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Paralyzed by ‘What-Ifs?’

I just read a comment on last week’s podcast post, “Valentine’s Day Resolutions: Episode 108,” and it got me thinking. Actually, it kinda spazzed me out and got me typing this post. It said:

I’m in that situation as a guy who takes time to decide. I have a very consequence driven approach to decisions, which sometimes hurts in these situations because I analyze the good and bad consequences of everything and try to figure out the what-ifs (you’d think this would make me a better chess player). Even though you’re not proposing asking for the first date, as a Christian seeing dating as a path to marriage, the prospect down the road does run through your mind which can make the decision a little more stressful. I think he could be both friendly or interested, or just doesn’t realize that you don’t see his friendly behaviors as just that and nothing more. As for me, I’ve had trouble lately of knowing someone I would love to pursue who is looking for someone, but she has made it clear she only is looking for an older man not even considering someone younger even by a year, which rules me out being 5 yrs younger and so even though I want to pursue I hesitate because I don’t see a point in acting on my thoughts and feelings. I would say make sure that you haven’t done anything or said anything that has planted that seed of being unobtainable which may be why the guy is hesitant in pursuing a more committed relationship.

There are a few things contained in the comment that merit some unpacking, and as a result, you are now subjected to another dose of Lisa Anderson frankness. Be blessed.

First, in the comment in question, a no-doubt wonderful young man identified as Adam W.B. defends his reluctance to ask girls out because, he says, “I analyze the good and bad consequences of everything and try to figure out the what-ifs…”

Adam, I’d caution you against dwelling too much on the “what-ifs” while deciding if you’d like to date someone. How is that biblical? I mean, obviously the girl must have certain nonnegotiable qualities, but the purpose of dating is discovering whether or not someone would be a good fit as a potential spouse. Women are often criticized for picking out the wedding china after a first date, but it’s obvious from your words that men are also to blame for over-analyzing a person or situation and attempting to project what could happen down the road. Newsflash: we can’t predict the future, nor can we control the variables contained in it. Marriage is signing up for a story with someone, and be honest you don’t know how that story will turn out.

Don’t let a fear of the unknown keep you from exploring potential relationships. Besides observing someone’s character, habits and personality in groups on the front end, any kind of investigation of someone before dating is a weird form of pre-dating, and what in the world is that? I’ll tell you what it is; it’s a waste of time. If you think someone is worth getting to know, then take her out to dinner and call it a date. This is where your chess game analogy actually makes sense, Adam. Making a move every five years gets you nowhere. The last thing you want is to sit in a retirement village years from now, never married, playing chess with an old dude named Clarence and swapping stories of relationships that might have been.

Now about the girl you’d like to pursue, but she apparently will only date older guys: Adam, I feel for you. I think her age parameters are crazy and wrong. Period. Tell her to find me, and I’ll say this to her face. She obviously is working off a “list” that needs to be chucked in the trash. She has to marry someone older? Who says? Lame.

That said, I don’t care what she’s told you, or even what she’s insinuated; if you are interested in her, you should pursue her. I think that’s an obedience issue that needs to be acted upon. Guys, stop cowering in corners fretting over what girls think of you. Instead, act on your convictions … in this case, a belief that this girl could be a good match for you. Maybe she’s looking for (without even knowing it) a bold man to change her mind on this issue. Maybe the Holy Spirit is already working on her. But the last thing she needs is your silence. If you think she’s marriage material, tell her so. Put it on the table. If she refuses you, so be it, and it’s her loss. But you’ll be more of a man for having tried.

My third point is just a general statement in light of the above:

People, stop being crazy.

I mean, seriously, what is our problem? There is no place for nitpicky lists, irrational fears or mega-controlling behaviors in the world of biblical dating. If you think you are holding on to some of these, get some people to set you straight. Picture yourself standing in front of your church and detailing some of the “must-haves” for your future mate. If you would slap yourself or throw you out of church after hearing yourself, there’s your answer. Purge yourself of these freak-fest standards, then get out there and start dating. Find someone godly, responsible and emotionally healthy, and leave his or her age, height, Coke vs. Pepsi preference and blood type to the Lord. He knows what’s what, and will honor your willingness to keep the important stuff a priority while holding everything else with an open hand.

And finally, Adam and others … after you’ve done these things … invite me to your soon-to-be-planned weddings. Because that’s how you get it done.

Copyright Lisa Anderson 2010. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Lisa Anderson

Lisa Anderson is the director of Boundless and young adults at Focus on the Family and hosts The Boundless Show, a national radio program and podcast. She loves connecting with single young adults and strategizing how to better equip them for life, relationships and a faith that goes the distance; she does not love managing budgets or signing contracts, but realizes that’s part of her job, too. Lisa can often be heard at conferences and on radio and TV, getting worked up about dating, relationships, faith and hip-hop. She grew up in San Jose, California, is a graduate of Trinity International University in Chicago, and spent a good chunk of her life in media relations before joining Boundless. She runs to counterbalance her love of pastries and chicken tikka masala, and often quotes her mom, who’s known to say outrageous things. She’s the author of The Dating Manifesto: A Drama-Free Plan for Pursuing Marriage with Purpose (David C. Cook). Follow Lisa on Twitter @LisaCAnderson.


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