“Dating: ‘He Says,’ ‘She Says’” Ensign, June 2006, 17–21
You pick up the phone, ready to dial. Are you nervous to ask for a date? Don’t be. A lot of single adults are in your shoes. Many Latter-day Saint singles are trying to reduce the time they spend hanging out. Group activities are important in helping singles meet and build friendships, but moving beyond hanging out toward courtship and marriage is also essential.
Dating may not be acceptable in some cultures, but wherever possible, Latter-day Saints are striving to date more regularly. The Ensign interviewed North American single Church members to find out what they thought would help their dating experience go more smoothly. Here are some of their responses.
Honest communication can build trusting friendships. At times, honesty includes having the courage to express interest.
One young single adult, Dan, says if interest “is not communicated, you are communicating a lack of interest.” Jeff adds, “Guys need a solid hint.”
Joseph says a brush on the arm or a pat on the shoulder often catches men’s attention because it signifies that the woman doesn’t feel a barrier between them. And most men notice a woman who maintains eye contact, asks about their lives, and makes an effort to prolong the conversation. “It’s important for a guy to know who is interested in going out with him so he knows where to concentrate his efforts,” Joseph says.
Sometimes outgoing women are more comfortable showing interest and reserved women can feel overlooked, but each woman can prayerfully step out of her comfort zone and show interest in a manner consistent with her personality. For example, Kim took action by sending Todd a friendly e-mail. “My shyness often deters guys,” she says. “I didn’t want him to have to wonder what I was thinking.”
A more subtle approach is catching someone’s eye and “smiling so he knows you wanted him to see you,” Shane says. Do this a few times so it won’t be dismissed as coincidental, “then make yourself available. Wander past the refreshment table by yourself, for example.”
Michael says it helps if a woman socializes after church and occasionally separates herself from her friends. This gives men a window of opportunity to approach her. Men sometimes avoid singling out a woman surrounded by friends, another single adult says, because they don’t want to be impolite toward the other women in the group.
It’s important that women be sensitive to men’s fear of rejection, Will says. “Some men feel a little intimidated or shy and may beat around the bush.” If a woman is interested, “it’s important that she help him feel as comfortable as possible.” Women may lighten the situation by encouraging small talk or by using gentle humor, being careful not to tease.
Women as well as men have a responsibility to try to date, Brandon points out. Even if men primarily extend date invitations, women have more control in expressing interest than they may realize. They can initiate new friendships and, in some cases, help spark new dating relationships.
Have Reasonable Expectations
Men often wonder if women expect creative, elaborate dates. To dispel that idea, women can thank men for simple dates and follow up with an e-mail, note, or treat to say they would enjoy another similar outing.
Women can also express thanks without implying that they expect to go out again, Will says. “Interest comes and goes. It’s good to be flexible enough that you can give him some space.” Even if he’s interested, “it may take him some time to be decisive. Steps need to be taken, and relationships need time to grow.”
Megan recognizes that a date is simply “a few hours with a guy who may or may not be interested.” She believes that if a man is interested, he will express that by continuing to ask her out. Until then, she tries not to jump to conclusions. Similarly, Christa says, “I’ve learned to not overanalyze a date or have a million expectations. My goal is to have fun and be myself.”
Women can have more fun dating by being open to going out with a variety of men. It’s OK to be selective, but at the same time, it may be unrealistic for women to expect always to be asked out by men they are most interested in, says one single adult. Women “might be surprised how much fun they can have” if they are sometimes willing to accept dates from men they didn’t notice at first.
Accept and Offer Rejection with Kindness
If a man seems unresponsive to a woman’s signs of interest, he may have other current interests, or maybe he just got out of a serious dating relationship, Jeff explains. “You never know.” Whatever the reasons for lack of response, “don’t take rejection too personally,” Joseph says. “We’re not supposed to be right for everyone.”
Men and women should try to be open-minded, but once it’s clear that rejection is necessary, turning down dates is a matter of honesty. “I would rather be rejected in a nice way than led on,” says one young man.
What is the “nice” way?
“I think if a woman said she was busy a few times in a row, I would get the hint,” Russ says. “If a girl is interested, she’ll make time for you.”
Other men prefer a more direct approach. “The kindest way to be rejected is directly, yet in a friendly way,” Dan says. “Be honest, explain your feelings, but do it with kindness.”
Single adults can communicate with sincere kindness by remembering to respect each other’s uniqueness. The same character traits that one woman may find incompatible in a dating partner will attract a more compatible woman later on. “Remember that the person you’re rejecting is someone else’s future spouse,” says one single adult.
“Even in dating, we are striving to possess Godlike attributes,” Will says. “That means there can be rejection with kindness.”
“There is nothing more attractive than a priesthood holder who is worthy and acts accordingly by honoring his priesthood and respecting women,” Sandra says.
