3 Dating Myths Christians Need to Kiss Goodbye

It doesn't have to be so awkward.

A wise man once told me that there were only two outcomes for dating relationships: getting married or breaking up. “The secret,” he said, “is knowing how to handle a dating relationship so you know if the other person is worth marrying or he or she is honored in the breakup.”

Unfortunately, it seems like many young singles struggle to figure out just how to handle dating–and I’m not the only one who’s noticed how weird the Christian dating scene can be. As my friend Lindsey, married and in her thirties, recently remarked, “I’m sure glad I wasn’t much of a Christian when I started dating my husband!”

Whether over coffee in my kitchen or on the hallowed ground of women’s small groups, I hear these murmurs constantly. “My daughter was interested in this nice Christian boy, but he strung her along for a year and a half. The next one did too.” Or, “Jeremy acted like they were friends but she told me later that they were hooking up on the side.” With that kind of dismal dating culture at play, let’s consider the options:

First, there’s “courting.” It's the modern-day form of arranged marriages. I don’t have first-hand knowledge, but thanks to reality TV, I believe it appears to involve asking the woman’s dad if she is available to date, and possibly not kissing until the actual wedding.

What if Christians just began to date like normal people—not dating toward immediate marriage and not eschewing dating for the less-desirable “hanging out” no man’s land?

Outside the courting circles, there is the less overt but just as prevalent “ideal spouse” dating. This involves judging a potential guy or girl for the 38 qualities you are looking for in an ideal mate—before even grabbing coffee together. It’s like arranged marriages where no one is making the arrangements, and it doesn’t seem to work very well.

At the opposite extreme, there is “Faux Christian Dating”—in which young Christians have no idea what to do with dating, so they avoid it. Instead of dating, lots of “hanging out” occurs. “Hanging out” leads to all kinds of mixed feelings. Does he like me? Is she flirting? What does this text mean? Why did he sit next to me at church? Did she want my sweatshirt because she was cold, or because she likes me?

Sometimes the “hanging out” leads to hooking up, sans dating, which is another uber-confusing side effect of the Faux Christian Dating cycle.

But what if there was another option? What if Christians just began to date like normal people—not dating toward immediate marriage and not eschewing dating for the less-desirable “hanging out” no man’s land? Here are a few myths we'd have to ditch in order to get there.

1. You Have to Know Exactly How You Feel Before You Go On a Date

Stop evaluating whether the guy who’s taken an interest in you is strong and tenderhearted enough to raise your future kids. Stop evaluating whether the new girl at church is hot enough and “low-maintenance” enough for your liking.

If you take notice, if you are intrigued or interested, make a date! Get together—one on one. We are talking about one afternoon or evening together, not a lifetime. And unless someone’s making arrangements for you, it’s worth spending at least a little bit of time with the person before you decide if they are worth marrying.

2. You Can't Date Casually

When we were still in college, my husband had 38 first job interviews before he landed a second one. He was horrible at interviews, but by the 38th one, he had learned how to engage with good questions, talk about himself an appropriate amount and gauge interest from himself and the interviewer. He didn’t get necessarily smarter—he got more experienced. Dating can be like that too. Sometimes we all need a little practice with figuring out what we really want—not in terms of our “ideal spouse” but a real flesh-and-blood human.

Not every date needs to be a total success. But it’s foolish to think that the way a girl or guy acts in a group of friends is the same as how they’ll act one on one. Dating helps two people sort out what it would be like to be together, to be in a friendship. Most of marriage involves time together, one on one, in a friendship. And spending intentional one-on-one time—not too serious, just time—allows both parties to experience what it would be like to continue in the relationship.

I can’t say it clearly enough: Hanging out in groups will not be enough information to determine who is worth marrying. Everyone is different when you get them one-on-one.

3. Marriage Is the Only Purpose of Dating

“Do you think Christian girls make dating too serious?” I asked several guys recently. “I need a buffer of at least five dates before I’m thinking of any future at all!” said one young man.

What if you completely jettison the idea of finding your husband or wife via dating, at least for the first five dates? What if dating is about getting to know someone and gauging interest, not lifelong compatibility?

The great thing about changing expectations is that it lowers the pressure on grabbing dinner together and figuring out if the two of you even like talking to one another!

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Of course, one of the biggest obstacles toward casual dating is the inevitable “ending.” So many of us equate kindness with never saying anything hard to anyone. In truth, kindness is not about passivity. Kindness is honoring someone in your treatment of them, but kindness is also honoring them by ending a dating relationship if needed.

