Archives For Courting

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 >>>

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.