Asher Witmer

rediscovering Jesus

When You Need to Define Your Relationship being stuck in the awkward dating stage of “just talking.”

Ben and Kim met the first day of Bible school. They immediately clicked as friends and their relationship deepened rapidly as they spent six weeks together hanging out, enjoying classes, and even singing a duet together in choir.

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When school ended, they parted ways. Kim went home and told her parents about Ben. Ben did the same. A few weeks later, he messaged Kim on Facebook and they began staying in touch via the World Wide Web.

Kim had never dated before, she always kept her distance from guys—didn’t want to give her heart to just any ole’ man. Ben had dated. In fact, not that long before the two of them met he had ended a brutally disappointing relationship. Instant messaging seemed a low-key place to begin pursuing a girl again. No pressure. They could just chat, share a few emoticons, and stalk each other’s photos.

Over the next couple of months, they had some great conversations. Kim generally let Ben initiate them, responded accordingly. Gradually, their communication increased and Kim began feeling Ben clearly had interest in her. But after ten months of chatting online, he has made no mention of pursuing her any more than just talking through Facebook. Kim feels incredibly vulnerable. Uncertain about where she stands with Ben, and unsure of what, if anything, she should do.

She feels she would be betraying him if she dated anyone else, but she also realizes that he has made no commitment to her. She’s beginning to feel frustrated.

 

Should this raise a concern in her about his character? This seems to happen to a lot of her friends. Why? Are guys playing it safe and not taking the risk of stepping up to the plate and asking a girl out? Or is this simply Ben’s way of “testing the waters,” since dating has become so high-pressure? Maybe he’s not interested in taking it further and she is free to move on. How is she to know?

I’ve written this parody to demonstrate what I hear from many ladies, today. Obviously, it varies from one experience to another, but in general there seem to be increasing amounts of women left wondering if the guy is going to pursue more. . .or what all their talking was about? Should they have a “define the relationship” talk?

At the same time, I know guys who would like to pursue a girl, but don’t really feel confident she wants to be pursued. At least by them. In fact, I know of about twelve young men who have asked girls out within the last year alone and got turned down. That’s one rejection a month. So, how are they supposed to know if they should pursue a girl or not?

I am not going to try giving a few simple steps to simplifying your relational pursuits. There is too much mystery and fluidity in relationships to expect a few ideas to work for everyone. I believe it is best to talk with people who know you both well. They have the best advice of anyone for you guys. But I would also like to suggest, if your situation is similar to what I painted above, you may find the following pieces of advice extremely helpful.

What do others think?

 

In my observation, people tend to read in a little too much to what the opposite sex says and does when it comes to premarital affections. For ladies, just because he talks with you doesn’t mean he likes you any more than the next girl. That doesn’t make him a player; it makes him a friendly guy. For men, just because she smiled at you doesn’t mean she’s waiting for you to ask her out.

Do your friends or mentors feel he or she has something special for you? Or could the same be said for others? If there is no clear sign he or she seems to connect with you more than anybody else, having a “define the relationship talk” could actually be quite disastrous.

You are responsible.

 

If others agree he or she has something special for you, don’t pretend you had nothing to do with getting where you’re at in the relationship. Whether you acknowledge it or not, you are in a relationship with each other. Not necessarily a romantic one, but a relationship nonetheless. Rather than trying to figure things out around the bush, be straightforward with one another.

Don’t assume anything.

 

So, you’re going to be straightforward with each other and you’re going to define where the relationship is at; don’t go into it casting accusation. Instead, take responsibility. For one thing, the other could be totally clueless to how they’re coming across. For another, maybe they do like you, but they haven’t a clue how to move forward. If you’re the guy, it’s easy. Just ask her out. But if you’re the women it’s a little trickier. Don’t assume the worst about him, though. Perhaps you could say something like this: “I’ve enjoyed our friendship and hope we can continue to be friends, but if there’s not a desire for more I feel I should back away….”

If you define the relationship, don’t send a friend.

 

Unless for some reason your Dad feels he should do something (and I mean if he feels he should—not you), you need to be the one talking to your special someone. You are two adults. Have an adult conversation. Don’t send a friend. That’s selfish and disrespectful.

Explore your guilt.

