Beyond the Dinner Date

Beyond the Dinner Date

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I enjoyed reading Ashley's post "Bring Back the Dinner Date." I know I felt similar frustrations during my single years. The group hang-outs, Facebook and text message flirtations, and ambiguous coffee dates got old, and caused a lot of heartache.

I admit, the times I got a straight-forward date offer were refreshing ... but not necessarily easier. There were basically four ways a first date could go:

1. We both liked each other and wanted to go on more dates. (The way we probably both HOPED it would go.)

2. The guy enjoyed spending time with me and wanted a second date, but I did not reciprocate.

3. I enjoyed spending time with the guy and hoped he would ask me on a second date, but he did not reciprocate.

4. We both had a terrible time on the date and were totally fine with never spending time together again.

As you can see, two of these four outcomes introduce a whole new set of problems. Back in the 1950s (or whenever going on dates became vogue) a girl could go on a dinner date with a different guy every Saturday night, and it was no biggie. But those days are gone. Now a date — even a first date — means something. And a straight-forward dinner date introduces some relational complexities. 

I've heard quite a few single women, including myself, bemoan the fact that after one date a guy didn't ask her out again. She even blames him, when he doesn't ask her out again, for not offering enough clarity. But imagine the alternative with me. Joe calls Sarah:

Joe: Hi, Sarah.

Sarah: Hi! 

Joe: I enjoyed having dinner with you …

Sarah: So did I!

Joe: … but, I just wanted to let you know that after getting to know you a little better I'm no longer interested in pursuing a relationship with you.


Though the guy would be offering clarity, this treatment doesn't lessen the hurt Sarah feels — it may even increase it. Then, let's say Sarah is the one who's not "feeling it" after a dinner date with Joe. She must then either make up some excuse for why she can't go out again ("I just want to be friends;" "I'm not ready for a relationship," etc.), go out for one or two more "pity" dates, or say some version of the hard truth, "I'm just not interested." 

So while I agree that clear intentions in dating are nice (and let's face it, the most honest approach), we also shouldn't glamorize the "dinner date" as the solution to all of our dating woes. Do I think it's a good thing for a guy to ask a girl out on a "real date" when he's interested in her? Absolutely. But at that point, both parties need to realize that the direction and details of the relationship won't necessarily be clear and easy just because he did. They are going to need to have grace for the other person and recognize that the outcome of their date may still be less-than-hoped-for. 

What do you think? A dinner date may be a good start, but how can men and women navigate the resulting complexities with grace? When intentionality goes awry — and the date doesn't result in the Hollywood ending — how should they respond? When the date ends in option No. 2 or 3, then what?

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  • Lol - That alternative you had us imagine made my day! That's exactly what I've been saying to my female friends for years when they complain that a guy just didn't phone them for another date (one was even saying that after a couple of dates she feels owed a face-to-face conversation about him not wanting to continue).

    I honestly think that the push for clarity can be suffocating to the early stages of a dating relationship. The previous relationships I've had all developed organically with me and those women just spending time doing things together as friends. I didn't feel the pressure to make a decision about them and define our relationship as soon as possible, so instead was able to just be myself and get to know them over time.

    The times that I have been very clear about asking girls on a date have instantly become a pressure cooker where she either says no because she doesn't really know or like me enough to move in a romantic direction, or I start to feel that I'm stringing her along if after a few dates I'm still not ready to define the relationship as something other than "we're just seeing each other." There are also way more expectations on a date that put pressure on a guy (I'm expected to ask her on all dates, plan them all, pay for them, and make them special because we're not just getting to know each other, she's actually evaluating my ability to lead and provide). As a result, I only gave those girls a few dates and then stopped seeing them because I'm not ready to move to the next level but feel like that's the expected step.

    Now I'm not advocating ambiguity for months on end, but I think demanding clarity right off the bat has killed more potential relationships than it has helped. Sometimes people need a little time to figure out what their intentions are with another person.

  • Why must it always start with a dinner date? Why can't they fall in love and then starting going out together?

  • RE: Dreamer Guy;   "Why can't they fall in love and then starting going out together?"  

    ahahaha!  Because that's only a dream!   ...ok, I should ask, How would they fall into real love before going out together?  ...because I do understand that in some circumstances, it's quite possible to develop a healthy, very close relationship without 'officially dating'.

    Grace, peace & adventures!

