Is dating dead?
This question actually didn’t come from a reader of my book, but from the front page of USA Today a couple of weeks ago. I found the findings in the article to be quite astonishing. It basically highlighted some of the trends emerging among college-age students and young adults in America: “Recent studies indicate that traditional dating on campuses has taken a back seat to no-strings relationships in which bonds between young men and women are increasingly brief and sexual.”
Increasingly brief. Increasingly sexual. Sounds about right. At least that was seemingly the case at Princeton, where I attended college. The dating culture there seemed to be characterized by a sort of ‘all or nothing’ paradigm. You were either:
a) In a super serious relationship, or as some might say, ‘practically married.’
b) Part of the ‘hook-up’ culture characterized by casual hanging out, low or no commitment levels and sexual activity (to varying degrees).
c) In neither category, wanting something in between ‘hooking up’ and ‘practically married’ but remain frustratingly single because no such thing seems to exist.
Can you identify with any of these?
I’ve been out of college for nearly five years now, so when I was asked to speak to a group of 25 college women a couple of weeks ago, I took the opportunity to get ‘up to date’ on the dating scene on campus (no pun intended):
“How many of you are currently in a dating relationship?” I asked.
2 out of 25 raised their hands.
“How many of you would like to be in a dating relationship?”
Almost every hand shot up.
“How many of you have been asked out on a date in the past year?”
Not one hand was raised.
A group of attractive, smart, talented women and not one of them had been pursued for a date??? Kinda strange if you ask me. And this trend is not only prevalent on college campuses. There is also a lack of dating within churches too. There are groups of single women and groups of single men, all under the same ‘roof’ so to speak, and they just aren’t getting together.
If dating is in fact dying, what is killing it?
The USA Today article cited the following as some potential reasons for the lack of dating among young adults today:
- fewer men than women on campuses (I’ll add in churches here)
- more openly sexual society that often takes cues from media
- declining desire to make relationship commitments early in life
Do you agree/disagree? What would you add to the list of reasons why dating is a severely lacking element in the relationship equation for young adults today? Is less dating a good or bad thing?
In the coming weeks, we’ll continue the dialogue on the topic of dating, specifically within the context of a Christian perspective. Some of the questions to be addressed are:
- What does the Bible say about dating?
- What are some of the different views on dating within the Church?
- How do I discern which view and/or approach to take?
- Does ‘waiting on God’ exclude dating all together?
- What’s the difference between courtship and dating?
- How can I incorporate my faith into my dating life?
- Should the men be the only ones initiating?
- How am I supposed to ‘guard my heart’ while dating?
- Is there a proper pace to a dating relationship?
- What are some pros and pitfalls to dating?
- Is dating the only path to marriage?
Gosh, we have a lot to cover don’t we? haha. I must say, this is a topic particularly relevant in my life right now, so I am excited to explore these topics with you. Please note however, that I am not coming at it as an expert (by any means!), but simply a fellow traveler on the same road as you. I can’t wait to journey along together in the next few weeks and see what God reveals to us, as we seek Him for answers and revelations in this very specific and special area of our lives!
Please comment and add any further questions/issues/struggles you would like to see addressed in regards to Christian dating and relationships. And if you have friends whom you think might benefit from these discussions (single or currently dating), send them over this way!
I have a friend in her late thirties who really wants to get married. There are men who have expressed interest in her, but she is convinced that the ‘right one’ hasn’t come along yet according to the list of traits she has listed out. Honestly, some of these men she turns down are great, godly men and I wonder: At what point is she just being too picky?
Great question. I think this is a very common dilemma that comes up in the Christian dating world. On one hand, we serve a God who can do “…immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20). And on the other hand, we are commanded to pray in Matthew 6:10, “let thy will be done.” So the question is, how do we strike a balance between asking God for the desires of our hearts while remaining open to His will, which may be different than our own?
I had a friend who once shared with me her “list” of traits and characteristics she hoped and prayed for in a life partner. I was shocked as I listened to what she had written down. Everything from personality type to income bracket to ethnic background was on there! She also had a lot of physical requirements that seemed nothing less than a male super model. In that instance I honestly wondered if her stringency may have been keeping her from meeting completely suitable men.
I am not saying we shouldn’t pray specifically. Or that we shouldn’t believe that God can do the impossible. I’ve experienced myself and witnessed in others prayers being answered specifically. But while our specific dreams, desires and preferences are important and heard by God, I do think we need to maintain some level of openness and flexibility to what God’s will may look like.
