I didn’t grow up in the “I Kissed Dating GoodBye” culture, but my kids did.
I made Rebecca read the book when she was 14 (sorry, Becca!). I told the girls no dating until they were at least 16, and I strongly discouraged it until later.
Over the years, as the girls grew up, I started to question a lot of the book’s premises, and by the time Katie was 16 I had discarded courtship it altogether.
Interestingly, both my daughters did marry the first person they have a relationship with. But both would have done what Josh considered in that book “dating”–they had gone to coffee with guys; they had gone to dinner with guys; they had even skyped guys. They just never considered themselves “in a relationship” with any of those guys.
And so I’d like to explore this today–and thank you to Christian Mingle for sponsoring this post!
Josh Harris has been on a journey himself the last few years, and has now disavowed his book. He says,
I thought today it would be good to talk through 10 reasons NOT to kiss dating goodbye.
But first, let’s just go over what Josh was proposing instead. In summary, Josh once believed and preached:
- No “dating”, or time alone, unless you it was explicitly to work towards marriage, and this should not be done until you are at an age and a life stage where you could actually marry.
- Family should be involved in this decision, and the couple should avoid being alone together until marriage.
- The guy should approach the girl (and the girl’s father) to talk about potential courtship
- No physical contact at all until the wedding (no kissing, and even hand holding should be at a minimum).
I’ve already talked about how I changed my mind about dating and courtship. Here are 10 reasons why I think we should actually bring back the idea of healthy relationships with the opposite sex, and getting to know potential mates in productive, healthy ways.
1. Everybody’s marriage journey is different.
Some people will marry the first person they date, and will choose to save their first kiss until the wedding. I know one couple who made such a choice because in previous relationships they had gone too far physically, and they wanted to work on their emotional connection. They felt God was asking them to do this. Other people may not feel that God is calling them to wait to kiss, and they may have other past relationships that ended (even if they did not want them to). To assume that there is only one proper way of courtship ignores our modern society, ignores how the Holy Spirit works differently in each of our lives, and ignores that even biblically, couples were brought together under different circumstances in different ways.
2. Dating frees you to choose a mate
One family with multiple children that I know used the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” philosophy whole hog. It worked great with the first three couples. But then the fourth child started dating someone at 19 that those of us outside the family could see was not a good match for him. However, there was this feeling that if that relationship ended, he would have “failed”. He would have dated without marrying, and that was wrong. So he married her, and the relationship is not a strong one.
The philosophy asks you to be on a marriage track before you are in a relationship with someone–or before you truly know them. And then it hypes up that relationship track so much that if the relationship fails, you feel as if you have failed and you are somehow tainted. You can’t know if a person is a good match for you until you spend some time with them. Let’s not put so much pressure on ourselves right out the gate, and let’s instead get to know people slowly!
3. Having a dating orientation helps relieve the fear of the opposite sex
If “dating” is wrong, and being alone with the opposite sex is wrong, and having any sexual feelings is wrong, then the opposite sex becomes dangerous. This can make the opposite sex seem rather distant, scary, and alien. It’s hard to have natural conversations with people that you are constantly trying to avoid or second guess yourself around. And when you can’t have natural conversations, it’s hard to develop healthy relationships that can then lead to something more.
4. Dating makes it more likely that you’ll marry
If you believe that dating is wrong, and that courtship is something that will happen when God brings the right guy into your life, then your only responsibility is to wait and have faith in God’s plan.
That, I believe, is why there is a growing phenomenon of girls especially who grow up in very conservative households who are not marrying. As Thomas Umstaddt explained in his critique of courtship:
5. When you want to date, you learn to go after what you want.
If we stop portraying marriage as something that you have to wait for, then we start telling people, “If this is something that’s important to you, then you have to make it happen!”
Let me tell you about one woman I’ll call Rachel, who is part of the To Love, Honor and Vacuum extended community. Rachel is 24, and has had a difficult history with bad men in her life. But she knows that she wants to marry. And so, even though her job has moved her across the country, every new community she goes to, she signs up for online Christian dating. Most of the dates haven’t panned out, though she had a great time getting to meet people. But she’s now dating someone that she’s enjoying getting to know, and I’m eagerly watching where this may go. But Rachel decided she wasn’t going to so sit around. She was going to do something about it. And she did.
