Dating is supposed to be exciting and engaging, but these days the romance and possibility of a date seem to be replaced with confusion. Social media and texting has replaced interactions that used to be face-to-face. We’ve become much more casual about how we communicate and even get to know new people. In this context, the art of dating has suffered. So much so that the word itself is often replaced with its ambiguous cousin “hanging out.” The time that men and women do get to spend together has become murkier and more uncertain.
You may have experienced it before: In comes that text message, “Hey, what are you up to? Want to hang out?” Or maybe your best friend has been spending more one-on-one time with a new guy, prompting you to ask her, “Are you guys dating?” The answer is somewhat vague and uncertain. “Oh, no, we’re just hanging out right now.”
Just hanging out? What does that even mean?
Just last year, a study released by USA Today revealed that almost 70 percent of single men and women are “at least somewhat confused about whether an outing with someone they’re interested in is a date or not.”
Why all the confusion?
From the beginning of time, men have struggled to be clear with women. As a guy, I understand that most of the confusion starts with us. More often than not, we choose to suggest a casual-sounding hangout rather than an actual date. While this tactic lessens some of the pressure we feel, it can raise confusion—what is the point of this time together? Is he interested, or does he just want to be friends?
The simple solution would be to have men approach the relationship with more intentionality and clarity. But in the absence of clear communication, I hope to offer a few tidbits of advice. The fact is, he is either interested or not. Here’s how to sift through the confusion and coax that man into saying what he means.
01. Invite your friends.
Romance requires one-on-one time together. Unless you plan on participating in an arranged marriage, this bonding time is essential. But it can be nerve-racking to ask a beautiful woman out on a solo date.
Speaking from personal experience, even the most confident man can be intimidated by the prospect of revealing his true feelings. We fear failure, hurt, and rejection. To temper the possible blow of rejection, we often opt for a hangout. This casual interaction is intentionally ambiguous. It has almost all the benefits of a date with a certain degree of plausible deniability.
As men and women, we love to feel loved; we love to feel romanced. So we suffer through this willingly, hoping that eventually someone will buckle and reveal his or her true feelings.
If your potential love interest asks to hang out, and you are looking for something more concrete, say: “Sure, I’ll call this person and that person, and we’ll all go do something.”
By suggesting a group hangout, you’re putting him on notice. Either he will have to work up the courage to ask you out on a proper date, or he will have to get to know you better among your group of friends but without the pressure of a first date.
02. Raise the question.
If a guy asks to hang out, you are probably already thinking: Is this a date or not?
Sometimes you just have to open up direct lines of communication, and ask the obvious question. Chances are that when you do, both parties will be relieved.
Ask him, “Should I invite friends along, or is this a date?” or “What do you mean by hanging out?” However you phrase it, the goal is to help the man define what he really wants. Asking these questions can give him an avenue to be more intentional.
If you do ask, and he opts for “not a date,” then you can be pretty certain that yes, it is not a date. However, don’t look at this as a negative—now there is clarity, and you can get to know him as a friend without any uncertainty.
03. Flirt a little.
I will defer to my good friend Monica on this one, but before I do, I will say this: There is nothing more empowering for me than when a woman helps me along by communicating her own interest through flirtation.
I know that flirtation has gotten somewhat of a bad rap over the years. What Monica brings up in her article entitled “Reviving the Lost Art of Flirtation” rings so true to male ears.
Flirting with a man is nothing more than dropping the hint that you are interested—or at least not horrifyingly intimidating to talk to. . . . Flirting isn’t about being disingenuous or manipulative, it’s about setting the other person at ease and making him feel confident. Letting him know that you enjoy talking to him and maybe even think he is attractive won’t kill the thrill of the chase. On the contrary, a little flirtation is the green light most men need to go ahead and pursue you.
I can only imagine how frustrating it is trying to figure out which guys like you and which guys like you a little more than just friends.
Men can run into a similar problem. If we get the sense that a woman shares our feelings, we will be all the more likely to finally ask her out on a real date. Some of the more helpful ways to communicate this interest are to ask him questions about himself, make eye contact, take an interest in his interests, smile in response to what he says, and throw a flattering compliment his way every once in a while.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are continuing to simply hang out with someone you’re interested in or are unsure about his intentions, give yourself the freedom to help him along.
He might be slow in making his intentions known, but when a woman drops a hint about her own intentions, it can certainly signal to the man that it is OK to pursue.
Give some of these suggestions a try the next time he suggests a hangout. It might not end in a relationship or even a date, but I hope at the very least that it will allow him an opportunity to be more clear and intentional.