I have a friend who married a man she never thought in a million years she would marry. He looked the exact opposite of the kinds of men she was usually attracted to, he came from a church background that was entirely different from hers, and his personality was totally different that anyone she had encountered before. But they ended up being in an ecumenical (mixed denominational) fellowship group together and after several weeks of hanging out in the group, realized they really connected on so many different levels. She told me it took her a while to let go of her own expectations of what she thought she needed in a man. But in time, as she asked God to open her eyes to see this man the way He saw Him, she began to see him in a new light. She said, “I thought I knew what I needed in a man, and that’s what I had based my original ‘list’ on. But once I allowed God to show me what I needed, He gave me the willingness to consider a man who I wouldn’t have normally considered. Now we are married and sometimes I laugh at how well God knew what we both needed. My husband challenges me, supports me and loves me in ways I could have never imagined! I am so thankful I let God show me what and who was best for me.”
Gosh, such wisdom in that testimony. Sometimes our own tastes and preferences can really limit what God wants to do in our lives. Sometimes they can even be from our own selfish nature or from our own brokenness. Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend speak of this in their book called Boundaries in Dating. They say our preferences cannot always be trusted in the first place because they can come out of an unhealthy place. The examples they give are:
- Fears of intimacy can attract you to detached people
- Fears of autonomy can attract you to controlling people
- Fears of being real can attract you to perfectionistic people
- Fears of your own sinfulness can attract you to “bad” people
- Fears of your own neediness can attract you to weak, passive people
- Unresolved family issues can attract you to someone who is like a parent you had trouble with
So the point is to be aware of your preferences and value them, but be open to the fact that may they may not be the very best for you after all. Here are some practical tips I have tried to live by that have helped me stick to my standards, but also keep a level of openness to God when it comes to deciding whether to engage with someone who may be showing interest:
Seek God First at all Times. When we are consistently seeking God through prayer, studying His Word and having fellowship with other believers, we can be sure that God will mold and hold our heart’s desires. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It is my understanding and experience that when we truly delight in Him, He actually gives us the very desires of our hearts. As we seek Him for wisdom regarding a life partner, He will lay upon our hearts the important things to look for and consider in the process of getting to know someone. It is absolutely crucial that we keep close communion and fellowship with God’s Spirit as much as we can through this process.
Ask Him for His Eyes. I have often prayed, “Lord, please give me Your eyes to see this person as You do.” This is a powerful prayer because it helps us get beyond our human and often superficial perceptions and judgments of people to see into the crevices of their heart and soul–the very soil from which fruits of the Spirit and maturity grow. Sometimes we may not be attracted to someone right off the bat so we write them off and move on. But we should be careful not to be so quick to judge. Asking God to show us if we are missing anything will help us give everyone a fair chance.
Be Open to Getting to Know Anyone with Good Character. You never know what surprises God may throw your way. Even if a person is not someone we would normally consider or be interested in, but he/she has exceptional character, be open to getting to know that person. You never know what may develop and how God may change your heart towards that person over time.
Don’t Overlook People in Front of Your Nose. God leads us to engage and serve in different environments and settings for all sorts of reasons. Don’t discount that one of them my be to meet your future spouse! Make a conscious effort this week to consider various friends and acquaintances in your various networks and associations. Ask God to lay upon your heart anyone who He may want you to get to know on a deeper level. You never know, the person He has for you could be right in front of your nose and you’re just not aware of it!
Strive to Become the Person on Your “list.” Sometimes we can get too caught up in the type of person we want to be with and forget about the person we are becoming. Take a look at the list of traits and qualities you hope for in a mate. Now ask yourself if you embody those things. We are instructed to strive for holiness in all we do (1 Peter 1:15). So perhaps you can remove some of your focus from what kind of person you will be with to what kind of person you are becoming. Ask God to help you see what you can work on that will help you reflect His holiness and prepare you to be a better spouse.
I hope some of these tips may help in steering us away from having unrealistic expectations or being too picky. Next week, we will discuss what preferences are good to have that can help steer us on the path to a healthy and godly relationship.
So tune in right here as we explore, discover and discuss together how we can honor God in the way we wait, date and pursue a marriage relationship the way He intended. Don’t miss it! And please send in more questions if you have them to email@example.com.