My friends and I used to treat first dates like a final exam. If you pass, you get married. If you fail, or make a bad joke, you must wipe all your dreams off the board and start over.
Dating is supposed to be fun but I easily forget to trust the process. Falling in love and marrying your best friend is a gift—a peaceful, exciting time. There’s no place for anxiety and pretending to be someone you’re not.
Here’s some practical advice on how to NOT turn a date into high-pressure, win-lose situation:
1) Never take a selfie on a first date. It doesn’t need to be a public spectacle that the two of you are discerning a romantic relationship. Don’t date for how it looks, or the attention you receive.
2) It’s not an interview; It’s more like a play date. What do you and your friends do on a Saturday afternoon? You’re trying to find out what fun you can have together. Don’t pull out a list of serious questions you want to know like her grandmother’s medical history . . . unless you can do so playfully.
3) Avoid the 90-Day Free Trial. I’m a repeat offender when it comes to meeting a guy on a blind date, leading him through a brutal three month trial period to see how much he’ll fight for me, and then giving up. I’ve learned the hard way to be friends with a person for 3-6 months before establishing a crush, let alone going on a date.
4) God will make it romantic. Guys, you don’t have to bring flowers on the first date (If you must, a single lily will do). Don’t turn your date into a scavenger hunt for signs of destiny. When God leaves clues, they’re obvious.
5) Exit Plan. Are you happy with your current life? Content with your job? Not dreaming of moving? Sometimes we’re eager to date because we’re looking for a way out. If you’re thinking about changing your life soon, now might not the time to start dating. Of course, it’s always time to make new friends. If they happen to share your faith and be attractive, well, who could object to that?
6) Great Expectations. The person you date isn’t going to be perfect. They’ll have rough spots and they won’t have everything figured out—just like you. Appreciate their personality as a non-judgmental friend. Give it time to figure out who they are, where they’re going, and what they’re looking for. Don’t be disappointed when they’re everything you ever wanted except (fill in the blank). Temptation comes disguised as everything you ever wanted in one, easy fix.
7) Should I pray a novena?! If you must, dedicate those nine days praying that you will be chill (not for the middle name of your first child.) Pray to relax. Pray to be yourself. Pray to enjoy the moments leading up to the date and the moments after without looking, feeling, or being totally strung out. A date is just time. A few hours, a few laughs. And time is not running out. God’s plan cannot be thwarted no matter how long it takes.
A Pinterest-worthy wedding photo to hang above your mantle is the golden calf of our generation. Refuse to worship it. It’s not the trophy you win for dating well. A holy marriage is a process of sanctification and the end goal is heaven.
This person isn’t the key to your happiness. Your interior life with Jesus is. Only with the Lord will you have the grace to give, give, and give. Love isn’t at its best on the first date anyway.
Anna Steele is a proud Ravenclaw eagle and super godmother to triplets. She loves Jesus, Pinterest, and sprinkle donuts. Someday she wants to be the patron saint of break-ups. Her goal in life is to enkindle social change through the next generation of Catholic leaders. You can read her Lenten promise to blog every day here. Follow @annajsteele if you want to stay in touch on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Anna is the Director of Youth Ministry in Ames, Iowa.