So the other day I was talking with a friend of mine, just catching up on life. We ended up talking about when he was dating the woman who he is now married to. Now my friend got married in his early 30s and he brought up a hilarious conversation he had at the time with one of our mentors.
This mentor pulled my friend aside at a gathering that he had brought this lady to. He essentially said, “She is a beautiful girl. You need to marry her. If you think that someone better than her is going to come along, and be interested in you – you’re wrong – marry her.” We both laughed. Our mentor is nothing if not direct – he was also right, and my friend is still happily married years later.
This points to a very important thing that we need to do as singles. We need to date in community.
Now I don’t mean that we need to “community date” as it were. We don’t have to “group date” like we are 16 or something. But it is so easy to date in a vacuum. Especially in today’s world of internet dating, long distance dating and frankly living so independently it is easy to date someone without involving others.
Throughout most of history this was not the way it worked. As I’ve mentioned before most of the time in the past almost all marriages happened through arranged marriages. Even if not officially, they happened in the context of community and families. There were always other people involved. You grew up in a community and then married someone from that community. It’s just the way it was.
But in today’s world that usually doesn’t happen. We grow up, leave our community for college, and then go “out on our own”. Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that but it means that most often we have to intentionally create community – it isn’t just naturally provided.
This can leave us on own when it comes to dating – which is not where we need to be.
We need to involve others in our dating life. One obvious reason is accountability. We need people who know what the heck we are doing with the people we are dating or even that I went on a date. For me there is something helpful about knowing that after a date, someone is going to ask me how it went, and what we did. If I go on a long distance date, it is great to have someone who will say, “What did you do?” or “Where did you stay?” For example, if you spent the night, who would know? We need people to know what we are doing.
But secondly, once we move from going on a date or two to “dating” someone seriously, we need people who know us well, to know this other person well. We need people who can tell us what they think and ask us hard questions, not just about how we are behaving so to speak, but about the relationship and where it is going.
People who know us can see not only who this person is but more importantly they can see the effect of this relationship on us as a person.
I always say that I can tell pretty quickly whether I feel good about a friend’s relationship just by how it affects them. Does it seem to excite them? Do they seem drawn closer to God or further away? In other words does it make them better than they were without that person. Is the relationship good for them?
The truth is that decisions made in a vacuum are dangerous. But decisions made in community are much more affirming. If I’m dating someone and my community is behind it – how much more am I sure. If they aren’t behind it then something is off and one way or another it needs to be addressed – even if my community is wrong.
This can be hard. Sometimes it might mean having some hard conversations. We can get lost in it by ourselves. It’s so easy to date someone longer than we should or for that matter break it off because of something going on inside of us when we should be sticking it out.
We need to involve others. The best case scenario is I have people that are single and married speaking into my life that I invite to speak into my love life. For some of us that involves our family but it has to involve our community.
So who knows your dating life? Who is in that with you? Would anyone tell you if something was not right?