90’s Dating Gone Bad #5: Don’t Date Someone Unless You Are Sure You Are Going To Marry Them

This is the last in my series on 90’s dating gone bad. (For background on this series, start with this post.)

Often, we Chrisitian women complain that men do not pursue us enough. But can you blame them? As a result of the “Zero dating tolerance” era, they are expected to know if they want to be with us forever within the first few dates. The bridesmaids dresses are picked out after the first cup of coffee. These men find themselves in a quandary. “I want to get to know this girl, but if I ask her out, I need to be pretty sure that I’m serious. But how do I know if I am serious about her if I don’t spend quality time with her?” It is a catch 22. I would be scared too. See what a bunch of rules does to us?

I have had good men in my life who were frozen because there is so much pressure in Christian dating. They wouldn’t  give me a chance because God did not give them a vision in which I was wearing a white dress. This kind of thinking seems emotionally driven, and based on the “feelings” you have. Feelings are a good thing, but they should not be the only thing you focus on to assess  whether you would make a good match. There should be a lot of wisdom involved as well as feelings.

As I have stated before, I think slow steady dating where you are getting to know someone day by day is the best way to do things. Something I have tried to do with the last few people I have been interested in is to not think about marriage too soon. I use what I call the “Holiday Effect.” I ask myself “Is there enough enjoyment and beauty and mutual sharpening in this relationship that I want to keep pursuing this to the next holiday?” If the answer is yes,  I invest wholeheartedly in the relationship day by day  to that next holiday, and then I check what is going on with us as a couple and what is going on inside of me. I keep doing the next best thing. Someday, I will get enough information to know whether a future with this person is a good idea or not. (The only bad thing about this theory is that I could potentially be breaking up with someone on every happy day of the year. But you get what I mean. Go in seasons.)

In my experience, few guys have taken the risk to date me like that. They want to know they are “supposed” to marry me (a term I really don’t like as it sounds so much like a duty rather than a joy) or they just want to be best friends with me. Nothing in between. Honestly, I would feel much safer dating and knowing we are praying day by day about where our relationship is going than being best friends. I know a lot of guys think there is more integrity in staying it friends rather than dating, but it can actually be so boundary-less that it ends up being damaging to a woman’s heart.

I have been interviewing married and divorced people for my book. I have heard over and over that a biproduct of this kind of thinking can be marrying someone you don’t know very well and rushing to get married. This can be very dangerous.

What do we do in the wake of our dating hell tsunami?

We need to move from a culture that is scared of dating to a culture that feels confident that they can date well and make decisions with God. In the courting model, we were taught that God wanted to choose our spouse. But God choosing a spouse for someone only happens twice in the bible. Once with Isaac and Rebecca, and once with Hosea and Gomer. As one of my favorite teachers, Dann Farrely says, “a fifty percent chance of marrying a prostitute is not very good odds.” Most verses about marriage in the bible are filled with imagery of being wise, and of choosing with God.

I believe that in order for these deep seeded unhealthy views of dating to change, a revolution needs to happen.  The Christian church at large is in a  pivotal time right now. We are more concerned with social justice issues. We are learning to become less hypocritical and more compassionate. We are trying to read the bible for what it really says, not what culture tells us it says. I would love to see our Christian communities grow in the area of dating as well. To have a revolution in which we are allowed to date and have adult relationships while still maintaing our values and boundaries. To allow a man to feel like he can ask woman out just to get to know her better without everyone in his life asking him when the wedding date will be.

I’d also love to hear sermons for single people where we are being taught good dating principals. Someone once said to me that it isn’t fair to married people to have to listen to a sermon for singles. But how many married sermons have we listened to? There are almost no unmarried pastors out there, so they don’t often think about what singles need to hear. Please, leaders in the church, make it a priority to learn what single people go through, and start bringing healthy teachings for us to grow and for our culture to change.

There also needs to be good books written about being single that will help shape the culture. Namely: a little book called Getting Naked Later which I am almost done with. (Making me rich, famous, and married to a hot guy would also be good goals for my book.)

For out dating culture to change, we all have to change together.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, especially you men.

BY THE WAY: I am thinking of doing a tour to North Carolina and surrounding states in the end of June. If anyone can think of places that I could guest lead worship or do a house concert, or even teach my sexy celibate ways to singles groups, will you let me know? Thanks!

36 thoughts on “90’s Dating Gone Bad #5: Don’t Date Someone Unless You Are Sure You Are Going To Marry Them

  1. Honestly in churches as a single person I often feel completely ignored. There is a gap between college students and married couples that tends to just stay a void. I do think that is beginning to change, but it has been a painful journey for me personally to become brave enough to go alone.

