Dating Advice from a Married Religious Person Who Sucked at Dating

When I was in grad school I had a crush on a girl who I thought had a crush on me. When I asked her out in the library she squirmed a bit and said, “Hmmm… I’ll need to pray about that.”

I said, “Oh, yeah, OK” and walked away feeling like the biggest idiot this side of the Mississippi.

A few days later, while I was studying in same said library, a girl I knew walked by and asked me if I was going to go on a school-sponsored trip to Mexico. I said I had a ton to do and wouldn’t be able to make it.

We talked for a bit about life. She said she was taking a break from med school to take a few missionary classes at our seminary.

When our conversation wrapped up, she walked away and I thought “wow, that was the most amazing conversation I’ve ever had.” To this day I can’t get that girl out of my mind.

And you can bet your ass I went on that Mexico trip.

When I came home from the trip, Prayer girl decided that she wanted to date me, so we started hanging out. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Amazing girl.

Questionable at best to date one girl while being interested in another – but these were my days of confusion.

And I’ll never forget the night I decided to break up with Prayer girl and start dating Amazing girl.

Some friends and I were in Russia working with church leaders. During a late night meeting in our hotel lobby, a few big Russian guys in black coats started harassing our translator. Our trip leader decided to break up the meeting and sent us all back to our rooms.

As I walked down the hallway, I noticed him standing in front of one of the hotel rooms, knocking on the door. The door swung open, the big scary guys yanked him into the room, and slammed the door.  I ran over, banged on the door, and was likewise sucked in.

I found myself in a room full of big, scary Russian guys in black coats, and started thinking this might be the end.

We all sat down at a round table where we were handed a very large glass of Russian Vodka. I drank mine really fast and some of the guys said something akin to, “I thought Americans where wimps – he just slammed a glass of Russian vodka.”

I figured having a nice buzz would help if they tried to kill me.

Long story short, we drank for a bit, hugged on our way out, and I went to bed in my very cold room with a warm, happy- to-be-alive feeling.

Just before I fell asleep, I decided to try and make Amazing girl my forever girlfriend. I made a plan. I would go home, break things off with Prayer girl, wait a month, then ask Amazing girl out.

I married her. Thank you Russian Vodka.

But dating her sucked.

Show Them the Real You

The problem with Amazing girl is that she was really amazing, and everyone knew it. I was way out of my league, insecure, and the author of multiple, super-awkward moments.

Here’s an example.

About a month into our relationship, I started to think that this girl was the one I wanted to marry, and began to live with the fear that I’d do something stupid to ruin it.

One night we talked on the phone and things seemed really weird. We said our “good-nights,” I hung up and laid in bed trying to convince myself not to call her back and ask if everything was OK.

My internal dialogue went like this:

“Don’t do it.”

“Don’t do it.”

“Please for God’s sake don’t do it.”

I picked up the phone and dialed her number.”

“Hey, are we OK?”

Yep. I did that. Should’ve listened to my inner voice.

She replied, “Are YOU OK?”

I stammered, “Yeah, yeah, I’m great…. OK, well, talk to you later.”

Didn’t sleep that night.

Between that phone call and the day she said “I do” I lived in fear that things wouldn’t work out. That’s bad on many levels, but mostly because it isn’t any fun. If I could’ve managed to be myself, we would have had a blast.

But I was always afraid that if she saw who I really was, she’d reject me, so I did what most of us do when we’re dating – I pretended to be someone else.

I got lucky – turns out she likes who I really am. And I can’t think of what a disaster it would be to marry someone who falls in love with the fake me, learns what I’m really like, and can’t stand it. You can’t fake it in marriage – our spouses will see the real us soon enough.

Might as well get it over with early.

Marriage is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Don’t make it harder by hiding who you really are. Sure, maybe hide some of your emotional warts on the front-end, but when things get serious, they need to see the real you. If they don’t like it and haul ass, they just did you a favor.

Never, Ever, Play Marriage

I hate the way young Americans date.

We meet, have sex, and begin to spend every. waking, moment together.

The only difference between that and marriage is a ceremony.

Avoid this like the plague – the closer you get to someone, the less likely you are to ask hard questions about them, to let the relationship end if needed.

As an ex-pastor, I’ve witnessed so many people who’d gotten way too close, saw something that bothered them, but couldn’t get out. It hurt too much. Being completely ignorant of the rigors of marriage, they made excuses for their partner, sallied forth, and entered into a marriage that was much more difficult than it needed to be.

The purpose of dating isn’t “fun,” or “sharing your life with someone.” Your main goal in dating is to figure out whether or not this is the person you want to marry.

If you get too close, you can’t do that.

I know, sex is fun. Living together, knowing that you can bail at any time is fun. Hanging out with your lover, taking trips, playing house together – all fun. But if you’re doing it with the wrong person you’re likely to turn a blind eye to the fact that you might be in the wrong relationship.

The best way to date is to keep some healthy distance until you really know this person, which can take some time.

And if the person you’re dating doesn’t want to go slow, you need to move on.

Say No to Pressure

I have a pastor friend who’s a few years older than me, and single. He’s got some painful stories to tell about the pressure his community puts on him to be married.

