This is going to be pretty long, because you guys need a lot of help, particularly if you’ve been referred here.
The concept here is that of dating in the sense of “going on a date with someone.” If dates aren’t happening, you’re not dating, you’re in a relationship that used to be called “steady dating” or “going steady” or even “going out” or “going with” except none of those really fit because nobody is really going anywhere with this relationship — you’re just hanging out. Staying with this model, you hang out, watch things, talk, and, eventually, start having sex because you don’t have anything else to do. And then, at some point, you break up because you’re more attracted to somebody else, lather, rinse, repeat. If you’re of an age, this path leads to shacking up, children, and, possibly, accepting marriage as something you just can’t think of an excuse not to do anymore, and then divorce, child support, and your children feeling responsible for your dumb choices.
I say again that this is not dating, nor is it terribly bright, because, again, you’re not going anywhere with this. Well, nowhere good. Dating involves going on dates.
The purpose of dating is to get to know different people, so you can learn more about them and more about what you like and don’t like, and who you do and don’t work well with. Eventually, if done well, this will help you pick someone you want to marry and build a family with. Along the way, you get to have fun, try different things, and to meet lots of people you can choose from when it comes time to pick.
Dating is not…
Before we get started on what dating is, though, we need to list some things that dating is not (for the purposes of this document and anything pertaining to my daughter):
- Dating does not include any sexual contact of any kind. There is to be no contact with any part of a body that would normally be covered by a bathing suit.
- Dating does not mean exclusive dating. That you’ve gone on a date with someone is not a committment that either of you will not also date someone else. The time to consider exclusive dating is when you’re of an age and in a place where it makes sense to think about getting married. Since dating doesn’t include sex of any kind, there is nothing promiscuous about this. The purpose of dating, again, is to get to know lots of different people, and exclusive dating gets in the way of this.
- Dating doesn’t have to be one-on-one. Double and triple dates mean more folks are there to participate in whatever’s going on — the more the merrier. Group dates, where the participants aren’t broken into couples, are also a great option for getting to know lots of people in a non-pressure environment.
Elements of a date
So, what are the elements of a date? It works like this:
- You ask (or are asked) out. Necessary elements of this are:
- The day and time of the date.
- A general idea of what the activity will be, so that both parties can dress appropriately.
- Any special arrangements which should be known prior to the time of the date, like pick-ups from unusual places, etc.
- A request for the date.
- Acceptance of the date by the person asked.
- For emphasis, if you do not have an agreed upon date and time and place for pick-up, you do not have a date.
- Asking out must be done either in person or by telephone, preferably a land line if by phone, and by far preferably in person. Email, text message, IM, etc. do not count.
- The boy picks up the girl, preferably from her home.
- He comes to the door and knocks (pulling into the driveway and honking are grounds to end the date without further notice, so don’t even think about it).
- “Picking up” does not mean that he must have a car, nor that a car is involved. She can drive, a friend can drive, they can walk, bike, or ride a bus to get to the date places.
- There is an activity.
- This can be formal or informal, but there should be something to do on the date which will be fun, fulfilling or uplifting.
- This is your chance to show some imagination and a bit of personality, along with some of how you see the person you have asked out.
- A list of activity ideas will be later in this document.
- Food should be offered.
- Dating time usually crosses dinner time — if not, a late snack might be appreciated, especially if the activity included dancing, skating or other physical activites.
- The date ends with the ride home and drop off, and an escort to the door.
- Chatting at the doorstep is okay, but be respectful of your date’s need for sleep.
- Kissing at the doorstep is not required for the date to be successful, and, if it comes too early in the process, is an indication that kissing is not something you or your date consider special.
- If the date went well, you can discuss having another date sometime, and get a feel for how your date would view that.
The element of surprise can add to the enjoyment of a date, but it needs to be handled with caution. A small surprise can be fun. A large surprise can be fantastic, or it can ruin the whole evening or longer. The larger the surprise you have in mind, the more you should be certain that it will be welcome and appreciated before trying it.
What to do?
Different activities will make more or less sense at different points in the dating process. Early dates are about putting your best foot forward and seeing if there is reason to consider further dates. Later dates are where you can use some of the knowledge you’ve gained about your date to have more fun and get to know each other better. Early dates can benefit from doing something special to catch the attention of your date. They can also benefit from having something to do other than looking at each other and trying to think of something to say — watching a movie or performance, for instance.
- A movie can be a fun way to spend time with someone and build a common experience. Choosing the movie is very important, however. Movies that have sexual content should be avoided, as they create pressure for the date to be sexual, which is not a good idea — the purpose is to get to know this person, not to get into their pants.
- There are lots of forms of dancing, and lots of kinds of music to dance to and venues to dance at. Learning a new kind of dance can make for a very fun date.
- Dinner can provide a very nice place to chat and get to know your date. It can also be a source of stress if your date is self-conscious about eating in front of you. If dinner is going to be part of your date, be sure to let your date know how formal or dressy the setting will be.
- Plays, concerts, operas, recitals, etc. can be a good option, especially for an early date. Judgment should be used regarding whether this performance will be appreciated by your date (and you).
- Social functions
- Dances, parties, dinners, picnics, etc. can be fun as well. Social functions don’t usually work well for surprise dates, unless the social function is intended to be a surprise for your date.
- Physical activities
- Skating, going to the gym, running, hiking, climbing, etc. can also be a fun way to get to know someone while staying fit and healthy. These kinds of dates should at the very least involve letting your date know how to dress.
There are two kinds of date failures. One is when you and your date just don’t click, and the other is when your date activity doesn’t work out well.
When you and your date just don’t click, sometimes that’s just due to a bad day, and sometimes it’s because you’re just not a match. If you suspect it’s the former, you can try dating again. If not, then it was only a date, and part of the process of dating is to find the people you do and don’t like. In science, an experiment that doesn’t produce the desired result is still considered a success by eliminating one possible option. Chalk it up to experience, and move along with as little bad feelings toward your date as possible. Nobody is going to be a good fit for every audience, but that doesn’t make them bad people. If your date is bad people, then further steps may need to be taken.
When your date activity just doesn’t work out, this can actually make for a very successful date if you are able to let go of your original plan and make the best you can of the less than perfect situation. Imagination, quick thinking, and flexibility, along with a bit of advance planning for “just in case” can go a long way toward making this a fun and memorable event, whether you are the one that planned the date or the one that was asked.
What about love and romance?
It’s not very often that we date someone we aren’t at least a little bit attracted to. Spending time alone with someone brings us closer to the person we are with, and feelings can result from that closeness. Feelings of love feel quite magical. Your brain produces chemicals at that time that stimulate portions of your brain also stimulated by very popular street drugs — they feel great! Even though the movies, tv, songs and romance novels tell you that this means you should do all kinds of things about/with this person, the truth is that those feelings don’t make you any more or less compatible with the person than you were without them. If you aren’t in a place in your life where marriage makes sense, then you’re not, even if you feel wonderful and on top of the world.
It is very easy to make a very stupid choice because of these feelings — choices to have sex, choices to get married, choices to do something this person wants you to do that are wrong, choices to turn away from your friends or family that are telling you that you’re making stupid choices because of these feelings, etc. Be prepared before you get into that situation so that you can avoid making choices you will regret later. Enjoy the feelings, but wait until they’ve faded before making any long term decisions (and yes, they will fade and, possibly, transform into something else).