Archives For Christian Dating

If you’re single, you want to be married. At least, that’s what just about everyone in the church seems to believe. Nothing brings out the inner matchmaker of well-intentioned Christians like a sweet twenty something who has somehow evaded the romantic gaze of the opposite sex. “I can’t believe you’re still single!” we say, or “Those boys/girls are crazy not to be asking you out every day!” Meanwhile, singles cringe at the reminders that they’re not in a relationship or else take a few steps back on their journey toward satisfaction in Christ alone, rather than satisfaction in a perfect Christian romance.

From my vantage point, it seems that Christian singles are pressured on all sides to be married. (If you want to know why this mentality is a mistake, click here.) But I also believe that singles tend to put this pressure on themselves. One of the major factors in this pressure toward getting married is the constant quest for “The One.”

Dating Is Awkward

Perhaps we were introduced to our search for “the one” in youth group, when our youth leaders told us to not to settle in our dating relationships, but instead to think of a Christlike man or woman and to accept nothing less. Don’t lower your standards.

And of course, there’s value in thinking this way. You don’t want to marry some lowlife just because he or she is into you. But here’s the problem with holding out for “The One”: He’s not real. She’s not real. You made him or her up in your mind. Which means that until science progresses several steps further, he or she will never exist in the real world.

Maybe you modeled your “one” after a youth leader, a friend’s spouse, or the Lord Jesus himself. But in the first two cases, your perception of these people is far from the reality—no matter how well you think you know him or her, you haven’t seen the depths of their sins or the enormity of their annoying habits. And in the case of Jesus, no one matches up: read the book of Hebrews.

So your quest for “The One” can only lead you to constant disappointment, and you may end up (as an added bonus) messing with another person’s self-perception through your naive expectations.

Instead of focusing on “The One,” focus on each one. As you meet a nice boy or girl that seems to have potential (you know what I’m talking about—wink wink), get to know him or her better. You might think you want to date her right away. You may be absolutely convinced that you’re going to marry him. There’s a good chance that this is “The One.”

But wait! Stop! You don’t want to marry that girl. Nor do you want to be “A Couple” with her.

The Bachelorette - Rose CeremonyWhen you see a guy that you’re into, you don’t really want to marry him. What you’re really thinking is that you’d like to get to know him better so that you can find out if you’d like to be in a deeper relationship with him. And if you do decide you want to be in a deeper relationship with him, then you can eventually find out if you’d like to be married to him.

Because he could be awful. Really. I promise you that nobody wants to “Be Married”—as though that were a general category that someone can obtain without entering into it with a real life, flesh and blood, very specific human being. There are a near-infinite number of people on this planet with whom marriage would be horrible. HORRIBLE! No, you don’t want to “Be Married.” But you may want to marry some specific person you meet someday. And here’s the problem: you’ll never know until you get to that point. You don’t know you really want to marry her until you know her well enough to get a sense of where she’s heading in life, what she’s passionate about, how she handles conflicts, how quickly she repents of her sin, how funny or goofy or intelligent or serious she is.

And everything I just said about “Being Married” also applies—but in a less tragic and less permanent sense—to “Being in a Dating Relationship.” You may think you want to be “Dating Someone,” but there are so many people with whom a dating relationship would be miserable.

And there’s a failsafe built in: the other person has to want it to. So even if you’re mistaken in thinking that a relationship has potential, the other person has to agree. This safety feature of relationships has prevented more than a few major mistakes in the history of boys meeting girls.

The point is: just relax. You’re going to be fine. God knows what you need; and he knows better than you do. You can abandon your quest for “The One,” for that “Dating Relationship,” for “Your Soulmate.” Stop focusing on “The One” and start focusing on each one. As God brings people into your life, get to know them. Enjoy them. Don’t make them audition for the part of “The One.” Get to know those people better, and if at some point you prayerfully decide to test the waters of a dating relationship with one of those specific flesh and blood people, then go for it, and see what happens.

Wedding Cake TopperThis post is inspired by two overlapping events. The first is the approach of Valentine’s Day, when lovers are expected to show their affection through clichés (hopefully breathing new life into old traditions) and social media reflects the desire of many single people to be in relationships. The second is the progression of the Spring semester, during which college students instinctually know that the time to begin relationships is upon them.

