Why guys don’t ask girls out

Yesterday I wrote my first proper blog, and I got more feedback from it than I expected. The topic seems to have scratched where people itch.

I’ve had tweets, emails and comments from people I would not have expected, as well as the strange transition when some one talks to me in person about what I wrote. (Note to self: the blog is public.)

So my tentative conclusion is that this classifies as a Big Issue. But this blog is not going to be all about relationships, and I am certainly not the person to write it even if it was. I’m going to offer some tentative thoughts in a moment to spring wide the debate, and there are at least two more posts on the topic coming soon (‘idealised notion of romance’, and ‘where does male headship fit into all this’). However, I will also be posting on a few other topics in between, and trying to explain what ‘broken cameras and gustav klimt’ means.

I am rather unqualified to pontificate on this topic. Sure, I talk to plenty of people about relationships. I talk to plenty of girls about them. But the conversation goes one of two ways, either talking about their love life, or them telling me to man up and ask girls out. On one occasion a girl who I didn’t know that well asked me quite out of the blue whether I was asking girls out. I prevaricated, waffled and probably just about got around to saying no.

I’m not offering any answers below, I’d welcome you thoughts, ideas and suggestions about how to deal with it.

Fear.

That’s why. That’s why guys in church don’t ask girls out. And this works itself out in multiple ways:

  1. Fear of commitment. This is the obvious one but I don’t think that major. There are certainly guys who like to play the field and don’t want to settle down, but the bigger impact of this is that it leads to…
  1. Fear of uncommitment (yep I made that word up). Guys shy away from asking girls out because they don’t want to be seen as frivolous, they don’t want to be seen as lacking commitment. The logic goes: if I ask someone out, she’ll tell her friends and then if I ever want to ask one of those out they’ll know that I’d already asked one of her friends out, and she will then think that I don’t think she’s the one. Yes, guys do think like this. And they don’t want to be seen as playing the field.
    This is where the Joshua Harris school of thought has had a damaging impact. Guys have been encouraged to be cautious and wait until they ‘know’.
  1. Fear of rejection. This is pretty obvious. Guys don’t want to be turned down so they don’t ask. There may be a whole host of guys out there who ask girls on dates left right and centre and not caring one iota what the reaction is. I know they exist but I think they’re a pretty rare breed. And those who do? Well my hunch is that they do care, I don’t want to go all psychobabble but rejection hurts, the more it happens the more you might get used to it, but the hurt is still there, a scab has just grown over it.
    I said I wasn’t giving answers, here’s something that’s not the answer: girls saying yes to dates regardless – that’s called leading a guy on.
  1. Fear of getting it wrong. Guys are afraid that if they ask a girl out they will screw it up. I don’t mean the relationship, I mean the act of asking a girl out. And the potential embarrasment that might ensue, which conveniently leads me to…
  1. Fear of losing friends. In the church I think this one is the silent killer of romance. Gaggles of guys and girls who are friends but nothing more. A wide tundra stretches between friendship and romance that gets larger by the day. A few years ago I dubbed this ‘female friend dependency theory’, and that deserves a post of its own.

Can all of these be answered by asking men to man up? Or is there more of a problem at the root?

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18 thoughts on “Why guys don’t ask girls out

  1. I noticed you didn’t tackle the societal shift due to feminism. What began as women wanting equal treatment in specific areas seems to have morphed into men expecting women to “act like men” in other areas as well. While I certainly don’t speak for all women, I can tell you there are a bunch out there that demand equal pay for equal work, yet still want to be approached by the man, have him pay for the date, and hold doors for her.

    • Hey,
      I think there’s something interesting going on with gender roles, and you’re right it’s not always very consistent. I’ll have some more to say about this soon, both in terms of what it means for relationships as well as gender roles more broadly.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. I take my point from the last paragraph of fear option number two and wonder in what way Harris’ school of thought has had a “damaging” impact. Damaging in the sense of tackling ‘uncommitment’ and the frivolousness of guys asking many girls out? Surely not all at once, but acceptable nonetheless if a guy dates periodically in a pursuit to ‘know’ whether she will be ‘the one’?

