Archives For Awkward Dating

Of all the myths about dating we have explored this week, perhaps this one is the most difficult to shake: “Successful dating results in marriage.” Says who?

Let’s start by asking an important question: What is the goal of dating? Dating is all about getting to know a member of the opposite sex better. Marriage will probably be somewhere on the horizon, but I wouldn’t say that marriage is the goal of dating. Maybe it’s better to say it this way: The goal of dating is to get to know someone better, and while we’re at it, we will at some point determine whether or not it would glorify God for the two of us to get married.

Assuming you won’t be locked into a dating relationship until the day you die, a successful dating relationship could end in one of two ways: (1) You discover that God would be most glorified by you marrying this person, or (2) You discover that God would be most glorified by you not marrying this person. Either discovery is equally valid. Either discovery means that the dating relationship was successful.

Here’s something you may not hear every day: breakups are okay. I mean it. They’re not fun. Often, they’re very painful. But if you get to know someone well enough to discover that God is calling the two of you to different things, or that you’re not as interested in marrying that person as you originally thought you might be, or if you simply become convinced that God doesn’t want you to be married to this specific person at this specific time, then a breakup is a good thing.

If your dating relationship has been more of a test-run for marriage, then your breakup is going to feel more like a divorce. But if your dating relationship has been about God’s glory, if you have been relating to each other more like a brother and a sister rather than a pseudo-husband and pseudo-wife, then you can end the dating part of a relationship and still maintain a healthy relationship.

I know I’m being idealistic here, and relationships rarely end well. But I believe it’s possible. I’ve seen it happen. Though we will make mistakes and things will be more painful than they should be, God’s grace can saturate our breakups as well and we can avoid the division and devastation that so often accompanies breakups.

So how do you determine if your dating relationship should end in marriage? I have no clue. That’s as situation-specific a question as I can think of. But here are a few things to consider. Can you honestly say that you could glorify God better together than apart? What would you be compromising in order to marry this person? What would be gained through marrying this person? Can you read 1 Corinthians 7 and still be convinced that marriage is the best decision for you?

David Powlison offers five helpful questions for couples who are considering marriage:

  1. Are you both pursuing the Lord? (If not, you’re heading in radically different directions and should reconsider.)
  2. Are you both making decisions biblically? (This doesn’t mean either of you is perfect, but your goal is to glorify God by apply His truth to your life.)
  3. Are you both moving in the same direction? (Does one of you have a God-given calling to minister in Uzbekistan while the other has a God-given calling to minister in Seattle?)
  4. Do other people who know you well think you should get married? (Ultimately, the two of you have to make this decision, but there is incalculable wisdom in heeding the counsel of the solid Christians in your life.)
  5. Do you have the desire to accept this person for who he or she is and get married? (This should be obvious, but you don’t HAVE to get married to this person (or to anyone), so your own desire to marry this person or not should play into the decision.)

Dating is fun and exciting. It can also be awkward as all get out. It can be done to God’s glory, or it can be used as a means of pursuing your own passions and ambitions. My desire is to see Christians less stressed out about dating. The way we date is incredibly important, but I think that most of the pressure that we place on dating relationships comes from peripheral issues (e.g., what we call it, how long it lasts, how often we pray together). Biblically, we are given a lot of freedom about how a dating relationship looks and functions. Our relationships should be as diverse and idiosyncratic as the people in them.

If we are driven by a desire to see God’s kingdom come and His will be done, then we don’t have to sweat the details of dating. We don’t have to be scared about the what-ifs. Is your life about furthering your own kingdom or God’s? If you are pursuing God’s kingdom, then you can trust Him to guide your relationships for His glory and your good.

If you’ve come to the end of this blog series and want to go deeper, I highly recommend this book: Altared: The True Story of a She, a He, and How They Both Got Too Worked Up about We.

Happy Valentines Day!

When it comes to dating, Christians are often awkward. Sometimes as awkward as their non-Christian neighbors, sometimes more awkward. One reason that dating can be especially awkward in Christian circles is that we can’t seem to agree on what to call it. Some Christians have mild preferences (“I’d rather call it this than that”), but many Christians are outspoken, not only about how dating should be done, but about what it should be called.

During one Spring semester (isn’t it interesting how people tend to hook up in the Spring?), I was mentoring five different guys who had all begun new relationships. They all referred to their relationships in different ways: Couple 1 was “dating.” Couple 2 was “courting.” Couple 3 was clear that they weren’t dating, they were simply “boyfriend and girlfriend.” Couple 4 was dating, but they were clear that they weren’t boyfriend and girlfriend. And couple 5 didn’t want anything to do with any of it, insisting, “We just want to get married.”

The funny thing is, all five of these relationships functioned in pretty much the same way and moved at pretty much the same pace.

The courtship camp tends to be the pushiest with their terminology, claiming that if Christians are going to date in a godly way, it will look so much different than the way the world dates that we need to call it something different. My response to that is that a Christian should work very differently than a non-Christian—she will interact with her coworkers in a way that is distinctively Christ-like—but it doesn’t seem helpful to come up with a new label for that.

Here’s the key: It doesn’t matter what you call it, it matters how you do it.

As soon as I say that, however, I want to make another point clear: There is no “one right way” to date. The Bible doesn’t give a specific path from friendship to marriage. Arranged MarriagesArranged marriages are shown in a pretty positive light, but I haven’t seen any popular level dating books advocating that approach.

Though the Bible doesn’t offer us a methodology for dating, it does give us principles that guide us in thinking about the road to marriage. For example, don’t have sex outside of marriage (1 Cor. 6:12-20, Matt. 5:27-28)—as much as Christians try to get around that one, it’s pretty clear. Or take communication within a relationship. A couple should be loving and honest in how they communicate, not manipulative and deceitful (1 Pet. 2:1). Or consider breakups. If couples head down the road to marriage, then realize that this isn’t what God wants for them, breakups are going to happen. The Bible doesn’t say anything about breakups, but it does talk a lot about division in the body. So however breakups work in dating, we can’t allow them to cause divisions.

As long as we are following biblical principles and pursuing God’s glory, we have a lot of freedom in how our dating relationships look. My wife and I dated for four years before we got married. I know other godly couples that dated for less than four months before getting married.

Ultimately, the difference between good and bad dating is whether or not the relationship brings glory to God. If every decision you make in your relationships is governed by biblical principles and a desire to glorify God, then you’re on the right path. And please don’t pressure other couples to call it exactly what you did or do it exactly as you did. Christian dating would be less awkward if we removed these unnecessary pressures.

In the next post, I will discuss our tendency to make our dating relationships into an idolatrous, all-consuming focus in our lives.