My husband and I married when I was 35 years old. Prior to that, I spent years “looking for” my husband. Much of my teenage years and my 20s consisted of serial dating, hoping the next guy would “work out.” This led to some bad relationships, awful dates and far too much heartache.
Following a particularly rocky seven-year on/off relationship, I read the book The Sacred Search by Gary Thomas. (I highly recommend this for any Christian man or woman who would like to be married some day.) I was on vacation at the beach with my family, and once I started reading, I could not put the book down. I lost count of the “Aha!” moments in reading this book.
It is based in Scripture and very conversational in tone, which made it easy to read but also extremely educational. I immediately wondered upon finishing it “Why don’t churches teach these things to young people?”
Some of these things are what I learned reading The Sacred Search, and others from experience. Without further adieu, here are things I wish my church taught me about dating.
- Put God’s will first in life and in dating. Most women I know, even “modern” women with careers and personal aspirations, want to be married. I hated to admit it, but finding a partner in life was important to me even at 16 years old. It wasn’t until two years ago at a church function I learned that maybe I wasn’t meant for marriage. Perhaps God intended something different for me. A woman gave her testimony about how her desperation to be married led her down a road of promiscuity, failed relationships and failing to realize God’s path for her. It was after hearing this testimony that I realized I needed to focus on God’s plan for me rather than what I thought was best. This is not to say I stopped dating or closed myself off to meeting new people. But I clearly put God’s will first. If that meant I did not get married, then I would use my talents for whatever missions God did put in my life.
- Guard your heart. One of my biggest mistakes was allowing my feelings to get carried away far ahead of my brain. If I met a guy who was sweet or romantic toward me, my heart got so excited that my brain forgot to evaluate if this person would be a good fit for me. For example, my long-term on/off relationship began amidst turmoil because he was still hung up on his ex-girlfriend. If I had kept my emotions in check and examined this individual in terms of a good partner rather than just a fun, nice person who liked me, I may have avoided a ton of heartache.
- Avoid getting physical. I am not naive to the times. I understand that premarital sex is incredibly common. That doesn’t necessarily make it right or a good idea. I would discourage people from getting intimate with their partners before marriage. (I recognize this is a do-as-I-say, not-as-I-do proposition on my part.) But I’ve come to realize that getting intimate, particularly for women, leads to strong feelings of attachment. It makes it much more difficult to separate feelings from facts and harder to let go of someone your brain knows is not a good partner. For those who argue they wouldn’t marry someone without knowing how their sex life would be first, my response is simply that sex – while very important – becomes less important as time goes on. You may have a fantastic sex life with someone who is an absolutely lousy and selfish partner for life. What good is that going to do you in a marriage?
- Be equally yoked. I used to think this did not matter. I now realize it is absolutely imperative. Even in my 20s, when I turned away from God and the church, I still recognized that my moral fabric was built upon my foundation as a Christian. It became evident to me it would be impossible to have a strong marriage partnership with someone who did not share my basic beliefs. That realization solidified after I had a baby with my husband. The stress of life on married couples is intense. If you don’t share basic beliefs, it is unlikely your partnership will work long-term.
I am sure many churches teach pieces of these ideas simply by teaching Scripture. But I think it’s well past time churches begin specific classes or teaching series on dating specifically. With the rate of divorce, infidelity, premarital sex, etc., something is not connecting even among Christian young people.
What would you add to the list?