Last week, my post introduced a college professor who gives students extra credit for dating. Because they literally don’t know how to ask one another out and spend time getting to know one another without skipping straight to making out or even having sex. And they don’t know how to let down their guard without a little alcohol to loosen things up.
My thoughts on that phenomenon were fairly philosophical, so I wanted to follow them with something practical. Professor Kerry Cronin gives very specific guidelines for what counts as a “date.” I share them here not to be legalistic, but because they point at some important things: courtesy, and most of all, vulnerability. They also nudge students to develop some relational habits that translate incredibly well into marriage.
“[Spend] 45 to 90 minutes with a person of legitimate romantic interest” (with no alcohol, kissing or sex)
Time together is one of the best parts about being married. I remembered being so excited, relieved and thankful as a newlywed that my hubby didn’t have to leave at the end of each evening. And we didn’t have to make plans to be together, because we just were together every day. It felt so right.
But the fact that you are together every day doesn’t take away the importance of sitting down (or going for a long walk) and really spending time together. Technology has made face-to-face conversation a lost art, but it’s one worth learning. Practice carrying a conversation for 30 or 60 minutes or more, and make it your goal to learn something truly meaningful about your date. Learn to ask good, open-ended questions, and listen well to the answers. Attentive conversation is one way we lay our own interests down and focus on someone else’s, an essential habit for marriage.
“Make the invitation not by text or email but in person”
It astonishes me the kinds of things now done electronically that really ought to be done in person. I knew a guy who was having trouble resolving conflict with his roommates. Then I found out that he was trying to resolve said conflict via text message, and I stopped wondering why he was failing.
And then, at my last job, there was the intern who resigned via email. We never saw her face again.
Hiding behind a screen is cowardly. Sure, there are things that are hard to say to someone’s face because you don’t know how they’ll react. Asking out someone you’re truly interested in definitely counts. But learning to man (woman?) up and look another person in the eyes while broaching a tense or personal subject is a skill that will serve you well in marriage, since tough conversations don’t end at the altar.
Putting Yourself Out There Every Day
A common thread in these standards is that they make the asker vulnerable. They make it uncomfortably possible that he or she will be rejected. And that’s a good thing.
There is no closeness where there is no vulnerability. Marriage means putting yourself out there every day and giving your spouse a chance to reject you. Not that rejection is the goal, but sometimes it happens, intentionally or unintentionally. And strangely, the opportunity for rejection is what makes the moments of love and acceptance so powerful. If we engineer everything so that we can never be hurt, we might avoid pain, but we also end up avoiding intimacy.
What are you doing in your friendships and dating relationships to increase healthy vulnerability?