Those who have listened to my podcasts will have heard me use this phrase. And since I talk about it so much I figured I should probably explain myself, even though I know I’m risking the general ire of my male audience.
What I mean by this is that some men (especially in the Catholic world) treat the prospect of asking a girl out with the weight and meaning of a marriage proposal.
Think I’m exaggerating? I know two guys who spent three years working up the guts to ask a girl out, and another who spent a year finding out everything he could about a lady and speaking to anyone who knew her for intel before asking.
Not only does this attitude treat the prospect of a coffee with the gravity of a life-altering situation, it seems almost certainly doomed to fail, for a few reasons:
- It’s unappealing. When you’ve put your hopes and dreams behind a yes-or-no question, it’s already way too charged. Women are intuitive and they sense this. We get it’s personal and you’re putting yourself out there, but when you’re treating it far more seriously than we are, that makes for an automatic turn-off.
- It puts too much pressure on the woman, for the same reasons as above. You’re putting your deepest hopes and dreams on someone – that’s too much pressure for anyone! And it’s virtually impossible to fulfil.
- It also puts too much power in the hands of the woman; and if she’s petty or mean-spirited she might just hurt you far more than you otherwise would be, perhaps through careless speech or because she wants to feel better about herself by putting you down. In short – you’re more likely to get hurt.
- Even if she says yes but isn’t interested in a second or third date, you’re still going to be more hurt than you would be, perhaps even more so since your hopes would probably have grown by your initial success.
I once said yes to a date with a guy who had been interested in me for years. I’d already turned him down once but he asked again a few years later. I said yes the second time, which was probably a mistake. However, I sensed he wasn’t willing or able to let the prospect of going out with me die so I decided to go on one date.
Nothing in my feelings changed towards him, and when he asked me on a second date, I explained that I just wasn’t interested – but he wouldn’t let it go. He spent a solid 45 minutes batting away my arguments and trying to convince me to go out with him a second time, and I finally relented because he wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Despite my clear reticence, he was buoyed by his success, and took it very much to heart when I explained to him (again) after Date 2 that I just wanted to remain friends.
Now this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. All the signs were there – my initial rejection, my reluctance, my stated lack of interest and subsequent rejection – and yet he’d built up the idea of me in his mind to such an extent that when I finally made it completely clear that I wouldn’t go out with him again, he couldn’t deal with it.
In the end I think he got hurt far, far worse than he would have if he hadn’t built up the idea of asking me out to such an extent.
Now, I know it isn’t easy asking a girl out. I know you often (if not always) put your heart on the line and risk a not-insignificant amount of pain if you’re rejected. But there’s also no reward without risk.
Putting yourself out there, making yourself vulnerable, is a very good thing. We wouldn’t grow as human beings if we didn’t do this. Incidentally, Brené Brown has some really good talks on this. She’s definitely on the left politically but what she has to say about courage and vulnerability is solid gold.
To quote a point the hosts made on the episode I did for This Catholic Life, if a man can’t display courage and vulnerability in asking a girl out, how can he expect to protect his family later on when necessary? Displaying this kind of courage is a signal to a woman that you’re prepared to take care of her.
Sure, she might turn you down, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t appreciate that you asked. It could just be that she doesn’t think you’re compatible, or maybe she’s interested in someone else, or maybe she’s been advised to stay single for a time, or a thousand other reasons. I won’t say don’t take it personally, because it is. But try not to take it too much to heart, either.
Now, it’s not okay for women to be mean, condescending or dismissive in turning you down either. This shows an immaturity and a smallness of spirit, and honestly, you should thank your lucky stars you dodged that bullet, even if it really hurts at the time.
So how should you approach dating (or courting, if that’s more your bent)?
Like it’s not a big deal. Because it’s not.
It’s a cup of coffee. Or a meal at a restaurant. Or a few hours at a festival. That’s it.
Here’s a rule of thumb: if you’re attracted to a single young lady, get to know her and, if you think you’ve got a shot, ask her out as soon as it’s appropriate (i.e. not the first time you speak to her).
How do you know if you’ve got a shot? This one is tricky. Generally, if she remains willingly in your conversation for more than five or ten minutes, that’s a good sign. If you find yourself talking to her one-on-one often, that’s another good sign. If she frequently engages you in conversation, that’s a very good sign.
If a woman enjoys a man’s company, she will generally linger. If women are not interested they will usually try to leave the conversation by making excuses, e.g. about needing to use the bathroom, or speak to a friend, or that she needs to go.
If this happens every time you speak to her, it’s likely not a good sign.
But once you’ve ascertained that you might have a shot, don’t procrastinate. Ask her out before you have time to get too attached to the idea of going out with/courting her. Then if she says no, it won’t hurt nearly as much – and you’ll have a better chance of success if you come across mild rather than intense.
Just remember that it’s not a big deal if she says no. She may come round, she may not. Ultimately it’s all in God’s hands. Put yourself out there, but also remember to trust in Him. Because at the end of the day, that’s what is most important.