“I loved it. There aren’t even words. That was excellent.”
One of my roommates sits in thoughtful reverie as the credits begin to scroll up the screen. Our other roommate finishes munching on her gluten-free, dairy-free margherita pizza before we wrap back up in our coats and scarves and leave Studio Movie Grill once more.
This has become something of an un-official ritual every two weeks: we go, we watch, we eat, we laugh, we conquer. That is, unless one of us miraculously has a date, and then the whole routine is thrown off.
Dating and friends, friends and dating. The two words sound pretty together, but I am finding that in my life they are fairly incompatible. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that as much as I long for marriage, I loathe the process of getting there. Because, at least in my experience, dating is kind of awful.
The Missing Piece
I have a good life. I have a job I love, family close by with a little niece on the way, friends who make me laugh, and regular interaction with a whole slew of people who educate me on politics and culture and religion and the Kardashians’ latest drama. All of my needs and many of my wants are met in abundance.
There is only a tiny little sliver of a piece that’s missing. This piece seems to grow and make its presence known whenever I read an article on foster parenting or when I am reminded of my deep desire to experience the intimacy of marriage. But on days when my cup runneth over and my life is grand and Netflix with the roommates fills my evenings, that sliver seems awfully small.
But I always know it’s there. So with that knowledge, a few times a year I sacrifice the sure thing—the safe bet of a night out with the girls where I will laugh until I cry, or giggle at the cute Jimmy John’s delivery guy (because dating the delivery boy sounds dreamy at 16 but a little sad at 26)—for a fairly awkward and stilted conversation with a man who reveals that his favorite (and only) hobby is hanging out with his cat. And then we split the check.
What I’m learning is that having a satisfying life can make dating really difficult because dating is a far cry from marriage, and desiring the latter in no way ensures that you’ll enjoy the former.
See, dating just isn’t very much fun. It gets tricky, striking a healthy balance of compromise. Questions like “Is he cute enough to have such horrible grammar?” and “He loves Jesus a whole lot and that has to make up for his slightly-less-than-productive work ethic, right?” can be pretty difficult to answer. And investing time, money, and emotion into a ritual that has a very small chance of actually yielding a happy, healthy relationship? That’s even harder.
The Drive to Date?
I recently went on a date with a man who was terribly unhappy with his life. He was living with his parents, stuck in his job, resented his church, and felt isolated from all of his married friends. When he asked me why I was dating, I told him that I had a great life and that I just wanted to add in more greatness through the form of an attractive, intelligent, hilarious, Jesus-loving man (or something like that).
“If your life is so great, then why are you even on this date?”
We didn’t work out—clearly—but I did take away a valuable lesson: this man’s unhealthy desire to have a fairy godwife come in and fix all of the problems in his life with a little “bibbidi-bobbidi-boo” drives him with great urgency to date around and find a spouse.
While this doesn’t necessarily sound like a good thing, I almost envied that kind of dedication to the dating cause. I’m so content in my current circumstances that the most effort I can bring myself to put into the mating quest is about ten minutes of profile stalking on OkCupid with the occasional string of messages exchanged. And honestly, even those become tedious once I know that the inevitable date, with its tense silences and formal pleasantries, is imminent.
When my time is so well spent in other areas (friends, family, Facebook, Friday night Boy Meets World binges), it’s really hard to reconcile myself to trudging through those awkward dates and tough “getting to know you” phases just for the potential of there possibly being more one day, maybe.
An Impossible Balance
Ultimately, my hesitancy to date is because being with my friends is too easy. We know each other, and even if we don’t know each other really well—it’s natural. We quickly fall into conversation about American Ninja Warrior or Dave Barnes.
I don’t have anxiety about where the conversation will head, and I’m not constantly planning the next topic based on what we’re discussing, like some mental chess game that some poor unsuspecting boy doesn’t even know he’s playing. I like to think of myself as a genuine, authentic person, but somehow that is inadvertently replaced with pretense and premeditation once a potential date is thrown into the picture.
With my friends, life is fun. We laugh all the time, about everything. We laugh about the awful auditions on American Idol, we laugh about horrible dates, we laugh about British accents, and we laugh about walking around a theme park for 14 hours straight even though we’re exhausted. We have a good time. We wine. We dine. We movie. We talk. We cry. We learn. We invest. We contribute to each other’s lives in such deep and impactful ways without even intentionally doing so.
And, perhaps most importantly, I learn so much from these relationships: I learn how to be a better servant, how to forgive and be forgiven, what kind of role grace plays in my daily life, how the Lord is working in other people, what bearing each other’s burdens realistically looks like, and what great rewards vulnerability and communication yield. In contrast, all I seem to learn on a first date is a man’s job, his table manners, and (if we’re really hitting it off) his favorite color.
Some days I just wish I were more dissatisfied with my life. Or perhaps I wish that my friends were less entertaining or that these relationships provided less fulfillment than they do—just something, anything, that would help me reconcile my deep desire for marriage with my waning desire for dating.
My life is overflowing, and often that “what’s missing” piece feels so small and insignificant that risking the life I have—the fullness and contentment that I experience in daily life—seems like too great a sacrifice. But I also know that this current feeling of satisfaction could be fleeting. In a year, if I am less content than I am now, God will still be good.
For now, I guess this is the blessing and curse of a good (enough) life. While that sliver remains just a sliver, I’m going to enjoy the amazing days ahead of me.