(Dating Stigma Series 1 of 4)
As I’ve been guiding and coaching young adults through relationships, I’ve noticed two approaches to dating: the first is that people are dating just to date, with no real vision or plan for it. The second is that people are afraid to date because they were taught that dating is wrong. Dating is often associated with feelings of guilt and shame for some. Today I’d like to address the latter as I begin this stigma series around dating.
If you grew up in the late 90s or 2000s, you’ve heard of or read I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. If you haven’t, it’s about forgoing the idea of dating and focusing more on courtship. While the idea sounds good on paper and totally made sense to me as a teenager reading it, knowing it wasn’t the right time for me to be in a relationship, it had some flawed ideas. Besides the fact that Joshua Harris is no longer married or a Christian and this post isn’t a book review, I’d like to point out that his messages weren’t always accurate. He has even published a statement and made a documentary retracting his book. These messages mixed with purity culture in American Christianity, and conservative culture in the Orthodox church, led many away from dating. (Just to clarify, when I talk about dating, I’m referring to dating with the intention of marriage and not the contemporary version of dating that society has perverted in so many ways.)
This, in turn, placed a lot of pressure on a person as they entered any relationship. People felt like they had to be 100% sure about a person before entering a relationship. Which is really the whole purpose of dating, isn’t it? Dating is where you are meant to get to know someone to figure out if they’re the right person for you. If you’re able to know this person as a friend before dating, that’s wonderful. But if you’re meeting them out of your normal routine, it might be hard to do so.
Taken to an extreme, some young adults became overwhelmed with the pressure on dating that they became fearful and doubtful of the whole process. On the contrary, if dating is done in the right way and at the right time, it can be a fruitful experience. As long as you’re respectful about getting to know someone with the intention of turning it into a serious relationship, if things are working out, you have nothing to fear. Keep your intentions and actions pure, so there are no regrets about getting physically intimate with someone before marriage. Guard your heart and be wise about when and how you share confidential information with the person you’re dating. Get guidance along the way and make sure you’re not isolating yourself from your support system. Keep yourself grounded; there is no shame in going on a date with someone and spending time together.
Debra Fileta, in her book True Love Dates (a book I highly recommend), writes, “Dating with no regrets means keeping your focus on Jesus, so that no matter what happens in your relationships with others, your relationship with God remains intact.”
Dating with no regrets is the best kind of dating. I’d even take it a step further and advise that you should be leaving the person better than you found them, not worse in the case of breaking up. In your relationship, you should help each other grow towards Christ while finding out if you’re suitable for one another. Date in a respectful and honorable way. Avoid the mind games and do your best to be a good communicator, always leading with honesty and transparency. Respect their boundaries and establish your own. Lead with love, placing your partner’s wellbeing before your own and not helping yourself to anything that isn’t yours. Enjoy the process! There is fun in the novelty of meeting someone new and unfolding the possibilities of a potential future together.