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The Rules #5 The Speed of Dating

This is the 5th installment in our “The Rules for Dating” series. You can find the previous posts here, here, here, and here.


Up until now you’ve probably dated at the wrong speed.

Here’s how it typically happens: Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Boy ask girl out. Boy and girl go out. If girls likes boy they go out again. If they enjoy being together they have the DTR (Defining The Relationship) conversation and they are soon boyfriend and girlfriend. And depending on your faith and love commitments, many of the couples are doing whatever they believe is appropriate for boyfriends and girlfriends to do.

Wow! That’s fast.

The entire thing can happen in less than a month. Sometimes it happens in a few weeks. I want to suggest that that’s too fast. What’s more, I want to suggest that when the relationship goes south, boyfriend and girlfriend – who got together in less than a month – waste a lot of time and energy NOT going ahead and breaking up quickly.

I once heard a Christian business man say, “You should hire slowly and fire quickly.” And I think the same is true for who you date. Remember, the dating process is about finding a spouse and creating a life together. You can call another kind of friend if you just want to go to the movies. Take the dating process seriously.  Therefore – and I know this sounds cold and unromantic – you should treat your season of dating like a job interview.

Hire slowly.


  1. Use The Clock! Time is your friend. You need to spend A LOT of time with someone before you do anything physical. And I do mean anything! A good friend of ours committed to spending 1,000 hours with a boyfriend candidate before they kissed. Guess what? They decided to go their separate ways before they reached the 1,000- hour mark. Now, if you’re dating for physical gratification you won’t make it, but if you’re hoping to find a lasting heart connection with another human, what else would be better? Physical contact distorts reality. Put it off until you know whether or not you want to invest.
  2. Ask Tough Questions. You know those questions you’re afraid of asking, ask them. How do you handle money? What debt do or will you have? What’s your sexual history? What’s your relationship with your family like? How will we handle faith? Children? What are your expectations for household chores? Gender roles? If you have one set of expectations and end up with someone who has others then there are going to be a lot of bumps in the road. And trust me, marriage is challenging even in the best of circumstances.
  3. Define Your Qualifications. You need to be straightforward about what the qualifications for the job (husband or wife) are. A year before my wife and I began dating, she wrote a list: “Rochelle’s Perfect Man.” In it she lists what she wanted out of her future husband. It covered the kind of work he’d do, how he’d speak to her and the children, how he’d listen, what his values were, what he’d do around the house, how much money he needed to make, what his sense of humor would be like, etc….Seriously. And she still has the list. If I didn’t fit the qualifications, I wouldn’t have gotten the job. Like all jobs, no candidate is perfect, but if you spend the time you can find what you’re looking for.
  4. Check References. I can’t count the times a girl I knew began dating a guy that she believed to be a “great guy.” The problem was that if she asked anyone else about him, she would have discovered he was a jerk, but she never asked. It’s completely fine to ask around about a dating candidate. Talk to other folks who dated them. Why did they break up? What might he/she might not want you to know or try to hide from you. You might discover a theme. He was too aggressive. She was high-maintenance. Once you find out you can then determine whether or not this is something you can live with or whether or not to extend your search.

The flip side of hiring slowly is to fire quickly. Once you discover that a relationship is going nowhere, cut it off. Don’t linger. It’s the merciful thing to do.

  • I have a number of problems with you suggesting ex-girlfriends/boyfriends as a source for information about a prospective mate.

    The first is an issue with credibility. Anyone who has ever been through a breakup knows that they are very often ugly affairs and that the parties involved do not always have the fairest assessment of what went wrong and who is at fault. Asking people with whom a prospective mate has had a failed relationship questions about whether or not you think you’ll also have a failed relationship seems to set you up for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The second issue is that it makes no allowance for growth. People change, and they learn from past dating mistakes. I have been happily married for six years now, but if my wife had gone back and taken surveys among my past girlfriends, she would have developed a very different picture of what kind of man I am. Instead, she would only have gotten information about the man I had been. In your slow to hire, quick to fire scheme, polling ex-girlfriends leaves wide open the possibility of dismissing a prospective mate because you are operating on outdated information.

    Finally, searching for people’s secrets from their exs puts emotional intimacy on an artificial time-table. Your advice about starting slow is great, but your suggestion that you ask others what a potential mate might be “hiding” directly contradicts it. Progressively learning about a prospective mates personal beliefs, fears, hopes, and experiences is part of the organic development of a relationship. Certain “hidden” things are best revealed at the right time and in the right circumstances. Surely there are facts of your past or features of your personality that your spouse has accepted now but might have driven her away if they had been disclosed from the beginning. The kind of emotional intimacy that comes from sharing one another’s secrets and discovering truths about one another’s personality is a necessary feature of a vital relationship. Trying to drudge up a sneak-peak for yourself disrupts the natural progression of a relationship.

    You may say that just being aware of these issues is enough, that, with them being expressed, you can avoid their pitfalls. For my part, I think seeking information from ex-partner’s is so prejudicial as to be prohibitive in the formation of strong relationships. There are plenty of more reliable, more constructive “references” to check in the hiring process.

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