This is a continuation of the Dating Q&A session from our Valentine’s Day special Sola on Love, Romance and Dating. These are questions that were anonymously texted in by students. To see a full list of questions I have answered so far, click here.
“Should I always date with the thought ‘could I marry this person?’ Is it okay to casual date when you are younger?”
“You say that I shouldn’t be dating someone if I don’t know that I’m going to marry them. But isn’t that impossible to know when you start dating them?”
“Did Hillary always want to marry you?”
This similar kind of question may be the question I have been asked most after the sermon. For answering this question fully, I think it would be helpful to first read the answer to another question someone asked where I define the nature of love.
I’ll go ahead and answer these in reverse order.
Dating My Wife
I am guessing by that question you mean, “Did Hillary want to marry you from the very first moment you started dating?” The quick answer is, no, my wife did not always want to marry me, and I did not always want to marry my wife. When you begin dating someone it takes time before they drop the “I’m trying to be as impressive as possible” act and let their real self come out. Luckily, Hillary and I were friends before we started dating, so we knew each other some before the “impressive-act” started up, which helped us get to know each other more intimately faster. So no, we did not exchange marriage vows or start looking at wedding venues as we changed our Facebook relationship status. We were just dating. BUT, from the very beginning, before we were officially dating, we both agreed that the purpose of us dating was to find out if we wanted to be married. That was always the point.
Isn’t That Impossible?
“Isn’t it impossible to know you are going to marry someone before you start dating them?” Yes – unless you are clairvoyant, you cannot know whether or not you are going to marry someone when you start dating them. I was not making the point that you need to know that you are going to marry that particular person, but that marriage should always be the goal of romantic-dating relationships. Whenever a dating relationship begins, neither person is certain about their future with the other person – that’s the whole reason you are dating and not already married! In fact, I would say that it is unwise and often hurtful to rush into pledges of commitment and love too quickly; nearly everyone is on their best behavior for the first few months of dating, give them some time to feel comfortable and trusted enough around you to let the charade drop. Be on the lookout for what they cherish most, what their worldview is, and see if they are pursuing to make much of Christ with their everything. So no, you do not need to know you are going to get married before you date, but it should always be the destination.
This means that before the dating relationship commences, you need to have a conversation and both need to be on the same page on what you believe the purpose of dating is – sadly, this is rare. Men, initiate direct conversations with the woman you are interested in, tell them how you feel, and be okay with being rejected – don’t be creepy or refuse to take no for an answer, but also don’t leave a girl confused by your ambiguous flirty demeanor and lack of clear communication; be clear, direct, honest and gentle. It will be terrifying, but you will have a thousand times more integrity and joy in the relationship you do get than the guy who flirts with a handful of girls, and messes around with another handful. This requires a clear understanding of the purpose and design of romance itself.
Is Casual Dating Okay?
“Should I always date with the thought ‘should I marry this person?’, is it okay to date casually when you are younger?” Yes, you should always date with the thought “could I see myself marrying this person?”. That is like asking, “should I always have a destination when I drive my car?” – why else would you be getting into the car if it isn’t to drive somewhere?
Just because it may be commonplace to “date casually” today does not mean that we should. Justifying why we do things because “everyone does it” is a dangerous and foolish life to lead; the majority of history’s worst injustices took so long to stop because “everyone was doing it” – everyone had slaves, everybody treated women that way, everyone talked about different races like that – it was just normal. If the justification for why we do what we do rests solely on that kind of reasoning, we will always be victims to the sins and errors of our generation.
Now, this is difficult news for most young people to come to terms with, because the idea of getting married is so far off in the future for you, that it feels like an eternity to wait. Here are two words of encouragement / things to ponder:
1. Evaluate why you want a relationship so desperately right now.
If you are in no place to be thinking about marriage yet, then why are you trying to begin the process now? That’s like starting to cook your Thanksgiving turkey in July, and hope it will still taste good in November. And maybe you would say, “Well this is just how I feel, Marc! I don’t know why, but I just really want to have someone in my life!” Well, let’s think about this: perhaps the longing you are feeling isn’t intended to be filled in the context of romance. Maybe you just think it is because that’s what music, TV and Facebook tell you, but maybe you just need to be developing more meaningful friendships or connecting with your family more. Or maybe you are just going through a difficult season in life and think that having a boyfriend/girlfriend will make it better and you need to just weather the storm. Or, perhaps, you are looking to a prospective boyfriend or girlfriend to do for you what only God can do for you: satisfy your deepest longings, give you a secure identity, give you an approval and love that washes away fear, be constant and faithful 100% of the time and never leave us. Only God can fill that kind of role – and I promise you, you will feel a thousand times more lonely when get into a relationship, hoping that it will do that for you and it doesn’t.
2. Reconsider getting married younger.
I was 21 and my wife was 20 when we got married. She had just finished her bachelors degree and I was halfway through mine; I was working two part-time jobs, and she worked 20 hours a week at the library. Our first month that we were married we had $60 dollars to spend for the whole month on groceries (we ate A LOT of ramen-noodles). When Hillary and I were still dating we had dinner with an older married couple who told us their own story of getting married in college and scraping by with barely no money. They talked about eating the same frozen pizzas night after night because they were only 98 cents, and what a sweet time it was to have nothing but each other. They encouraged us to not put off marriage for too long, explaining that being able to grow in their relationship through that difficulty deepened their trust in one another, and ultimately in God. If Christ is the center of your relationship, than when difficulty comes along it will interact with your marriage the way a furnace interacts with gold; it will be strengthened and refined. You will walk through it with a deeper love and joy in one another, because you both have a deeper love and joy in Christ.
Typically when people enter into prolonged dating relationships it is just a matter of time before they begin to slip into sexual sin, and then load their relationship with all of the baggage it brings. Why choose to walk through that difficulty and not the one that promises to strengthen your relationship? Just something to think about.
Now, I am not saying you should drop out of high school and get married, I repeat, I am NOT saying that. If you are, however, thinking there is no way that you could get married until you finish college, travel the world, save up a ton of money, and get the perfect job – well, maybe reconsider. Those are all great things – but so is marriage, and all those can still be pursued while married.
If you haven’t read the sermon that sparked these questions, please give it a read.