ADVICE & ANSWERS: Dating Without Direction

A reader sent this question in this week:

This is not my situation, but is happening to a friend of mine, Michelle, and we are perplexed. There is a man at her church that she spends a lot of time with, and they often go to plays, dinner, etc., together. (She's 30, he's maybe 28. They're in the same age range.) They have never "called" their outings dates, but for all intents and purposes, they seem to be.

However, it's been over a year, and no romantic feelings have been expressed, even though my friend has them and it appears the man has them for her. It seems as though he might just be shy about bringing it up, and Michelle's thing is that she doesn't want to be the pursuer in the relationship. She wants to be pursued!

So my question is this: when is it appropriate to "pull a Ruth," if you will, and also, how would she go about doing this? (Obviously, the situation is different cause this guy isn't Michelle's "kinsman redeemer", but ya know!) ;)

So, Making Home readers, full of wisdom and a variety of life experiences, what say you? How would you advise Michelle in this situation? What would you say to her if she was your friend and came to you for advice? Leave your answers in the comments!


Anonymous said...

I'd tell him how I feel and simply ask him where the "relationship" is going. I think that's the easiest way to get her answer - just ask :)

Andrea said...

This happens *way* too much in our culture, sadly even in "Christian" culture.

My advice would be to tell her to pray, first and foremost. That the Lord would guide her words and say what needs to be said to this young man.

Secondly, just outright ask him:"Where is this relationship going?" Tell him: "I need to know where this relationship is going. If you do not know, then I can no longer keep up these "dates"." And then follow through with that. That is key: *following through.* The problem in these kind of situations sometimes is that the man does not want to commit to his feelings, and the girl does not want to let go of her feelings and stop the nonsense.

My opinion is that she does not need to be doing this any longer unless he lets her know what his purpose is.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Britt - the start of any good relationship is talking! Just ask him how he feels, after she expresses her feelings. Sure, it's scary to put yourself out there, but it's evident that the guy likes her and trusts her as a friend at least, since they've been doing things together for a year. Even if it's not romantically reciprocated, he sounds like the kind of guy that would appreciate hearing how she feels.

Steph VG said...

I say "Amen" to what Andrea had to say. My greatest concern is for this young woman's "sanity," if you will. Not knowing the whole situation, and not knowing the man's heart (or even the woman's, except for what her friend has told us), my most immediate problem is that she is giving him no reason to commit because he's getting the companionship he wants without any voicing of a commitment.

I read or heard once that "a woman should hide her heart in the heart of God so a man must go there to find it." I'm concerned that Michelle isn't guarding her heart, and is opening herself up to a man who hasn't earned the right through commitment to reach some parts of her being. I've seen it all too often, both in myself and in a friend I love dearly.

Since they know each other well, I agree that she should be able to talk to him, but she must be careful not to open herself up too widely. Or, she could begin to pull back, be less available to him - not to manipulate the situation or force his hand unnaturally, but simply because she wants to be pursued. The only thing is, she must be prepared to not be pursued, if that's what he should choose.

Valerie said...

Here are some excellent articles pertaining to this subject:

Not Your Buddy:

Biblical Dating: Just Friends

Defining the Relationship:

How to Get Clarity in your Relationship:


Terry said...

My advice to this young woman: pray and trust the Lord. If she starts off as the initiator in this relationship and it does result in marriage, she may find herself having to take the lead on any number of things that her husband should be leading on. If it is His will for the relationship to progress, she'll know. If not, I believe she'll be lead to move on. I do not think she should make the first move. If this guy is overly passive, that may be a red flag, which is why I stress again that her best course of action is to pray for God's wisdom and guidance.

Jess said...

You said it beautifully... following through is the hard part. The GREAT thing would be if he says, "well, I've been wanting to tell you but just couldn't find the right moment- I really think we should pursue marriage and a future together." But the hard part about making such a stand is that he could say, "huh? I thought we just both enjoyed theater and eating at Macaroni Grill."

So it's definitely a risk. But it's a risk worth taking.

And Valerie,
Thanks for saving me the time of finding all those links... my mind immediately went to "Boundless" too... they have written SO many great articles about women in this type of situation. So thanks for doing the legwork to find all those articles!!!


Jess said...

Wow, Terry- you have an interesting and worth-considering perspective too. Waiting and seeing is an option... but for how long?

Do you think she should move on at a certain point? Should she decide internally on a end-date for these dates if there's been no defining of the relationship?

Should she pull away without warning? Should she give him any hints of what she's feeling?

Hmmm.... interesting things to think about. I wonder what others have to say?


Anonymous said...

Taking the initiative to "put herself out there" doesn't mean that he won't be able or willing to make relationship decisions in the future.

If she talks to him, though, it should only be one conversation. She should take whatever answer he gives and make her decision. Or, she can make her decision without talking to him.

However, I think him *not* saying anything speaks for itself-- in my experience, men who want a relationship headed towards marriage don't waste time once they've made up their minds.

Just my 2 cents!

Kyla said...

This is interesting to me because I think that most women have found themselves in a similar situation. Steph I have to say that I agree with you. My mom used to tell me "being in your presence should cost something" she didn't mean this in the monetary sense as much as an emotional one. Why spend so much time with a "friend" if her desire is to be married or to have a relationship on a different level. The perfect guy could be waiting in the wings.
Terry, I have to say I disagree with your advice.I think that this is a situation where she has to take control after a lot of prayer. I would tell her to straight out ask him what his intentions are. That way she knows if she wants to continue spending her time and emotions on him. Typically men don't like to be rejected so maybe he is unsure of her feelings. Once he knows where she is coming from he can make a decision to pursue a romantic relationship. That will be the proper time for him to be a leader and for her to evaluate him in the light of a partnership instead of a friendship.

