think that is so cool! As a man...I'm not so sure I could be that strong. I'd admire them for their stance, and you should stick to your guns. I do think one should explain what they are thinking, and hopefully with the Lord guiding the way...it can work with a couple.

I hope you find this helpful...I don't follow this method, because I have come to the conclusion that I know nothing of dating after years of banging my head to the wall. Currently, I'm nursing my injuries to my head, lol.. and learning new methods of dating from blogs like this, Jonathans, and great mentors like Mark. I guess the Lord is telling me something, and that is an awesome thing!

In Christ,
Gregg

Jonathan said...

If you've never been asked out, then I question as to whether you are approachable? I'm not calling your character into question, but consider this: if a guy implies that he's interested in you, do you find yourself looking for opportunities to make it clear to him that you're not interested? for example (scenario #1 - never happened to my knowledge), say there's a guy you know and THINK might be interested in you:

Guy: "hey what's up"
Christine: "hey" (looking around for something else to do)
[small talk ensues for a couple minutes], then...
Guy: "So whatcha gonna be up to this weekend?"
Christine: (though you may have nothing going on) "Umm... I'm probably gonna fly to Germany or something"
Guy: "oh... well... okay"

Guy is automatically shut down, whether or not he was going to ask you out, because you thought he was going to ask you out. Then, other guy (you might be interested in) is friends with guy #1 and hears that you are hard to be friends with.

Just a possibility...

Scenario #2 - did happen: you ask a guy to help you out by considering advice you could give to girls to encourage them in a more proper understanding of dating, and guy honestly considers this. Then guy writes in a blog comment:

"I've given a lot of thought to what you asked me to consider - and I can post it in a blog post, or if you'd like, you can just email me from my blog and I'll send it to you (I'm trying to compile my thoughts on Word - you said you're writing a book, right?)"

and you never responded. Do you consider yourself "approachable"? Or do you make it clear that you're not interested, when a guy hasn't necessarily expressed interest in you either?

Like I said, I'm not attacking your character - I'm sure you're a great, Godly woman, and I haven't even met you in person here on campus. But I do challenge you to consider this.

ckhnat said...

Jonathan,

These two articles have helped alot in revealing these flaws in my life. May the world be patient with me. I am unaccustomed to interacting in the realm of dating-single-men-and-women. I've always been an outsider. Much due to my own doing, as you said, Jonathan.

your scenario #1 could have very well happened, although i don't think i've ever used the "I'm flying to Germany" line. But thanks for the tip. (kidding)

as for scenario #2 that was a total misunderstanding. I thank you so much for your consideration. I was so greatful but at the time I didn't have WORD on my Mac. Then my computer was in the shop. and then i forgot. RATS! I've got it now, though. my computer AND WORD.

bethy31 said...

Very well written and quite true!

Jason said...

A guy said to me the other day, "I was kinda dating this girl for a while." And I said, "No, you guys you just friends." :)

As for Scenario #1:

Guy: "hey what's up"
Christine: "hey"


For some reason I always pay attention to whether a girl says my name. Maybe it's because that was one of those weird little things my dad always told me to do when talking to other people. "Always say peoples' name, son! They like to hear it!" It's not a definite rule, like it's an automatic sign a girl likes me because she said, "Hey Jason, you need to blow your nose," but the funny thing is that I've noticed married women seem better as saying names than single women.

Of course, in that scenario, the guy didn't use her name either. He must not like her that much. :)

N said...

i'm still amazed at this blog and it's interesting content. i am pretty new to reading blogs, let alone commenting any significant amount. by the way, i'm not on eastern time... it's not that late here!

anyway... this entry is a bit of a mystery to me. if Ms. Desperado...I mean Christine is half as attractive inside and out as this blog makes her appear to be... then it makes no sense whatsoever that she could get through life to 24 and not ever be asked out.

i would wager that her 'dinners with weak & wavering guys' were actually dates in most peoples perspectives. the guys were just so intimidated by her character and intelligence (and disinterest because they weren't fully pursuing her or weren't good enough for her) that they didn't have the guts or encouragement from her to amp it up a few notches and try a 'real' date.

a woman with any clue should be able to tell when it's a REAL date. this would include opening all doors, buying a nice meal (and knowing how to pick the wine!), having something interesting planned besides a dinner and movie or coffee, maybe flowers or something more original in the floral vein, etc. etc.

i'm constantly saddened/amazed by guys who do the hang out thing for lengths of time in a way that's not obviously just hanging out... (ie. the girl is dating them in her mind, as per above writings). those idiot guys then blur all the lines for guys who want to be able to just go out for a nice dinner with a nice girl and see how things go for a while before they really go for it. sometimes these idiot guys make mixtapes, look girls in the eye a lot, compliment them, and engage in a lot of 'real date' activities and justify it as just being a nice friend. nice friendships dont work between single people.

and there is a BIG difference between a guy FULLY PURSUING a woman and a guy just sort of checking things out...seeing how it goes...etc. i could go into more of what that looks like since it sounds like a lot of guys who even read this blog don't have a freakin clue... but i won't. that would give away too many secrets. it's about mystery in a lot of ways. and often with women like Christine it sounds like the guys are going slowly cause they don't think they can cut it... in my case it's generally the opposite...