Is there too much pressure on dating?
You’ve talked about it for months. You’ve gone through the scenarios in your head. You’ve gotten the advice of others. But now it’s finally time…
You’re Facebook official.
And all the world goes nuts.
You know what I’m talking about. You have to turn off the Notifications setting on your phone because it is about to go nuts. 300 likes. 200 comments. From people you didn’t even know still used Facebook! I like to call them the Watchers – always watching, rarely participating. Hey, I guess it’s a valid way to use it. Heck, some people reactivated their account just to get in on the action.
But everyone’s on it. They’re celebrating the fact you have now acknowledged on the Interwebs that you have either started dating, or are well into a relationship. Nowadays it’s usually the latter.
And there’s so many posts, aren’t there? “CONGRATULATIONS!!” “OMIGOSH SO HAPPY FOR YOU!!!” “WHEN’S THE RING?!!?!?!” “I SAW THIS COMING FOR MONTHS!”
I always think it seems a bit much, almost like people are having a baby or something else, but I digress. And okay, so maybe people don’t always throw the ring comment in there, but it’s usually a lot of the other ones. And why not? Two people have now acknowledged that they have advanced their friendship to the next level, and are now ready to accept the mantle of “Officially Dating”.
But is this just inviting a world of hurt?
There’s a lot to be said about labels and titles on relationships. Are you boyfriend/girlfriend now, or just friends, or can you start using pet names for each other already? How long will you hold her hand for? How much can you talk about him before your single girlfriends lose the will to live? How much are people going to be talking about it now that you’re dating?
There’s an acknowledged stigma that the admission of dating puts a lot of pressure on a relationship, especially now in a world where exes, friends, distant family, even your enemies, can find out all about what’s going on between the two of you almost instantly. Even without the internet, word travels incredibly fast. Now whenever people see you together, there’s the comments and the little winks and the wanting to see you guys hold each other and some PDA. Then there’s the other spectrum where people are soooooo sick of you doing exactly those things. And everyone has an opinion either way on every detail of your relationship.
So… do you think we put too much pressure on dating?
I’m an avid reader on the topic of relationships – my relationships section takes up probably a whole shelf of my bookcase. I’m always interested to learn more about them from different angles and insights and perspectives. In the Christian community, one of the more well known (for good and bad reasons) is the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye, and the followup Boy Meets Girl, written by Joshua Harris. It’s kind of funny when you see that book and similar books in the stores, cause it’s usually right next to the “Don’t Kiss Dating Goodbye” book by Myles Munroe and other authors. Kind of like seeing the “I Quit Sugar/Don’t Quit Sugar” types of books right next to each other. I guess for Christians the big dilemma is they use the Bible as the principal text for their existence… but there is no section on dating in the Bible! They didn’t do it, or not in the way we understand it. The Bible is full of arranged marriages, or people promising to trade labour or goods or contracts for their wives. Parents picking people for their kids. What was more real to life in a Hebrew culture as centuries went on was that the man and woman did get a say on whether or not the arranged marriage should still go ahead – whether they still liked each other or not, or other factors – but usually it did go the way of marriage. I’m just noting this because as a Christian, I understand that sometimes our belief system adds another dimension to the decision of dating and marriage.
Regardless of your faith background, you’ve probably been exposed to a similar variety of opinions and books.
I thought I’d make a quick list of some of the pressures on dating, and by the end of it, let’s see if we can’t come to a more well rounded opinion on it.
The Pressure Of Others
I’ve already mentioned this one. Lots of people have ideas and a vested interest in your life, whether it is to just live out their wishes for a love story vicariously through you, to try to find out the nitty gritty so they’ve got stuff to talk about with their friends (some people just always have to be talking about others… and the irony is here I am writing about the people who are always talking about others… now someone just needs to write about me writing about others talking about others)… or hey, maybe they are actually there to support you and help you.
Some people are able to have more of a say in your relationship, for sure. Usually with our permission, and sometimes even by negligence and failure to put some stronger filters in our lives. Your parents, for instance. Even in a postmodern society, it is still a fairly common (and fairly wonderful) custom to request the permission of the parents to pursue and to eventually marry. This is usually initiated by the guy, and call me old fashioned, but I don’t see anything wrong with a guy still doing that in today’s age. It’s not as common for a guy to ask a woman’s parents for permission to go on a date – that’s a bit more common if the relevant parties are younger, and a bit less common when people are both a bit older and there’s a lot more independence in their lives. But asking for blessing for marriage is still super common, and how this is given (or isn’t given) has a huge say in whether or not a relationship will make it or not.
