Teach Me: Dating vs. Courting…Romantic Relationships. Where Do I Fit In???

I’ll simply start this post with a confession-

I have no clue what I want in/from a romantic relationship.

Please don’t confuse the above statement with one that is similar to it but is not true for me: “I have no clue what I want in/from a man.” 

Oh, I know what I want in a man…maybe too well…

*Disclaimer: When I use the term “romantic relationship” I do not wish to imply the presence of romance in the relationship, (it may or may not be present int the relationship). The word romantic could easily be replaced with intimate; I’m simply referring to dating/courting/intimate relationship status*

A while back I wrote a long list (it must have had at least 40 different things) about what I wanted in a man. I have an awesome relationship with my father and as he was partially responsible for the majority of things I wrote on my list I brought my list to him proudly. However, he laughed in my face then said “You have too many things here…you only need three.” Of course I was puzzled. Three??? What? According to him the only three things I really need to find in a man is: 1. That this man loves GOD 2. This man respects me and 3. This man has ambition.

Yeah. Okay. I had those three on my longer list…but um, I’m looking for a little more than that…I’m talking nice teeth, large hands, 6’0 or taller…I’m sorry is that, is that shallow??? Lol oh okay sorry, um, :clears throat: I digress…The moral of that story is I ditched the list but not those three things. (Love you Pops!) However, it would be remiss of me to continue without telling you that I still have a few other things that I’m looking for in a man. The majority of these added things are not physical traits and honestly they can fall under the larger umbrella of loving God. I’m only interested in a man who can be honest. A man of character and integrity. I could go on but I won’t the point is knowing what I want in a man is not the problem.

**And let me say this lists are lists and people are people. A list is just that…a list. It’s written. It’s two dimensional. It’s dead. It’s static. It’s fantasy. It has no life or personality. It’s limited. You cannot marry or date a list. People are much more complicated and they are quite alive and they change (sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse). Men like women are wonderful and imperfect. People can never be reduced to a list and they shouldn’t have to deal with being reduced to one either! :steps down from soapbox:**

That I know. Dating??? Courting??? Romantic relationships??? Yeah…not even the slightest clue. First of all, am I totally to blame? I don’t think so. With all these different terms out there: dating, courting, talking, booed up, in a relationship, it’s complicated, in an open relationship – am I totally to blame for not knowing what I should be doing or how I should be going about it? What does all that even mean!?! And if they all mean something different why is that acceptable??? Ugh. It’s annoying! I’m going to move on.

I don’t know what the ideal romantic relationship looks like. Even as a Christian I’m not sure what’s acceptable. Am I allowed to have options? Is it okay to be interested in more than one person? If so, can I go on a date with more than one person, in order to get to know each of them better??? At just about 22 I haven’t had a serious relationship since my first semester of college and I haven’t gone on very many dates (<- Awww. that looks so sad in writing lol) At least I don’t think I’ve gone on many dates…what makes a date a date??? I’m so confused.

Maybe it’s time to bring up some hypothetical situations: T, Y, L are three different people who are interested in you and consequently you’re interested in them. It’s all innocent. You haven’t gone out on an official date with either of them but there have been times where you’ve kicked it with each of them separately. You’re friends. All of a sudden all three of them want to go on an official date. Can you go out with all three of them?

Now let’s say “L” and you really hit it off. You two don’t talk everyday but when you do talk the conversation is good. You certainly don’t refer to “L” as your boyfriend/girlfriend, man/lady (or whatever other titles are being used these days) but you find yourself holding hands with this person, maybe even kissing them – what does that mean??? Is that acceptable? Or are you two simply using each other because both of you are getting something out of it?

Then Let’s say “T” has good conversation too. You talk to T more than you talk to L. Even though things seem to be progressing with L you still want to talk to T and get to know T and who knows maybe you’ll even decide to pursue something with T. Is that wrong???

I understand the concept of courtship. It is dating with the intention to be married. It’s basically, if I’ve got this right, the step in between getting to know each other and getting engaged. Right??? Do courting couples need titles??? I really need to know how important titles are in romantic relationships.

