(Or “Can Guys and Girls be (Just) Friends”)

You would think that defining what a date was wouldn’t be a controversial statement, nor a matter of contention. And yet, couples have to have DTRs and whole book industries spring up debating the issue, and the best way to go about it. Keeping it simple, we’ll go with how Webster’s New World Dictionary defines a date: “an appointment for a set time, especially one for a social engagement with a person of the opposite sex.”

I realize that there are some Christian authors who extol the virtues of “courting” as the Biblical alternative to dating or who advocate pursuing “brother-sister relationships” instead of dating. I don’t mean to belittle or poo-poo their ideas, and yet, I find myself about to do just that. Courting is a leftover, Victorian notion. The social equivalent of an Amish night out. Something to be pointed to in spectacle and openly mocked. “Brother-sister relationships?” Suffice it to say that this idea doesn’t seriously take into account the differences between friendship love and sexual love. Or, semantically speaking, there are many things that I wanted to do when I was dating, but pursuing my sister was not one of them.

I don’t even particularly like the idea of the “group date”. I would be suspicious of someone who never wanted to be alone with me. [Let me note, however, that I see the value in getting to know someone as a friend in a group setting, which is typically more relaxed and both of you are more prone to being yourselves. You’ll not, I’m not making any qualifications for courting. If you’re pro-courting, I will openly mock you.] Basically, you can run from the idea of dating as much as you want, but even if you suddenly decide to call it spelunking, it’s still dating by another name. The only way to distinguish it from “the world’s idea of dating” will be the love in which one goes about doing it. But why is there such confusion about the matter when it comes to individual couples?

Risk Management and Deniability
The problem is one of communication, a problem that starts when a date becomes defined by an unspoken intention. Is it a date when two people just hang out? It depends on the intention of one, or both, of them. Is it a date if they are “going” somewhere? It depends on the intention of one, or both, of them. Is it a date if two people are just spending time together for dinner? It depends on the intention of one, or both, of them. See what I mean?

Try this: If a man pays for the outing, is it more inclined to be thought of as a date or is he just being polite/nice? Does going Dutch delineate a non-date situation? Does owing–he pays this time, she pays next time–imply a continued relationship?

-if you are aware of their hand on your lap or shoulder
-if your stomach swims with butterflies when you are around them
-if you freeze, holding whatever uncomfortable position you were in when they first touched you so they don’t move away
-if you position your hand for maximum availability in case they want to reach for it
… you are on a date.

The problem of communication takes other forms. While a women may be thinking about whether or not she could be with him for the next 50 years, the guys may only be hoping for entertainment for the evening. Dating is only dating if it is officially defined. That’s the safest way to avoid spending too much brain time over analyzing the situation (granted, a condition women are more prone to than men).

Defining the Relationship (The Dreaded DTR)
There is a perceived magic to the unspoken, part of the mystery of attraction, that you don’t want to over-talk. Plus, guys are all about deniability. We’ll say whatever you want to spend time with you (“I don’t date, but I do court,” she says. “I’m a courting fool,” he says), but we’ll leave enough room to deny in case the ugly head of rejection rears itself (“Um, I only court certain times of year.”). It’s not like there’s a hard and fast third date rule or something for having a DTR.

However if:
-people ask you if you are dating someone and you reply “I don’t know”
-your feelings are getting entangled in this person
-you find yourself regularly hanging out with this person
-you think you feel the vibe of intent
-you think that you are being treated differently or “special”-ly
(-and at some point before a tongue gets rammed down a throat)
… you may want to have that talk. Things ought to be defined when one, or both, people in the situation don’t know what’s going on. That points to a communication breakdown, deliberate or otherwise. Communication breakdowns are only rectified by communication. When so much is left unspoken, it can lead to game playing, guessing, and is solved only by a DTR. There is a balance to be had with DTRs. You don’t want to over talk things (ladies), but you do want to be clear and direct (men).

Without a DTR, you have the guessing game that is “the couch dilemma.”

What’s “the couch dilemma”? That I’ll explain next week.

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