Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Dating to Marry
The title of my post gives away the point I want to convey - Dating to Marry. This concept is foreign to most in our culture. In fact, marriage itself is postponed later and later by most people. Some will read this and think I sound archaic, unrealistic, or uncultured (or all the above). Others will read and think the idea is good, but go on doing what they have always done. They'll deem it unpractical. Regardless, I want to make my case.
The State of Dating Today
Unfortunately we live in a society which portrays behaviors from shows like Jersey Shore and The Bachelor/ette as normal. These shows, and many like them, encourage hookups and serial dating. We very rarely witness people approach dating with an eye on marriage. Most people date casually without the slightest bent toward evaluating if the person/people they are dating are marriage material.
Most relationships today are built on sex. In fact, many relationships today started with a sexual encounter, a random hookup. Even when that is not how the relationship started, it often becomes why the relationship continues to exist. Is the sex good? Do we have it often enough? Are we sexually satisfied and compatible with each other? These are now the questions that get asked in the relationship. When they are not answered in the affirmative, the relationship is over.
So we date someone for a few weeks or months. We have sex with them. Things don't work out. The process starts over again. Throw in a few hookups that come on the heels of your latest breakup, and before you know it, you have experienced a few years with no relationships of any real substance and a long resume of sexual partners.
Sadly, this is the regular experience of many people. None of them feel satisfied or fulfilled in this vicious cycle, yet most keep repeating the cycle.
A New Approach
I want to suggest a new approach - dating to marry. Dating to marry does not mean that on the first date you have to ask someone if they are ready to marry. It is a commitment to date with an eye on evaluating whether the person is marriage material. What does this look like?
Some questions worth asking yourself: Can I have deep and meaningful friendship with this person? Are they responsible? Are they a person of character? Do they act mature? Would they be a faithful spouse? What kind of parent would they be? Are they generous and kind to others? Are we compatible with our faith and beliefs? Do we share a common vision about life and how we should approach it?
These questions, along with many others, begin to help one evaluate someone through the eyes of a spouse. Why is this important? Because these questions are the ones that ultimately matter in real life. When you are casually dating or looking to score the hookup, you don't worry about these things. You are only in it for the fun, for the momentary pleasures. But you also get the unfulfilling results of the hookup relationship.
Notice that I never asked a question about sex. The reason is because I do not believe that is the most important issue when considering a spouse. Life is about more than sex. Relationships are about more than sex. If you build a relationship on sex, and nothing else, that relationship with crumble. But this is how most teenagers and twenty-somethings are approaching dating. (Footnote: I think it is a waste of time for teenagers to date at all, but that is a different post for a different day)
My Two Cents
Here is my advice to people, plain and simple. If you are not someone who is ready to marry, don't date. What is the point of dating if you are not in a place in life where you are ready to marry? You don't date so you can have a friend, there are plenty of people, of both sexes, that you can have a friendship with. Do you date for sex? According to God's Word, sex is most fulfilling and most satisfying, and most healthy, when it is experienced in the covenant relationship of marriage. Is that popular today? No. Is this looked at as outdated? Yep. But that does not change the reality of it. God's blessing is found in living God's way.
So you don't need to date to have friends. And you don't need to have sex until you are married. In light of this, you should only date when you are willing to marry someone and you should date with an eye toward the person being marriage material. If you begin dating someone and you realize the person is not marriage material, you should gently and graciously end it.
This may seem crazy to people. But let me tell you what I think is crazy. As a pastor who sees and hears story after story of heartbreak, disappointment, and guilt from bad and ungodly relationships, I think it is crazy to keep approaching relationships in the same way, expecting to get a different result. That is crazy. So perhaps you should approach dating a different way. I suggest that it is God's way. And if you do it, I believe you will get God's results. That's my two cents.
Knowledge hoarding is unkind. Don't be a knowledge hoarder; share with others. :-)