    • ^^ This is one of the main reasons I have decided to leave my church. I feel like I am not considered “an adult” there. I am 31, and have been the only single person between the ages of 18 and 40 who still goes to that church for several years now. There’s very few married people in that age range as well. Perhaps if I leave, they’ll realize they have no one left to nominate as their “youth representative”.

  2. Really nicely written.

    I think unrealistic expectations in churches and that corporate pressure have wrecked Christians for dating, and even made marriage a lot harder than it needs to be. how silly

    also, interestingly, Hosea’s prostitute/wife isn’t even specified. He still has to choose.

    anyway, I have a couple sermons on my laptop on Doing Singleness Well, if you want me to email them your way let me know.

  3. As always, thank you for your posts! My last (very serious) relationship ended when my boyfriend told me point-blank that he couldn’t love me until he received a sign from God. The idea of prayerfully working with God instead of always relying on divine and undeniable revelation can be very difficult for us to live out, especially in areas that are so life-changing. I agree, we don’t get to hear enough sermons for singles in most churches today, yet those of us who are single have to sit through countless messages on marriage and parenthood. Is it fair? No. Life rarely is.

    On a side note, I would LOVE to see you make a tour of NC. I go to a very small church in the (north) Charlotte area… Not sure you would be interested in something like that or if we dould work something out, but it would be great to see you come out this way!

    • First of all, have you read the posts “Signs, signs, everywhere the signs” and “Don’t let a boggle game tell your future?” They would be good for you to read, I think.

      If I can get enough shows out there and can figure out a way to get around I’d love to visit your church! I’m still trying to decide if it will work. Can you go to my website (katehurley.com) and message me through there and we can see if it will work out?

  4. Several points:

    1. yes, Clap, Clap, Clap!!!!

    2. It should be / have been “…unless you can see yourself married to them” – not your title, which is appropriate, but rather the mindset about which you’re writing. You don’t have to know right up front, regardless of what the Courtship folks say, but once you DO know that it is NOT gonna happen, you owe it to the person you’re dating to not string her along. Big big big difference.

    3. The problem is not that so very few pastors are unmarried, but rather that so many of them married in undergrad, Bible school, seminary, whatever, and never really WERE single adults. Too many marrieds in the church are essentially of a mindset (although they would never think of it this way) that “This is how God blessed me, therefore it’s the normative experience.” I can’t THINK of how many godly couples I’ve known who 1.) married by 23 or so, 2.) only dated for maybe 6 weeks – 2 months (or less) before a quick engagement, and 3.) said, “yes, this is how God worked in our lives and it’s been wonderful, but don’t you DARE follow the same path – take your time!”

    I’ll be thinking about this one some more. Lots of good stuff to digest here.

    • I think that your 3rd point is very important – so many of my friends (and family) and fellow church members married very young – and before that were dating the person that they are now married to, that they really have no idea what it’s like to be single past even high school. This is the biggest struggle for me is to find people to connect with who actually understand the single life and how it relates to many aspects of life!

  5. Yes! The pressure this mindset puts on the beginning stages of relationships is ridiculous. I barely know this guys name, and yet, I feel I must know that I could marry him in order to let him buy me a third cup of coffee. Thanks for again saying it like it is.

  6. I echo your request for the church to address singles. As to the person who said it wouldn’t be fair to the married people to listen to a sermon directed to singles, how do they think it feels to be single and listening to one marriage series or direct sermon application after another? Most congregations are composed of half married, half single/divorced/widowed. It’s not fair that only one half is ever addressed. And given the divorce rate, which doesn’t differ for Christians, churches might want to rethink their approach to singleness, dating, and marriage anyway.

    I’m looking forward to reading your book! We definitely need more resources, especially from “older” singles instead of married couples that married when they were 20. Advice from people in the trenches is going to be so much closer to the reality of figuring out how to maintain chastity and seek God’s will when it comes to dating past the age of 25.

  7. I totally agree with you that singles are virtually ignored in churches. I have also been painfully aware that very few church leaders understand what it is to be single over the age of 25. They seem oblivious to the struggles that singles face, and can only offer trite advice. Being single at 22 and at 32 are completely different things, and very few church leaders seem to recognize this.

    My husband and I got married just over a year ago. I was 33; he was 36. It was interesting to both of us that in our premarital counseling and comments and questions from well meaning church members, that it was assumed that our experience would be the same as theirs had been when they got married in their early 20s, that there were a lot of hard adjustments, rocky times starting out, and a high learning curve. What seemed to never be recognized was that we had already had time to practice adult life and learn about some of the ups and downs and responsibilties that come with adulthood whether one is single or married. We were not adjusting to adulthood, only to being married. No one seemed to recognize that we were probably a lot more mature going into marriage than most of them had been. It was as if the assumption was that we were still just like recent college grads simply because we hadn’t been married. Yes, they had learned many important life lessons in their 20’s and early 30’s, but so had we–just in different ways. I wish that there was more understanding among Christians about what it means to be single, and that married Christians could understand that singleness is not synonymous with immaturity.

