Religion And Dating Don’t Mix

When I look back at my twenties and dating I just kind of cringe.  I think a lot of people probably do.  But the reason I cringe isn’t because I slept around, or dated all the wrong people.  It’s because I was too religious.  Religious dating can really screw us up.

Here’s what I mean.  First of all there is this idea that there is a “Biblical” way to date.  As I’ve mentioned in a different post, this is utter nonsense.  No where in the Bible is there any sort of guide of how to get married, let alone date.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zero. Ok, moving on.

There is also the idea that because you should only date to get married that you shouldn’t go on a date unless you know you will marry them.  Which again makes no sense. First off there is a big difference between going on a date and “dating” someone.  I agree that main reason to date is to try to get married, especially the older you get.  But the idea that you should only go on a date with someone you know you can marry is crazy.  It can be paralyzing.  Especially when you pair it with the next religious dating ideal.

There is the idea that we need to guard the other person’s heart.  This one isn’t even possible.  It starts with the right idea of not leading someone on.  I want to talk more about this later but I agree we need to be careful.  If we aren’t interested we shouldn’t date them. We shouldn’t make promises that we aren’t ready to be committed to.  We should never lie.  All those things do guard everybody’s heart but thats just called honesty.  But the idea that I don’t want to ask someone out in case it doesn’t work out and they get hurt is delusional and probably a little arrogant.  It assumes I’m the one controlling the relationship.  I’d be the one to end it.  I don’t want them to like me too much in case I change my mind.  Really?!

The truth is even if my intentions are great, I can’t guarantee that if I ask someone out that it will go somewhere.  And I think we need to give our ladies a little more credit.  Adult women are capable of dealing with hurt.  They can handle it.  I once had a woman flat out tell me, “Hey, it’s my job to guard my own heart.  We can’t find out if it goes somewhere if we don’t go forward.  I’m ok with the risk.”  She was exactly right.  Really, if she wasn’t mature enough to be ok with the risk, then it probably wasn’t going anywhere anyway.

The final problem is if you do go out with different people you can get labeled as a serial dater.  Now I’m certainly not suggesting using no discernment and just dating anyone at any time.  I’m also not suggesting dating just to date or asking out anyone just to get a rush or because you need approval of women.  Motive is everything here.  I’d also say that if you have lots of fairly long relationships that always fail, you need to check yourself and what’s going on.  There could be a fear of commitment.

But it can be a double standard.  Why aren’t you dating anyone?  Why aren’t you married?  There are lots of great women in our church – but you’d better only ask out one, because if you ask out more than one, everyone will think that you just want to serial date our church.

I big timed lived in this stuff in my twenties.  I WAY over thought potential dates.  I’m not talking about people that I didn’t really want to date, I’m talking about people I thought I could be interested in but wasn’t sure.  How the heck were you supposed to find out?

In an effort help people date right (or court or whatever), Christians have unintentionally made it harder to get married.  We are helping to paralyze people from actually pursuing relationships.  We end up over thinking, over analyzing, and over spiritualizing the whole thing.  We end up with guys who have no idea how to actually pursue someone when they DO want to because they can never be sure if they SHOULD.

Non-Christians make it way less complicated.  Like someone – ask them out. We could learn some from that.

We can’t date constantly worried about choosing wrong, trying to protect everyone, worried about what everyone thinks.  We can’t date in a context that says, don’t try, don’t risk, don’t touch, don’t mess up, don’t hurt anybody.  God’s grace is bigger than that.  We need to walk with Jesus but we need to free ourselves from a made up “Christian Dating” culture.

Has “Religious Dating” held you back?  Has it stifled your path?  Has it messed you up.

8 thoughts on “Religion And Dating Don’t Mix

  1. I just stumbled upon your blog. I live in St. Louis too. I feel like I wasn’t really ever “taught” about dating as a teenager in church, or in my home, and now I’m kind of flailing around stupidly as an adult. I definitely feel like somehow I had concocted this idea of dating that involved a lot of pressure, instead of learning about another person. There seems to be a lot more weight to it. I also find that adult, over college aged, single men in the church do not take initiative in dating, or even just interacting with single women. Frustrating. Anyway! Thanks for your blog. I’m going to catch myself up on your posts. 🙂

    • Hey Sarah – thanks for sharing. You’re right, we just don’t help people navigate it well. And for sure the men interacting thing is a huge problem. A lot of reasons for it, including but not even close to limited to the stuff in this post.

  2. I’m working through a lot of these issues right now, as a single twenty-something who grew up with Josh Harris’ *ever-so-helpful* advice shaping my first thoughts on dating, relationships, etc. For me, it’s working out how to find a balance between my perfectionist, legalistic approach which looks to a set of rules to protect myself from a broken heart; and throwing caution to the wind and taking the approach of my non-Christian friends who say if it feels right, do it.
    But. This endless philosophizing is still mere philosophy at present, because [like the above commenter already said] there’s always the issue of guys who don’t initiate, and to be a good Christian girl you’re left there, sitting, waiting to be pursued…

    Thanks for taking the time to write this blog; it’s been very challenging at times, but has also encouraged me greatly.

    • Hey Emily – thanks for the thoughts. Yeah we don’t want to swing the pendulum all the way over to the do what you feel – which is another huge danger. You can’t avoid risk, but that doesn’t mean be crazy. The whole walk with Jesus thing I guess. But then that’s kind of the point. 🙂

      Thanks for reading and sharing.

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  4. I wanted to thank you for your blog. Like Sarah, I just stumbled onto it myself. I can certainly relate to a number of articles, especially this one. I know when talking with the pastors of my church about the issue of dating and the whos, whats, and whens, it’s frustrating because there is nothing in the Bible that specifically answers those questions beyond general wisdom, and their answers are all “just wait, God will show you who to pursue.” They point to the example of Isaac, and say “just wait.” It seems so out of context, and if I were to really follow the example of Isaac, I’d have my father go hire a butler for a couple days…but seriously, it really is frustrating, and to add insult to injury, it’s like every thinks I should just be ok with that.

    • Tell me about it Tim! It just seems like our church leaders are also clueless about how to address the issue of dating. And I’m just about fed up with the one answer every elder seems to have: just wait on the Lord… it just seems like it’s an escape route they use to avoid the issue. In my part of the world (Africa) it’s even worse because most elders don’t consider a union as ‘legitimate’ or ‘from God’ unless both parties had a vision of who to marry and the union was confirmed through a third party (usually the elders themselves) via dreams, visions or a voice from God. I am not saying this doesn’t happen, but that’s not to say that is how it will happen for all of us?
      I just think the church has to get dating out of the closet and address the issue head on!

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