    One would argue that the notion of ‘knowing’ if that person is ‘the one’ can’t happen without the dating process taking place. Problem being if for whatever reason, whilst dating it becomes apparent that person is not the one, it would be expected that both parties would come to a mutual agreement to cease seeing each other romantically. Should this feel like a failure on either person’s part, that what they thought might have been a spark just wasn’t enough to sustain a relationship? Should we accept that sometimes we may get it wrong and move on? Are those who would seem to be continuously getting it wrong be frowned upon?

    From the get go Christians are expected to enter relationships with the purpose of marriage being the goal, and where this is absolutely true, a sense of pressure to make sure this person is right looms at the forefront of their mind, or so I’ve observed amongst those in their early to mid 20s. And so it would seem there are many young people tying the knot early these days. A sign of maturity no doubt to be contemplating such questions, but at such an early stage? It might not be said upon the first date, but no doubt it hovers in the mind and is a crucial one. Does this restrict or perhaps even suffocate the natural organic process of getting to know a person rather than immediately marking them up against your marriage quota? These are purely subjective observances on my part of course, but I can’t help but want to find the balance.

    I seem to recall a certain fizzy drink brand that was ‘misunderstood’ and had a line in its advertising stating “how will you know unless you try it.” “Surely this is why a guy would be friends with a girl before asking them out,” you might exclaim, but sometimes this is where the scrutiny occurs. As mentioned in the first post, this stage can be quite frustrating and I suppose leads unto the fifth fear described in this post- making that jump from friendship to romance. How long does this friendship period last before someone ‘knows’, that is if it is even possible to know at that stage without actually having entered into dating. Does this then need defining; we ought to distinguish between dating and courting and a good friend of mine has written a book which touches upon this (http://bit.ly/jEsIYo). For some we already know the difference, and I would encourage those who don’t to investigate, but perhaps that would shed some light on the points I’m raising. Ultimately there are stages in our relationships with the opposite sex, and it has become apparent that there are expectations if we’re following the Christian pattern. It is fine to ask those questions as nobody wants to waste their time and open their heart flippantly for dismantling, so these are justified expectations which we have come to accept.

    In light of number four and the ‘fear of doing it wrong’ I would concur that the initial act of asking a girl out can be daunting for some, but perhaps deeper than that, the fear of it being the wrong person can hinder a guy from being proactive. Conversely, we are relational beings, and so we form friendships with the opposite sex and sometimes get along well with some more so than others. What then if perhaps we get along well with more than one person? A genuine and considerate guy would be courteous enough to not lead the others on. Should this not work out, it should be fair that he move on and furthermore that she is able to also. I know that this is easier said than done and that feelings aren’t always mutual; most often someone does get hurt. This may be a reason for guys feeling apprehensive about asking in light of things perhaps not working, and them not wanting to appear ‘the player’ for dusting themselves off and trying again with another friend. There are many beyond their twenties who are still in search of Mr/Mrs Right who have dated and yet not found the right person. It is after all a delicate subject and should be treated delicately, which leads me to my conclusion.

    I’m not sure whether all of this would fall into the category of commitment or whether it warrants its own class. Perhaps it’s a trivial point and men ought not to think so much, but man-up and in the wise words of that popular brand ‘Just do it.’ I guess we all have fears pertaining to the many decisions we make in life, not less to speak of relationships, whether romantic or not. Pondering with anxiety out of fear of getting it wrong can immobilise us from learning the lessons God would have us experience, whether good or bad. Surely in surrendering this aspect of our will to Him will ensure that whatever the outcome, a sovereign God has our best interest at heart and will see us to a good end.

    • Thanks Kweks,
      Not sure I buy the distinction between dating and courtship, I think they are just labels! The damage done by Harris is that young people think they shouldn’t be dating until they are set on who they are going to marry, that means that people don’t date, or even court, and end up as shivering wrecks hoping one day everything will magically fall into place!

  3. Completely agree regarding Joshua Harris’s books. They do not translate into a British setting and are stopping Christians in the UK from dating altogether.