 

In the context above, Kim mentioned feeling guilty about ever dating someone else, as if she would be betraying Ben. I suggest she explore that guilt. Is it legit? What I mean is, a person will feel guilty if they committed something to someone, but then didn’t follow through. That’s legitimate guilt. But in the case of our friends Kim and Ben, they hadn’t committed anything to each other. She is entirely free to back away, to date other men. She should be straightforward with him, first. But there is no reason for her to feel guilty.

And if she has given herself emotionally to the point of feeling committed, she needs to take responsibility for it and make a move.

Make a move.

 

If you’re the guy, and you’ve been chatting for a while on Facebook (or whatever medium you’re using), ask her out. Our parents called it “corresponding,” which was practically dating. Ask if she would be interesting in developing the relationship further, exploring whether marriage is a possibility.

If you’re the lady, ask him where things are at, if he’s interested in more. And if he’s not, maybe it’s time you slowly back away. If there hasn’t been any real commitment, you owe him nothing. And backing away will force him to decide whether or not he is serious about you. That’s healthy. Staying involved to keep your options open is not.

A word for the guys.

 

Don’t correspond with a girl unless you have a reason for it. I understand there a lot of casual communication happens via messaging and so forth, and that’s fine. But don’t be sitting around your house messaging with a girl you’re not serious about pursuing. It’s okay to chat with her a bit to see if you really want to pursue her. But make a decision—and I mean within a few days—whether you’re going to take it to the next level or not. If you aren’t, stop communicating with her.

It is probably best to get to know her publicly. Don’t play private eye behind the scenes in dark corners with her where it’s safe for you, where others aren’t observing and free to make comments about the two of you. Walk up and talk to her in public. (And ladies, for heaven’s sake, please don’t assume if a guy talks with you he is interested in asking you out right now. That’s just kind of weird.)

Also, guys, be willing and ready to have frank conversations with her, conversations she brings up. You may not be aware how much you have led her on. Don’t freak out about it, just be ready for talking if she comes to you. Ideally, though, you should work hard to see what would make her feel safe and create that before she discovers she isn’t safe. (This is something we have to keep working at even in marriage.)

Lastly, there is tremendous value in going through her authority. It gives you credibility, whether you like it or not. Unless she is well into her adult life, lives on her own, and isn’t talking with her parents anymore about every crush that runs through her heart (in which case asking her Dad first is probably unnecessary), checking with her Dad before asking her out creates safety. It’s respectful. And respectable men do respectable things.

A few final questions.

 

Do we really need to know where the other person is at? God may want to show us something about Himself through the journey of mysterious romance. Forcing knowledge may forfeit discovering what God wants to give us. We may miss experiencing a level of grace and intimacy with God we could not otherwise have. Our desire for knowledge haunts us all the way from Eden, in wanting to know all things, right into our desire for marriage and wanting to know if someone likes us romantically or not.

Why do we want to know? Is there a fear of being rejected? A fear of being used? A desire to control the process of how someone is pursuing me (or how I pursue someone)? Am I okay with being pursued in a way I never thought about? Am I okay with pursuing someone in a way I never anticipated?

The courtship dilemma.

 

Courtship has its imperfections. The Gothard-style approach doesn’t work. Not as flawlessly as it was presented. And many in Christian circles are reverting back to the casual dating that governed romance before I Kissed Dating Goodbye and the Basic Seminar came along. But history suggests that may not be any better. There was all kinds of pain and heartache in the way romance developed before the days of courtship.

Maybe we need to ask ourselves what we’re looking for in romance. Whether we’re using it to find a sense of identity and self-worth. Perhaps we are using being pursued by someone, or pursing someone, to fulfill in us something only God is meant to fulfill. And maybe, even there, God can only fulfill it perfectly in Heaven, when we are fully reconciled with Him.

But that’s another post, for another time.

What do you think? How should someone go about finding out where they stand with their special someone? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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About Asher Witmer

I am a son of God, husband, father, and difference maker. I love helping people sort through hard questions they face and rediscover Jesus. I have written three eBooks dealing with church frustrations, and send out daily posts addressing faith, church and relationships.

  • Christopher Bowman

    I am excited to see you tackling this subject and will be interested in hearing more! I like most of what I see here.