You are an attractive single person. So let’s say you meet someone you find very attractive as well who asks you to meet for lunch. Two days later you sit across from each other at an upscale deli and you pinch yourself under the table because the date is going very, very well. As you both rise to leave your date says, “I’m not looking for a serious relationship, but I’d love to see you again. How about dinner?” What would your reaction be?
This situation can present quite a dilemma because here’s someone you really like and probably hope to begin a relationship with, but already the brakes are being applied. Does this bother you or are you okay with it? Maybe you like this person so much, you’re willing to compromise on what you want, just to see where the dating will go. How do you feel about that?
On one hand, many people assert that dating should commence with the intention of finding a serious relationship that leads to marriage. On the other hand, many people argue dating is not about marriage and there shouldn’t be such intense pressure when you’re just starting out and getting to know each other. So the question at hand is, isn’t there room for casual dating and just being together to have fun?
This is an important conversation in my opinion and the answer is actually a blend of both worlds. Dating should be fun, it should be exciting, and it should be romantic. There should be as little pressure as possible. But that doesn’t exclude the real purpose of dating, which is finding a suitable spouse. When the goal of finding out whether or not you’re meant to marry your date is excluded, that pesky old slipper slope shows up. This issue of casual dating without intending anything serious is at the root of many societal problems: the hook-up culture, contraception, divorce, unwed mothers, and abortion for example. Why? Because all these problems begin with having sex outside of marriage, which we all know is not what God intended.
Many people will disagree with this statement, but I believe what they are actually disagreeing with is the misunderstanding that even a first date should be intense, serious and permeated with questioning, “Is this the one I’m going to marry?” That is not what I am proposing. Dates in general, and first dates in particular, should be light, fun, and romantic. Getting to know each other should be enjoyable. But the purpose of getting to know someone romantically should be to find out if the two of you are compatible enough to one day become man and wife. So when you hear that question, “I’m not looking for a serious relationship, but…” it should lead you to consider there might be trouble down the road if you continue to date this person.
I adjure you, daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles and the hinds of the field, do not arouse, do not stir up love before its own time (Song of Songs 2:7)
My own children are not allowed to date until they are 18, much to my twelve-year-old daughter’s shagrin. She’s told me many times in the past about her friends in 7th grade who are going on dates, so I always take the opportunity to break it down for her and reinforce the purpose of dating in her mind. I’ve explained to her that the purpose of dating is to find out if you and your date are suitable to marry each other. Since none of her friends are old enough to get married, what could possibly come from being alone with a boy at twelve or thirteen? Intimacy without commitment. Teen pregnancy. Broken hearts. Lots of trouble. She started to understand some months back when one of her friend got “dumped.” It wasn’t pretty.
You might think this example has no bearing on adult dating, but it absolutely does. Although the level of maturity and interests is vastly different between teens and adults (at least it’s supposed to be), dating is not. It bears the same purpose for adults as it does for anyone at any other time in life. I should know, I’ve done it both the wrong way and the right way and I would love to be able to prevent anyone else from suffering the way I have over dating the wrong way. I can attest to the fact that, no matter how fun casual dating can be, if the goal is not to find out if you’re meant to be married, you might just take a slide down on that slippery slope.
What if you’re not ready for a long term relationship? Let’s not forget a lot of people feel that way and there’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s where going out in groups is the best option. The opportunity for dangerous situations to arise is far less, if at all, when you go out in groups, and the fun factor goes way up. So if you’re not ready for something serious, make a group of friends your social scene. If you’re dating someone and not experiencing the fun and excitement of a new relationship, you might consider not going out with that person on a romantic level anymore. And if you are experiencing those aspects, let this period of getting to know him or her lead you forward to start considering them as a potential marriage partner. Little-by-little, step-by-step. It could be the start of something wonderful that turns into your love of a lifetime.
Send your comments and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter at @lisaduffy.