Anna S said...

Jess, thanks for bringing up this topic! My opinion is that interactions with the opposite sex are supposed to be marriage-minded; I mean it in the sense that if a woman is interested in marriage, there's nothing wrong with it - she can (gently, prayerfully) convey this message from the start. And if something is unclear about where the relationship is going, they should talk about it and make sure they are on the same page. Because if they aren't, it's a terrible waste of time and emotions - it was for me when I was younger, and I'm sure it is even worse for an older woman who probably desires marriage and family even more strongly!

shannon said...

I asked my husband about this. He said, "I would have gotten around to it [defining the relationship] before a year, especially if I was as old as I am now...definitely." (My husband is 26.)

Seems like there needs to be some communication that occurs on his part. If he is not the pursuer now, will he ever be?

Terry said...

Jess, I'm not sure how long she should wait-that's why her prayer life is so important in this matter. I suppose she could gently broach the subject, but very gently. I may be biased because I think being able to lead and set a course, if you will, is an important quality in a potential husband. Ultimately, I still think if the gentleman wants a deeper relationship, he needs to make the first move. I believe the original question said this couple is in their late 20's to early 30's. I find it hard to imagine that after spending so much time together their ideas about marriage and relationships haven't been discussed at all. It's been over a year. That's quite a while not to have expressed his intentions.

Hedi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mrs. Jo said...

I was once kind of in this situation as my now-husband was a bit shy but loved getting to know me in group settings as a friend. It's hard because you want to get to know the guy enough to know whether or not you would court him, but you also don't want to spend too much time with him without a courtship! Yikes! When I was at my peak of frustration I cried out to God and prayed and prayed and felt like I needed to cut off our friendship if he didn't ask me to court him within 3 days. Needless to say, he had been planning to ask me in the spring, a few months after he did, but God gave him the nudge and he asked me the next day, having already obtained my folk's permission! In hindsight, I would have been a bit more upfront about how I wasn't interested in a friendship with a guy unless he had marriage in mind, but we were both SO YOUNG I didn't think to be so firm.
I hope things work out for your friend!

P.S. I found your site when I was browsing the Families Against Feminism site. I LOVED your answers regarding the birth control issue. I get so irritated by people that say it's "This way. Period." and don't even think about how everyone's situation is different. I'll be reading your blog more often. You have some great insight!

Anonymous said...

Couldn't she send along a spy to feel this guy out? Then she could atleast save face. I know not the most Biblically sound advice, but that is what I would probably do. If it were my friend I would put my husband up to it...simply awful I know. But hey you asked!

Buffy said...

After a year of dating or courtship she should ask him what his intentions are. That's not taking the lead, taking the lead is telling him they're going to get married!

If he says he thinks they're heading towards a commitment she can ask about timing. If he says he wants things to go on the way they are i.e. no commitment then she needs to withdraw and stop wasting her time. If he really likes her but is a bit scared of commitment her withdrawing will make him appreciate what he will lose if he doesn't take some positive action.

Gina said...

I would lean more towards her not being the one to initiate this. So many women complain because the men arent leaders, but when things aren't done in OUR timing, we take the lead. I agree with the comment that if she starts to take the lead in this, where will it end? We as women are far too impatient and think we know what is best. A year might seem like a long time to US,but maybe not to God. Maybe God is doing something that she knows nothing about. I have women complain to me CONSTANTLY about their "husbands who are not leaders"...and yet they do not see how much they control things, and aren't allowing their husbands to lead, and aren't patiently waiting and praying.

Why couldn't your friend pray, and go to an older godly person for counsel. Maybe the Lord would lead that older person to in some way ask the young man what is going on with he and your friend. Maybe not.

On the other hand, if there is no "label" attached to this relationship, maybe your friend is making herself too available. Maybe the guy is taking a lot of time to observe and pray, because he wants to make sure it is right. Marriage is a huge commitment. I think we can force things far too quickly! I actually know a guy who would be a "slow mover" when it comes to dating and commitement. But it has served him well, because his waiting for awhile to pray and observed has allowed things to surface in the relationships that he may not have seen if he jumped into it. One year is really not that long, if you think of the big picture.

Frieda said...

Over the years, I have changed my mind about this issue. My 20's were in the 'let it all hang out' 60's generation and I used to think it was open, honest, and up-front for a woman to ask a man where a relationship was going. I'm not categorical about it (Ruth was an exception, but as far as I know the ONLY one in the Bible! and there were extenuating cultural and legal circumstances) but generally I no longer think this way.

I've seen too many marriages fail because she is the pursuer, even if only by manipulation. Unfortunately she usually continues this attitude in the marriage. Even in my own extended family there have been two divorces during the past two years because of this issue. She put him on the spot with her question; he was flattered, felt sorry for her, and let himself be talked into marrying her; seven years (in one case) and 28 years (in the other) later, he left the relationship. These four were all Christians. There was no involvement with another person; it was simply that each husband had had enough of being manipulated and managed.

If he hasn't made it clear what his intentions are, and she's wanting it clarified, the best thing for her to do (nicely,non-confrontationally, and cheerfully) is to make it a bit harder for him to spend time with her. Don't be quite so available.

If he drops her, he's made his lack of intention clear. If she has the right relationship with God, she won't fall apart (even though it is hard to see one's dreams shatter.) If he has intentions of marriage, he'll step up the pace. A man somehow puts more value on something (someone) he had to work to get! My husband is still courting me, 40 years later, and I surely do appreciate that.