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Misadventures in Dating

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in Saworship.com.

The teen years are a wonderful, yet innocent time in life. Those are the days that you know you know all there is to know about life, blissfully unaware that the opposite is true. Not only do you not know, but you don’t know that you don’t know. This is how I saw life as a teenager growing up in the eighties and early nineties, and this is how my three sons will probably see life as they hit their teen years.

Back when I was 18, almost 18 years ago as of the posting of this column in 2009, I had my love life completely planned. In retrospect it was one of the most ironic things I have ever done, considering that I had yet to have my first date. After 12 years in a public school and two unsuccessful attempts at dating, I set my eyes on Pensacola Christian College, believing if there was ever a proper place to find a wife, it would be at a Christian school.

As I headed off to PCC, here was my plan: 1) Spend the first year or two dating different girls; 2) Either late in my sophomore year or early my junior year, pick a girl and start dating her exclusively; 3) In the summer going into my senior year, visit my “girlfriend” at her home and surprise her with an engagement ring; 4) In the summer or fall after graduation, get married; and 5) Live happily ever after.

Sounds like a fool-proof plan, huh? Well, it’s hard for a plan to be fool-proof when it was a fool who planned it.

What really happened to me when it came to dating? Well, I did get married, but to a young lady who didn’t even attend PCC. My wife and I met through pen-pal correspondence, and I didn’t meet her in person for the first time until almost a year after finishing college. At college, there were two girls that I dated off-and-on. One was a blond nursing student from Nebraska that I went out with for a few months my freshman year, but nothing came of it. The other was a good friend who’s now a missionary in South America. I asked her to go steady a few times, but she politely declined. God, as it turned out, had other plans for her on the mission field.

More times than I can count and care to admit, I’d ask out girls and get the standard response: “Richard, you’re a nice guy, but I just want to be friends.” This was an unpleasant pattern: I’d get to be “friends” with a girl I liked, and when she made it clear she wasn’t interested in anything beyond a friendship, I’d move on.

And then there was this girl I met my sophomore year. “Monica” was a very beautiful girl, easily the prettiest I ever met at college. From what I remember, she had blond, curly hair and was an education major from the eastern United States. We worked together in food service and had an English class together. Soon, I found myself smitten by her, without bothering to really get to know her. After striking up a few casual conversations I asked her out on a date-only to discover she liked someone else. Two years later, though, in the spring semester of my senior year, surprise, surprise, Monica was once again single. I asked her out, and much to my very pleasant surprise, she agreed.

It was, for me, a very nervous date. We went out to church, and I suspected that after spending most of the evening initiating conversation that there probably wouldn’t be a second date. I was disappointed that things didn’t work out with Monica, but as I pondered, it finally came to me. After four years of college, I had the completely wrong approach about dating. What might work magically on the silver screen usually fails miserably in real life.

What is the correct approach? For starters, it begins with your relationship with the opposite sex. A lot of guys have this impression that you see a pretty girl, turn on the charm, act friendly with her and try to see if you can ask her out. However, in my observation, the best way to go about it is to be friends with girls-unconditionally, with no strings attached, whether you’re interested in her or not. Ask her how she’s doing, what her interests are, what she thinks about life, what burdens she has, and what things she prays about. How ironic it is that some men will base their interest on physical attraction, when the real thing to do is to get to know her. I have to think that women can see right through men who become friendly for all the wrong reasons, and that must irk women (especially if they’re godly women not driven by egos) who get excessive attention merely because of how they look.

In my observation, the more a young man makes it a point of developing healthy, no-strings-attached social relationships with women, the easier it is for him to be able to be friends with a woman instead of treating them as sex objects.

Several months after I graduated from college without a girlfriend, I resolved to quit trying actively to date. Instead, I told God, I would simply relax and be friends with girls and let Him bring my future wife into my life when I was ready. And a few weeks after deciding this, a lady named Brenda came up to me. She had a daughter up in Michigan, a single mother, who was a Christian and needed some encouragement in her walk. She asked if I would I like to write to her.

We wrote letters, and before long I could sense something very special about this girl named Jennifer. On June 30, 2007, we will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. As much as I love my wife and think she’s absolutely gorgeous, what helps us to have a great relationship is that we were friends before we started dating. This simple principle is something I really hope to emphasize to my sons. A relationship that’s not built on a friendship, even if both of you are Christians, is likely to fail.

Being friends unconditionally with women and letting God take the lead is a simple principle I wish I’d known before going to college. If you’re a young man, whether a teenager or young adult, I strongly suggest this principle for you also. Though as funny as they can be, misadventures in dating can lead to much regret.

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