Written by Loni Kennington Harmon, LCSW
Here it goes…
This comes from a personal space as I look back at my dating life and from a place of my voice as a
counselor to single adults for the past 10 years. There is a trend going on and I want to do some
educating about how it’s affecting the dating culture today.
Let’s start from a place of gaining understanding for the term “Investigator.” For an LDS missionary it is
the term used to describe someone whom they have contacted and is interested in learning more about
the church. A missionary will work with that individual to teach them about the church, helping them
make progress in learning by inviting them to make certain commitments, like attending church and
reading scripture. As they make and keep these commitments, they find that they will begin to
understand whether joining the church feels like right move for them. Are you with me? An investigator
is gathering information and in order to progress out of that phase they need to make and keep certain
Now, let’s liken this to dating. This is where our man becomes the person he taught on his mission: the
investigator. He contacts many women but spends too much time investigating them rather than taking
them on dates and making progress in a relationship.
Dating is the word used to describe actively going on dates with a variety of people. It can also be used
to describe two individuals who are exclusive and not going on dates with other people. In this dialogue
I used the term to describe the time in life when you are looking to get to know other people and
potentially take them on a date. As I see more men doing this than women, they will be the angle in
which I write and, in my description, I am referring to a heterosexual man.
In dating, a man who is an investigator will believe he is actively contacting and looking to go on dates
with women. They will have many complaints such as: there isn’t anyone they are interested in, they
don’t meet new women to date or, women are very picky and keep turning them down. Perhaps they
will say they are only attracted to women who meet a specific criteria such as those who are
“outdoorsy” (what does that even mean anyway?) These are men who are not progressing in dating but
seem to have everything going for them. They have social skills, they are good looking, they appear to
have ambition and drive, but they are rarely in an age appropriate exclusive relationship. Their parents
and church leaders are baffled so they try and help by telling them who to ask out and giving them
dating tips and hoping they will somehow meet this elusive “one” that appears to be what they are
This is, in fact, what is going on: these men are stuck in trying to decide who to date because they have
developed a fear of choosing the wrong partner. Where this fear comes from varies, but it has become
so real that they have decided they need to know if the relationship will work out and be successful
before they ever get into a first date. They feel the need to know if they will have a forever partner in this woman before they take her on any dates. This may shock you but let me assure you it is very common and very accepted amongst their peers.
This man will see a woman he is attracted to at an event of some kind. This is where he will begin to
observe her, how she interacts with others, what her comments might be on various topics, what she is
wearing, how she carries herself. As he begins his investigation, he thinks about her a great deal and
tries to gather information about her. He may begin to follow her on social media, and at some point, he
may approach her and even flirt a bit. When contact is made the woman feels encouraged that he is
interested in her and she responds favorably. He is encouraged and begins to approach her again and
learns to enjoy catching up with her and flirting a little. This is where the problems begin.
Men you have a window of opportunity with women. If they sense you are romantically interested in
them and they return the interest, they are willing to make room for you in their life and will most likely
agree to an invitation for a date. However, as an investigator he let’s his desire to know the end from
the beginning override his desire for a date, so he continues his observations of the woman. This can go
on for months and even years with many different women.
The effects of this investigation dating style are that men rationalize that they just need to keep looking
in order to find the right partner. The longer they look the more likely they feel they will find the right
person for them. They begin waiting for relationships to present themselves, women who will approach
them and pursue them, you know, invite them for game night, bring them cookies, make them dinner,
etc. Dating becomes easy for them because they do not even have to put much work into finding
attractive women and they feel justified in their behavior as clearly, they are “trying.”
What is the answer here? What is the correct approach to dating? First, notice that yes you want to find
potential romantic partners that you are attracted to but don’t give yourself more than three options at
a time. Within 2-3 interactions with the woman decide if you will take her on a date or not. If you want
to get to know her better then ask her out quickly, don’t wait! Plan a date that you think will be
successful. Make it longer than a quick smoothie trip; a nice lunch or dinner is a great idea. When you
are on the date your only job is to determine if you want to go on a second date. Spend time with
conversation where you can find out what you have in common and if you enjoy their company or not.
Men; don’t talk about yourself the whole time. A good balance in conversation is important. Women;
don’t ask them a bunch of questions about themselves and then get mad that they only talked about
themselves. Help balance the conversation. Inside the first date you can gather information about what
would be agreeable to do on the second date.
Give some time between dates, perhaps a week and at most a week and a half. This will allow the
attraction to build but not to grow too quickly. On the second date apply the same skills as you did
during the first date and learn if you would like to go on a third date. Same rules apply for the third date.
After the third date, honestly ask yourself if you would like to continue a romantic connection with this
person. If the answer is no, then kindly thank the person for their time and say you don’t feel a romantic
connection. Then lovingly send them into the world and be thankful that you were wise and allowed
yourself to respond appropriately to a relationship that presented itself, having walked through it in a
healthy and mature way. If it goes into a fourth date, well first congratulations and second, that is a new
Bottom line, please have courage and take a chance on a relationship within two or three contacts. You
are supposed to be uncertain if it will work out and get that information answered inside of going on
dates with each other. Making the commitment to date will help you progress towards finding a partner
you will be happy with and can eventually see spending your life with.