A girl's call for casual dating in the church.
by Krysti Wilkinson
“Cool. Want to hang out sometime?”
Welcome to every girl’s nightmare.
Hang out like friends? Hang out like on a date? Hang out like a seemingly normal hang out but then he offers to pay at the end and thinks he turned it into a date??
I can’t say no without looking like the biggest jerk ever - who simply refuses to ever hang out with someone? But I don’t want to say yes in case he thinks I’m agreeing to go on a date! But maybe I do want to go on a date with him? …but maybe he isn’t even thinking it’s a date??
And on and on and on.
In the church, girls are known as wanting a proposal on the first date. We’re assumed to want to label things early on, to discuss wedding dates before knowing each other’s middle name. When all we really want to know is what is going on.
I’ve long lost track of the amount of guys who have asked me to “hang out”; I can you tell the exact number of men who have actually asked me on a date. Which is funny to me, when you think of how relationship obsessed our culture is today - especially the church.
Here’s the thing: I get it must be hard for guys. I get the fear of rejection can be paralyzing. I get that you’ve probably worked up the courage for days - weeks? - and the thought of her saying no is crushing. I understand that you’ve planned the perfect first date, proposal site, and honeymoon location already (…or are the girls the only ones who do that?). When every label comes with such intense pressure, I get not wanting to name things. But here’s what I don’t get: why the church is so against casual dating.
We’re Christians, they say. We don’t date casually. Like a bad 90’s t-shirt, we take “not of this world” to the extreme. Terrified of accidentally sleeping around and other sinful pitfalls of secular dating, we try to awkwardly combine courtship and dating into one romantic solution. The result is like Google+: a good idea, but doesn’t make a lot of sense. We mistakenly think “dating with the intent to marry” means intently wanting to marry the next person you go out with; we mistakenly equate going on multiple coffee dates to sleeping with multiple people. In a culture so obsessed with the pursuit of marriage, we actually are forgetting how to do just that - pursue.
We’ve lost the art of dating. We’ve lost the beauty of sitting down with another person and getting to know them for an hour or two - no strings attached, no ulterior motives, no pre-decided future. And we’ve lost the importance of asking someone, bluntly, on an actual date. "Hi, I'd like to get to know you. Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" This can be said by a guy OR a girl. And then the other person responds with an honest "Yes!" or "...no", and life goes on.
It's beautiful, really.
But rather than actually getting to know the person in front of us and deciding for ourselves if we like spending time with them, we’ve turned the hunt for our soul mate (which, spoiler alert: doesn't exist) into a mysterious scavenger hunt from heaven. Feeling "called" to pursue someone, to a particular relationship, or to a new season of life is much less stressful than having to make up our minds ourselves.
Casual dating, on the other hand, is being intentional with your time …but not being intentional about a timeline. It's getting to know the person in front of you for no other reason than getting to know them - no mental ideal-husband-bingo allowed. It's going to coffee, and maybe not wanting to ever get coffee with that person again. It's a few dinner dates, and then deciding maybe you two shouldn't get dinner again. And then when you explain that, you both move on with your lives. No promises were broken, no hearts were shattered, no lives were ruined
Casual dating can, potentially, turn into a serious, committed relationship. Casual dating involves honesty - "I'd like to see you again" - and intentions - "So can I take you out to dinner?" It assumes honesty from the other person - yes or no! - but without an assumed relationship, assumed intentions, or an assumed future. It's pursuing getting to know someone (as all dating should be), without pursuing someone's heart (which is for more intimate, committed relationships).
We have to be careful when casually dating to actually keep things casual. Casual dating looks a lot different than a committed pursuit of someone, and it's key that we remember that. Some aspects may look very similar, yet some topics of conversation and some physical boundaries remain very different. That's why honest, clear intentions are key in any form of dating. "Hey can I buy you a cup of coffee?" is very different than "I really like what I know about you, and I'd love to pursue a deeper relationship with you".
I’m continually thankful for the men who have asked me on actual dates, and given me the freedom to say yes or no to continued dates. I’m thankful for the people who value honesty and grace in the messy, nerve-wracking process that is dating.
At the end of the day, I don’t care who asked who out (I’m a feminist, after all). I don’t really care who paid for dinner, where we went to dinner, or even if we went to dinner. I care that the guy was intentionally getting to know me - not the Krysti he thought he knew, not the Krysti he might want to marry, not the Krysti he hopes I am. I care that he was honest with me - even when it’s awkward, uncomfortable, and risky. And I care that he is able to keep the bigger picture in mind - if this doesn’t work out, we’re all going to survive. If this does work out, we’re all going to survive. This one, specific second doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things …and yet this one, specific second matters because God’s in it, with us. Casual dating is just another way to point people to Jesus. At least, it should be - we’re Christians, after all.
Krysti Wilkinson eats too much ice cream & reads too many books. She likes to laugh at bad puns, talk about Jesus, and write down her thoughts. Read more at krystiwilkinson.com!
Check out her website on Thursday for my view on casual dating!