    • It’s not a matter of translation…there have been similar trends here in the US thanks to Joshua Harris and others. Elisabeth Elliot’s “Passion and Purity” is an amazing book, and she doesn’t harp on dating itself, but she does urge waiting on God to provide a spouse. She writes tons of stories of people waiting patiently in prayer and then God doing amazing things to bring them together. She and her first husband, Jim Elliot, never dated and had to wait years until God allowed them to marry, both thinking they’d be single for the rest of their lives until He did so. I’m kind of in both camps. I think dating vs courting/waiting on God for a spouse depends on what God wants specifically for that person. I believe God can use dating to bring us to the right person. I believe some of us should kiss it goodbye if God tells us to. I think if we are walking in the Spirit, then God might very well guide us to ask for/accept a date with someone who might not the “the one” and use that in our lives.

  4. More additional thoughts and questions to ponder…
    1. If everyone was openly asking and meeting up with others, it would appear less of a big deal. The challenge arises when, in your community, something is out of the ordinary. Then, the bar is shifted and it automatically becomes a bigger/less common thing to do, in the minds of those in the community. This adds pressure, not only in terms of asking/accepting dates, but also during a date. People may feel they need to ‘decide’ quickly whether it is or isnt ‘the one’, or add pressure on themselves to prove/reveal a lot about themselves in the course of a short amount of time, rather than letting it be a more natural process.
    2. Credit where credit is due. I actually think more guys are asking girls, and more girls saying yes, than would appear. Perhaps those going on the dates don’t always shout about it.
    3. The fear of ‘uncommitment’ I feel is a very real one with many men and women, rooted from a wish to be, and appear to be, men and women of integrity. It is one which girls can also experience on the flip-side, in terms of accepting a date. She may be somewhat interested a man, or even a number of men. One asks her out. She is not ‘sure’ – but she is interested to get to know him. How do you get to know him if you don’t spend time with him one to one? (Groups are all very well, but there is a different dynamic as a duo, and surely there comes a point where it’s important to see how you get along in this environment) But does saying ‘yes’ to this implicitly indicate a certain level of commitment? And, if so, how can she commit herself to someone she’s not ‘sure’ about? And, if she does take the risk and say ‘yes’ and it doesn’t then develop, will it prevent her from being able to get to know others (particulalry when talking about a community, such as a church, where many paths cross)? Gentlemen, yes, woman have these types of thoughts too.
    3.It’s not about marriage, it’s about living life with the right person. I expect that the type of man/woman you will want to marry will be someone who would want to take time to get to know the other person, no matter at what age they start dating, and not simply seek the quickest route to a marriage. So, as the age of singleness is rising, no need to be afraid, or to make assumptions, about this – or to run a mile because you think they’d expect (or want!) a proposal within a couple of months. Get to know the needs and expectations of the person in question, not what others think. And, similarly, don’t feel you need to wait til you think you want to marry a person before you ask them to meet up! If you do wait until then, without any communication with them about it along the way, they might not be where you are and feel a the pressure. Yes, girls feel pressure too you know.
    4.Perhaps there is the need for a shift in the bar. We are not talking about marriage. We are not talking about engagement. We are not talking about physical affection or opening your heart to a man or woman before being in the security of moving along the same path. We are not talking about being ‘girlfriend and boyfriend’; we are talking spending some time getting to know someone who is of the opposite sex.
    By communicating honestly and openly with eachother about where you are at, it will help prevent people leading, or be led, on. I am not suggesting we all start going out with numerous people or that we should not think carefully and wisely about who we ask/say yes to, but what i am saying is this: if you wonder about a particular man or a woman, why not give yourself the freedom to spend time with them to see if you would like to spend more time with them?

  5. Perhaps you could devote a page for women who want to say things they think men should know, and another for men who want to say things they think women should know. This diagnosis of dating relationships is very useful but I am keen to get some practical help to take away.

  6. Hi Danny, I’ve enjoyed reading your blogs the passed few days. Certainly a relevant topic for many people. There is one question that I haven’t seen asked (sorry I can’t admit to having read all the comments posted above!). I think it’s pertinent in hindsight, having navigated my way to being married, to ask the question, “how much do I need to know before I embark on the road of commitment with someone of the opposite sex?”

