Dealing with the Pressure to Date

Under Pressure

We’ve all heard these questions. So, who are you dating now? Are you dating anyone yet? Why aren’t you dating yet? Are you gay?

We’ve all been the recipient of lots of encouraging words. You’re so pretty, I know you’ll find someone. You’re such a great catch, I can’t believe you aren’t dating anyone. I know there’s someone special out there just for you.

We’ve all heard the cliché advice. Just be patient. Good things come to those who wait. You need to smile more. 

And, more advice. You’re just trying too hard. You’re not trying hard enough. You should lose a little weight. Color your hair. Dress to impress. Don’t be so pretentious, dress down a little. Be more accessible. Be more aloof and play hard-to-get. You gotta learn to play the game. You need to stop playing games and get serious.

All of that advice is given with the express purpose of helping you to start dating. Because, obviously, if you are not dating within their expected time frame, your life has no meaning and you are doomed to be lonely and unfulfilled forever.

All in the Timing

As I explained in a previous post, I do believe you should not date, as in having some sort of marriage-lite long-term relationship. But, I do believe should date, as in going out and having a little non-sexual, non-romantic fun with people of the opposite sex. That is good and healthy and profitable for learning about yourself and other people.

That being said, if you have been through a divorce, breakup, or bereavement, you should be the one who decides when you are ready to date again. Only you know where you are mentally and how ready you are emotionally. Don’t let outside pressure rush you into something you are not ready for.

Or, maybe you haven’t been through a divorce, breakup, or bereavement. Maybe you, for whatever reason, just, for now, don’t want to date. There is nothing wrong with that. Taking a little time off and just being single is exactly the right thing to do sometimes.

Where Does it Come From?

So, where does all this pressure come from? It comes at you from everywhere. Some of it comes from external sources like friends, family, and society, but some of it also comes from your own internal drives too.

Friends and Family

A lot of pressure comes from those closest to you, your friends and family.  Please understand, they usually do it with the best of intentions. They are probably not doing it to annoy you or make you feel bad. Probably. I don’t know your family. I guess I can’t rule it out for some of you. But, for most of you, your family and friends just want to see you happy.

And to be happy, obviously, you need to be in a relationship. If you are not, you must be lonely, unfulfilled, and unhappy.

Society

Our culture glorifies dating to the point of ridiculousness. Being happily unattached is as foreign to modern society as tithing, saving sex for marriage, or going to church every Sunday. They have no frame of reference.

Almost every major book, film, television show, recording artist, celebrity, or news outlet has the underlying perspective of sex being for any consenting adults, dating being a sexual relationship, and living together being the new normal. It takes strong convictions to stand up to this constant media barrage.

Yourself

If all of that isn’t enough, you also have to contend with your own internal drive to be part of a couple. There is a natural yearning in our hearts for companionship and intimacy. But, your internal pressure gets amplified even further by all the outside pressures you face every day. It’s hard not to internalize what you hear and see from so many sources every single day.

Bad Reasons / Good Reasons

In the end, the decision to date or not date is your decision. Let me just point out that there are good and bad reasons not to date.

Bad Reasons

If you are not dating because of fear or a lack of confidence, perhaps it is time to get past that. Sooner or later, if you ever want companionship and intimacy with another person you will need to start the process of finding a spouse. That means overcoming your fear or lack of confidence and going out on dates. But, the timing of that is up to you. It has nothing to do with your family or friends or the expectations of people you don’t even know.

Good Reasons

On the other hand, there are some really good reasons to not date, at least for a while.

One great reason is just to take a break, especially if you have a history of serial dating. Sometimes you need to hit the reset button and just be single for a while.

Sometimes, it is necessary not to date for a period of time. If you have recently been through a divorce, a breakup, or a bereavement, now is not the time to start dating. Now is the time to grieve. Now is the time to sort through your feelings and heal up emotionally. There will be time for going on dates later when you are stronger.

Other Reasons

Another reason you may not be dating is that you simply do not have opportunities. That is a subject for another post. In fact, if that is an issue for you, you should go check out this post and a few other posts about dating.

Manage the Pressure

If the pressure to date is mostly from friends and family, it is probably a good idea to sit them down and have a frank talk with them. Be direct. Briefly, explain to them why you are not dating. Assure them that you are okay and that this is a good thing for this season of your life. Gently, but forcefully tell them to stop pressuring you.

If there are friends and family who will not stop, and there probably will be, limit your interaction with them. Instead, find more emotionally and spiritually healthy, like-minded people to hang around with.

Another time to limit exposure is when the pressure is from society. You can’t totally isolate yourself from the culture you live in, but you can limit your exposure to the worst of it and spend your time doing things that are more helpful.

The one person you can’t limit your exposure to is yourself. But, if you limit your exposure to friends, family, and the elements of culture that are not helpful, your thought life should be easier to manage.

Of course, there is still the almost universal human urge to be close to someone of the opposite sex. That is harder to deal with. I have no magic bullet to fix that one. But, perhaps that one does not need fixing. Perhaps it is simply a matter of realizing that the internal pressure to connect is normal and healthy, but that it is okay to delay that urge until the time is right. I can tell you from first-hand experience, there is a lot to be said for delayed gratification.

What About You

So, what about you?

Are you at a time in life when you are not dating?

How do you handle it when friends and family pressure you?

Let’s talk about it down in the comments.

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