A few years ago I wrote a six part blog series on “Why Christians Are Bad at Dating.” That’s not a fair title, of course, but I was trying to capture some of the awkward tension that comes from the Christian community’s disagreement over what dating looks like, what it should even be called, etc. I also addressed factors like the suffocating pressure we put upon young Christians to be married—soon.

In my view, many Christians have forgotten 1 Corinthians 7, in which Paul recommends singleness over marriage. Instead, single Christians don’t make it very far into their twenties without suspicious looks and comments from older (married) Christians. I also think some circles of Christianity have over-exalted forms of “dating” (whatever you want to call it) that make dating into a trial run for marriage.

I am convinced (perhaps naively) that if we do our dating right, our social lives won’t disintegrate into two-person love bubbles, our breakups won’t feel like divorces, and the single Christians in our midst won’t be treated like lepers. These are all major problems within the church. I don’t claim to have all of the answers for getting us to this point, but I’ve heard from many people over the last few years who have found the simple guidelines in that blog series helpful. So I’m summarizing and linking to those blog posts below, in the hopes that you might find them helpful as well. And for those over-achievers who want a book length treatment on the road to marriage and the accompanying dangers, I highly recommend this book: Altared: The True Story of a She, a He, and How They Both Got Too Worked Up about We.

 

Dating Series Part 1Part 1 – You Don’t Need to Get Married

Many people in the church assume that every Christian ought to be married. There’s a good chance that you believe that you ought to be married at some point (and soon!). But this mentality actually contradicts Paul’s advice in 1 Corinthians 7. Some assume that they need be married based on poor interpretations of 1 Corinthians 7:9 and Genesis 2:18… READ MORE >>>

 

Part 2 – What Do We Even Call It?Dating Series Part 2

Though every marriage (aside from arranged marriages) begins with a “getting to know you and find out if we should be married” stage, Christians disagree (sometimes passionately) about what this stage should be called. Some call it dating. Some insist on calling it courting. Others are “just hanging out.” Some will identify as boyfriend and girlfriend, others avoid these labels. All of this disagreement leads to more unnecessary confusion and awkwardness… READ MORE >>>

 

Dating Series Part 3Part 3 – The Love Cocoon

We all know those couples who are so grossly into each other that they make everyone around them feel awkward. If your dating relationship makes all of your other relationships crumble (relationships with friends, parents, God…), then your relationship has become an idol and is doomed to failure. The key is to be the kind of couple that loves each other, but also loves and acknowledges the other people God has placed in your life… READ MORE >>>

 

Dating Series Part 4Part 4 – Test-Driving Marriage

In Christian circles, we tend to encourage dating couples to become intimate in every way except for one: physical intimacy is off limits. But this creates huge problems. When a couple becomes more socially intimate, more emotionally intimate, and more spiritually intimate, we shouldn’t be surprised when the physical intimacy quickly follows. This is how we’re wired. But there are actually other major problems with treating dating like a mini trial run for marriage… READ MORE >>>

 

Dating Series Part 5Part 5 – Playing the Field

Many people think that if you’re not “out there” actively “playing the field,” you won’t get married. There is nothing wrong with going on dates, even seeking them out, but your relationships with the opposite sex cannot all be focused on evaluating their marriageability rather than getting to know people as peopleREAD MORE >>>

 

Dating Series Part 6Part 6 – Successful Dating Relationships Can End in Breakups

Most people would consider a breakup to be a failure. But when you’re dating someone, you’re really just getting to know that person better until you find out whether it would be more glorifying to God for you to get married or not to get married. Either is a helpful discovery, and in either case your relationship should be able to continue in a God-glorifying way: as husband and wife or as brother and sister in Christ… READ MORE >>>

Love Is Never Lonely

Mark Beuving —  February 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:4–8)

Everything that Paul says about love here requires multiple people. Towards whom is love patient? To whom is it kind? Whom does it bear with, believe, hope, and endure?

Holding HandsLove is always directed. Love that sits in one person’s heart and never directs itself toward anyone or anything is not love at all. The heart can sit in isolation and experience emotions like happiness, warmth, or satisfaction. But love does not exist apart from some object toward which it is directed.

