There was a time when I would spend hours analyzing a single text message that perhaps contained five words. Other times, I would find myself scrolling through an entire text conversation trying to decipher if this guy was interested in me or not.
Why do we do this? We say that the dating world is so confusing, but I think we cause the confusion ourselves. I’ve had conversations with loved ones who expressed to me how complicating dating can be, but when they explained their specific situations, it really didn’t seem that complicated at all. Scary? Perhaps. Vulnerable? You bet. But complicating? Not so much. I think it’s easier for us to say a situation is hard to understand rather than accepting the true reality at hand.
When I think of the times dating seemed the most confusing to me, it was almost always when the man wasn’t measuring up. And when a man wasn’t measuring up, it usually meant I was lowering my standards. Here is what it looked like for me: I repeatedly wouldn’t hear from him. He would contact me when it was convenient for him, or he wouldn’t contact me at all. The effort just wasn’t there. Plans to take me out would fall through or plans wouldn’t be made at all. What was going on? The simple answer to all of this came in two parts: One was realizing that he’s not interested. Second, this meant that I should walk away. It’s that easy. I know, I know. It is such a bitter pill to swallow.
But instead of walking away, I would stick around. I would try to fix the problem or figure out how to change the situation rather than seeing it for what it was; a square peg and a round hole. You cannot force something that doesn’t fit. If a man isn’t making the effort, if he isn’t showing up when he says he will, he is not for you. Rejection hurts. But we are causing ourselves more heartache by sticking around in this limbo with someone who really doesn’t care for us at all. Because if this person actually cared about you, he wouldn’t be wasting your time. He’d be honest with you and allow you to move on with your life.
So what else is it that makes dating so confusing? What makes dating confusing is a lack of intention. People often date because it’s expected of them. I was certainly guilty of this. I was a twenty-something-gal who wasn’t married, and it seemed the only way to change this was to date. It is one thing to go out on a date and get to know someone; it is a whole other thing entirely when we continue to date someone we know we are not meant to marry. Dating allows us to get to know someone, to start courting and having that courtship hopefully lead to marriage. But, when we date without a purpose, when we date for our own selfish motives—be it loneliness, attention, or physicality—we create confusion. People get hurt.
Being physically intimate with someone causes an attachment that can cloud our judgment, and worse, lead to temptation and sin. Loneliness can keep us in a relationship for a lot longer than is good for us, and when we stay in these relationships, we’re misleading the other person. This is why we have to learn to walk away. Walking away from something or someone we know is not what God wants for us takes strength. Be the strong one. After three dates, you should be able to know if you are interested in him and if he is interested in you. And after three months, if you don’t see the person you’re dating as someone you can marry, you will probably never see them as someone you can marry. Believe me; I have been on this merry-go-round myself. Stop wasting your time.
One question that always puzzled me when dating was: how will I know this is the one? I would pray to God to make this clear for me. And you know what? He did. When the right one came along, there was clarity. It was obvious. But I truly believe it was because my relationship with God was my first and foremost priority at that specific time. I wish I could say this was always the case, but it took me so long to cooperate with God and allow Him into my relationships. To take my concerns, plans, and hopes to Him in prayer and honestly ask Him what He thought. There was no confusion. But isn’t that the truth when it comes to our God?
Before you choose to date, know your purpose for doing so. Ask the tough questions. Do we share the same values? Are there any red flags? Talk to God about the person in front of you. Allow Him to work in your life. I promise He will make dating simpler for you. There truly is no confusion when God is present. He has given us His peace and comfort at all times, and we need not be afraid of His goodness.
Justine DiCarlo, a graduate from Indiana University, is a twenty-something Catholic gal who lived through the hook-up culture and made it to the other side. She has a passion for cleaning up the mess that is the world of dating by sharing her own heartbreaking experiences of her past single years. Her hope is for other women to avoid her same mistakes and to focus and center their lives on what God truly desires for His beloved daughters. She is the wife to a Catholic, God-loving, rock-n-roll guitarist who inspires her to participate in the path God has called each one of us on, and an expecting mother to their first child this August. She is currently living in Kokomo, Indiana. Go Hoosiers! You can check out her website at giveitatwirlgirl.com.