Should Every Date Be Focused On Marriage?


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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 Follow me on Twitter at @lisaduffy.






  1. Jim-397948 January 24, 2016 Reply

    I like going on date to my partner’s church. Then inviting my partner to my church….I like to share my beliefs and questions about my faith.

  2. Carole-1080999 June 5, 2014 Reply

    Good article Lisa . Good post Dominic,and I wholeheartedly agree with you. I believe too much is put into the ideal of, ( DATING ) .It should be a natural fun, serious, at times ,wonderful experience ! Yes it’s exciting,but one shouldn’t think of marriage,when the couple doesn’t know much about each other unless they went to a small high school together ,pun ,pun ! Or lived in a small town inwhich everyone knows everyone !!! But it’s the fun of getting to know each other in a different light ,a different way. I haven’t had a date( or a coffee yet, ) ,in years ! I’m looking forward to it.But God will lead me ,and I know in my heart it will be a good start,a new beginning for me . Blessings CAROLE

  3. Michael-369664 April 28, 2014 Reply

    Great article. I can only add one suggestion–never date anyone you would not marry. Why?
    Once you slip into dating someone is who is available, pretty soon, your standards will drop.
    I think teen girls have the worst time of it. This culture puts so much pressure on them to have boyfriends and sex, many will be destroyed by the cultural norm. Dating for lots of kids becomes just a mini-marriage, and it’s full of drama! The media doesn’t help by pushing this on young people. Finding the right person at the right time of your life is one of the hardest jobs in life. I didn’t succeed, and my dating days now are
    pretty much over. With age it just stopped being fun.

  4. Mariella-959684 January 3, 2014 Reply

    I loved this article! I started dating in high school and always bought into the ‘just go out and have fun’ philosophy prevalent in our culture until, after enough bad dates and so-so relationships, realized that, really, if you’re just gonna date in order to have company with no long term attachments its better to not date at all. Its good to know that being clear when you’re seeing some one and making them know that you are looking for something long term might not be a bad thing.

  5. Dominic-981542 September 20, 2013 Reply

    Its a Good honest article Lisa . . i find also Women Dating in it self was never a part of Gods plan also . . If I had a daughter she would not be dating at all . . I have had six sisters under me & I made sure none of them would be going out on dates . . though I could not have control over the whole six , those i did have thanked me for & only they have a solid happy true marriage for life . . . I’m not old fashion & I believe our modern world today is of old fashion roots . . But since we have to adapt to this modern world I can understand when we are older and much more mature we have no choice to meet people any other way . .
    . . . But urgently advice any female going on a first date if the man sitting opposite to you says . . . I’m not looking for a serious relationship but can i see you again . . . . . your first and only answer should be “What are you looking for then ? . or simply “NO”. . . It has nothing to do with its okay because it should be exciting and fun with no pressure . . its obvious what his looking for & it shows dating in it self is pretty much in favor for evil intentions . . . I have seen it all my life . . where there is no smart Father or Brother in the family . . the bad guy always wins .

  6. Andy-896770 September 20, 2013 Reply

    I have a question,

    How is it possible to be romantic at the same time as being lighthearted and fun? I always thought of romance as a very serious thing. How is this possible?

  7. Paula-982894 September 20, 2013 Reply

    Thank you, Lisa for this article! It is the approach I am taking when dating. It is FUN to get to know someone and I have found that I usually know by the first date if the person would be a potential spouse for me and the relationship is one that would lead to a fulfilling marriage. I decided to pray about whether God was calling me back into the vocation of marriage and He showed me that decernment would involve dating with a purpose. I am committed to my Catholic faith and this makes dating easier because I know ahead of time where and what I expect from any dating experience.

  8. Issy-978651 September 19, 2013 Reply

    While I see the wisdom in the article however if infact one truly starts wishing for more on the second date I
    would say the other person did a favor to put things in perspective. Although not the best choice of words to use because getting to know someone eventually should lead to a commitment if both have had a chance to discover the other. Discovering the other can never be achieved in 2 dates. Those emotions or attraction that arise after meeting someone for the first time is infatuation and can wear off. Real love takes time and effort.

    I believe we as women should guard our hearts and be very careful not to get emotionally entangled before truly getting to know the character of the person. Just because we have had a nice conversation with someone over dinner twice does not mean that person is marriage material. At that stage, both parties should still spend some time getting to know each other in different situations other than dinner.

    That means that both parties are still available to get to know other people in a non emotional and committed way until they find that person with whom they can grow together to attain heaven.

    In my understanding it takes 18 months for infatuation to wear off which explains why people who rush into marriage so soon after meeting end up divorced. They did not take the time and effort to discern if it is true love or infatuation. While infatuation can be the start of something it can never be the sole basis of love.