Do people have to know you’re a couple before you get engaged? Is it rude to introduce your romantic interest as “my friend”?

As a Christian, I’d like to do things the right[eous] way.

I must confess that the idea of “dating” more than one person intrigues me, perhaps because I’ve no experience whatsoever with that. Even so, that still seems rather shallow and I’d like to be able to commit and know that I’m investing in something and someone worthwhile. I don’t think it would work out very well for me if I thought I was with someone “unofficially” and then all of a sudden they’re marrying someone else. It’s all fun and games til someone gets married. I suppose that’s why it’s important to be on the same page.

How public should a romantic relationship be? I believe in privacy of course but I don’t believe in being someone’s secret. That’s a red flag, I think. But then again what do I know. Really???

Teach me!

What’s your opinion of what an ideal relationship looks like? How should romantic relationships play out on social network sites??? (<- is that a random question, oh well, I’m interested in the answer nonetheless). Where does the fun end and the work begin? I know that real romantic relationships especially courtships take effort to work. I suppose that’s a starting point, realizing that romantic relationships (REAL romantic relationships, or romantic relationships that are done right) probably require more giving than taking.

From what I know I think I’d like to know that when I’m in a relationship it’s a committed one, one where I am able to be vulnerable, one where I’m able to give of myself completely and not be worried that I’m sowing the wrong seed or sowing in the wrong soil, one where I am a better person for being in it and accomplishing more than I would if I were still single. Most importantly I’d want to know that GOD is pleased and that my relationship is a light to others around me. Ultimately it needs to lead to marriage and marriage is a ministry. 

Does that mean I’m not interested in dating around at all??? Honestly…I don’t know. I don’t really see myself doing that but then again that was never an issue because I was never placed in that position. So is it wrong??? A person who dates around, are they exploring their options or doing too much??? Where does one draw the line? Thoughts and comments please. Teach me!!

Wishing you success in every area including your romantic relationships. If you have a dating/marriage relationship that works for you then: Share the wealth and Spread the light.&.love

Blessings all.

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4 thoughts on “Teach Me: Dating vs. Courting…Romantic Relationships. Where Do I Fit In???”

  1. I’m so excited about this post because there is a lot to address here. I’m sorry this is SO long, but I couldn’t help myself.

    First and foremost, those “three things” perfectly describe the man you should be looking for. It is crucial that you find a man that, above all else, loves Him. Under that, he needs to respect you and cherish you (and your flaws), and he needs to have his own life in order. Those three things should always be deal breakers for you! It’s how I gauge whether or not I even want to START considering dating someone! You don’t need a man who’s unsure or shaky in his faith. You don’t need a man who ever raises his voice to you or talks down to you. You don’t need a man who’s going to leech off of you or others around him. Deal breakers, Cara-Marie!!

    As for dating more than one person: I believe that this is a completely innocent aspect of human nature. This is where the difference between “dating” and “in a relationship” occurs. Though I’m not big on titles, they have the ability to keep the air clear between the two involved. “Dating” someone refers to the non-exclusive (unless otherwise determined in advance), casual relationship between two people that consider each other a possible mate. “Courting” takes place before “dating”, but may also continue into the “dating” stage. I don’t think it’s taboo to date more than one person at once. After all, the whole point of dating is to figure out who this person is and how they mesh with you. The fine line between “dating” and “in a relationship” lies within a complicated cacophony of different things: emotions, behaviors, and sexual interest.

    When you consciously begin to have the thought that things are “going somewhere” with your “mate” outside the realm of simply hanging out or taking them out with friends, it’s time to consider having a conversation about your feelings.

    A little further than that: there is also a fine line between what are acceptable behaviors and acceptable intimacies in a “dating” relationship vs an actual relationship. I would be hard-pressed to say that I (and most of the world) have not violated this distinction, but that is why it’s number (2) and (3) on the list, and not number (1). FIRST, you must have “feelings”, then the following two can govern whether you’re just hooking up, or “dating”, or “in a relationship”.

    So once you have finally settled into the idea (and discussed with your partner) that you’re having more feelings for them (i.e. you want them to take you out, pay for you, kiss you, hold you, etc.) rather than just wanting to be friends or “hang out” and have a chill time, you’re free to analyze the second and third point in this sequence.