  • BLe: Not all couples fall in love over him requesting her company to dinner. I can think of a few married couples who "clicked" over other things that they had not planned. Some of them still can't explain where the chemistry began, but somehow it worked. God does not always bring couples together in the same way. Just read your Bible. You will see countless couples who came together in all sorts of ways.

  • Yeah, I remember a lady a couple of years back who I took on a second date. The second half of the second date didn't go very well (mostly my fault) and a couple of things about it just made me panic a little and end it the next day, as I recall. While I don't think in hindsight we would have been a good match anyway, I certainly didn't relate to that lady as well as I should have, and have learned from it. Big thing: treat each other the way you would like to be treated, with truth and love in Christ.

    Whatever you do, ladies, just don't say to a guy something like "You're going to make some girl really happy someday." Check out Blimey Cow's video from 6 May 2013 on YouTube to see what this makes a guy feel like. (I'm way outside their target audience, but trust me, it's true.)

  • There's just something about us that hates awkwardness, isn't there?  Whether that's a guy asking out a girl, only to get a no.  Or if that's a girl who has made it beyond obvious to a guy that she's interested, only to have him not ask her out.  Or if that's to a guy that has to say "I just wanted to let you know that I won't be asking you out again."  Or a girl saying "Thank you for asking me out again, but I'm just not that into you."

    It's awkward.  I get it.  I've been there.  There are tons of awkward moments in life.  In dating, for sure.  Even in marriage.  But being honest and appropriately upfront with someone is better than the awkwardness, I think.  

    A gal shouldn't have to make up a reason for not saying yes to a date - if she can't give a real one (I don't see our futures being compatiable OR I've decided to pursue a relationship with Also Asking Alex), then just saying "No thank you should be enough.  But as awkward as it is, she should be clear that she's saying no to dating him further and not just saying no to the Star Trek movie that he suggested. Or he just might keep asking and asking since he isn't sure what she's really saying no to.  "So, you're saying there's a chance?"

    Likewise, if I was the gal who went on a first date with a guy that I had known for a while (and that our paths were likely to cross again at work or Bible study or church), then I'd want a head's up from the guy that he won't be asking anymore.  Otherwise, she feels really awkward just waiting for the 2nd ask.  And she might get bolder and bolder in hopes of encouraging him.

    But if it was just a first date for 2 people that didn't know each other super well and aren't likely to meet again (say a blind date set up by friends), then I don't know that something has to be said.

    I just think: when it doubt, be kind and communicate.  Nicely.  But clearly.  And kindly.  And nicely.  I think that's what I'd want the other person to do.

  • Please, can somebody tell me what's the purpose of a dinner date? If something doesn't have a (good)  purpose, than it's bad. Let's be honest, one won't get closer to knowing whether somebody is a good marriage material by having romantic dinners with them. But at least one person can get strong lasting emotions (that can be mistaken for love) out of that. If you have to have dates, then please at least do 'active; dates- like inviting sbody to an event that you really don't want to miss (can tell something about your charachter). Though you won't be alone there, but as you'll be going to the event and back together, you'll get lots of time for private talks)

  • Corwin wrote: Now I'm not advocating ambiguity for months on end, but I think demanding clarity right off the bat has killed more potential relationships than it has helped. Sometimes people need a little time to figure out what their intentions are with another person.

    I agree with him.  I think that the way people come together in a long term relationship is unique for each couple, complicated and mysterious.  Furthermore, it is very tempting to take dates too seriously and to be so consumed in the future that it chokes any desire you have to actually enjoy spending time with your date and everyday living.  As a person who waited by the phone and Instant Messenger to hear back from some guy I barely remember and spent my twenties as a miserable bundle of nerves, just have a good time, keep your boundaries and keep things in perspective. If something is really bothering you about the status of your future with somebody, talk to him or her or just drop it.  This is something you need to be able to do in a long term relationship anyways. You only put yourself at the mercy of the person you are interested in if you are afraid of what they think of you.

  • zza Gladys  said: “Please, can somebody tell me what's the purpose of a dinner date? … Let's be honest, one won't get closer to knowing whether somebody is a good marriage material by having romantic dinners with them. But at least one person can get strong lasting emotions (that can be mistaken for love) out of that.”

    What’s your definition of “dinner date” here? I'm guessing what a dinner date is for you may well be different to what it looks like for me.

    For me, the purposes of the dinner dates I plan are 1) to have the company of the lady while enjoying a (hopefully) nice meal, and 2) to get to know the lady better. For the record I’m an Aussie living in Australia, just in case you miss the screen name.