    So the best way in my opinion is to set your expectations that the first few months of getting to know someone is just purely that, getting to know them. You might find out down the road that the other person is better suited as a friend than a lover.

  9. Josephine-586127 September 18, 2013 Reply

    This is a great article, especially for young people. I especially like the way the author, Ms Duffy, explained the purpose of dating and dating readiness to her daughter.

    I also wish more people would be honest and up front about their intentions early on in a relationship, especially when they don’t want a commitment. Unfortunately, it is not considered appropriate to ask these questions within the first few months of dating, in my experience.

  10. James-668357 September 18, 2013 Reply

    I’d sound a note of caution regarding “no dating until you’re 18” based on my own experiences *. While dates in middle school and high school are unlikely to lead to marriage, they do provide experience in discerning which relationships are not likely to lead to marriage, and in understanding that not all relationships will lead to marriage. I don’t advocate dating too soon, but I think “too soon” is based more on the individual’s emotional maturity than a numerical age.

    * I did not start dating until college. It took a while for me to learn that asking someone out is only the first step in determining whether she’d be a suitable partner for marriage, not near the end. Until I did, that left me overcommitting myself emotionally too early in a relationship. Being dumped hurts at any age, but I think it hurts more when your expectations are higher.

  11. Peter-592691 September 18, 2013 Reply


  12. Joyce M. September 17, 2013 Reply

    If i was ask out again I would probably say yes. I am not looking for Marriage in a date. It would just be nice to have a date once in a while. Just friendship would be fine. I am 69 and lost my husband of 45 years so just a companion would be great to start with. God will guide me. Great articular.

  13. Derek-484872 September 17, 2013 Reply

    Awesome Article! I really identify with it and agree fully, so many great points were made.

    It’s hard dating because so many people do not see it this way, but it is the healthiest, and honest way to date in my opinion. Follow God, be upfront and honest, the more direct the better, with showing respect of course!

    Thanks for posting, great job!


  14. Donna L. September 17, 2013 Reply

    I am 61 and always have remembered Mrs Kirkland my Home Ec teacher telling the classroom full of HS girls “Look at every date as a potential mate.. Always consider ‘Does this person have the qualities I would want in a husband?’ ” We were all juniors and seniors so a more appropriate question than if we were twelve or thirteen.. Didn’t stop me from making my own share of dating/marriage mistakes though.

  15. Jose-196790 September 17, 2013 Reply

    Agree, this is the Catholic way that pleased God, for other ways, there are other sites. Don’t play with fire, you will get hurt, as most do in non-serious relationships. Something I learned from Theology of the Body: men uses love to get sex, women uses sex to get love. Mind that this applies to our fallen society. Men usually take advantage of the desire for love of women to obtain sex, so we will agree to a relationship in order to have sex, on the other hand, women usually wants love and relationships, but they will have to accept the sexual part of the relationship first in order to get to the emotional part of the relationship.

    It is true also that people change, but we don’t change people, it is God that does it, and we never know who will accept Christ and who would not, so don’t count on it: it may happen one out of 100, so besides breaking your communion with God if you entertain this type of casual dating (sexually active) the odds are against us.

  16. Liz-106116 September 17, 2013 Reply

    Timely article for me. Considering a first date with someone who I don’t consider a potential mate. At my age and awhile since being asked out I dont have the ‘right’ to turn it down. Also don’t know if I might be bringing light to this person for God. Definitely appreciate this approach

  17. Paul-558720 September 17, 2013 Reply

    Why does being “attractive” enter into this? I feel the first sentence is totally unnecessary the way it is written. What does “attractive” mean? Doesn’t the sentence split people into two groups–attractive and not attractive (or unattractive)? Isn’t such separations opposed to the spirit of “Catholic”?

  18. Kim-989867 September 17, 2013 Reply

    Love this!
    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)
    I think we get so despriate to be loved we forget, patience let God work it out! Wait for it cuz we’re worth it!

  19. Ann-69118 September 16, 2013 Reply

    I believe in being friends first so there’s nothing wrong with going slow. I’m always on guard when someone is all gunho about getting serious right away. It usually is a red flag of a potential a commitment phobic who loves the chase then gets bored and moves on when the prize is won. Some are serious though but it’s best to take things slow in my opinion.

  20. Mel-607502 September 16, 2013 Reply

    Its all so true. i wish i could have approached my 1st date with much careful consideration and the right way. But sometimes when your in love, you just don’t know which is right and wrong. Your article is awesome. it puts things in the right perspective from the very start and that should be the way. But then, the challenge comes when your date doesn’t think the same way as you do. Great article for the growing kids and the over grown ones. God bless you Lisa

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