Delaying appropriate physical affection until attraction has grown in other important areas shows integrity, as does avoiding suggestive media and humor. Women deserve to be valued for who they are, not simply for attractiveness. They are more likely to feel safe and accepted around men who treat all women respectfully, not just those they are dating.
Women also appreciate men who strengthen them against the temptation to “conform to worldly trends,” Sharon says. Men can show admiration for women who dress modestly and uphold Church standards.
Men can honor women by exercising their capacity to lead, Tiffany says. “I believe I speak for most women when I say we want men who still open doors for us and stand when a lady enters the room.” Even more important, women notice men who are proactive, sometimes evidenced by “asking women out and inviting them to dance.” This quality “is what we are hoping and looking for in our husbands,” Tiffany says. “The fathers of our children need to be willing to lead.”
“We know it’s scary to ask someone out,” Whitney says. “It’s putting yourself on the line, and we appreciate it.”
Men can show courage by clearly “asking for a date,” Mary says. When a man explains what the outing will be, the woman doesn’t have to wonder if it’s a date or a group activity.
Whitney respects men who ask women for dates without fearing that the women will jump to conclusions. “Maybe the first time you take a girl on a date she’ll think you like her, but if you ask out another girl the next weekend,” expectations will change, dates will become more common, and the dating atmosphere will be more relaxed, Whitney says.
Sylinda is impressed when men ask out women they’re not sure they’re interested in. “Magic doesn’t need to strike before you go on a date,” she says. “Time and effort often need to be invested before that happens.” Besides, women don’t expect men to know if they’ll be interested after one or two dates—often women don’t know yet either.
Respect Her Time
“A date doesn’t mean you have to fall in love,” Sarah says. “It simply shows that you respect a woman enough to set her apart from the crowd for an evening.”
Women are flattered when men plan purposeful time for them, Rebecca says. But if a man drops by unannounced or extends a last-minute invitation, a woman can be caught in a stressful situation: she may have to say no even if she’s interested or procrastinate pressing responsibilities in order to say yes. “Let the girl know she’s important enough for you to prepare for the date,” says one young woman.
Well-planned dates don’t have to be elaborate. “We’re not looking for flashy, unique, over-the-top kinds of outings,” Whitney says. Sandra believes single dates are valuable mainly because “people act differently in groups than they do alone. I like to just talk to people.” That can happen while going for a walk, eating lunch, or playing another round of miniature golf.
Women appreciate being asked on dates because repeated invitations indicate who might be interested in courtship. Without dates, “you never know if the guy is truly interested in you or if you are just a friend of convenience,” says one young woman. “Hanging out limits our opportunities to meet someone who could turn out to be an eternal companion.”
Women don’t expect every date to turn into courtship, but time spent together invites that possibility. Men can show consideration by asking women who interest them on dates and by avoiding excessive time with friends they don’t intend to pursue.
Accept Rejection Constructively
To men who experience repeated rejection, Tiffany suggests two things. First, “check your approach. Make sure you’re not overly eager or too slow.” Being too eager may cause a woman to lose interest because she feels pressured, while being too cautious may encourage her to move on. Next, “check to see if you may be asking the wrong girls out. Think of how many of your lady friends you may be overlooking.”
Rebecca agrees. “If a guy asks out the right type of women, he won’t be repeatedly rejected. Men can cultivate an understanding of the type of women they’re compatible with.”
Shane waits until he has had an interesting conversation with a woman and discovered common interests or perspectives before asking her out. “I try to get to know the girl better so she’ll trust me enough to feel comfortable,” he says. That may happen over time or during one good conversation.
Rebecca says, “A man can evaluate such things as his compatibility with a woman intellectually, spiritually, and physically. He can consider whether his values concerning career, education, and other goals seem compatible with hers.” And he can find out if their interests seem complementary. “If he’s still unsure or continues to experience rejection, he may consider asking trusted friends for feedback regarding his approach and selection of women to ask out.”
Sandra adds, “Maybe it’s not you she’s turning down—she may not even know you yet! It may be the way you present yourself.” Men can contemplate what types of women they hope to attract and make sure their image is consistent with their inner selves.
Be a Friend
Kindness is paramount when facing the selection and rejection necessarily associated with dating. “Take risks in order to make a friend,” Jennie says. “We all need friendship.” She suggests trying to avoid competitive feelings and adopting a willingness to serve. It’s possible to form lasting friendships—through both dating and group activities—and maintain friendly feelings toward one another, “whether or not you marry them in the end.”
Celestial marriage is the end goal of courtship. So as men and women navigate the waters of dating, they can simultaneously build celestial character. That begins, Jennie says, by “placing faith in God, trusting His plan,” and living lives patterned after the Savior.