Have you heard of it?
Maybe you or someone you know has said something like…
“I always feel so awkward around people I like, so I’m thinking about practice dating people I’m not really into.”
“They’re not really my type, but they’re kind of cute, so it wouldn’t hurt to practice date them.”
“OK, I can see how it would be wrong for me to date a non-Christian if I was serious, but I’m only practice dating.”
Well, if you’re curious about any of these scenarios, here are four questions you should consider before beginning “date practice.”
#1: What do you plan on practicing?
Are you wanting to practice the art of actually building a meaningful relationship? Do you want to learn how to get to know someone, ask good questions, and listen attentively? Learn how to open up to in an appropriate and healthy way?
If so, believe it or don’t…
Relational skills are best honed inside healthy friendships. No practice dating necessary.
Are you wanting to get used to the opposite sex, learn to calm your nerves when you’re around them, and understand the uniqueness of their gender? If so, again, trust me, making friends with those of the opposite sex is the best way to accomplish this objective.
From my extensive flirting experience (beginning when I was in 3rd grade and continuing into college when I became known by many as MC Scammer), I can tell you flirting didn’t make my dating life better. It made it more shallow.
As for the meaningless small talk, it’s meaningless. And ain’t nobody got time for practicing meaninglessness.
Is this really about making out? I hear some people practice kissing pillows, but I waited to practice on a real girl. After we commenced an exclusive dating relationship – not a practice one.
Yes, this meant our first kiss was pretty awkward and messy, but she wound up marrying me anyway. And, as it turns out, after 25 years of marriage, making out hasn’t proven to be the secret to our success. And the making out we “practiced” prior to marriage was actually detrimental to our sexual enjoyment in marriage. True story.
#2: Are you being honest with them?
Does Mr or Ms NeverGoingToBeTheOne know of their “practice squad” status?
Or could they actually hold hopes for the relationship? And if they did, wouldn’t that mean you might be leading them on? Or, maybe more pointedly: using them?
Now to clarify, one date does not a dating relationship make.
I went out with a lot of girls in college. Seriously, like a lot, including over 30 girls my Freshman year alone. And though that concentrated frequency is not something I would recommend to anyone ever, even still there was not a single girl I went out with “for practice.”
No. I wasn’t looking for some kind of serious commitment on the first date, but I did truly want to get to know every one of my dates better. Not just use them to prepare for some girl I really liked.
Doesn’t that just sound wrong when you look at it like that?
#3: Are you being honest with yourself?
Are you really not interested in this person at all? Are there really no metaphorical butterflies in the tummy? No hope for something special? No curiosity about how the story might end?
Perhaps calling it “practice” is just a way of keeping your expectations low, so you won’t get hurt if it turns out they’re not that into you? If so, let me assure you, it will still hurt if they aren’t that into you.
There may be such a thing as practice dating, but there is no such thing as practice breakups.
And FYI: suppressing your emotions doesn’t actually make them go away. It just makes them suppressed.
On the other hand, is applying the “practice” label to a relationship a way for you to justify dating someone who likes you, but who you know you shouldn’t like back, but you do anyway? If so, know this, secret desires are far more powerful and dangerous than ones that are openly expressed.
In other words, you’re playing with fire.
#4: Do you think that practice makes perfect? All by itself?
OK, let’s get real. If you’re going to succeed at anything important, it’s going to take far more than just practice. You’re going to need instruction.
Yes, I know, that sounds completely and entirely logical. Until you try to apply that logic to dating. And then it just sounds weird.
Dating instruction isn’t something generally offered at school. Or anywhere. Wonder if that has anything to do with the state of dating, romance, marriage, and divorce in our culture?
Think about it. Sure you have to log hours behind the wheel in order to learn to drive a car, but before that ever happens you have to get instruction from someone who knows the rules of the road and how to handle a vehicle. And don’t forget the driver’s manual you have to read and understand in order to pass the written exam before you can even start practicing.
Likewise, in order to excel at a sport, instrument, or any other talent or skill, you usually start with guidance from teachers and experts. And you depend on their experience and wisdom throughout the learning process.
That said, if you want to win at dating, don’t you think you ought to have some clear direction before you just start practicing?
Before You Begin Practice
Can we be gut-level real for a minute?
Because I’m truly concerned for your success in relationships. (Yes, I may not even know you, but God has put a burden on my heart to care deeply about the relational success of millions of people I will never meet: to inspire and lead them to date with peace and purpose. That’s what’s driven me to write over 350 posts and shoot over 250 videos. For free!)
That said, here’s the straight poop, the very fact that you’re thinking about “practice dating” reveals you lack a clear understanding of both the purpose and goal of dating, as well as a compelling vision for dating.
And, more concerning, you may not even be ready to date. Not even practice date.
Of course, the truth is, I can’t know you or your true intentions for dating, whether it be practice, official, first, online, blind, long-distance, or speed, but do yourself a favor. Before you attend your first practice date, ask someone you look up to for their wisdom. And give this person (or persons) the permission to be honest with you, even if it hurts your feelings.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. – Proverbs 27:6
Beyond that, if I haven’t totally offended you, I beg you to check out our Hot Topic page dedicated to inspiring and leading you into relational success, in real actual dating, and then if God wills, a life-giving, life-long marriage.
DNA: It’s What’s For Dating
It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. And would like to learn how to better build healthy relationships in the meantime.
Check out all three study guides in our store. You can walk through them on your own, but it’s more fun with friends (that and it kinda makes sense to grow in relational success in actual relationships with others), so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study.
Even better? And ask a rock star married couple you respect to lead it!