I’m 23 (coming up on 24) and honestly, really haven’t dated a lot. Like so many other middle/high-schoolers that grew up in the church, I read I Kissed Dating Goodbye and heeded the well-intentioned wisdom from my mom to skip on dating until I was old enough to at least have marriage on the table as a possibility.
In large part, I still agree with that advice — I’m grateful that I missed a lot of teenage dating drama, still have no intention of playing games with anyone’s heart, and would never date someone while knowing that I wasn’t right for them. Even so, now at 23, I feel like the advice that once “guarded my heart” in middle and high school is has made me emotionally paralyzed in the relationship department.
Over the past few months, I have gotten to know a guy at my church and have sincerely enjoyed spending time with him, though admittedly, I’ve been careful to always make sure it’s been in a group setting. He’s really a great guy – smart, funny, knows his theology, easy to talk to… and our friendship has grown effortlessly. As I’ve been able to get to know him better though, it’s abundantly obvious that we’re two very different people in terms of personality (I’m a play-by-the-rules, people-pleaser; he’s a like-me-or-not, risk-taker); the value we place on relationships (I’m super rational, he’s not so much); our communication style (I struggle with boldness, he doesn’t); and even, it seems at times, our faith (I love my church, while he’s admitted to feeling like church generally isn’t that compelling for men).
In some ways, I see how those differences (granted, all but the last one) could still turn out to be positive things, but now that he’s intentionally expressed interest and asked me out, I’m finding myself absolutely petrified that I’ll mess up a great friendship and worse yet, that once I do, I’ll only have myself to blame for not seeing it coming.
I’m honestly at a loss. He isn’t the type of guy I ever pictured myself with, but it feels nothing short of petty/pansy to turn him down just because there are some potentially surface-level areas where we’re different – and to be fair to him, the things that might be more serious concerns (importance of church, etc…), have never been fully explored because we’ve only spent time in groups.
My current thought is to trust my gut feeling that we’re too different, say no and hope that we’ll remain friends, but knowing that my default response has long been conditioned by the I Kissed Dating Goodbye mentality, I don’t want the true motivation for my actions, underneath it all, to really only be the fear of finally allowing myself to having a response other than the solid “no” I stuck to for so many years.
In short, how do I balance exploring a relationship that could have potential without feeling like I’m playing games? Am I just being wimpy if I stick to my long-held M.O. until I’m more confident in my feelings?
Needless to say, I would be so grateful for any insight you have. Since I apparently couldn’t get all that out without writing what seems like a short novel, I’ll end it there 🙂
Thank you so much for reading.
dear Scaredy Pants,
this is going to be short. go on the date.
frankly, i’m more concerned about your fear than of any differences you have with this guy in particular. if i had rejected Craig because of our differences, we would have never married. nineteen years later, it is my favorite “yes” of all time.
i don’t need all the fingers of one hand to count the number of things Craig and i have in common. we were even different in our perception of church and legalism and all of that.
but that’s okay. it’s a date, not a commitment. now that you are old enough to start thinking about a relationship, you need to keep in mind that this is what dating is for. take the free meal. decide if you want to have another.
besides, finding someone just like you is bohhh…ring…
you are not toying with anyone’s heart by going out on a date. but you might be missing out on a surprise and a blessing if you live in fear of what you think could happen.
i’m thinking different could be good for you. Craig says that me introducing him to alcohol and tobacco products made him a better Christian. and yes he’s serious. it’s because i gave him an opportunity to see something besides legalism and condemnation. i had a drink and a drag of my brother’s cigar and i wasn’t going to hell. wow. amazing. on the flip side, his sense of reason and practicality is my anchor.
different is good.
different is awesome.
again, take the free meal. see what happens.
oh so sincerely,
what do you guys think? any more advice for her? do you disagree with me?
ever been afraid to go a date and ended up glad you went?