    Acceptable behaviors and intimacies….these are difficult. I believe that there are innocent behaviors and such that do not necessarily commit you to being “in a relationship”. These include things like hand holding, pop kisses (whether on the cheek or on the lips), and putting your arm around someone. I would even go as far as saying that the latter do NOT have to be reserved for one person (if you’re going on “dates” or “getting to know” more than one person). Intimate behavior should, however, only be reserved for the ONE person you have intentions of being in a relationship with, or are “in a relationship” with. (This works for someone who is experienced. You, however, should probably wait until you’re ACTUALLY in a relationship to hit this point so you don’t confuse your feelings with your intentions.) You will DEFINITELY notice the difference between innocent and intimate when it happens!

    As far as titles and introductions go, it’s best to never put a label on your mate unless you’ve had that conversation in advance. I typically introduce someone I’m “dating” by using their name instead of muddying the waters. “This is Fabio” is a lot cleaner than “This is a guy that I’m dating, Fabio”. If the person makes a comment about whether or not you and “Fabio” are together while both of you are present, they obviously don’t have any manners. But! If he doesn’t interject first, it is acceptable to say that you’re not sure, or that you guys are just friends. After that encounter, take the time to address it privately with the other person to determine, in fact, where you two are so as not to have an awkward situation like that happen again.

    Oh, and a word of advice: don’t say “I will marry you” to someone who hasn’t previously made it known that you two are “in a relationship”! A man must be able to own up to his decisions, which includes being with you. Social networking announcements are unimportant (I personally like them because it lets people know that I am unavailable without having to make things awkward for someone who may, at that time, be interested in me). What IS important is that your mate has been “man enough” to have that conversation with you; especially if he’s a man of God. You want someone who has a clear picture of where you two are headed. In the very least, he should be able to make it clear that he doesn’t know exactly where you two are headed, but can confess that he has feelings for you that are a) NOT merely sexually motivated and b) beyond that of friendship.

    And finally, NOT wanting to settle for someone, or not wanting to be in a casual relationship does not mean that you’re not interest in dating. What it means is that you are 1) looking out for your heart and 2) being aware of what GOD wants for your heart. Keep up your walls until God shows you that someone is worthy of your vulnerability. While it DOESN’T always work out when you do allow yourself to be vulnerable, He always has something very important to teach you from these experiences. Do not dismiss these absolutely necessary learning opportunities!! You do not want to be naïve when you enter into something more seriously like marriage (this is why manipulative people prey on people like you!). Use your discernment to figure out whether or not someone could be good for you (i.e. they must fit the 3 criteria you mentioned). If they don’t live up to the three basic expectations, GET OUT of it immediately. Know that you can not change them; only they can change them. But more often then not, they simply won’t. Then, pray and allow God to speak to your good judgment. Lastly, have a conversation with your mate! There is nothing more important than communication in a relationship. If you can’t talk about the sticky stuff while things are developing, don’t expect it to get any easier.

    I LOVE YOU! And I hope this made it a little clearer. God is so good!!

    Like

    1. I am SO sorry for the delayed response…but I’m absolutely elated that I finally had the chance to sit down and take this all in.

      First of all I don’t mind the length of your comment At ALL. I’m thrilled that you had so much to say. All very interesting and valuable. I think its a very interesting subject and I wish I could have a few more people chime in especially about dating more than one person because I know other views exist and I of course wonder why they do.

      So let me respond to some of the things you said…

      You mentioned “sexual interest” how important of a factor is that when it comes to entering into a relationship and ultimately marriage…what exactly is sexual interest? Is it based merely on physical attraction? Can I be sexually interested in someone I don’t find physically attractive??

      I literally lol-ed at the part where you said “it’s time to consider having a conversation about your feelings.” I tend to avoid talking about how I feel because I feel like I’m such an extremist. I have yet to find the balance between being overly emotional and totally indifferent. However, I am learning that it’s important to speak up and to speak plainly because it brings clarity and people aren’t mind-readers! Go figure. LOL

      “…the difference between innocent and intimate when it happens!” <- I LOVE how you put that.

