Monday, April 23, 2012

Dating for Divorce?

The comment:
I read or heard a statement that dating in our culture is really training for divorce - hook up/break up/broken heart/recover/repeat....I had never considered this, and as a mom I want the best for my kids, and hate the thought of them training for divorce! Would love if they never exposed their heart to anyone until they found THE one....this was never a thought I had heard or considered as single, now I'm old and married and have mommy you have thoughts on this that you'd be willing to share?
Great topic... 
Hard topic... especially since we live in a culture where dating is the standard pre-requisite to marriage. Oftentimes there's even a standard length of dating in order for marriage to be socially acceptable. 

In the last year, I've even begin to think how unnatural dating is. Take two people who are attracted to each other and put them in an environment where they're essentially 'playing' marriage...only there are a million boundaries, a plethora of rules to follow... dos and don'ts, cans and can'ts... We're playing in this gray area that I'm not sure we were ever created for and then we wonder why it's confusing, why we go too far physically, why our hearts are often broken.

I think the concept of dating trains us up for a mentality of believing we 'deserve happiness'. I think a phrase that's commonly used in regard to relationships is, 'I just want him/her to be happy'... and I always think... is that really what it's about?? 

In dating we learn that when someone stops being who we want them to be, we should end it. We learn that when we find someone else that we are more attracted to, we should end our current relationship. We learn that when it gets hard, it's probably not worth it anymore. How can we expect our mentality to suddenly shift completely once we are married? 

I think dating sets us up for this unrealistic idea of what marriage is supposed to be, and even what the person we are going to marry is supposed to be like. I think dating sets us up for a selfish mindset, of finding the man of our dreams. 

So, when we go into marriage with this mindset, it's no surprise that over 50% of them end in divorce. We've set ourselves up to fail. We've set ourselves up to be thinking about our own happiness and how we deserve to be happy above all else. We dabble in this marriage and decide it's not for us and so we sign the papers and get out quick. A little messier than a verbal break-up between boyfriends and girlfriends, but at this point divorce seems conveniently do-able. 

I think a lot of the danger comes in basing so much of our decisions on feelings and emotions. We do it with everything... too much of the time. Our feelings dictate our actions and lead us into romance, into break-ups, into revenge, into friendship, into running from God, into believing in God... you name it. 

I don't necessarily think not dating is the solution- especially in our culture. People are going to date... But, I think the way we talk about dating and the way we encourage dating needs to change. I think we have to be people that recognize that marriage and romance isn't about our happiness. It's about so much more... it's about being better together for something greater than you could ever be by yourself. It's about sacrifice and selflessness (which isn't often a great contributor to our own happiness). Can joy and happiness be found in marriage? Absolutely... but it can't be the end goal. 

Maybe, in relationships, we should encourage others to stick it out through the hard things, to forgive, to continue to choose each other even if they don't always want to. I think there's a way that you can date that can very much be 'training FOR marriage' just as easily as I think a lot of dating can be 'training FOR divorce'. It's ultimately all in how you look at it, teach about it, and then do it.

Unfortunately, we can never really protect other's hearts from being exposed to the heartache and pain of romance (some of my biggest sources of heartache came during my years of not dating). At some point you have to let people make their own decisions, even if it's brutal for you to watch. 

But, I'd encourage you all to not view dating as this decision that you can 'get out of' in a heartbeat. Be willing to work through hard things, to be patient, to bear with each other, to choose each other even if you're not attracted to them 100% of the time. 

If you're willing to do this in dating, you will be more likely to do this in marriage... and I can guarantee you that as much as you want your Prince Charming to be perfection, there will be times when he fails, when he disappoints, when he annoys, when he's not so charming or handsome... and you might just be better equipped to choose to love him anyway. 

And it's worth it. 
Loving through all the gross, ugly, dark crap? 
It's worth it. 
And it's more beautiful than any 'perfect' romance out there... because there's depth, there's honesty, there's rawness, there's vulnerability. 

Don't give up on each other so easily. 

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  1. Love this post Debbie! Keep letting the Lord use you to write amazing blogs!

  2. "It's about so much more... it's about being better together for something greater than you could ever be by yourself. It's about sacrifice and selflessness (which isn't often a great contributor to our own happiness). Can joy and happiness be found in marriage? Absolutely... but it can't be the end goal. "

    I think this is the crux of the whole thing, Debbie. We are told over and over that the key to lasting relationships is happiness--that happiness will happen when you find the right person.

    This is easier to find in dating than in marriage (at least initially) because we have idealistic perception of what this other person is like, and they have the same ideas about us! Who doesn't find it fun to be pursued--to have someone you think is attractive be attracted to you. It's inherently narcissistic (although not necessarily bad).

    The problem comes when people expect that romantic, passionate love to carry on perennially through their relationship. Romance comes and goes, but there are other things that are deeper and better (if not always more fun). Those things take time--things trust, intimacy (not sex necessarily, but really knowing someone), and vulnerability.

    I for one believe that marriage is about mutual sanctification. It is scary to truly be known by someone, and scarier still to give them permission to speak truth into my life. I'm still not great at letting Amy do that--it hurts and makes me defensive. Still, when I trust she wants the best for me, and loves me despite my idiosyncrasies and sin, then I will receive her critique, and she will receive mine. We rejoice in growth and we mourn hurt. We are companions, friends, lovers and co-sojourners. Marriage should be based on friendship (equality recognizing different roles for us) and while changes in each of us are not noticeable each day, over years (and decades, Lord willing) we will continue to grow into each other and individually into the man and woman God would have us to be.

    So I'll end my diatribe there. The scary thing culturally is that when we enter into relationships with happiness as the main goal, they cannot last because there will be periods where happiness is not there. I think people who enter into marriage as friends and take seriously the vow of for better or worse will be happier in the end though--they have a companion who can help them become more of the person God would have them to be.

  3. Debbie,

    I have often thought how dating was training for divorce, with the cycle of getting together, staying together while things are good, bailing on each other when someone else comes along or things get tough, and starting the cycle all over again. I like your point that we have looked at dating or marriage as a way to make us happy. You are correct in saying that it is more than that. We will not always be happy with one another.

    Your suggestion of using dating as " FOR marriage..." is spot on. After all, the marriage relationship is reflective of Christ and His Church. It is permanent. It is a continuation of getting to know one another and growing closer together.

    How much dating is too much? I think it should be limited to as few as possible. I think going into a relationship through much prayer and with the mindset of planning for our future spouse is a good place to be.

    How young should dating start? This is a tough question to answer. Maybe not until one is old enough to actually step into a marital relationship. Maybe older teens, say 17 and up? Since, teens emotions are raw and are just fully being realized.

    Great post. Great food for thought. Thank you for bringing up the tough subjects.

  4. Deb,
    While I think you post makes good points and I agree with you for the most part, I think we need to be careful not to go too far to the extreme the other way by encouraging people to stay in dating relationships and/or proceed into marriage with someone who may not be the best fit for them just because they dont want to seem like they are only searching for happiness or bailing when it gets hard. I think that dating is the process by which we learn if someone is a good match for us or not and that there is a difference between looking for perfection and looking for the person who is best compatible with you presently and who will still be compatible with you in all future stages of life.

  5. Love this. A very nice way to start my day. =)