Dating within your community. AHHHH what a joy. This topic is SO much fun to discuss because if you are a single church-goer like me you have likely encountered this scenario either directly or indirectly with people inside of your friend group. And the thing is…it.is.not.easy. SHOOT!
Have you ever pondered any of the following questions:
How do you be “just friends” after dating?
Can no one ever date someone that your friend has dated?
Is “guy code” and “girl code” really a thing?
Dating at my church is just too complicated, do I really have to consider it?
How can you go out with someone you’re friends with without destroying your friendship?
How do you get the boldness to ask out your BFF on an intentional date?
How do you communicate that you don’t have a romantic interest in someone?
How do you know if the person is just an awesome friend or marriage material?
I could actually go on from here… but WOOF, the reality is we have a lot of questions when dating in community.
The reality is, a preferable way of meeting someone you are going to potentially have a future with includes finding someone who can vouch for that person. You want to be focused on their character first and foremost versus potentially being blinded by other misleading factors such as sexual attraction, charisma, or infatuation. Which, to clarify are not bad individually but should not take away from the MOST important non negotiable qualities of character.
Dating within your community allows you access to be able to vouch for that person either directly [because you have seen it for yourself], or indirectly [through trusted friends who know the person]. So the fact of the matter is, friends, dating within community can be a truly beautiful, productive, fun, and awesome way to meet people! *yes, get excited*
Let’s get one thing clear from my end. I am not opposed to dating apps. In fact, I have used them in the past. Many times. And moreover, I have actually even gotten into a relationship with a lovely Christian man from a dating app. They are not bad at face value, though, they can be misused in ways or perpetuate a focus on components that are less important in the long run than true character.
Okay so now that we have established that dating in community is an” ideal” way of meeting someone… HOW in the world is this done without getting all sorts of complicated?
Well, my friends that is what I am going to attempt* to dive into today.
1.Pay it Forward with Your Recommendations!
What I mean by this is…. recommend others and have others recommend you! We do this so often when it comes to other life stuff. We recommend people we know for good job openings. We recommend our favorite workout classes. We rave to our friends about the new, life changing books we are reading. BUT YET, I think we sometimes fail to focus on the power of recommendations within the DATING sphere. Chances are, in your community there are many quality men and women [& if you think there are not, I urge you to read Dr. Henry Cloud’s “How to Get a Date Worth Keeping“. Promise you it is an eye-opener]. But the issue is, you are one person and one person simply cannot be 100 places at a time. You also do not have the capacity to know everyone in the world [unless maybe you are Oprah. Please can I be Oprah?].
SO! We need to get to an even better place of being very thoughtful and generous with our recommendations. In fact, I venture to say as a community we should make this a priority. We have a duty to one another to “have each others backs” [1 Corinthians 12:26], and this responsibility most DEFINITELY extends to the dating world.
Think about it… when was the last time you recommended a guy friend of yours to a girl friend of yours? Do you have good guy friends that would not be a compatible mate for you but MIGHT be compatible for someone in your group? Do you know two people obsessed with crossword puzzles that might love going on a crossword puzzle date [okay, lame example BUT you get the picture]? The point is, we need to challenge one another to more readily and more frequently RECOMMEND our friends in dating. It’s time to dust off your cupid’s arrow. Let’s DO THIS!
2. Be CLEAR with your intentions
This is key. When asking the other person you, you have to have to HAVE TO make sure you tell the person it is a DATE. If you are already friends with someone, and have known them for a quite some time, asking them to hang for coffee might not be a clear enough signal that you intend for this to be a date. They really and truly might think it is just a friend hand. Instead, it’s time to get intentional [ahhh I just love this word.]. Something great to say would be “Hey X I think you’re an incredible person and I’d love to take you to coffee to intentionally get to know you on a deeper level.” OR if you want to be really direct [which I hugely love & recommend] you can utilize the word DATE directly. “Hey X I think you’re an incredible person and I’d love to take you on a DATE to intentionally get to know you.”
BOOM. Done. Clear. Intentional. Awesome. A to flipping MEN to that.
3. COMMUNICATE… A LOT!
When dating in community [or really just in general] have to get comfortable with the idea of communicating… and communicating a LOT. Everyone seems to be afraid of this word, but something I recommend is frequent DTR’s. Aka Define The Relationship [If you didn’t know what that meant I am only partially judging you right now.. get with it people! HA, just kidding.]
Now I am not saying you have to establish if you are bf and gf after just one week of time… Don’t freak out on me!!! Rather, I am referring to DTR’s to get you to understand that defining the relationship simply means being vulnerable with the other person about where you are at, and communicating your intentions to them clearly and honestly [mmm it seems we have a theme here!]
My favorite motto lately seems to always be embrace the discomfort. If you can do that, I PROMISE you there will be great reward on the other side. Momentary discomfort for a plethora of learning and clarity. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Yes, yes, it does and talking openly, honestly, and lovingly with your partner can provide that! Indeed communicating CAN be awesome!
A quick final note here: DTR’s aren’t about being cool… this is about caring about the other person’s heart! So, let’s embrace the uncomfortable and learn to love one another better by communicating what is on our hearts frequently in grace and love.
4. CONSULT THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU!
The beauty about dating within your community of friends or church is that… you have incredible people that know both of you who can help provide wise input and direction! This is a beautiful and amazing resource that CAN and SHOULD be used!
Think about it this way: Would you buy a really expensive car without consulting people who know cars really well? Would you undergo a SUPER important surgery without consulting a slew of medical professionals and your family? Would you go to college without at least researching about the school and asking people who go there if they liked it? Would you hire someone for an important role blindly without calling their letters of recommendations?
