A few weeks ago, I was at the gym with a friend when I saw a guy who I was certain I recognized but couldn’t decide where from. Good-looking, dark hair, athletic build, training with the university boxing team. There was no denying he was attractive. Then it dawned on me where I’d seen him before. Every Sunday he rushes into Mass late, on his own, and sits at the back of the church.
While mentally congratulating myself for working this out, I happened to mention it to my friend. Her automatic response was “oh yeah, he’s hot and he’s Catholic’—you should ask him out!” What did I know about him at this point? He’s physically attractive, and he’s Catholic. Not much! Yet this was apparently enough to warrant asking the guy out. What’s more, I’m pretty sure the ‘and he’s Catholic’ was only added because my friend was aware this would be one of my terms.
I didn’t know his name, his age, his nationality or his interests, and yet it struck me that nowadays the natural next step would be to ask him on a date purely based on appearance. Physical attraction might motivate some to pursue one night stand, but it’s certainly not a sufficient basis for a longer lasting relationship. Somewhere along the line, dating has become a recreational activity instead of a discernment process.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t date someone unless you’re 100% certain you’re going to marry them, but I am saying that if you’re pretty certain you’re not going to marry them then you probably shouldn’t consider dating them.
In his book ‘I Kissed Dating Goodbye’, Joshua Harris fantastically explains the difference between dating for entertainment and dating intentionally. He offers 7 habits of defective dating to look out for in our own relationships and attitudes towards them:
1) Dating leads to intimacy but not commitment.
2) You skip the ‘friendship stage’ of the relationship.
3) Physical relationships are mistaken for love.
4) The relationship isolates a couple from other friends.
5) The couple is distracted from preparing for the future.
6) Discontentment with the gift of singleness arises.
7) A person’s character is evaluated in an artificial environment.
It’s so easy to fall into any one of these traps, particularly while we’re surrounded by a culture of instant gratification that teaches us that we can have anything we want without much effort. But defective dating will inevitably lead to a painful break up or, worse, defective marriage! Changing the end result requires us to change the process. Changing the process can begin now—whether you’re in a long term relationship, just starting out, or are single.
Take the time to get to know someone and discern the potential for a relationship before you begin dating. If you become romantically involved too soon, it’s easy to get stuck in a relationship which is unhealthy, restrictive and, ultimately, destructive. Instead of rushing into a serious relationship for fear of being alone, or going on date after date after date with different people but having no real focus, allow God to work in his own time. Trust that He will provide what you need, when you need it.
You don’t have to buy into the dating game. There’s another way. A better way. God’s way! And for our part that’s the simplest way of all.
Esther Rich has a bachelor degree in Psychology from Oxford University, UK, and is currently completing the Sion Community Foundation Year, working on their youth ministry team. She loves Theology of the Body, Papa Francesco and a good worship band. She is passionate about empowering women to be who they were created to be, and blogs at “For Such A Time As This.”