‘Open-Endedness’ is one of the biggest problems, if not the biggest, in our dating culture. It’s the belief that says we’ll be happier and find the relationship we want if we leave our options open, lead people on just in case, and not close the door on someone incase we change our minds later on. This belief actually makes our relationships weaker.  

Open-Endedness is a word I have made up recently to describe one of the biggest issues I see facing our modern dating culture. (At least I think I made it up. I can say for sure that I know it isn’t an actual word, as spell check keeps underlining it!)

I believe dating relationships can bless us, be a positive experience, and honour God. This can happen whether they lead to marriage or a good break-up (emphasis on good). That isn’t to say dating is easy, but it can give us so much.

I think one of the main things that stops it being great is the problem of open-endedness.


When I use this word, I’m referring to the dating pattern that says people should keep their options open. That leaving things open is good because later down the line they think ‘my’ needs may change and this person may become ‘useful’ to me. 

In practice, this looks like people avoiding break-ups or saying no to a second date. They don’t want to tell someone no because they may want to start up the relationship again at some later point, so they just ignore them. It’s left open-ended because it suits ‘my’ needs.

Or they lead people on and give mixed messages because they kind of like someone but aren’t sure how much they like them. The other person is wondering if it will lead somewhere or not. It’s left open-ended because it suits ‘my’ needs. (Bread 6 Ways to Break-up Well: Part 1 (No Ghosting or Breadcrumbing allowed!)

Or sometimes people just don’t know how to say they aren’t interested. They feel awkward letting someone down and don’t want to be mean. While this is understandable, avoiding the issue still leaves the other person unsure. It puts ‘me wanting to avoid awkwardness’ above their feelings. It’s left open-ended because it suits ‘my’ needs.

Open-endedness is about ‘me’.

Collateral Damage 

The problem is people are getting hurt. Leading others on and leaving people without answers or closure causes pain and confusion. 

Dating needs more clarity. We need to accept that dating involves having a responsibility to the people we date. A godly way of dating means thinking about other people and not just ourselves.

Not allowing people to know where they stand, or how we feel, and leaving things open, is not helpful. I think this lack of clarity and people being unsure is actually making dating very unpleasant for many. 

Whether we have just met up for one date, or been with someone for a while and are wanting to end it, we need to end it. Leaving things open means unresolved feelings and questions do more harm.  

There are three things I think we can do to change the culture around us and avoid the open-endedness. 

#1 Focus On The One In Front Of Us

Our culture says the more choices the better. The more options we have the happier we will be. That may or ma not be the case, but this advice actually ruins relationships. 

The idea that someone better may be out there, that we need to check the next profile and arrange the next date, even if we are starting to form a relationship with someone, is dangerous. 

We all want to be in stable relationships with someone we trust. This begins when we focus on the person in-front of us, closing off other options so we can work out how we feel about this person and giving it the best chance to thrive.  (Read What Does Faithfulness Look Like When I’m Dating?)

#2 Break Up Well 

We need to know how to end a relationship. Break-ups are never fun, or easy, but they can be done better. 

If we date someone and decide it won’t work out, that isn’t a failure. Dating is about getting to know someone and deciding if you want to commit more to each other. If the answer is no, that can show wisdom and maturity. But we can’t get the break-up wrong. 

Just not saying anything, or ignoring someone after a few dates because you think it won’t work out, leaving it open, is wrong. It can leave people questioning themselves and wondering if you will get in touch at some point. 

Giving it an end, doing it well means things don’t remain open and uncertain. Even if it’s hard to hear, at least people know there’s an endpoint, and can decide what to do next instead of just wondering.

#3 Discuss Expectations 

A big thing which is undervalued is discussing relationship expectations. 

Deciding together on what you want out of the relationship, and what you think is realistic and healthy, will reduce the confusion. (Read Unhealthy Relationship Expectations We Should All Know)

If you’re on the same page, and/or discuss the different points of view, then you will both know what direction you are heading in. Reducing the confusion, the unspoken tensions and hopes, will help give you a clear path to walk on together and reduce the open-endedness.

Imagine If…

Imagine if we made sure our behaviours went against open-endedness. Imagine if we made sure we were Focus On The One In Front Of Us, Break-Up Well, and Discuss Expectations. Giving us more clarity and less unresolved problems. (Read 3 Simple Rules For Building A Healthy Dating Church Culture)

What else causes open-endedness? Comments welcomed below

Originally posted 0/0/0000