A friend recently went on a first date that went really well (yay!) and since then she and the guy have been texting here and there and are hoping to go out again this weekend (another yay!). It’s fun and she’s enjoying getting to know him, but she isn’t sure she’d want to more seriously date him. Which is fine that she isn’t sure yet! That’s what second and third (and fourth and fifth…) dates are for. But she’s also told me that she has a tendency of jumping in too quickly. She looks a little too far down the road and jumps into the deep end by being exclusive soon after a few dates. And she wants to try tweaking those patterns in her dating life to see how chilling out at the beginning might ease some of the stress of dating.
I think this is a fabulous plan, because in my opinion, giving more time to the early phase of dating is a great way to actually end up in a serious relationship in a timely manner. Sounds like the opposite would happen, but the more I coach, the more I find it to be true. Chilling out at the beginning by going out with almost anyone and slowing down the decision to be exclusive will help you find a man of good character to seriously date faster than being super picky about dates and jumping quickly to relationship status.
My friend asked me for some practical advice about how to keep things slow and chill at the start, so here are some of my suggestions. And remember: you get to discern if any of these tweaks would help your dating life. You may need to do the opposite if you actually have more fear of relationships and tend to drag your feet. Know thyself and proceed with wisdom!
- Remind yourself you aren’t exclusive yet. You know how we all talk to ourselves? Tell yourself he isn’t your boyfriend and remind yourself of the other men out in the world. You’re not being unfaithful to anyone. You’re just living out the reality that this is not a committed relationship yet. He’s not your boyfriend and he hasn’t asked for your heart and devotion yet. You could potentially go on dates with other men at this point. Multi-dating may not be your thing, but it can be helpful to keep in mind that you could see someone else.
- Let the guy earn or move up the ranks over time to become your “first person”. Oftentimes when we tell someone about our day or share a story about something, the first person we tell gets all the gory details and then when we tell subsequent people later, the story gets shortened or diluted because we’ve kinda gotten it out of our system. Your roommate might be your first person since you see her everyday or maybe you text your best friend every night or call your mom. When you’ve started getting to know a guy and you start texting him here and there, he can quickly become your default first person without you even realizing it. I don’t think you need to play games or stress over how long to wait before texting him back, but I do think it can be wise to pay attention to what you’re sharing with him. If he’s asking about your day, consider if you’ve already told your best friend about that crazy thing that happened. Maybe shoot her a text and then respond to the guy. You’re not holding back or playing games- you’re simply letting time and your community of friends be helpful factors as you get to know this guy. He needs to earn his way into your inner circle.
- Have an honest conversation and let the guy know you want to move slowly. It makes sense to chat with the guy about whether or not you want to keep getting to know one another after a few dates. But you can talk about it in a general sort of “I like to keep things casual” kind of way. Sometimes it feels like a DTR only has two outcomes: breaking things off or starting a relationship. Turns out there are other possible outcomes, including deciding to keep spending intentional time together without being boyfriend/girlfriend.
- Hold off on most physical touch until you’re in an exclusive relationship. I’m all for spark and being into the guy you’re dating! And I had to learn a thing or two about chilling out about touch and flirting it up a bit to show a guy I was interested. However, beyond some flirty arm touches and hugs, I think it’s wise to save couple-y sorts of touch for when you’re actually a couple. Holding hands, snuggling, and kissing is the best… but it sure does cloud one’s judgement if you jump in too quickly when you’re trying to seek discernment and wisdom about a possible relationship.
- Pray and ask the Lord for wisdom. God is our helper and source of all wisdom. We can cast our cares on him. Pray about the dates you go on! Ask the Spirit to help you discern how you feel and whether you want to go on another date. Ask him to help you have fun. =) Ask him to show you if this guy is a man of good character. Nothing (nothing!) is too small to talk to Jesus about. He hears you and he will be your guide.