The first thing that should happen if it has not happened during the initiation of the relationship is that intentions should be established. Whatever that conversation looks like, intentions should be clear and it should be the man making them so. Guys, tell her why you have initiated or are initiating with her, tell her that you intend to pursue the relationship to determine if marriage to her is the right choice before God.
In my view, this establishing of intentions should be done near the beginning of any exclusive or romantic time spent together — preferably within the first two or three "dates" during a deliberate conversation on the subject.
Guys, don't wait until you've had lunch or dinner or "hung out" one-on-one four or five times before you let her know what's going on. The idea is to remove that period of confusion or vulnerability for the woman by being forthright from the beginning about what level of intention or commitment exists (a la 1 Thessalonians 4). You probably won't know at this stage how things are going to ultimately turn out regarding marriage (that's why you date), so you need not communicate that right away. But you should know what you're trying to find out and what your intentions are — that is what you, as the man, must be clear about. From there, you obviously need a response from the woman to know whether or not things will go any further.
If you know the woman from church, if you've seen her interact in a group, observed her with others, maybe worked with her as a part of some ministry, that input should be enough for you to think through the decision of whether initiation of a relationship is the right thing. Remember, your intent at this point is not necessarily marriage — and that's not what either of you are committing to at this stage. You're simply committing to get to know her a little better in an intentional way to evaluate whether the two of you should then consider marriage to one another.
Ladies, as uncomfortable as this may sound for the guys, you might be in a difficult position here as well, depending on how well you know the man initiating with you. What if that answer is "not well at all"? Then I'd ask, have you had any chance at all to see him in group settings, or do you know him by reputation? If you don't have even information at that level, feel free to tell him that you want some time to think and pray about it (that is, if you're not sure at that point that you're not interested).
Then — in addition to actually thinking and praying about it — ask one of your pastors or elders whether he knows him and what he thinks. If the pastor or elder you ask doesn't know him well, he can guide you to a trustworthy source that knows him better.
If you know the man well or at least better than what I've just described, but you are not sure whether you are interested in him, I'd encourage you to at least take some time to get to know him before giving an unequivocal "no." Keep in mind that this is different from feigning interest when there isn't any. There are instances in which you can be genuinely unsure about a guy but still move forward this far.
Let me say it again: Agreeing to date is not agreeing to marry. That's why you date. We're trying to make intentions clear, here, not asking anyone to commit to go the distance with no information.
There are biblical and unbiblical reasons for a man to initiate with a woman, and there are biblical and unbiblical reasons for turning a man down. If you feel that you are not initially attracted to a man who initiates with you, OK — but at least ask yourself why that is. Are you considering biblical characteristics in that decision? Do you have enough information to know that you could not marry this man? If a man initiates with you, ladies, think and pray and seek counsel before simply dismissing him. If nothing else, treating men who initiate well will encourage other men to initiate.
So ... Here We Are
If we are concerned about defrauding one another (again, this idea applies to both genders but particularly to the men as the initiators), another one of the early issues to address is how much and what kind of time couples spend together.
What kind of time should couples spend together in the early stages of a relationship?
The answer turns on what you are trying to find out about this person at this stage of things. You're trying to find out whether this is someone you should know more intimately en route to figuring out whether this is a person you could marry. Did you catch how I phrased that? You are trying to figure out if you should get to know this person more intimately; you are not at the outset trying to get to know this person intimately. The difference is subtle but important.
One suggestion I have for couples starting out is that the majority of your time together should be spent with other people, preferably with your families and church families. Get to know one another in groups, find out how the other person reacts to people, spend time with the people he or she cares about. This will provide you a chance to get to know him or her well and will also provide a buffer and accountability against getting too emotionally intimate too early.
Many people want to start out a relationship by spending a huge amount of time alone together. This is understandable but unadvisable for a number of reasons. Spending too much time alone promotes a high level of intimacy on a number of fronts, can lead to some level of isolation from other friends, and puts undue emphasis on the relationship in the lives of both people, even before any significant commitment has been voiced.
If you do spend time alone, spend it in activities, read a book together, be in public places, etc. In these early stages, people should not spend long hours looking into each other's eyes over candle-lit tables or being alone together at one another's apartments. To do so courts temptation (so to speak) and implies a level of commitment that's simply not there yet.
Think not just about the kind of time you spend together, but how much. Even if you spend the right kind of time together, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Don't get together (even with other people) four or five times a week. Leave space in your life for other activities and relationships. And don't spend every moment that you're not together on the phone or even emailing or texting or IMing back and forth. Build the momentum (if it will build) slowly.