I love the Church. But I wholeheartedly think we are getting dating wrong. There...I said it.
I’m no dating guru, far from it - I’ve had my fair share of heartbreak, massive screw ups on my part and freak outs - but the Church needs to raise its bar on dating.
Over the past six months, the subject of dating has laid heavy on my heart, as I've watched Christian guy and girl friends get their hearts completely broken, heads messed around and feel completely let down by the dating culture in the Church. So much so, that a few of my good friends have decided secular dating is a better idea.
One friend told me, 'In relationships with non-christians, I’m treated with more respect, they are less likely to mess me about and I feel they are often more honourable and caring.' I told her to stay patient, keep the faith and not to tarnish everyone with the same brush, but I couldn’t help but feel that my advice was nothing but a kind of Christian cliche. A stock answer. Deep down, I empathised. I've dated non-christians in the past, who had showed me great love and have cared deeply about me. Far more than I had experienced whenever I dated Christians.
The most godly, loving and healthiest relationships I come across in Church, are the ones where the couple has admitted they had to keep quiet about their relationship for months and months initially, as they said the Church culture came with such a heavy pressure to get married that it threatened to ruin the relationship.
The harsh pressure to get married can suck the enjoyment out of dating
God calls us to be with others and to be in fellowship with each other, but the Church too often zooms in on the message: ‘GET MARRIED’. Apparently until you reach this destination of marriage, you are just a half lost soul waiting in the wings until ‘your time’ comes along. But the Bible certainly doesn't make marriage the ultimate life goal. It doesn't say we are incomplete in life and ministry without a spouse. Yet at times Church has made me feel that until I get into a godly romantic partnership, I’m not leading a fulfilling life.
This harsh pressure to get married can suck the enjoyment out of dating. There is a unique pressure on Christians. I've seen my friends not even want to go on a date, out of fear, scared by the thought that the other person wants to get engaged and hitched within the year.
Rather than the Church placing so much emphasis on marriage, there needs to be more teaching on being single and understanding your Christ given identity as a whole person, before establishing your identity in a couple.
Let’s get real. Let’s practice love like no other - a love so godly that our dating lives are so glaringly different from others, for all the right reasons. Let’s set boundaries for men and women’s friendships. Let’s be better communicators. Let’s not over-complicate life and instead of meeting for a drink and calling it ‘hanging out’ (with hopes of a romantic future) let’s call it what it is. A date.
Let’s not be afraid to get to know each other without the pressure of thinking ‘we have to have our minds made up about the future’ in a week’s time. Let’s understand that not every date has to end in a marriage proposal and know it’s okay to simply ‘not be right for one another’. Let’s do things prayfully and wisely. It's time to enjoy the journey and quit making dating so hard.
Jessica Evans is a freelance journalist