    I think a lot of the process falls out or in to love on this question. It can be emotionally, spiritually and mentally answered, but rather than asking the classic “how far is too far?” in relationships I think it’s perhaps more helpful to clearly ask “how much is enough?”

    I guess it raises the deeper questions of what relationships are and what they need to flourish, and perhaps what commitment is. Perhaps dating is difficult precisely because the nature and level of the commitment is under question – how much commitment does dating include and how much commitment are you suggesting in your move towards someone else?

    Or perhaps even this question comes back around again to the question of manning up or not! Perhaps there is no avoiding the fact that courage is required in all relationships, no matter how long they have been going on for, to start them or to see them through until the end. Maybe relationships are an issue of faith based on the available evidence (Let’s not undermine the place of prayer and the peace of God in decision making). I think marriage should instil a slight sense of fear in people not because other people are painting an unhelpful picture (not commenting on Joshua Harris et al.) but because it is a wonderful but serious and sober element of life to embark on. If anyone does not feel that I question their honesty and certainly their humility. Maybe married people need to be more honest with single people about the dread that comes over you on what is supposed to be the happiest day of your life as the words roll off the tongue with an ease that is not matched with the head as it grasps more of the immense meaning whilst, the legal system, God and everyone you hold dear in life is watching intently! I still have to man up – to be honest it happens daily.

    But one thing I am certain of, people don’t need to and shouldn’t go it alone whether you are in a relationship, wanting one or resisting one. I reckon that friends and family should be openly and honestly involved in the process; this is essential. And I think this can mean that more can be discovered and discerned well before any official approaches need to be made.

    Anyway, I think I should stop before I keep going! Final words: conviction and courage in courting and commitment, but always in the context of community!

    Blessings

    • Hi Ben,
      Thanks for your thoughts. I’ve been working on the next post, looking at how relationships and sexuality fit into how discipleship is practised in the church, not got it nailed though!
      I think your point about constantly having to man up is crucial, and making sure couples prepare for the life of marriage and not just the wedding day. I think marriage prep does some of this, but this is not communicated to people not engaged, so those of us looking at marraige from afar run the risk of having a rose-tinted view. Interesting thought about dating being difficult because of the ambiguous level of commitment.. something to ponder.

  7. Hi Danny! This is a really interesting blog post and I really appreciate your thoughts on this subject; too often this kind of conversation goes nowhere because it’s usually an article separately dedicated to either men or women, and how frustrating dating/romantic relationships have become. Part of me thinks that the root of this problem lies in the fact that both genders often make sweeping generalizations about each other, rather than looking at each person as a human being with their own individual wants, needs, and insecurities.

    While I haven’t read Joshua Harris’s books (or anything else related to the subject of courting vs. dating and guarding your heart), they all seem to spell out one thing: Here’s a completely bullet-proof plan that involves as little risk as possible, and therefore no one gets hurt. It seems perfectly normal (and justified) to not want to get hurt, and to have fears in terms of what might happen. But one shouldn’t be so afraid of something that they forget to trust and rely on Jesus in the process of it all. I believe that sometimes heartbreak and pain are necessary; not only to bring me closer to God, but to truly understand what’s good for me and what isn’t. I’m not going to speak for others because I know that this might work for some people, but I feel like if I just wait for my future husband to show up, I might start hearing or seeing things because that’s what I want, not because that’s what God wants for me. And I say that because I’ve done it, and it didn’t turn out well.

    I’ve found that dating/courting/relationships become less stressful and terrifying when I stop trying to follow a formula, and instead allow God to be my guide in my experiences and interactions with the opposite gender. I surround myself with people who are in or have been in healthy relationships, and know how to be realistic without being overly cynical. I’ve dated and it hasn’t always worked out, but that doesn’t mean God hasn’t worked in me or helped me grow because of it. Most importantly, I’ve prayed and trust that God will bring me where he wants me to be in His timing,

    I could go on, but I think I may just write my own blog post on this subject 🙂 Looking forward to more of your writing and the discussion that comes from it!

    God Bless,
    Alyx

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