The "love" in 1 Corinthians 13, so often read in weddings, is the Greek agape, the sacrificial love that God has for us, the love we are called to have for our neighbors (in the great commandment), and the love husbands are to have for their wives (in Ephesians 5). The romantic love between a man and a woman is eros. C. S. Lewis wrote in his book The Four Loves about the difference. Eros is not patient and kind but is very selfish. Eros says I would rather you be poor, sick, and miserable with me than healthy, wealthy, and happy with someone else. Or as the Beatles said, Id rather see you dead, little girl, than to be with another man. Agape, in contrast, is concerned with what is in the best interests of the other person even when that may be at odds with what would give either you or that other person happiness. Agape manifests itself differently based on the relationship. Agape is different toward your spouse as compared with your child or your neighbor or a stranger on the other side of the world. I understand the idea of agape between a married couple. But how do you show agape in dating?
The problem is that romantic relationships are by definition exclusive. This problem with agape does not arise in other types of relationships. My being friends with someone does not prevent them from being friends with another. Me letting God love me does not prevent Him from loving someone else. But in order to propose marriage to a girl with agape, or for that matter to even date her exclusively, you must believe that you are the best man this girl will ever find. If you really think that this girl could do better than you, then the agape thing to do would be to step aside, set her free, and let her find this better man. If you do not think that this girl could do better than you, then either you are very arrogant or you can almost certainly do better than her, in which case she is not acting with agape. In a culture of arranged marriages none of this would be a problem. But when we have to pick our mates it seems inevitable that the process is determined by selfishness and what I want and not by what is in the best interests of the other. What is the solution (assuming that polygamy and polyandry is off the table)?