Scenario: Duke, a single man from your church, asks you on a date. You note that Duke is neither physically off-putting nor a psycho/stalker/rapist/killer/child molester/creeper so, despite not having any pre-existing interest in him, you accept. You haven’t been on a date in a while, and you have taken to heart the admonition to give decent men a chance. Duke takes you to Johnny Rocket’s and doesn’t chew with his mouth open, talk about himself the whole time, or forget about the biblical prohibition against fornication. In fact, he is well-spoken and gracious, and he even leads in prayer as he asks God to bless your cheeseburgers to your bodies. You find out during conversation that Duke has a stable, well-paying job, owns his own house, has a good relationship with his parents and siblings, has interesting, non-weird hobbies, and desires marriage and children. Even better, there are no awkward pauses; the conversation flows with relative ease. Still, while there’s nothing wrong with Duke, you don’t feel excited about being with him. As the date progresses, this feeling nags at you. He is a great guy, so why isn’t any adrenaline flowing? You try to figure it out, but no answer presents itself.
When Duke asks you to go out with him again, you say yes. But then you go on your next date, and you still don’t experience a single tingle of excitement, even though Duke is undeniably a wonderful man. This time when he asks you for another date, you hesitate. Do you give him another chance?
This is a question that ties single Christian women in knots. How many chances do you give a man before you decide that not only is the magic not there, it’s never going to be there? You’ve been told over and over in your women’s group at church that you need to be receptive and encouraging to young men who have taken the risk of asking you out. So what if you don’t feel anything right away? Sometimes the best love is gradual…like an iceberg! It’s better to get to know each other first; that way you don’t have any pesky desires for sex feelings getting in the way. Besides, if he’s the right one, God will turn your heart toward this man and you will be able to entertain all of your new, married friends with stories about how you once wondered if you could ever love your dear, darling hubby.
You agree with this advice…at least you do in theory. You do want to give men a chance, and you don’t want to be the worldly fool who threw away a great opportunity and spends the rest of her life lamenting her Greatest Mistake. Plus, you haven’t been on a date in quite some time, and you’re grateful that you’ve caught someone’s eye. However, none of this can change the reality that you just can’t get excited about Duke. You enjoy spending time with him, but you don’t miss him when he’s not around. You don’t check your phone, hoping he’s left a message or a text for you. You don’t wait by the computer for an email or Facebook note. You don’t wonder what he’s thinking about or doing, at least not in more than a detached sort of way. In short, you don’t feel the thrills that girls are supposed to feel when they’re falling in love with someone.
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer to the question of how long is long enough. It’s different for everybody, and it’s true that a lot of women have grown to love the men they eventually marry but weren’t initially attracted to. I think, though, that there are some principles you can apply to help you figure out if you should cut bait.
First – do you respect him? If you already want to make fun of something about him or roll your eyes, you probably don’t have enough basis of respect to build a relationship on.
Second – do you admire anything about him? A woman who loves a man will always admire something about him. Usually it’s a character trait (kindness, honesty, fairness, determination, etc.) or a talent (music, technology, sports, humor, intelligence, handiness…). If you can’t think of one thing that makes you say “wow” even at this stage of the game, that’s not a good sign. Also, if the only thing that makes you say “wow” is his looks, RUN AWAY. It’s not going to end well.
Third – do you feel comfortable sharing things about yourself with him? If you don’t feel that you can trust him with more personal details of your life, or you feel that he won’t understand you, it will be very hard for you to build the kind of emotional intimacy that leads to and sustains love.
Fourth – does the idea of ever having sex with him make you want to recoil, or does it make you want to rejoice? If it’s “recoil,” the likelihood is not high that you will ever completely reverse your feelings on this matter. If it’s “rejoice,” or at least “I don’t think it would be all bad,” then you probably have sufficient basis of physical attraction, even if your heart’s not beating a mile a minute presently. The thing is, if you marry this guy, he’s going to want to do it with you all the time. It’ll be helpful if you think you’ll be enjoying doing it right back to him.
I would say that if you don’t see any of these points emerging after two or three dates, it’s probably time to part ways. If at least two of these characteristics start kicking in, though, I’d say go on some more dates and see if you don’t get all four points starting to happen. (Anything less than all four, though, probably means you’re destined to be Just Friends, especially if point 4 is missing.)