I want to take a moment and observe dating culture in the western world.

  1. Especially among younger people, worth is perceived in the context of relationships.
    1. People see themselves as having more worth when they are connected to either the right people or to more people.
    2. Dating the “right person” or dating anyone at all is thus of great importance to many younger people (including young adults).
    3. No matter what people might say, acceptance is important to most; and a great deal of acceptance is experienced in the context of a dating relationship.[1]
  2. “Dating” implies a certain exclusive status to two individuals that either had or did not have a relationship before.
    1. In the case where there was no relationship before, it becomes more difficult to get to know people for who they really are.
    2. People usually are on their best behavior at the beginning of a dating relationship.
    3. When dating in exclusivity (when people go out by themselves), it becomes very likely that people will pretend to be someone other than themselves.
    4. Exclusivity also encourages intimacy without commitment.
  3. Despite what it may have been in the past, dating (in a popular sense of the term) is not practice for marriage; it is practice for divorce.
    1. “Relationships” begin, but then end suddenly at the first sign of danger.
    2. Dating discourages commitment; else it would be called marriage.
    3. When people are constantly entering into relationships with other people, breaking up and repeating with someone new; they are practicing to do the same in marriage relationships.
  4. People who care about dating become more self-conscious than those who do not.
    1. Looks do matter at the beginning of a dating relationship, claims thoughtcatalog.com.[2]
    2. People then become more susceptible to depression when they either do not find a date or if they do not like how they look.

Considering these observations, I am not sure that I would ever recommend the practice of dating to anyone; at least as it is popularly understood. As far as we can deduce, it seems that the practice of dating may be one of the contributing factors to many of the growing problems we have in the western world.

  • Lack of commitment
  • Sexually centered entertainment
  • Abstraction of the definition of marriage
  • Divorce rate
  • Conflicts within the family

While this may be the case, I am not going to argue that dating need be extinguished in culture today. Instead, I am going to propose that dating serve a wiser role in a premarital relationship and put forth some proposed guidelines that will make for more successful dating relationships (and more successful marriage relationships) in the future. Since the popular practice of dating seems to present more problems than cures, we should examine what committed, exclusive relationships were at their inception.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper as his complement.” So the Lord God formed out of the ground every wild animal and every bird of the sky, and brought each to the man to see what he would call it. And whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the livestock, to the birds of the sky, and to every wild animal; but for the man no helper was found as his complement. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to come over the man, and he slept. God took one of his ribs and closed the flesh at that place. Then the Lord God made the rib He had taken from the man into a woman and brought her to the man. And the man said:

This one, at last, is bone of my bone

and flesh of my flesh;

this one will be called “woman,”

for she was taken from man.

This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh. Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.[3]

People were not designed to be single

By God’s own words, it was not good that man was alone. He was designed to have a helper who was a compliment to him. We seem to glorify the single life in the west today and even more so as we consider dating culture. The “single” status means that one person is not bound to a certain relationship. Since it is not good for a person to be alone, there is a certain responsibility on our part to pursue a lifelong partner (though we should be wise in doing this). Scripture does not specify how we should go about finding our significant other, so ‘dating’ according to a certain set of guidelines may be a legitimate means by which we can find the one that God designed as our complimentary helper.[4]

Required sacrifice

The first man, Adam, sacrificed a rib in order to gain a lifelong complimentary helper (Eve). In relationships today, sacrifices are required to have successful relationships. We actually give up a piece of ourselves in order to have good relationships. This means that ‘dating’ should not be about us.

God required that Adam search and search for a suitable helper. When one was not found among all of God’s creation, God made a helper specifically suitable for Adam. Here there are a few implications that are highlighted for us:

  1. God has a standard by which He measures those who might become our helper. We should listen to God for His standards and never settle for anything less.
  2. It is ultimately God who revealed Eve to Adam. So many times dating culture encourages us to be with anyone that we might be interested in and to see if it works out.
    1. This system has failed. I want to propose that dating instead is the act of waiting for God to reveal the one person He has for each of us.
    2. This means that we pursue God instead of people, trusting God to reveal that helpmate in His timing.

Commitment

            When Adam met Eve, His wife by God’s design, he made the declaration:

This one, at last, is bone of my bone

and flesh of my flesh;

this one will be called “woman,”

for she was taken from man.

They became one flesh. The becoming of one flesh happens at commitment, not at the moment of sexual intimacy. There is something that takes place in us when we commit ourselves exclusively to another person. This itself is an intimacy that was designed for marriage, because marriage is a lifelong commitment. God designed marriage without designing a way for people to date. Instead He gave people a way to search for a suitable helper.

New dating how-to’s

 

  1. The search.
    1. Realize that God has a single person picked as your helpmate and that he or she will meet a certain standard that God has declared.
    2. Committing first to God means trusting His timing.
    3. This means that we should reserve exclusivity for marriage.
    4. Dating is best practiced in groups among friends who will hold us accountable in the open where there is no intimacy. This idea is counter-cultural, but why would we continue dating like culture when it fails much more often than it succeeds?
  2. The one.
    1. When God does reveal “the one”, we should be sure that it is God who is doing the revealing and not our own emotions.
    2. Commit to that person.
    3. Wait until marriage for any intimacy.
  3. The result.
    1. This will not solve all the problems of dating because we are still a fallen people, but by moving the focus away from self we are enabled to hear God and to follow God’s plan more closely the first time.

What if God never reveals the “one”?

Because of sin and because of the Fall, there is death and pain and suffering. God’s ideal for existence is not fulfilled in the world today. Each one of us must wrestle with the possibility that God’s ideal helpmate for us simply is not here. If this is the case, it may be better for us to remain single than to enter into a relationship that is not God’s ideal. Honoring God means more than self-satisfaction. Remember that the apostle Paul was unmarried and saw it as a good thing for all who were unmarried to remain that way.[5] God’s plan should take precedence over everything else in our lives.

[1] <http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/news/releases/social-acceptance-and-rejection-the-sweet-and-the-bitter.html&gt;

[2] http://thoughtcatalog.com/nico-lang/2013/08/29-eye-opening-dating-facts-that-will-change-the-way-you-view-relationships/

[3] Genesis 2:18-25 (HCSB)

[4] If it’s not good that man should be alone, and man was made in God’s image, perhaps it’s also not good that God should be alone. Perhaps this gives a hint as to the reason for God’s creating humankind in the first place.

[5] 1 Corinthians 7:8

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