Journalist and author of Notes On Love: Being Single in a Marriage Obsessed Church, Lauren Windle addresses the Christian approach to dating.
The Bible is packed full of helpful life advice on a range of topics; mental health, money, marriage… the list is endless. But sadly, for us single Christians, it doesn’t mention dating. Not a peep.
That’s because the concept of modern dating is relatively new. No longer do the parents select an appropriate partner for their children from the other families in the area based on nationality, wealth and religion. These days we’re allowed to run free, meeting people in churches, pubs and online in the quest for the perfect pairing.
But does that mean dating isn’t Christian? I would say no. I should clarify that not everyone agrees with me. I have a friend who didn’t date her fiancé at all. She spent time with him in a group setting at Church and in other social groups and when they both felt they knew each other well enough, he asked for the blessing of her family, and they got engaged. This, however, is not the norm.
I have a friend who didn’t date her fiancé at all.
The vast majority of Christians date. I don’t believe it is an “unchristian” thing to do. But I believe you can easily date in an “unchristian” way. Sadly, a lot of people have had negative experiences dating in Christian circles as there are unique challenges that face those dating in Church.
Firstly, it’s the expectations. As you are both Christian, people often expect that both parties will be holding themselves to a higher standard of behaviour. This sadly is not always the case. Christians are Christians, and not Christ – they are deeply flawed and this sometimes comes out in a dating context.
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Next, if you both go to the same church, there’s the pressure of everyone knowing about the relationship and possibly getting their hopes up that it will result in marriage. Equally if you do decide to end things, there’s the pain of being in the same place once a week when you would usually want to put some distance between you to heal.
Third, there are more Christian women than men. Unfortunately, there are two single women in the Church to every single man. This can create a difficult dating environment whereby the women feel they need to compete for fewer options, and you can end up with a toxic game of musical chairs. Men don’t always make this easier, with plenty of Christian men freely admitting that they would expect their partner to be more physically attractive than them – just because they have more choice. Research suggests that in environments where there are far more of one sex than the other, unhealthy relationship practices can develop. This leads to high levels of emotional intimacy between a man and a woman, but low levels of commitment. This is a phenomenon that many have seen play out in Christian circles, where one thinks that the time and deep conversations they are having is building a romantic relationship while the other just thinks they’re “hanging out” with a friend. It can be incredibly damaging.
So how to date well? As a general rule, you want to leave the person you dated better off than you found them. Here are some tips:
- Call out the best in them. Through dating, a relationship and even breaking up, it costs nothing to be kind. Take opportunities to amplify their strengths and support them in growth areas without making them feel bad about it.
- Know that no one will be perfect. There is no “the one”. The one doesn’t exist. There is no perfect person for you out there. Every relationship will require patience, work, care, attention and time.
- Don’t make the other person feel insecure. Be present. Be available. If you don’t have time to spend with the person you’re seeing, you shouldn’t be dating right now. A healthy relationship is one where both parties make the other a priority.
- Champion the other person’s faith and encourage their relationship with God. Pray together, listen to worship music while you cook, go to each other’s churches. Put God front and centre in your dating life.
- If things come to an end, prioritise kindness and honesty. Don’t leave people hanging and say “not right now”. Be gentle but allow people the closure they need to move on.
Even if the Bible doesn’t specify rules for best dating practice, it is very clear on how we should be treating each other. If you focus on kindness and treating the person you’re dating as you would want to be treated – you hopefully won’t go too far wrong.