If you’ve maintained boundaries and treated your date with respect, you’ve protected him or her from false and premature intimacy. Will it be awkward? Sure, it will! But the purpose of dating isn’t to just accumulate boyfriends or girlfriends—it’s to find a best friend and partner for life. And when you find him or her, chances are, none of those other guys or gals you’ve casually dated will matter much in the light of your spouse.

The reality is that you can’t have it all. You can’t have the attention of multiple dates and still be pursuing a God-honoring relationship with one. You can’t maintain 10 flirty friendships and expect to make space in your heart for one awesome husband or wife. But you can start somewhere—slowly, and casually—and trust God to lead you into more.

This article has been adapted from an earlier version.

Top Comments

jon jones

2

jon jones commented…

"What if Christians just began to date like normal people—not dating toward immediate marriage and not eschewing dating for the less-desirable “hanging out” no man’s land?"

Hanging out, which quickly leads to hooking up sexually IS what "normal people" (i.e. non-Christians within our current culture) do. Christians do not need to emulate what qualifies as normal in our modern Western culture.

Steve Cornell

344

Steve Cornell commented…

While you're kissing these myths good-bye, say hello to a few important truths also.

Here's one - Dating is a time when people tend to conceal information that marriage will inevitably reveal. So use your brain and guard your heart! Let your head lead your heart.

Don't give your heart to anyone until your head processes the data necessary to making a wise decision.

It will be hard to talk your head out of it if you give your heart to a bad relationship.

Here's another truth - Become the person that the person you’re looking for is looking for. Become the person that your future spouse will need. This will help you attract and be attracted to the right kind of person.

(check out 5 truths about relationships for singles - https://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/dating-and-relationship-advice/ )

21 Comments

Adam Zonino

5

Adam Zonino commented…

Why do you only present a simplistic (and basically false) caricature of "courting"? Is it supposed to be tongue-in-cheek? I have a very limited experience with it but I'm aware of a number of quite different expressions of "courting". You would do a lot better to do some research so you actually know what you're talking about, or at the very least clearly stipulate what *you* mean by "courting", acknowledging that it may not match any of your readers' understanding or experience.

Jonathan Cline

1

Jonathan Cline commented…

When someone is writing an article this short, it's easy to pick it apart (which is quite different than asking honest questions and having a conversation about a topic).

With that said, Nicole, I think you did a great job writing a succinct article that will hopefully make people think about how they're approaching relationships. I love dating and think it can be the healthiest form of pursuing a spouse in our culture. It's always a pleasure taking a few minutes to read something that's simple, level headed, and trying to help people think about how they might be affecting others in their pursuit of a spouse.

Tracy

125

Tracy commented…

Lotta fear here that young people are going to be sexual!
I wish there was at least as much concern about the divorce rate.

Divorce rates are correlated with, among other things, the age of the people getting married. After age 30 they drop considerably. I suspect it has something to do with knowing yourself, experiencing what works and what doesn't in a relationship, and not marrying the first person you have any sort of sexual feeling toward -- too many young Christians think at the first attraction they must be ready for marriage -- especially if there are intense sexual desires or (gasp!) furtive sexual experiences.

James Scott Jr.

1

James Scott Jr. commented…

Truly terrible article based on simplistic opinion and wholly lacking on biblical insight or reference.

Kathryn Cartera

1

Kathryn Cartera commented…

I was looking for scriptural ground for the ideas herein, but couldn't find any. As such:

1. The advice in this article is prone to abuse. I agree that you shouldn't overly spiritualized dating, but I know that romance, especially in the context of emotional intimacy, is sacred. Dating is an entry point for that kind of romance, and if taken flippantly, will more likely cause a lot of pain, as compared to when taken soberly and with wisdom and God-given courage and judgement.

2. Marriage IS the only purpose of dating. Because of its exclusive nature, why on earth would you date for any other purpose? For practice, for your future spouse? To find out what you "really like in a person"? That is terrible, terrible advice. You can discover yourself on your own, no need to enter into an exclusive relationship designed to create intimacy, ideally FOR MARRIAGE.

3. If your definition of dating is grabbing coffee and getting to know someone one on one, that's cool. I think clarity of definition is important between parties, so as to manage expectations.

In sum, yes to going out there and asking her out to coffee and agreeing to go on coffee. Yes to asking them out on dates. But no to treating it "casually" and not having marriage in mind; that is dangerous because of the nature of romance and this kind of relationship. Just don't go scooping fire onto your lap, just because you can.

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