Darren, a new friend and co-worker, invited me to see the play Annie at a local school. He said he was going to ask some other people in our young adult community group to go, but he didn’t end up asking anyone. As the day of the play came closer, my mind started turning: Was this a friend thing or a date? Did he actually ask anyone else? Should I ask him?
When I shared this with another co-worker, she squealed, “It’s a date!” But I wasn’t convinced. I didn’t want to assume something when it hadn’t been stated. We had only been talking for about a month and we already had an accidental one-on-one, date-like experience a week before. I had asked him and a group of others to see a different play, Godspell. A couple others had said “yes” but dropped out at the last minute. I knew I didn’t want Darren to assume that was a date, so I was trying to extend the same caution to him.
Clear expectations and communication are very helpful, especially at the beginning of a relationship. One friend of mine lived in a state of confusion about her relationship for months. She was never sure what was a date and what wasn’t. She was completely unsure of his intentions, especially because he seemed to be dating someone else at the same time.
Personally, I would not have allowed my uncertainty to go on for that long. It was important to me to date a man who was good at communication, especially because good communication is important in marriage. And if communication gets even harder in marriage, shouldn’t it be a red flag if the person isn’t able to communicate well while dating?
Thankfully, Darren did not make me stay in uncertainty. Before my questions and speculations got out of control, he explained his intentions. He knew that our co-workers were pushing us into a relationship, so he wanted to be clear. He explained that although he wanted to get to know me and enjoyed talking and hanging out with me, he wasn’t intending to make Annie a date. He was clear and thoughtful without being hurtful. Sometimes it is easy for us girls to take something like that personally, but I tried my best to understand that his communicating with me was actually something courageous and respectable.
As we got to know each other, Darren kept me updated on how he felt about me and our relationship. He was clear that he needed time to recover from a previous relationship and didn’t want me to be a rebound girlfriend. (Success! We are now married!) I respected him a lot for his willingness to be open and honest with me. It was so helpful for me to know how he felt.
My friend, however, didn’t have the comfort of knowing the facts about where her relationship was going. Girls are great at overanalyzing, especially in relationships. But relationships are so much stronger when they are rooted in facts, and not just on feelings or speculations. Having Darren state his intentions clearly and honestly at the beginning of our relationship helped me to stay rooted in fact. It helped me keep my emotions and assumptions in check and to know what to expect from him and in our relationship. I knew that I shouldn’t expect him to call me “girlfriend,” or assume he would pay for the tickets. I knew not to allow conversations with excited friends draw me into fantasizing about weddings and children.
My heart is too precious to be dragged about like that. And Darren showed me that he agreed (although I am sure he wasn’t thinking that exact thing at the time). In fact, I believe that is the heart of good communication: to care enough about a person to be willing to bring up and talk through important but tough topics. Even now, after being married just about two years (on Monday!), I know that Darren wants to talk about important or tough topics when they come up.
I bet Darren didn’t realize how positive our “Annie is not a date” talk would be for our future relationship.