Why Impatient Christian Girls Shy Away from Dating
Different expectations from both parties in the christian dating arena makes it more and more rare that dating leads to marriage.
Boy meets girl, or more like boy meets another rejection. This is how things have become among young christians in the dating environment, believes Hans Christian Kvåle. This year, Hans Christian will complete his masters thesis on christian dating. The problem, according to him, is that the encounters between christian men and women sheldon lead to romance. “With a little more patience, I believe more people would find each other.”
For his master thesis titled “What Is A Date?: A Semiotic Approach To Dating Among Christian Students”, Hans Christian interviews christian men and women between the ages of 20 and 30 years about dating. The problem addressed in the master thesis comes from the place of Hans Christians’s own experience. Many of his friends constantly experience being rejected by girls after meeting with them a few times. “I’ve heard the same story from different friends in different cities,” he says. “The guys thought that things were going well and that they both enjoyed being around each other. Then, on around the third date, the girl brings up the ‘just friends’ conversation and ends things just as they are beginning. The guy is surprised every time.”
Kvåle is engaged and plans to be married to his fiancé this summer, but the beginning of their relationship very much reflects the experiences of his friends. He liked her. She liked his values, personality, and interests. However, her feelings were no where to be found in the beginning. They met several times, but after awhile she felt like she had come to a crossroads. Would she go further in her relationship with Hans Christian or would she end it? After conversations both with a mentor and a friend, she decided to continue seeing Hans Christian. Her feelings followed the decision after awhile had passed.
Each story and experience told to Hans Christian by his friends awoke a curiosity within him. Therefore, for the past year, he has interviewed both single and married christians around the subject of dating. During one of the interviews, a married women witnessed to the very thing which Kvåle had experienced himself with his fiancé. She also experienced a lack of feelings initially when she met the man who is now her husband. After spending time together every other day for 4 or 5 months, she began to get feelings for him. When her feelings came, they then got together and soon after, were married.
One thing the interviews showed Kvåle is that men and women have different expectations when it comes to the very first meeting. The classic first date situation between two cups of coffee at a cafe can be preconceived in more than just one way. “For the guy, it is usually just a ‘get to know each other’ situation, while for the girl, it is most often a date,” says Hans Christian. “Men and women think differently about dating situations and are playing by two sets of rules or norms.”
Through his research, Hans Christian hopes to find out what these different expectations and views drive people to. He tries to be careful not to generalize things, but at the same time he has the impression that the men might be more right on about things than the women. “If a guy invites a girl out and things go well, he begins to hope that after a time they will get together. For girls, the situation is a bit more complicated.” Usually, if the girl is in doubt, she will end the dating period early on. “The first date is serious right off the bat for the girl, while for the guy it is just about getting to know one another. Girls quickly assess the situation and make a decision. Guys have just begun to get a feel for the chemistry and their own feelings when girls brutally bring an end to dating with the dreaded talk.”
Before he began the research for his masters thesis, Hans Christian had more sympathy with the guys’ point of view than that of the girls’, but as he began to dig more deeply into the subject, his view has changed. “I think that it is stupid that things are they way they are, but I now see that a meeting between a man and a woman for coffee is, in fact, a date.”
While it does happen that people in the christian environment can date a man or a woman without having a future plan for the relationship, Kvåle observes that it is more often the norm that christians are looking for a future husband or wife when they date. And because most people do not want to play with another person’s feelings, the day of judgement on a relationship tends to come sooner rather than later. Of course, it is a good thing when we win honorably and with holiness, but sometimes we can be overly cautious when it comes to dating.
Hans Christian also believes that coffee dates give a one dimensional impression and are generally challenging when it comes to giving the right impression to generate interest. “One needs strong social skills to keep up a conversation with a person you barely know, especially to make it interesting and exciting all the time.”
Kvåle also thinks that the skewed expectations and how people hold back their feelings combined together make for that men and women often miss opportunities with one another. If they had just managed to wait a little longer, they could have a future together.
Lack of Language
Ingeborg Ørjasæter, a nurse who specializes in sexology, firmly believes that many of the misunderstandings which arise between a man and a woman on the proverbial coffee date come from a lack of language to properly talk about dating. “Does the man communicate beforehand that it is meant as a date? Or is the girl sitting there thinking that this is just a cup of coffee with a guy friend, while the guy is thinking he is having coffee with his future wife?” says Ingeborg to KPK, the Christian Press Office.
Mr. and Mrs. Right
Stephen W. Simpson, a psychologist and correspondent for Christianity Today, believes that most christians are aware that ‘mr. or mrs. right’ does not exist and is not theologically sound, but at the same time, the myth of the ‘right one’ lives on inside of people. And the first sign that people look for to indicate that they have met the right person is that they develop strong feelings early on for the person.
Hans Christian Kvåle has stumbled upon much the same findings as Simpson. “Some girls have a wish or ideal of having just one boyfriend for the rest of their lives and are therefore waiting for ‘mr. right’ to come along. This can make things difficult for the guy on the date, even if he has the same wish or ideal.”
Ingeborg Ørjasæter, who has also started and leads a forum for discussing topics around the body and sexuality called Ficus, is not surprised that many girls suddenly lose interest in dating a guy, even though it is confusing for him. She says that, “the fear of misleading or tricking a guy is a considerable factor. She guesses that the guy is interested and maybe they flirt a little bit, but she doesn’t want anything more than that. To switch from going on dates to being given the ‘just friends’ talk is confusing for the guy. This is why we need to communicate clearly about our intensions from the start.”
Creativity and Boredom
Hans Christian is also searching for the solution to what he feels is a major problem in christian dating. A good number of the people which he talked with felt like christian dating is boring because it often means just having coffee together and try to piecemeal their way through a conversation. However, inviting someone out for a cup of coffee sets the bar at a low and comfortable place for both parties while going strait for the candlelit dinner sets the bar too high. Hans Christian thinks that this is why we stick with the coffee date even though it often means rejection.
Something which Hans Christian sees as lacking is a middle stage for dates to take place which sets the bar at the right level. “The guy says that he would like to invite the girl out for more exciting activities and the girl usually gives the impression that she would be up for it,” he says. “But the problem is we often talk past each other and end up getting caught in a net of our own making.”
Hans Christian suggests that instead of coffee dates, that the getting to know each other phase should be more activity based. He says, “If you absolutely need to have coffee together, dump it in a thermos and take it outside. Drink coffee together in a park or out in the woods. Awkward pauses are just pauses in conversation when you are engaged in an activity. In addition, there is also something about changing your surroundings which helps.”
Another suggestion which Hans Christian has to help is including more people in the picture. This could look like going to a game night or birthday party together. “This is a good way to see different sides of the other person. There is a larger variation and dynamic in social settings. You get to see how you are with each other in a different setting.”
A Lack of Christian Parties
One thing which can be an extra challenge for christian couples is a lack of meeting places. We are deeply lacking a replacement for the party environment. Hans Christian underlines that he does not recommend the full out party scene, but does think that we have something to learn from the concept. “At parties you can take with an acquaintance, a colleague or a friend. You can come or go when you want. No one looks at you strangely if you take with you someone whom no one knows.”
At student churches, we often meet the same people every week with one or two new people every year, observes Hans Christian. “We often just end up bypassing each other after awhile. We lack an arena where we can meet new people on a regular basis. This is something which I know many people are talking about and is something which is widely missed.”
Written by Karl Andreas Jahr. Translated by Emily Huyck.