Gauging by the amount of site hits, search strings that lead back to my posts, and general conversation with my friends I can gather a general sense of what people want to talk and think more about.
One of the hottest topics among my peers is dating.
This should not be surprising given the life stage that I and my of my peers are in. I, like many of my friends, am a single Christian who wants marriage and family to be part of his future. Unless one believes that a ready made spouse will show up, which I don’t, one must go through meeting new people, dating and relationship building. For me this means I must work on myself, I must work on how I relate to the opposite sex, and I must be willing to take the risks inherent to dating. This is how the game is played and I’m putting my hat in the ring.
To this end I am going to be writing more about my experiences, reflections and thoughts regarding dating. Dating for me is new territory and fertile ground for self-reflection and growth. Just to be clear, I am not going to be giving a play by play of any dates that I go on, nor divulging any juicy details of great conversations I’ve had with a woman I am getting to know. Just because I am fantastically open and transparent about my life doesn’t mean I lack common sense in regards to privacy.
Since my post regarding dating I have received a lot comments and had number of conversations on the issue. A number of people have complained about the nature of dating at Fuller, which I would like to think more about. At first glance, dating at seminary should be simple enough. Like college, I am once again surrounded by a lot of young Christian single women who are generally speaking amazing people. In my experience I rarely run into uninteresting, unmotivated and insincere people at Fuller. Both men and women at seminary have generally had some life experiences and are figuring out what they want from life or are already making forward progress to their goals.
However, one of the most frustrating situations at Fuller, and one that I hear complained about most often, is how small the pool of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes is and the problems that this brings. Of the five thousand students that technically attend Fuller for any one person looking to date at Fuller there is only a handful of people who will be practically available to date. When you cut out the married couples, couples that are already dating, extension campus students in other cities, commuters students who you never see, foreign students (who are also almost always married – even if you were down for a “cross-cultural exchange”), and students in other programs (Dear beautiful Psych/MFT ladies: I know you are busy but it is okay to talk to people from other programs) the actual dating pool that exists at Fuller is much smaller than one would initially think. This is before we even begin to talk about who an individual person is physically attracted to, compatible with, and whose life goals are at least somewhat in-line. Because the singles community is so small it creates a situation that my counselor has described as “incestuous.” While the language might be a bit over the top I think he names a common tension many people feel but do not talk about. Let me explain…
There are many women at Fuller that I am interested in getting to know. I literally had a list of eight women that I wanted to get to know coming into this quarter. They ranged from very specific names to “That girl with the amazing hair in the library” (you know who you are). But I was instantly hit by a problem. Many of these women know each other. What will they think if I they learn I asked both of them out to coffee or was flirtatious with both of them in the same quarter? Two of them study together regularly in the library and are friends. I am genuinely interested in getting to know both of them but feel like I have to pick one. In this context attempting to just get to know both beyond a surface level could give me a negative reputation on campus. Done wrong, I could easily develop a reputation for being “that guy” who just “leads girls on.” This one I can’t talk to because my friend liked her last year and it didn’t work out. This one I can’t get ask out on a date because my friend is crushing on her madly but refuses to ask her out. I am at a party and I am trying to get to know three of the girls there. How do I approach this situation without sending the signals of “I’m not interested in you” or “I’m taken with someone else” when I really have made no such commitment. If I start dating a girl in my community of friends it might work out great, but if it ends badly our friends have to take sides and we might have to split up our friends like a divorced couples has to split up their kids.
Dating at Fuller is akin to fishing in a fishbowl: the size of the community seriously limits the possibilities and adds a lot of drama and tensions that would otherwise not exist. I fear this is why many incredible people who want to get married some day are simply not dating. Incredible catches are content with being “just friends” with the opposite sex and seem to perpetually stay there. I was recently given a high five from a friend for doing what she just recently complained many men are not doing: I asked a girl at Fuller out on a date.
(Sidenote: I am very tempted to name names of some of my quality guy friends who are the apple of many a single woman’s eye on campus but who are for some reason not dating. Restraining myself and exerting self-control in this area is an incredible feat of surrender and a testament to the Twelve Step program.)
Some of these are obstacles that can be overcome with a little work. For example going out to seminary-wide events and accepting invites to go out with new communities is a relatively straightforward one. One could go out of one’s way to meet people from another program. However, some of these just come with the territory.
At this point some people might be tempted to complain about the nature of Fuller and this is what I have historically done in the past. I am routinely frustrated when I meet amazing women who are for one reason or another unavailable. However, to suggest that “all the good ones are taken” is a pit I want to try and avoid. There are over six billion people, roughly half of them are women, many of these women share my values and faith, and I live in the L.A. area. To suggest that “all the good ones are taken” I would have to bury my head in the sand.
I am convinced the solution to the challenges of dating at Fuller is not about changing Fuller, but about widening the dating pool of one’s life. If it appears all the good ones are taken, you need to meet more good ones. This takes intentionality, work and time. My friend Leah responded to my previous blog and lamented how difficult following Dr. Cloud’s advice regarding this point is. I would agree. It is hard work. It can be fun, and rewarding if we have a good attitude about it, but it does take time and intentionality to meet new available singles. It is especially hard work for those who think that God will just drop off a spouse for them one day as asking such people to do anything is requiring them to do more than they were doing previously.
The classic avenue to do this in Christian circles is often to get more plugged in at Church, especially the young adult or singles ministries. Sometimes this is bemoaned and people do not like the “meat-market” mentality at Church. While I get this, and I would hate to be labeled as “that guy” who joined a mixed small group to meet women, would people rather I meet women at bars, or clubs, or public parks, or bus stations? If I am looking for a woman who has a lot of the same values as me, the Church is probably the best place for that. However, a lot of the young adult communities in Churches run into the same problems at seminaries. Unless your single’s ministry or young adult community is very large you are going to meet the same singles and you’re going to hit the same tensions that exist at Fuller.
Some people see where I am going with this. The biggest pool out there is online dating. And as some have guessed I joined a number of online dating sites, including eHarmony.com, match.com and plentyoffish.com to experience these for myself before I advocate for their use by other Chrisitans. In my next post I’ll talk about online dating and my initial experience of these sites.