Similarly, in my daughter Rebecca’s church is a man in his early 30s that she so respected, but who was single. Rebecca was always trying to figure out who she could set him up with, because she really wanted to see him married. But about a year ago he brought a woman to church, whom he had met on Christian Mingle. They’re engaged now, and Rebecca is thrilled. They’re perfect together.
These two people knew they wanted to get married, but they couldn’t find anyone in their social circle. And so they took it upon themselves to reach out. They joined Christian Mingle. They worked hard at creating a good profile. And they were matched with each other (and Rebecca’s really looking forward to the wedding!). The whole church celebrated with them.
Here’s how they describe themselves:
And if you have a friend, sister, co-worker, or whomever who you would love to see with someone, but they aren’t dating, why not encourage them to try? Even help them set up a profile!
6. Spending time with others helps you learn to recognize a good guy
When Rebecca started attending a College & Careers group when she was just 17, she was asked out for coffee by a number of guys. She went. She learned a lot about these men, many of whom she admired and enjoyed spending time with (they just weren’t a good match for her). But she did meet guys with good character, and she was able to recognize what it was that she was actually looking for. Even if she was with a guy that she didn’t want to pursue a relationship with, she still knew that guys with certain qualities existed, and it was not wrong to wait for someone with those qualities.
7. Being with a variety of people helps you to learn to recognize red flags.
Similarly, when you meet a number of people of the opposite sex, you start to recognize when there’s something “off”. When you decide that you are not going to date, and are only going to enter into a relationship with someone you will marry, then you don’t have the breadth of experience to recognize how you should be treated–and how you should not be treated. I know many women who got married young, thinking he was a great Christian because he could quote Bible verses, but really he was controlling.
8. Dating well ensures at least some sexual attraction with a potential mate.
Here’s a bit of a controversial one, but hear me out.
When we say that you should not hold hands or kiss before the wedding, you put off physical contact entirely–including that physical contact which could at least tell you if there was some sort of “spark”. I firmly believe that sexual attraction is an important part of marriage, and it should be a struggle to not have sex before you’re married. That doesn’t mean that we should flirt with “how far can we go”, but you should at least know that your beloved actually does want to make love to you.
However, if you cut off all physical contact, you can run into trouble. When we treat things that are not biblical truths as biblical mandates, especially things that make us potentially unattractive to possible spouses, you aren’t just weeding out the bad ones. You weed out a lot of the good ones, too. Good mates may not be interested in dating you because you’re so “out there”. But more than that, we may unwittingly attract bad ones.
I would have agreed with Josh ten years ago, or at least given this view point more credence. But after seeing letter after letter from women who married porn addicts or homosexuals, I’m more and more convinced that people who struggle with sexuality, such as wrestling with homosexuality or deep pornography addiction, are drawn towards people with hyper-strict rules about sexuality because it gives them a safe place to hide. Even this morning I had an email from a woman who has been married for five years, whose pastor husband told her on their wedding night that he was not interested in ever having sex with her. She may have known that had they been kissing before the wedding (and he pulled away).
Again, I’m not saying that anyone HAS to kiss before marriage. But I do think that those who struggle with healthy sexuality are over represented in groups who decide not to have any physical contact whatsoever before marriage, and that can be a problem.
9. Dating helps you mature–in a good way
If you’re the one who is ultimately responsible for your future, then you’re more likely to take concrete steps. You may move out of your parent’s house, or even out of your parent’s church, to find a church with a larger college & career group. You may change cities if there aren’t a lot of marriageable prospects near where you live. In short, you become an adult.
10. Dating makes you more interested in self-growth
Finally, I believe that people who have a healthy orientation towards dating are also more likely to pursue self-growth. If finding someone to marry is simply a matter of faith and waiting, then there’s nothing you can do about it. Might as well binge watch Netflix. But if finding someone good means meeting people, and getting out there, then you have to go outside your comfort zone. You try new things. You join new groups. And you start to realize, “Maybe it’s me who has to change?”
Like Andy Stanley said,
And if you are someone who is here because you want to get married–why not give Christian Mingle a try?
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