Avoiding Relationship Paralysis

Girl with hands on head at cafe
There's a lot of good advice out there, but if you treat it as a set of inflexible rules and restrictions, you could fall prey to relationship paralysis.
  • Should I date or should I court?
  • Do I only participate in group dates, or do we get to know each other one-on-one?
  • How do I get to know a girl/guy in a non-threatening way without getting trapped in the “buddy zone”?
  • What is the minimum number of conversations I need to engage in with a girl before I can safely ask her out?
  • How many different girls can I ask out without being labeled a “player”?
  • Why is it that what one person perceives as “intentionally pursuing” a relationship, another individual defines as “stalking”?
  • For that matter, how soon is too soon when it comes to expressing intentionality? One week? One month? One year?
  • And while we’re at it, how soon is too soon in a relationship to kiss? One week? One month? Not until we’re at the altar?

Wow, no wonder single Christians sit around paralyzed, hoping that God will take pity on them by delivering their perfect match to their front door, to the adjacent seat in church, or their e-mail in-box, Facebook Wall, etc. To all of you who’ve heard more relationship advice than you can possibly digest, much of it right here on Boundless, I have one final piece of counsel:

Don’t worry about it.

Seriously, stop it. Now.

Truth is, you simply can’t follow all of it all at once. You’ll drive yourself crazy.

Now, is it good to get to know a girl before you ask her out? Absolutely. But if you heard somewhere that there is a seven-conversation minimum, you heard wrong. Sometimes that’s simply not feasible, and how, exactly, are you supposed to arrange seven “chance” meetings in which a casual discussion ensues — a conversation in which you minimize the fact that you are a marriage-minded individual looking for a serious relationship (wouldn’t want to scare anyone away, mind you), yet one in which you are nonetheless able to discern at least eight (out of 29) key dimensions of compatibility?

You see the problem here? We’re making it far too complicated.

Let me see if I can simplify things a bit:

Begin with prayer.

Ask God to help you.

Spend time in the right places.

Church is usually good. That seedy nightclub right next to the twice-raided meth lab? Usually bad.

Ask people you know to introduce you to people they know.

Single people, OK?

Ask someone out.

Finally, if you actually manage to meet someone you find appealing, interesting and spiritually compatible — at least as far as you can tell without instituting an FBI-style background check — then take a chance and see if they would like to get to know you better. Maybe even ask them out on an actual date, not one disguised as a taste-testing tour of local cappuccino establishments.

Be yourself.

They’re going to discover the “real you” eventually, so don’t try to be someone else. If you find yourself developing strong feelings, you don’t have to propose marriage on the second date; but neither do you need to “play it cool” for the next six months just to prove that you’re not too needy. You’ll only confuse things. If you want to get married someday, don’t be ashamed to admit it. If you have no intention of getting married for the next decade, then why in the world are you dating in the first place?

Bottom line, there’s a lot of good advice out there, and a lot of it is available on Boundless. But once you try to follow it all simultaneously, once you treat it as a set of inflexible rules and restrictions, that’s when you’ll surely fall prey to relationship paralysis: overwhelming anxiety that you’ll make even the slightest misstep in the pursuit of a romantic relationship. Relationship paralysis is nothing but fear, and fear is one of the greatest barriers to contentment.

So if you’re a guy, ask God to help you get past your fears of rejection and disappointment. Get friends to introduce you to potential dates, or simply introduce yourself. If He wants you to meet someone special — and for most of us, that is indeed the case — He will help you. If a girl turns you down, try to adopt a positive attitude. If she wasn’t the one for you, isn’t it better that you found out right away?

And if you’re a girl, do your best to be receptive. Believe it or not, most guys aren’t naturally confident when it comes to approaching a woman they find appealing. In fact, the very idea that they find you appealing actually makes the process even more nerve-wracking. So try to at least give the guy a chance, even if he’s not Hollywood handsome and the first words out of his mouth don’t sound like they were written by a screenwriter. That’s it, no more advice. Haven’t you heard enough already?

Copyright 2009 Thomas Jeffries. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Thomas Jeffries

Thomas Jeffries is a journalist, editor and recreational basketball player. He was born on the east coast, grew up in the Midwest and now resides with his wife and kids in Colorado. Thomas has written for several magazines, newspapers and websites, but his greatest passion as a writer is long-form narrative nonfiction. His journalistic adventures have taken him from Washington, D.C., to inner-city Chicago to Florida’s death row. In his spare time, Thomas does a lot of mundane things — none of them worth describing in detail.

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