Well, another Valentine’s day has come and gone. I wouldn’t call myself a cynic about the day. Growing up my parents always bought Jena and I gifts and the focus of the day was always about ALL the people in your life you loved not just romantic love. But yesterday I found myself thinking about the romantic love aspect of Valentine’s day. And then I opened my reader and saw that The Junia Project had posted an excellent blog about dating as an egalitarian. The Junia project is a really great website with many bloggers who write about gender equality in the church. This post was entitled “Questions About Egalitarian Dating” by Kate Wallace. It was a really great blog about finding a person who has the same views on gender roles as you do. It also brought up some interesting questions for those of us who are egalitarian to talk about in the comments like; who pays for the date? Who opens doors? and, “When should you have the gender roles talk?” I found the ensuing discussion really interesting, and enjoyed reading all of the comments. I even commented myself. I stated my answer to those questions (read the blog to see exactly what I said), but I had to put a few caveats in my response. I’ll quote part of it here.
Honestly, as a mid twenties egalitarian woman trying to date my biggest problem isn’t finding a guy who thinks I’m equal to him, but just finding a guy… these questions are things I wish I struggled with as a “dating” egalitarian woman, but really I can’t even seem to find any Christian men right now much less worry about these questions.
Okay so do I sound sufficiently like a whiny single girl yet? Bear with me I have a point. What I have just articulated is something I am seeing articulated by many single Christian girls (this may also be a thing for Christian guys but since I’m speaking from my own experience I wouldn’t know). I think these issues highlight a bigger problem facing the church at large. The church doesn’t know how to help older single people and older couples.
Google any books about Christian dating and most of what you’ll find falls into two categories. 1) the “I kissed dating goodbye” courtship type of book, and 2)books that seem targeted more toward high school and college age people. But, if you manage to get out of college without finding a significant other…good luck and good riddance because not only are there seemingly no books, but the church you go to probably won’t be talking about this in any substantial way.
The older I get the more I realize we need to do an overhaul on how we talk about dating as a community. I have heard single Christian guy friends talk about not wanting to go out with a girl until they find out many things about her; her hopes and dreams, how involved she wants to be in ministry, and if their personalities mesh. My bewildered response was always a variation of “You know how you figure those things out? You go ON A DATE WITH HER!” But then, the more I thought about it the more I realized that the problem wasn’t just in their thought process, but instead their thought process was a result of the culture they were raised in. I think the church (whether intentionally or subconsciously) teaches that casual dating is wrong.
Now track with me because this part may get confusing. I am not for casual dating. But I also am for casual dating. Let me explain! I would not date a man that I could not picture myself marrying, BUT I don’t think I am going to marry every man I date. That is the difference between bad casual dating and good casual dating. But I think the message we get starting from our teenage years goes along the lines of “casual dating is wrong because you are wasting your time with someone you will not marry.” So wanting to know everything about a girl before he asks her out doesn’t stem from laziness or cheapness, but rather a fear that he is somehow stepping outside of God’s plan by dating willy nilly without getting all the facts.
So what we have are a bunch of single men and women between the ages of 22-30 wandering around trying to figure out how the heck to get into serious relationships with each other without dating casually first. And we are banging our heads against the wall in frustration. (At least I am). Unfortunately, even when Christian singles do manage to find a person and begin a serious relationship with them the problems do not end. The church not only hasn’t figured out how to teach people to be single, they don’t know how to instruct couples who are serious about each other but not entering marriage yet. The message is don’t have sex.
“Okay, but can we make out?
“Don’t have sex.”
“Okay, but seriously what about making out?”
“Don’t have sex.”
“OKAY! COOL I’M WITH YOU! BUT WHAT ABOUT MAKING OUT.”
“Don’t have sex.”
For those of us who are not Amish or Dugger types who won’t have any physical contact with their significant other until marriage, this is immensely frustrating. (By the way I mean no disrespect to those who have chosen to have that type of relationships. I just mean that these issues don’t really apply to them as much.) For the rest of us picture a long straight line. At one end is no physical contact. At the other end is the ultimate physical contact; sex. There is a lot that falls in between those and unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be much discussion about that middle part. We hear over and over don’t have sex, but hear nothing about how to be in a long term relationship and stay committed to not having sex before marriage while still having a physical component to your relationship.
There’s a disturbing silence around this topic. What ends up happening because of this silence is destructive. Couples feel that they are the only ones struggling and figuring things out in the dark. All while not realizing that most of their peers are dealing with the same thing. Silence and hiding leads to guilt which leads to shame and condemnation. And it has to stop. I want to quote the wise words of a friend who is now married but who had some great insight to share.
Other things are talked about openly in church. Like dating intentionally, the purpose of marriage, the actual experience of marriage – all are talked about, but no one has any idea what to do when you are with someone you think you could marry or know you are going to marry. But also it’s interesting to me because I have known people who never kissed until their wedding day or until their engagement, but that’s like two or three couples in history. I’ve known so many more who definitely didn’t wait on that but it’s just like where is the dialogue at all? Everyone doesn’t have to have the same exact guidelines, method, boundaries, but there is a void in dating dialogue. It just skips from like don’t be near the opposite sex at all to everyone is young and already married
That quote is from my friend Diane. She’s wonderful and you should follow her blog here.
I could not have said it better than that. So this Valentine’s day I found myself wishing that this problem would start changing. And I realized if I wanted things to change I needed to open up the dialogue and tell the truth. There’s a gap in our theology and our young couples and singles are falling into it. It’s time to make a change. We won’t figure it out right away. The answers won’t be easy. But we need to be honest and try.
I really want to hear from all of you. If you are single and post college how do you feel about dating? Have you found it hard to date? Why or why not? If you are in a relationship but not married are you having a hard time with this stuff as well? What do you do about it? If you are married did you deal with this while you were single? Leave your thoughts in comments.