    I have never been a fan of ‘I kissed Dating Goodbye’. It always seemed overly simplistic to me and seemed to ignore far too many realities. Perhaps some of the ideas in it would be good advice for teenagers, but are not applicable to 30 somethings. To say that you have to be pretty sure that you want to marry a person before you start a relationship with them is ridiculous and unrealistic, at least in American culture. It nearly equates to arranged marriages, which are not what most of us want or expect. What would be good advise though is “Don’t date someone if you know you wouldn’t marry them” or “As soon as you find out that you don’t want to marry the person, respectfully end the relationship”.

    Thanks, Kate, for writing this blog and bringing the whole subject into the open.

  8. Preach it! I’ve been reading your blog for a few weeks now and so much of what you say is spot on. I’ve really enjoyed reading your posts.

    I do especially enjoy your 90’s Dating Gone Bad series. Oh my goodness, what a hash we’ve made of Christian dating. I’m convinced the reason that so many of my friends get involved with guys (and girls) they probably shouldn’t is because there is so much pressure and expectation in Christian dating, when there really doesn’t need to be.

    And I loved Katie’s comment above about the difference between getting married in your early 20s vs. mid 30s. It’s sad that just because we singles are able to be footloose and fancy-free, it is not acknowledged that we might also be mature and responsible at the same time.

  9. How can you figure out the sort of person you’d be best suited to if you don’t date? I agree that the pressure to get serious immediately in a relationship scares people, especially guys away. And if they aren’t scared, the ladies are just going to reject him because they think they need to know right away.

    The pastor at my church does a great job of addressing the congregation where the people are whether they are young, old, seasoned believers, seekers, married, single, or whatever. Everyone needs to come to NJ to hear him talk.

    However, I know that one or two awesome pastors isn’t going to change the overarching current of American Christian culture. A change does need to take place. I think blogs and books are going to be crucial tools in this change.

  10. Thanks for this great post! A lot of it resonates with me…

    I knew two couples growing up that STARTED dating because… “GOD told them to get married.” I remember thinking it was so creepy! I think God wants us to fall in love, too. He created that feeling, that excitement, that longing. It’s a beautiful thing. And, you’re right, it can only happen as we get to know each other over time.

    At least that’s what I’m hoping for!

  11. Growing up in a Catholic community, as teenager I read a few of those well meaning self-help books that are to prepare you for “good” dating and marriage. Their leitmotif was “foremost friends”. You weren’t supposed to think about feelings, attraction and relationships until you were able to fight off your egoism and first practice selfless and noble friendship.

    While to this very day I agree that friendship is a wonderful building block for all relationships and it’s easy to get lost in the whirl of your emotions, I think those books were harmful in some way. I only started meeting guys I really liked in my early twenties, and I tried to deny that I had a crush and convince myself it was ,,only friendship”. This actually led for me to acting awkwardly and playing some strange psychological games with myself instead of simply admitting to myself what I felt and at the same time staying faithful to the vision of love and relationships that God was offering.

  12. Please come lead Worship on The Mountain In Saluda.I met you in 05 Waveland,MS.after Katrina.You Sister are truly a blessing to many.I know God wants to give you the desires of your heart.Look forward to seeing you in N.C.

  13. hey kate! first of all love the blog…it was a sweet surprise to stumble upon today. in your post you mentioned the fact that there aren’t many good singles books out there. i just read one that was phenomenal called emotional purity! it’s great and speaks to everything we as women go through as far as these “friendships” with guys that can be so detrimental sometimes. it’s a little extreme in some areas but for the most part it’s amazing and helped me view relationships and myself in a whole new way. and definitely clarified that whole abstract idea of guarding your heart.

    anyways maybe it could be helpful to you, other singles, or even guys who don’t always understand how their actions/words can come across to us women.

    and in regards to the concert…i know of two churches in birmingham, alabama, that would totally be up for you coming. not sure if you’ll be that far south, but if so check out redeemer community church (rccbirmingham.org) and shades mountain baptist (shades.org).

    • I will have to check that out! I am having to learn that stuff myself, it seems. Hey I would be really interested in playing at those churches….I would go that far would probably have to fly but often if one of churches can cover the flight and a little bit more I can make it happen. Let me know if you think that might work out. You can go to my website (katehurley.com) and then push the contact button to email me. . That would be a great blessing to me!

  14. Kate, I’m so glad that I stumbled across your blog! Thank you so much for this post and for this entire series on dating. I appreciate not only your wonderful insights, but also your courage to speak up about something many Christians simply aren’t willing to address. I believe that this is just one of many relationship myths that have spread like wildfire in Christian circles in the past few years. It is a breath of fresh air to finally read something on the topic of Christian dating that is both genuine and realistic. Thanks again.