Sometimes the words of others can sow dissent and distrust into a relationship. Whispers of what all men or all women are like. Rumours of who they’ve been hanging out with, what they were like in past relationships, who they’re like at home. These things are often important to actually talk out, but when people are just trying to stir trouble, then maybe you start thinking about who your real friends are.
And sometimes they can sow life into your relationship. These are the people you want around you. Those who can help you with your blindspots, can help you notice if you’re being too harsh with your girlfriend, if you’re disrespecting your boyfriend, and so on. The power of others can really build or hinder a relationship.
And hey, one more for single people, but sometimes the pressure we feel is the pressure that “all our other friends are getting married/having kids/dating”. The images of being the Crazy Cat Lady or being that 60 year old man in the Ferrari having to pick up a trophy wife flash through your head. That pressure drives people to tears. It is kind of funny to laugh at those images and things, but some people are really really struggling with those ideas.
The Pressure of It Not Working Out
Louie Giglio has well said that he believes a fear of rejection drives almost everything we do (check out his My Really Bad Date series if you want to hear some of his good stuff on it). But it’s pretty true, huh. No one wants to be left hanging at the door. And so for single people approaching the idea of dating (or dating again), it can be a pretty rough consideration to look at. Or for those who are dating, sometimes there can arise a season where you’re just feeling like it’s not all there, or you’re not all there, or there’s just something. And in those moments, this fear and pressure can take over and cause abrupt decisions, which may be right or wrong.
After all, there are sooooooo many people who get divorced, right? That’s what we’re always told. We’re always told the worst case scenario. We rarely get told the best case scenarios – those who have found the reward of happy marriages after pushing through the rough patches, recognizing the feelings aren’t always there, and even those who had to break up with the wrong guy or girl because there were some bigger problems and huge differences in core life direction.
So, there’s that one.
The Pressure of It Working Out… The Pressure of Selfishness
But perhaps an even bigger fear isn’t, “well, what if it doesn’t work out?”. I think perhaps it’s the fear of “well, what happens if it does work out?”.
How will my life change? My plans will be thrown into disarray. I’m not ready to get tied down. I’ve got a life to live. There are so many things I want to do with my life before I get married! That means I’ll be old! Married people never do anything! What if we accidentally have kids? I’m not ready for that!
Usually that line of thinking indicates one who is not ready for a relationship.
Because dating with the goal of marriage requires the participants to say goodbye to “my plans”, and start to trade them in for the plans for two.
I heard a comment once that “marriage isn’t to make you happy, it’s to make you holy”. While I don’t fully agree with the first part of the statement (cause marriage has a lot of happiness amidst the journey), I appreciate the sentiment. Inviting someone else into your life to share it, to have someone to invest in and look after, to put your fairytale version plans on hold and see where they can fit in with this other life. It’s not always a lot of fun.
But it can be consistently beautiful.
And hey, the plans for two can be even bigger than what you were imagining.
The Pressure of Trust
Ultimately, relationships are about trust. And this is the root of all the pressure in dating. What you’re doing with all the hanging out and phone calls and going to each other’s house and meeting the same friends and seeing each other’s world – you’re building trust. You’re trying to find out if you can really count on this person in your life.
I guess women feel this one a lot more about men, but there are some big questions presented by dating – can I put my heart in this person’s hand? Can I trust him with my emotions? Can I tell her what I really think without her walking away? If I make too many mistakes, will this person leave me? Can I tell him what keeps me up at night, what makes my heart beat fast, and the darkest places of what I’ve been through? Can I share with her my dreams and goals, but also share my disappointments and how that makes that hard for me?
And dating is where you’re trying to find out the answer to those questions. Which is probably why if no one else does, why we ourselves put a lot of pressure on it.
But maybe we need to be real about why sometimes relationships hurt so much. Why we get so disappointed. Why we get so confused. Maybe we need to be sensitive to the fact that the person we might be dating is asking these questions too.
And for those of us around relationships, maybe we need to keep this in mind before we go jumping on people in a public setting. Maybe instead, examine your motives. Make sure you actually care for the people, not just that there’s another relationship around.
So… what are we actually saying here? Is there too much pressure in dating?
I guess it’s fair to say that there is pressure in dating, but whether or not it becomes too much probably depends more on how you manage it. To fly a plane, you need to pressurize the cabin so everyone doesn’t die. To meet a deadline, you do need a bit of a push to remind you it actually needs to get done. These pressures can actually help build or destroy your relationship. What does happen is up to you.
Do you agree? Do you think there is too much pressure in dating?