    I hope to share many meals with a wife one day, so I think getting to know what she likes to eat, how she likes to experience food, and if/how she likes to talk over food are useful things to know. Most of the dinner dates I plan are simple, relaxed, food and conversation ones.

    For me, this type of date has made it possible to get closer to knowing whether someone is good marriage material for me. A relationship I had last year involved a few dates, and it was on a simple, relaxed dinner date I deliberately talked about some key beliefs (supremacy of scripture, nature of marriage) that I knew might be different since we were from different denominations. Long story short, after that date and a subsequent conversation, we agreed that we weren’t well suited to each other.

    And while I don’t disagree that the last quoted sentence is possible, I deliberately try to not imply anything with my words or actions that would cause it. It’s the least I can do when a lady has graced me with the pleasure and honour of her company and undivided attention.

    Every human relationship involves risk, but I’ve found that dinner dates carry benefits from the purposes above. And besides, most guys I know will do a lot for the sake of good food. :-D

  • zza Gladys: I think a dinner date is a good place to start a relationship, but it's not the way to continue a relationship successfully. A dinner date at a restraunt is a good incubator for a relationship because it is (a) in a public place on neutral ground (b) offers something to "do" other than staring at each other and trying to keep a by-its-very-nature awkward conversation going and (c) offers an opportunity for you to see how the person you are on a date with interacts with people who are serving them. (i.e. are they kind of the wait staff or do they treat them with disdain? Do they tip appropriately?).

    There are a lot of things you can see on a dinner date that you won't see, for example, playing putt-putt golf or vice versa. Which isn't to say that you can't go on a first date to the zoo, or putt-putt golfing, or playing laser tag, or going for a walk along a pier or a beach -- just that it's a good frame of reference for observing someone doing something everyone does: eating. There's no navigating "Oh, but I don't really enjoy the Opera" or "Wow, I don't know about white water rafting" because at some point, everyone has to stuff food in their face. It also gives the people on the date a definitive end (the check) if things aren't going well, and allows them to continue the coversation over coffee or drinks if it is.

    Honestly, Suzanne, I actually kind of liked the in-your-face clarity of knowing where I stood when things weren't working out from the guy's side of the equation. If I knew he wasn't interested in going out again immediately, I didn't waste time mooning over the possibility that he might call. For my part, if guys called back and I was no longer interested (which didn't often happen, but on one occasion, I think did because I had started seeing someone else) I simply told the guy in question the truth -- that I enjoyed our time together but that I had been unexpectedly approached by someone else who had asked if we could date exclusively. Honestly, the best thing you can do to navigate the awkwardness is still to continue to treat each other like human beings.  

  • I'm in the “clarity” camp but also in the “don't make a big deal out of dinner” camp as well :)

    There's a family background question here, too: if you grow up in a family that eats out occasionally in nice restaurants, then taking a girl to a nice place for dinner becomes more of what AussiePaul says about enjoying a nice meal with nice company. On the other hand, if you never ate out (with the possible exception of fast food) growing up, then the whole scene has the potential to be much more intimidating and therefore a much bigger deal.

    As a man, I view it as being incumbent upon me to make it clear where I stand without expecting women to be mind-readers; also to be avoided is any behaviour like that of Darth Maul on Naboo (i.e., letting them make the first move), trying to get the woman to say the awkward stuff. Of course, I may just be old-fashioned . . .

  • I slightly disagree with this, assuming the two people already know each other before the dinner date.  Clarity IS important.  It doesn't have to be an awkward phone conversation, but if one of you is obviously invested and the other one is not, they need to be told.

    Otherwise, they'll waste days/weeks hoping for a second invitation that never comes.

    Nothing infuriates me more than the "guy who vanishes" on a girl after a seemingly great date or three (or ten*).  Again, it comes back to how well they knew each other, but a dinner date IS a big deal these days, so you should tell someone if you know they want a second invitation and there's not going to be one.

    (*Yes, that happened to me.)  

    To use some examples:

    Girl and Guy meet at Bible study, and get to know each other.  Guy finally asks Girl out.  The date goes really well, but Guy "isn't feeling it" whereas Girl is starting to develop a crush.  She'll naturally pay more attention to him now at Bible Study and email him/talk to him more often.  Even after just one date.  

    So the guy really should tell her that they're better off as friends.

    The reverse: The guy starts to develop a crush and the girl isn't interested.  This is a little easier to resolve because he will ask her out again and this is when she needs to turn him down.  Clearly.  

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