Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Casual Dating?

(Below is a written dialogue between myself and blogger/friend, Bryn Clark...he's a he, in case there's any confusion. Check out his blog when you get a moment!) 

You know the situation, surely you’ve been there before. You just started dating someone, one, maybe two months ago. It’s going well, they’re cute, funny, and don’t cheer for the Chicago Bears so no major red flags yet. Then you’re sitting at lunch with your best friend one day, and they ask you the inevitable question.

“So…have you two discussed the big “M” word yet?”

You pause because suddenly the discussion got awkward. “Mast-“

“*Marriage*.” They clarify.

“Oh.” Now it’s even more awkward. You hadn’t thought about marriage yet; heck, you were barely to the point of seeing past your next date. And yes, your significant other is nice and all, but.... marriage? Lifetime? Kids? Commitment? IN-LAWS!?

“Well I hadn’t really thought about it,” you say, “I guess I’m just dating casually.” Or maybe you didn’t say that, but something along those lines. This can draw varied reactions within the Christian circle. Contemporary meanings of the term “dating casually” usually equate to “sleeping around”. But that’s not what you mean at all. You’re just looking to get to know this person better and have a fun time doing so. Is there anything wrong with that?

In a situation like this, the first thing to address is whether or not the relationship is glorifying to God. Marriage relationships are designed to be a representation of Christ’s love for His church. Dating, on the other hand, is a fairly recent invention driven partially by the sexual revolution, feminist movement and a certain sense of egocentric thinking. The point of most dating relationships is me. What do I want in a person? What do I want in a relationship? I need to get out of this relationship because it’s not good for me. This person isn’t right for me…etc. For instance, if dating casually does relate to the fulfillment of a selfish desire and/or some sort of physical lucidity, then yes there is something unhealthy about that. But, if your form of dating casually involves two people getting to know each other on an intentional but not-entirely committed level, then it can most certainly glorify God. The necessity, as in any relationship, is not to ask "what's in it for me?" Instead ask yourself: Are you dating this person "casually" because they make you feel good about yourself? Because you have fun with them? Because it's nice to have someone to cuddle with during Finding Nemo? Or are you pursing this relationship as a way of giving more than you receive, are you seeing it as a growing opportunity and a chance to deepen a relationship with one of God's children in a manner that elevates them and humbles you? These can help you identify your motives and, thus, the actual situation.

Your thoughts on 'casual dating' are interesting. I don't entirely disagree with them.. but perhaps we're operating on two different definitions of the concept. When I think of 'casual dating' l still think, "What's the point?" It's seems non-committal and it seems like a place that you can be dating different people seems like there's absolutely no thoughts of a prospective future with that person. If you're not interested in looking for something for the long haul, how beneficial can the relationship actually be? Bryn mentioned that honoring the Lord is a crucial aspect of relationships...and I wonder if that's even possible when dating "casually"? Would it be perhaps be more honoring to the Lord to refrain from entering into a romantic relationship where the likelihood of breaking someone's heart seems quite feasible? The more you spend time together, invest in each other, and come to really care for each other on an emotional level the more I think we are entering into a territory that is intended for marriage. 

Because no one really ever dates someone casually and thinks, "Man, I really hope that through this dating process that he/she is really encouraged and I am incredibly humbled." SURE, those things happen as we date... but dating has everything to do with finding someone to spend your life with....which, in and of itself, seems like a pretty selfish quest. I don't know how we can entirely escape that. We're looking for someone who fulfills our checklist, we're looking for someone who enjoys doing the things we like to do. It's when we start to really care about someone that something shifts in the relationship...and that's when we decide that the sacrifices are worth it and the better able we are to truly love them as we get to know them. 

I guess I don't know what it looks like to date casually and to not get emotionally attached on some level. I don't know how to not think about myself in that process. I don't know how to not sort through the endless lists of 'what-ifs' that we create about future possibilities. 

Maybe I actually think casual dating is somewhat impossible. That we can call it that, but it doesn't exist. Because the moments our hearts are engaged with someone else's in a way that draws out intimacy and vulnerability (which is what will happen when we are seeking to truly encourage someone else and humble ourselves...especially in a romantic context)...there's something not so casual about it. It's deep. It's soul-bearing. We ask hard questions like, "Will he still want to keep seeing me if I tell him this? Or once he sees that I struggle with that?" 

There's nothing casual about dating.
At least, I don't think there should be. 
Not to mention the fact that dating itself is this awkward mess of unknowns that we flounder around in... there's no need to get caught up in the heartache of casualness when there's already so much complexity between males and females. 

If you're gonna date... date with intention. Date with commitment (in the sense that you are only dating this one person). Date because you think they're worth it... that they're someone you might want to spend the rest of your life with...because in that you can truly honor and respect them, while sacrificing and compromising yourself. In that there is sanctification as much refining occurs. 

But... the moment you decide you can't marry them (like, really know you can't...not just have a momentary freak out over something silly) you need to end the relationship. This is the best way to honor them in the situation. Stop stringing someone along, just because it suits your needs and you're able to justify it all because it's "casual". 

Those are just my two cents, though.. .
And that's just my perspective of what 'casual dating' even means... 

Obviously, dating casually has its hang ups, as does any form of dating. The reality is, you may not be ready to "commit" to the long-haul on the first date, and that's okay. There's different ways to handle relationships and different ways to address "the big question". But the point in all of it is this: constantly be looking out for the needs and well-being of the other person. So many times we forget that the Golden Rule applies to dating as well. Don't rush anything, but don't waste anyone's time either. 

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