My love for my wife is exactly that—love-for-my-wife. It’s not as though I have a store of love in my heart, like some sort of substance which I can choose to dispense here or there as the occasion requires. Love comes with the object. My wife and I stand together, and the love we share is manifested in the patience and kindness we show toward one another, it can be seen in the absence of irritability and resentment between us.

Love that sits alone and focuses on self is not love. For this reason, love is never lonely. You can feel longing for an absent loved one, but you can’t experience the pain of a love that has no beloved—there’s no such thing.

A major problem in the church is our equation of love with romance. The result is that Christians feel pressure to find “the one” they love—their soul mate, their spouse. I am pro-marriage, but I am against the notion that we can begin with a vague sense of love toward “the one” and then sift through all of the candidates until we find him or her. Love requires an object. You can’t love a hypothetical person.

This can also cause us to devote all of our “love”(pseudo-love, really) towards a non-existent object rather than directing it toward the people we interact with every day. We can get so caught up in finding someone to love romantically that we fail to love the people that God has placed in our lives, even as we feel the sting of the “love” we think we feel towards the lover who does not exist.

Because love is always directed, we are only loveless when we have isolated ourselves from people. With each person comes the potential for love. We thrive as human beings not when we have romance, but when we have love. And love is as near as the person next to you. This may include romance, but it doesn’t have to. It has nothing to do with the lovability of the person; it has everything to do with the choice to love.

God first created a solitary man, then declared that it was not good for this one man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). So he created a woman—a wife, yes, but a companion above all. Another human being. An object for his love. Someone to bear with, someone to show patience and kindness.

Love is never lonely. It is as near as the next person to walk through the door. “Let brotherly love continue,” urges the author of Hebrews (13:1). The choice to love will never leave us lonely, because love is always directed.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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.

Life can be hard for single Christians. Christian culture puts a lot of pressure on singles to get married. As I have said, marriage is a great thing, but it’s not the only thing. If you’re a single Christian of marriageable age, however, chances are you often find yourself on the receiving end of well-intentioned pity. Your very presence brings out the matchmaker in everyone—nothing would make them happier than to get you married.

I think this type of pressure leads to another huge myth about dating and the road to marriage. Many single Christians get the idea that if they’re ever going to get married, they need to be out playing the field. But it’s a myth that if you’re not actively dating, you’ll never get married.

First of all, never forget that marriage is not your goal in life—God’s glory is. It’s not about finding a person to get you where you want to be (i.e., married). It’s about glorifying God, and if that means marrying a specific person that God has placed in your life, then go for it.

You need to trust God enough that if He wants you to be married, He will bring the right person at the right time. Meeting new people is great for many reasons, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be hosting your own privatized version of The Bachelor/Bachelorette. I’m not saying that you should live as a hermit, but you’re not casting for the role of future bride or groom.

There’s nothing wrong with going on dates. Nor is it a problem to go on blind dates or to use a matchmaking website. Those are all fine ways of meeting other people. The problem comes when we date aggressively out of an urgency to get married. It’s a problem when we stop getting to know people as people and begin evaluating each person for their marriageability.

How about this instead? Get to know the people that God brings into your life (this could include blind dates or website matches). As you make friends with members of the opposite sex, you may find that you really enjoy spending time with one person in particular. So spend more time with that person. Remember, you aren’t auditioning this person for the role of spouse, you’re simply enjoying spending time with this person and getting to know him or her better. If this keeps up, you might find it helpful to call it dating. (You may have been calling it “dating” from the beginning since you’ve been setting “dates” to hang out.) Or maybe you’ll call it courting. You might start calling that person your boyfriend or girlfriend. His or her hand may even find its way into yours from time to time. And from there…

My point is this: don’t start with a mental or emotional attachment to the concept of being married and then date until you find “the one.” Trust me, you don’t want to “be married”—as though that were a general concept that one can evaluate without thinking about being married to a specific spouse. With almost every person on the planet, marriage would be intolerable. You don’t want that. But there may be one person on the planet with whom marriage would be a joy.

So get to know the people that God brings into your life, and if you discover that God is drawing the two of you together and leading you into the marriage arena, then go from there.

I know I’m being infuriatingly vague with all of this, but remember that I don’t believe there is “one right way” to go from being single to being married. Whenever we are talking about human relationships, we should be speaking more in terms of art and mystery than formulas and schematics.

In my final post on the subject, I will argue that not every dating relationship should end in marriage.