Dating is a weird thing. Christian dating is an even weirder thing. It’s a whole other animal. Being a single twenty-something girl, the topic of dating comes up A LOT. And surprisingly, it doesn’t just come up among girls; single twenty-something guys are talking about it too. So many conversations that I have about dating go a little something like this, “I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Should I tell him/her that I like him/her? What do I say? As a Christian woman what am I allowed to do? As a Christian man what am I supposed to do?” In my experience, Christian twenty-somethings either haven’t been taught how to date biblically, or they are paralyzed in fear by what they have been taught about it.
Christian dating, and just gospel-centered relationships in general, is something that I am very passionate about. Ask any of my friends and they will surely tell you that I will gladly talk your ear off about this! This topic is something that I have read and thought a lot about. I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about gospel-centered dating and marriage, and it is something that I am still learning and figuring out. But through all of my reading and studying, I think I have found a pretty clear picture of what gospel-centered dating and marriage should look like.
So many people in the church will tell you that the Bible doesn’t talk about dating because it wasn’t part of the culture in the time when the bible was written. I sorta beg to differ. One book I read about this very topic, Sex, Dating, and Relationships by Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas, explains this so perfectly and really helped me gain a better understanding of dating in general. Gerald and Jay stand to reason that the Bible doesn’t talk about dating because dating is a man-made thing. Dating is a social construct, created to fill in the gaps between “just friends” and “married.” They claim that God created us to be in only three types of relationships: family, neighbor, and marriage. The family relationship is anyone you are blood related to (e.g. mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, brother, sister, etc.); the neighbor relationship is anyone you aren’t blood related to (e.g. best friend, actual next door neighbor, coworker, classmate, the lady who checks you out at the grocery store, etc.); and the marriage relationship is just that– the marriage between one man and one woman. Notice how none of these categories says anything about dating. If we were created to be in only these three relationships, and dating isn’t one of them, then we weren’t created to be in dating relationships, right? So what does that mean? How do we go from just friends to marriage? I’m glad you asked!
Gerald and Jay propose the idea of “dating friendships.” They explain:
“The term dating has evolved over time to mean something different from what it used to mean. In the past, the term dating did not denote a category of relationship so much as it described an activity. Unlike previous generations, which understood the term dating to refer to something a guy and girl did (i.e. going on a date), the modern concept of dating often refers to something they are (i.e. boyfriend and girlfriend).”
Their idea for a dating friendship is “two friends getting to know each other with a view toward marriage.” The purpose of being in a dating friendship as opposed to a dating relationship is to guard both parties’ hearts against romantic and sexual ties.
So often I hear of Christian guys being afraid to ask a girl to get coffee because they’re afraid the girl is going to think he wants to marry her. How did our Christian dating culture go from “I want to get to know you better” to “I’m asking you to get coffee because I want to marry you”? I think so many Christian guys have been taught that they can only pursue a girl if he wants to marry her. But how can a guy know if he wants to marry a girl without getting to know her first?! That’s where dating friendships come in. Dating friendships take off all of the pressure because the guy and the girl are both relying on the Lord every step of the way. They both realize that there is no real commitment outside of marriage and that either one has the freedom to end the dating friendship if he or she knows that isn’t what the Lord has for them. They both understand and believe that God is in control and sovereign over their relationship.
Ok, I’ve been raggin’ on the guys a little bit, so now it’s the girls’ turn. So many girls have been taught that in Christian dating they aren’t allowed to do anything. They aren’t allowed to vocalize their thoughts or feelings toward someone because that would mean they are taking the lead. Girls are taught that we have to just sit back and wait because it’s the guys’ responsibility to pursue us. I only halfway agree with this idea. Yes, it is the guys’ responsibility to pursue us, but I don’t think a girl telling a guy how she feels about him is her trying to pursue him. I think because God is sovereign and because we should all be in dating friendships instead of dating relationships, girls have just as much right to tell a guy that she respects and admires him and wants to get to know him better as a guy does.
This idea of a girl being allowed to initiate a conversation with a guy about her feelings and desires to get to know him better is one that I have been thinking about a lot lately. I too have struggled with this idea that if I tell a guy how I feel I would be pursuing him instead of waiting for him to pursue me. Almost daily I go back and forth about where I stand on this. I’m currently in a situation where I’ve had feelings for a guy for an embarrassingly long time, and I just don’t know if I should tell him. I have been praying about it for a long time with no clear answer. A dear friend of mine asked me last night what I would want this guy to know and what I would want to know from him if I were to have this conversation with him. I think this question really helped me think through what my goals and purposes would be for telling him about my feelings for him. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do, but I know that God is with me in whatever I decide, and He is sovereign.
I could talk for hours and hours about the topic of gospel-centered dating friendships and marriages, but I’ll stop my rant here for now!