      "Oh, and a word of advice: don’t say “I will marry you” to someone who hasn’t previously made it known that you two are 'in a relationship!'" – Yeap…that's pretty sound advice right there. I agree.

      "You want someone who has a clear picture of where you two are headed. In the very least, he should be able to make it clear that he doesn’t know exactly where you two are headed, but can confess that he has feelings for you that are a) NOT merely sexually motivated and b) beyond that of friendship." Oh.my.goodness – this is perhaps my favorite part of your entire response…I think it takes a real man to confess that he might not know where a relationship is going but he'd like the opportunity to see where God is leading. Personally I don't think that's too much to ask. Like you said it's important that a man have it together and one way he can prove he has it together to some extent IS by in fact acknowledging that "I don't have it altogether yet." If he's in denial then that's a problem. Same thing goes for women though. A woman should be woman enough to turn down the invitation to being in a relationship or even marriage if she knows she's not ready.

      "While it DOESN’T always work out when you do allow yourself to be vulnerable, He always has something very important to teach you from these experiences. Do not dismiss these absolutely necessary learning opportunities!!" I've learned that vulnerability is more for us than the people we're being vulnerable with. What you said was very important there is a lesson to be learned even when it doesn't work out!

      "If you can’t talk about the sticky stuff while things are developing, don’t expect it to get any easier." This is something I'll be sure to keep in mind.

      Thank you so so much for taking the time out to not only read but respond the way you did. I don't take it lightly.

      You're amazing. Our GOD is way awesome and I love you too 🙂

      Like

  2. “what exactly is sexual interest? Is it based merely on physical attraction? Can I be sexually interested in someone I don’t find physically attractive??”

    Physical attraction and sexual interest are relatively distinct categories. Unfortunately, the two are used interchangeably. Physical attraction is the surface level attraction that we each have for another person. For example, I like guys that are heavier, but not too overweight/suffocating me (lol). I like a little bit of facial hair, but not a full beard. I like dark hair. I like colored eyes. All of that is pure lust and not everyone has these same interests. I can be physically attracted to any one who has these phenotypic characteristics and still not want to do anything with them. Rather, I can acknowledge their beauty and move on.

    This also rings true for men. I’ve caught myself wondering, “What does he see in her??”, but then remember that physical attraction is definitely subjective. While some guys may be into skinny, bony, frail women (which we think is shallow, but really, it’s just what he’s attracted to), others may be attracted to thick, busty women. Some may even have merely one or two physical requirements (i.e. you could have a busted face, but if the guy likes your hips or legs or whatever, you’re golden).

    Sexual interest, however, is the second level to attraction. Once the person in question has positively contributed to your search for physical attraction, it is then up to your discretion to decide whether or not you can be sexually interested (it’s a conscious choice). This part of the process includes personality characteristics that are appealing to you. The hard part about this step is that you have to KNOW (or at least have some idea) what you’re looking for. This comes with knowing yourself and acknowledging things that are not necessarily positive. For example, I like guys who are a little nerdy, despite me always making fun of things that are nerdy. I love intellect and wit. I like guys who can pick fun at me, but also know when to turn up the charm (this is where you often hear the phrase “Nice guys finish last”. Though it’s not terribly positive for me to be made fun of/picked on the majority of the time, I don’t want a guy to be too mushy/sensitive/obsessive. It’s a turn off). If a guy, who has already passed the “physical attraction” part of the process, has these personality characteristics that I’m looking for, I am then able to consider him a possible mate, and therefore, my mind allows me to be sexually interested in him.

    So to answer your last question: NO you can’t be sexually interested in someone you’re not physically attracted to.

    Hope this helps!

    Like

    1. You’re so knowledgeable on this subject…
      I love it!!
      Indeed this helps a lot. I never paid attention to the fact that there have been many guys that I have been physically attracted to but not necessarily interested with being with them, even on a sexual level…
      I think the term that’s common today is “eye candy”
      I like you better at a distant but if I got to know you…you wouldn’t be my type.

      Thanks again for sharing my love. I appreciate it 🙂

      Like

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