The answer to ALL of these questions is most likely a big fat NO WAY. Why? Because these are thoughtful decisions that require significant time, money, investment, and even your WELLBEING!
Well, the same.exact.principles apply in dating.
Just like in al the scenario’s above, you are likely consulting both the people who know you AND the people that know or have insight into the situation. The same principals go here. In community you can seek the advice of others who know you AND potentially know the other person too…. ding ding ding ding. The jackpot of all insight!
Seeking wisdom from your community allows blindspots to come to light. It allows you to gain confirmation from those who know, love, and care about you deeply. Don’t you want your friends to be your biggest relationship cheerleaders? I know I do!
It allows others to prayerfully walk beside you. It makes space for others to correct you when YOU may in fact be in the wrong in the relationship. It is smart, wise, eye opening, helpful, and all in all essential.
In conclusion: don’t make big decisions without consulting your community. That will just lead to a potentially VERY bad investment… y’know?
5. END IT GRACEFULLY
Believe it or not, a lot of grief could be avoided in dating if we just knew how to more gracefully end relationships.
Q. Do you ever go out with someone and then after 1-2 dates decide you just want to be friends with them? How do you respond when you decide you JUST want to be friends?
If you have already gone through the process of consulting your friends in community and wise mentors… and prayed a bunch… and you feel certain that you only want friendship with the other person… first let me tell you that that is completely and TOTALLY fine! But now that you have come to that conclusion it is time to put your loving boldness hat ON and get ready for business. This is where embracing the discomfort comes right into play.
Now is not the time to take the easy way out. In general, I am not the biggest fan of texting the person a breakup, NOR am I a fan of ghosting in ANY way shape or form.
Instead, this is the time to call up that individual or meet with them in person and be honest, kind, clear and considerate. At all possible cost, avoid using vague blanket statements like “I am just confused” or “It’s not you, it’s me“. I’d even venture so far as to say avoid things like “I just don’t have peace“, unless you follow that up with some clear, direct reasons as to why. We have a tendency in some ways to blame God for our breakups… when really what we are doing is avoiding responsibility of being truthful.
In my opinion, a healthy recommendation for what you could say might go something like this: “Hi X, I have so enjoyed spending time with you and have had some incredible conversations. You are truly an amazing person. However, at this point in time, I am finding that I am not interested in a romantic relationship and would instead love to pursue just a friendship with you.” Clear. Thoughtful. Honest. To the point.
No more avoiding. No more putting this off until you get enough confidence. It’s time to put our grown up hats on + treat one another with a ton of LOVE and compassion!
6. NO MORE BLACKLISTING!!!
I understand this was a common thing to do in middle school. But alas, the last time I checked we are no longer in middle school. Let me detail out a hypothetical situation for a second here…
You see a guy in middle school you like with his side swept Justin Bieber hair and bright plaid button up and immediately CLAIM him like he is yours. Suddenly in the matter of 5 seconds, none of your girlfriends are allowed to like him. He is YOURS and yours alone.
The funny part is… you haven’t even met him yet. Yup, he has no idea you even exist. He isn’t aware of your impending obsession and yet you are already writing his name everywhere you can find paper. “I HEART [insert name here]!!” suddenly becomes squiggled all over every notebook.
Finally, you end up meeting said “hunk” one day at recess. He compliments your striped adidas and before you know it you’re talking about the latest episode of “Boy Meets World“. You are feeling SO like Topanga who has found her perfect Cory…. and suddenly find yourself day dreaming about your future perfect life together. What is coming out of his mouth doesn’t even matter because everything pales in comparison to your infatuation with his beautiful self. LE SIGH.
Later that same week you see your crush grabbing PB&J sandwiches with one of your girlfriends [do people still eat PB&J sandwiches?!]. It’s the girl with the tie dye LL Bean backpack. OH MY WORD. In a split moment, ALL YOUR PRETEEN HOPES AND DREAMS ARE SUDDENLY CRUSHED. You tear out all the pages in your notebook and refuse to wear your striped adidas ever again. You are horrified and upset, and you almost don’t even know why. You refuse to look at him the rest of the school year. You avoid him at all possible cost [except in dodgeball of course… that is the perfect opportunity to take it out on him]. He broke your heart and your precious little soul is devastated.
This sounds a touch ridiculous, right? I hope you are nodding your head yes…BUT HERE IS THE DEAL. If this scenario is a bit ridiculous, then why do we still find ourselves doing it as fully capable adults? Why do we still blacklist men we have briefly dated so that they can no longer date anyone in our community?
In my opinion, as adults we have to be just a bit more ADULT about the dating world. Being “rejected” does NOT have to be a total and complete hit to your self worth. It truly does not. Listen to me for a second:
You are worthy, deserving of love, beautiful and lovely, unique and amazing, and SO very loved. This person is simply just not God’s best for you… BUT that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have other incredible plans up his sleeve!
In my mind, this whole “guy code“, “girl code” thing has got to stop being so dramatic. Instead of getting hung up in semantics of who dated who, can we just do a better job at surrendering our relationships to the Lord? Can we try to do a better job at LOVING each other? Can we stop being so offended and instead learn to have a deep rooted love for ourselves? Can we start changing our perspectives to allow more space for God to show us what is best for us?
Okay that’s going to be it for now friends. I feel like I have possibly even MORE to say on this topic but I am glad we got some of the essentials out of the way! I hope* you enjoyed today as much as I had fun writing it.
The point of this entire post is that in as much love as possible, my hope is that you can see that dating within community can actually be incredible, fruitful, exciting, educational, eye opening, loving, and productive. It can be a beautiful thing, if we just focus a bit more on doing it from an even healthier angle with the right tools and open perspectives.
So what do you say? Are you ready to venture out into your community and date among your friend group?