I once talked to a mutual friend who accused my pastor friend of being selfish for staying single.

This person’s marriage is one of the main reasons my friend never got married – I’ll leave it at that.

And never mind the fact that Jesus and St. Paul never got married.

For whatever reason, when single people hit their ’30’s, especially religious people, they begin to feel enormous pressure to get married, like marriage is the end-all of human existence.

It isn’t.

And few married people are up-front about how F-ing difficult marriage can be, which makes it easy for single people to think it’s the best thing on earth.

Pressure is another thing that will keep you from asking hard questions. If you absolutely have to end up married, you’ll make excuses for all manner of shortcomings, refusing, again, to ask the hard questions required in a healthy dating relationship.

Be A Happy Single Person

The loneliest, most unhappy people I know are married, not single.

Got any idea what it’s like to manage kids, money, friendships, and calendar with someone who’s not you?

As a single person, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. You call the shots. You call your schedule. You get to spend all your money on YOU!! Why would you want to go and ruin that?

Marriage is great, if it’s done right. But so is singleness. There’s a freedom and power that single people have – they can do things married people can’t.

I can’t say that I’ve done many things right in this life, but I was a happy single person. I put myself in situations where my gifts and abilities were needed. I surrounded myself with supporting and encouraging friends. I drank beer and flew airplanes. It was a blast.

Until I started dating my wife.

Then the pressure and fear that I put myself under changed everything.

And, like I shared in this post, our first married years were less than fun – mainly because of fear and pressure. When the dust settled, we had the head and heart space to become better friends.

Don’t waste your single days pining away for things you don’t have, believing that you can’t be happy until you’re married. Marriage is a great thing, but it’s not so amazing that you should waste your single days worrying about being single for the rest of your life. Get busy. Help people. Travel. Save some $$$. Go after a career. Exercise. Snorkel. Drink beer. Fly planes.

Be happy.

The funnest, most attractive, most interesting people to hang out with are unafraid to be themselves, always pushing limits, having fun, building relationships, raising hell, and learning how to truly live.

And you don’t have to be married to do it.

10 thoughts on “Dating Advice from a Married Religious Person Who Sucked at Dating

  • Marriage is very hard work. So is raising those kids that come along (hopefully afterwards, not before). Definitely not a decision to be made lightly. On the other hand, as you pointed out, marriage – and kids- is awesome when done right. My husband and I have been together for more than 30 years now, and there are times I’ve wondered why I did it (being single was so much fun!)- but then there are the times I wouldn’t have changed my life for anything (so nice to know someone’s got your back no matter what!). So long as the happier times outweigh the struggling times, all is good. Great post!

  • The day after I got engaged I was sitting in ethics class. The professor and I had a good relationship and so he announced my engagement to the class and everyone cheered. Then he paused, smiled, and said, “Marriage. The closest you’ll ever be to being crucified.”

    It’s been a story I recite every time I lead a couple through pre-marital counseling.

  • Well, I never cease to be surprised by people’s being pressured to be married, as I have never faced that, though I am single and in my 30’s (and was raised in a Fundamentalist bubble that I only left last year). It was the opposite for me: I have wanted to get married for years, but was strongly discouraged from it, and my mom thinks I am too immature and self-absorbed to be married. At the church I grew up in, I got the implication that those who want to get married are selfish. (I was there for 23 years, and there were only five marriages during that time.)

    The church I grew up in also opposed college; thus, I am working on my undergrad degree in my 30’s, and my mom is afraid that dating or marriage will derail that.

    Evidently, I got everyone’s share of hearing how hard marriage is, as, at church, they sounded like a broken record because they said it so much. They pressed people to be willing to follow Jesus even if He forbids their marriage.

  • The Amazing Girl story was, well, amazing. The before marriage items you added were too. Best explanation so far as to why not to experiment in bed before you get to that “I do” in your head.

  • What a great story. I learned on our wedding day, through love letters we wrote to each other that were sent to only the pastor, that my husband wanted to marry me the night of our first date. Talk about a shocker. I knew I wanted to marry him after about a week of dating – I wanted to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, that my life with him was actually reality.

    Long story short – His brother played matchmaker after I ended a terrible four-year relationship that became abusive. His brother and I were wonderful mutual friends, but I asked him nicely to let me heal from the brokenness first. Well, my breakup was July 17, 2010. We started dating on September 4th. He kissed me on the first date – His first kiss ever. I was 22, he was 25.

    We wanted to get engaged sooner, but Al lost his job in late 2013, and he decided that we should wait until he was more financially stable. He was out of work for six months. He was hired in April 2014, bought the ring in September, and proposed on Christmas Day. We got married 11 months later.

    Thankfully, we never lived together, although I initially asked him to do so, since I had my own apartment for ten months in 2013-2014. We lived with his parents for the first six months of married life, and we were fortunate enough to be able to buy our house in June 2016. I’m incredibly happy with him. We’re making plans to adopt a greyhound this year, and take a trip to New York City to celebrate my 30th birthday. I’m so fortunate, and grateful.

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