  15. I don’t mean to be a stickler or anything but It was ISAAC. Isaac and Rebecca not Jacob. (Remember Jacob got his love Rachel in exchange for fourteen years labor and marrying her older sister Leah first…….. Of course!) As far as God telling people who to marry, from Isaac’s perspective it was a normal arranged marraige. He honored his father (which is a command) and he loved her (which is a bonus). From a broader perspective and especially from the Bible as an integrated message, this senerio is a type, an illustration of something in the future (a “prophetic model”). Anyway, what about Joseph being told not to fear taking Mary as his wife. Of course it doesn’t say anything about how they met or became betrothed in the first place and it messes with the odds a bit, but as far as God intervening in a major way to insure the right thing was done in their relationship, it definitely qualifies. (It also makes the whole Romanish doctrine of the perpetual virgin really not make sense. Why didn’t the Angel of the Lord just say, “sorry man; she’s taken”? That, I suppose, is beside the point.)

    • No, I appreciate you being a stickler. That would have been in the book, which would have been a big mistake so I appreciate it!

      Joseph’s instance is a good example.He definitely cared about what the outcome was in that situation. I really am not trying to say that God doesn’t have anything to say about our relationship. I think it is very important to him who we marry. I think more I’m just trying to get the point across that we often try to get out of making hard decisions by putting the label of “God’s Will” on it and that can be dangerous. I appreciate your thoughts!

      • my pleasure!

        I knew you were not saying, “God has nothing to say about our relationships”. I feel like you have done a splendid job getting the desired point across. Even when well meaning, one could be just blaming God for their own shortcoming. Especially unfortunate as a “bad excuse” or a Christian euphemism for, “he’s just not that in to you.”* This also touches on the general problem of obeying when it suits us, obeying partially, or obeying to the point that it is comfortable. (rich young ruler comes to mind) Also we have a tendency to look at things narrowly or rather one-sided. Pseudo spiritual westerners do it when they talk about Karma and Christians do it when they talk about “God’s Will” or “what God has for them”. Real life doesn’t quite live up to the fantasies we harbor about how things should be. Oh this just reminded me of a message by Frank Peretti.

        Frank Peretti–Excerpt “Going Through The Middle”_CDA, ID 2009
        [audio src="https://dl.dropbox.com/u/90887068/Excerpt_Frank%20Peretti_%20GTTM.mp3" /]

  16. I laughed when I read even the title to this post. I doubt you’ve read much of my blog (I wouldn’t expect you to,) but this is the very thought I’ve been fighting to the death in my dating challenge. I expected to go on a bunch of ridiculous 1st dates with little consequence to have some good stories and learn something about myself and break the mold of waiting patiently for Mr. Right to come along. What I didn’t expect was to meet the sweetest guy who is kind to the core who I can talk to for hours on my very first 1st date. I’ve now spent quite a bit of time but the poor guy has had to be very patient with me because I’ve been afraid to let things progress because of this very mentality. I haven’t wanted to “lead him on” if I wasn’t sure of a future. My head knew it xas stupid, but my heart was so reluctant! Good news though, I’m pressing on! You’re wisdom in other posts has meant a lot to me and I’m finally starting to let myself like him because even if forever isn’t our next step I genuinely believe he is exactly what I need right now and God knew how to hijack my challenge for a better story/lesson.

    • Your blog is great! You are a very funny writer. How the heck did you get so may dates? I can’t even get one! Are you a singer songwriter as well? It seems we have a lot in common.

      • Wow! Thanks for reading! That’s the funny part, I didn’t actually get all the dates I had hoped for… pretty much just the one guy. I’d originally thought that by being so public about my challenge would lead to several set-ups from friends and strangers and I figured the online thing would be pretty easy to get 1st dates from too. It seems it’s all still an up-hill battle though. Such is life. We do have a ton in common! I was pleasetly surprised when a good friend who has been following my blog suggested yours to me. I feel like you are the “slightly more mature and farther along in some musical dreams” version of me… haha!

  17. Since you are an expert on relationships now, do you give advice to men as well? I’m just messing with you, but really I did wonder if you expand on the following:
    “I know a lot of guys think there is more integrity in staying it friends rather than dating, but it can actually be so boundary-less that it ends up being damaging to a woman’s heart.”

    I am certain you mean something specific here but I am also interested in the topic of cross-gender friendships. Generally if one develops attraction that isn’t mutual the hope of maintaining a “normal” friendship seems doomed. But some so called experts think it can still work as long as there is honesty and both want to remain friends.

    If it’s about keeping someone on the back burner, so to speak,while they keep an eye out for someone they like better then I understand. I am not sure if woman or men are more prone to doing this. Somehow or another keeping the hope alive that they might “end up” together after all. I can see how this is damaging in either case.

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