And to prove we meant it, we’re starting off the June theme with a post that goes right for the meat. The below was written by two DC-area young adults who have been observing and participating in the D.C. Catholic dating/friending scene for years. We welcome your comments on their ideas, but will insist that all comments be respectful. Moderators reserve the right to remove any comments that come across as snide. If you have a personal grievance with the DC dating scene, or all members of the opposite sex, this is not the place to air it.
Don’t Take Dating So Seriously That You … Never Do It
By Jaclyn Weber & Joseph Agnes
One of the most common intentions of Catholic young adults is to discern the best way to glorify God as they settle in to their careers and adult lives. While some go into the seminary or convent, most are called to marriage. Unfortunately, we the authors have noticed a number of important problems in the way Catholic young adults (at least in the DC area, and we’re willing to extrapolate beyond) approach the first step of the marriage process: dating.
We’ve broken these problems down by sex:
- Men are unwilling to risk upsetting the social group norm, and they are often trying to be respectful of the woman by being absolutely certain she’s interested before acting.
- Men forget that women respect strength and courage, and that a lack of action on their part can be seen as cowardly.
- Men do not talk to women about women. They mostly stick to talking to men. And most men are clueless about women.
- Men are often not ready to be turned down if they express interest, and they can respond in immature ways.
- Women expect men to know if they are interested. (Ladies, you have to remember that men are clueless about women, and thus will generally miss signs of interest.)
- Women don’t want to be too forward by pursuing, so they sit back and wait.
- Women don’t talk to men about men. They talk to women. And most women are clueless about men.
- Many women exaggerate the importance of a first date.
Boiled down, the major issue between the sexes is a lack of communication.
We decided to write this piece together specifically because over the last several years it has become commonplace for men in our social circles to talk to few women about dating…except for Jaclyn. And women talk to few men about dating…except for Joseph. With this experience, we hope to shed some light on how to overcome this lack of communication.
To start, men need to remember that asking a woman on a date, or otherwise showing initial interest, will only disrupt the social circle if men allow it to do so. Meaning, guys, if the young lady turns you down, play it cool. Don’t get upset, don’t react strongly – acknowledge her decision in a mature and respectful fashion. Remember, how you react to her answer will dictate far more about your future relationship – platonic or otherwise – than her answer in and of itself. It is just as hard for the girl to say “no” as it is for the gentleman to ask her out, so in most cases her answer is not designed to hurt or cause difficulties within your friend circle.
Women, if you’re interested in a guy, you need to show it. While it may be unfeminine to chase after a man, it is important to make sure he is aware of your existence and knows you are interested. A guy will miss your subtle signs. Men are not subtle beings, and women will simultaneously gripe about this while not changing how they act towards men they are interested in. So be a little more encouraging to the man. After all, maybe he doesn’t want to harm your existing friendship; he may be concerned about the larger social circle. So give him a reason to take the risk.
Women often assume that if a guy isn’t pursuing or initiating, he’s not interested. This is not accurate. Men may not have considered dating you because of the way your friendship developed. Or if you are part of a large social group, there may simply be too many people around for him to focus on you. Drawing his attention your way will almost automatically put the idea of dating you in his mind and focus his attention on deciding whether he is interested in you.
Also, men, remember that just because you don’t notice interest from a woman doesn’t mean she’s not interested. You may easily just be missing all the million-and-a-half clues she’s giving.
Women respect courage. Flat-out. Expressing an interest in a young lady will honor her, and even if she says no, she will be honored by your courage and the compliment to her. And if you play it cool, she will respect you all the more. Actually, this increases your chances of future dating, since she is likely to tell her friends about how cool and courageous you were – and nothing is stronger than the recommendation of a female friend to a woman. (There’s even the chance she may change her mind, since you’ve put the bug in her ear.)
One of the major cross-gender flaws in the young adult Catholic community is an unwillingness to chance one-on-one time with someone of the opposite sex outside of a group setting. We get stuck in the “comfort zone” of a group even though the risk of going on a date is fairly minimal, and the reward potential greater than the risk.
The biggest issue between the sexes is the simple lack of communication on just about everything. We have Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and texting, yet we are unable to talk to each other. We have thousands of years of human interaction and study to rely on, yet we’re too often unwilling to broach any serious subjects with anyone beyond a small circle of often same-sex friends. In short, we must rediscover the art of interpersonal relationships.
To return to an earlier point, many women exaggerate the importance of a first date. It’s like the beginning of a friendship, at best, or a job interview at worst. While it is a critical step to testing marriage compatibility, it is not marriage.
Both men and women could try this low-risk strategy of beginning to muster the courage to go outside the comfort zone: Tell a trustworthy friend of the opposite sex you are interested in a person. For men, this allows the Women’s Wireless Network to tell the girl you are interested within nanoseconds. For women, this allows the male the opportunity to know you are interested, and gives him the chance to muster up his courage and ask you on a date.
None of us are getting any younger, and most of us want to find a lifelong partner sooner rather than later. While our suggestions aren’t perfect, they are intended to begin the process of breaking down unnecessary barriers between men and women. We hope they are helpful.
Jaclyn Weber is employed at the Arlington Diocese’s Office of Youth Ministry.
Joesph Agnes is a D.C.-area Catholic who is involved in the young adult community.