Another definition of date is the day, month, or year on which an event happens or happened. But, the kind of date I am writing about today is generally defined as two people meeting together on purpose at a specific place and time, usually because of a common interest, especially a romantic interest.
As a single person, I read several good books about dating. Two of which, at first glance, seem to have very different points of view about dating. I read “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris and “Boundaries in Dating” by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. The former asserts that we should ditch the modern concept of dating in favor of the old concept of courtship. The latter gives advice on how to date in a healthy way as a Christian.
I fall squarely in the corner of Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend and highly recommend reading their book. But, I still found “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” helpful for several reasons. Joshua Harris did a good job articulating the problems with modern dating. I agree with him that the way most people date is disastrous. The books actually do not disagree as much as it first appears. The key is in defining dating.
Should You Be ‘Dating’? NO!
When most people hear the term dating, they think of a romantic relationship in which two people are, at least at some level, committed to each other. This is the accepted norm in modern society.
In fact, it has grown to mean a sort of ‘marriage lite’ where sex is expected to be taking place and living together becomes a viable option. People in this type of relationship expect fidelity, and unless there is an agreement to some form of Avant Garde, open relationship, they expect mutual exclusivity.
Problems with dating
One huge problem with that sort of dating is that there is no real commitment. People get together with only the implied promise of being together so as long as it suits them both. People who engage in this type of dating often end up going from one intimate relationship to the next to the next and never learning the meaning or value of true commitment.
Now, with the addition of sexuality into dating, despite not being married, it very much feels like marrying and divorcing over and over again. Even without the sex, it sets you up for relational failure by establishing a pattern, a cycle of get together, have fun, have problems, break up.
Another typical problem with modern dating is that people are too quick to pair off. Romance, affection, and sex are powerful gravitational forces. People get pulled in before they can evaluate with a clear head whether getting together is a good idea or not. There is no period of getting to know each other without the rose-tinted haze of romance clouding the picture.
These are the kind of relationships people fall into. They are tired being alone. They meet someone, they pair up, they fall in love, they act married. Eventually, reality sets in and they realize they were not meant for each other – so they break up. If no personal growth occurs, many grow old stuck on that hamster wheel. It is time to start dating differently.
Should You Be ‘Dating’? YES!
Depending on who you ask, either I dated a lot while I was single, or, I didn’t date at all until I became interested in Anita. It all hinges on how you define dating. Did I spend quality time with persons of the opposite sex? Yes. Did that involve romantic settings, holding hands, and kissing? Rarely. When that did happen, it was with someone I had spent a lot of non-romantic time with first and had gotten to know pretty well, never on a first or second date.
As I indicated above, I do not believe that dating, as in coupling up in a ‘marriage lite’ is a good idea. However, I do believe that dating, as in going out and spending quality time with someone of the opposite sex, is a great thing, a necessity even – if you are emotionally sound enough to date in a healthy way.
Healthy dating is non-romantic dating. It is dating to have a little fun, engage in a little conversation, enjoy someone else’s company, and yes, to see if there might be any interest in pursuing that person as a spouse.
Dating in a healthy way requires patience and delayed gratification – two signs of emotional health and maturity. Dating correctly is forgoing the romantic until you actually know each other well. It is abstaining from the sensual until, in a ceremony before God, and man, you commit your lives to each other. Some people regard that as a sacrifice. I viewed it as an investment – a down payment on a lifetime of exceptional intimacy later.
“The joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment.”
As Joshua Harris astutely observes, “The joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment.” In that, I believe he hits it dead on. That concept alone made his book worth reading. Physical intimacy should increase only as much as commitment increases. The ultimate emotional and physical intimacy should be reserved for the ultimate commitment – marriage.
Going on dates is a learning experience. We learn a lot about ourselves. We learn what personality traits we like and do not like in the opposite sex. We become aware of how we feel and behave when we are around different types of people. For those reasons, I found it very helpful to go on dates with many different types of people.
Most people date exactly the opposite of how I would recommend. They single out a target because they find them physically attractive. They do whatever it takes to get them out on a date where they romance them and hope to be charming enough to get some physical gratification out of it.
Not that I am any sort of perfect, spiritually superior being, but I did do a few things right as a single man. To me, the better way to date is to leave romance out of the equation for quite some time – until you know them very well and marriage becomes a distinct possibility. The only things you should seek to get out of a date are personal growth and the edification of whoever you go out with. Seek to leave the people you go out with in better condition than you found them.
If you are dating selfishly, you need to stop and reconsider how and why you are dating. You probably need to grow a bit more as a person before you start dating and harm some else in the process.
Should YOU be dating?
So, should you be ‘dating’? Absolutely not. Unless you are a big fan of the date/breakup cycle, it’s time to try something different.
Should you be ‘dating’? Yes – with a few caveats. If you are healthy emotionally, strong spiritually, and understand how to do so in a selfless, God-fearing manner, without doing any damage to yourself or those you go out with, go forth and date.
Are you dating or dating? Let’s talk about it. And, be sure to like this and pass it on to anyone who is struggling with the dating cycle.
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