How to Look for the Love of a Lifetime! Part 2
So, what should we do instead of dating? Courting!
An Overview: Courtship, Friendship, and Dating
Most people in the United States have a very specific, shared idea on how to find a mate, and that is through dating! Did you know this is a relatively new phenomenon in history, having it's beginnings in the 1950's? For centuries, when divorce was almost nonexistent, people were friends first, and then when one or both were interested, they "courted." There is nothing wrong with dating. The problem is how you go about it. If it is done in the tradition of the media, or what you think, or what you may have seen on a old TV game show such as "Love Connection", or some radically new shows such as "Blind Date," "Change of Heart," or "Dating Story," you will get yourself in trouble. If it is done from Biblical values, it will be a pleasurable adventure in making the right decision for the love of your life! You will be building a lasting and enduring relationship, versus one that will be miserable, and in divorce court in a few years!
What's wrong with dating? (Ephesians 5:1-14)
In dating, there are no Biblical values or precepts involved. Then you wonder why you get hurt! In courtship, you are preparing yourself and your future spouse for the covenant of marriage. This is the fortress, the castle that protects, because it is being built brick by brick. The bricks are made of material that builds a real relationship without the superficial mortar that cause the castle to collapse as soon as a rough patch comes along. Marriage is the boundary that protects your openness and vulnerability. Not convinced? Talk to anyone who just broke up. Sometimes the hurt stays for years, or never goes away!
Here are some more things wrong with dating:
- Dating promotes lust and leads to sexual promiscuity.
- Dating promotes a self-centered model of love that is weak and un-Biblical.
- Dating removes the vital friendship and "getting to know the real person" stage of a relationship.
- Dating promotes a permanent bond between two people who are not meant for each other nor will spend their lives together.
- Dating devalues the real role of intimacy and sex for marriage.
- Dating teaches people to break relationships off when times are difficult, an attitude which continues into marriage and initiates divorce.
- Dating promotes comparison to what the media says, un-Biblical and unrealistic standards that few, if any could ever meet. Even the celebrities with all of their money, power, and influence, virtually never meet the standards they promote!
- Dating leads to false feelings of intimacy and ignores real commitment.
- Dating promotes an appetite for variety and change, which will create a desire for partner change and discontent in marriage.
- Dating destroys friendships and even church fellowship, leaving Christians alienated from one another, thus ineffective for relational ministry.
- Dating confuses a physical relationship with love.
- Dating denies people who know you best to help you out--such as parents and mentors--so you will not make decisions based on lust, which will not last.
- Dating isolates a couple from other needed relationships, including church and parents.
- Dating distracts young adults from their education and preparing for the their future.
- Dating creates an artificial environment for evaluating the character of another person.
- Dating will not prepare you for the realities of marriage, as you hide things from each other, denying problems and potential problems until it is too late.
- Dating can cause discontent, and rejection of God's gift of singleness for those who have it.
Now you know what is wrong with dating. Let us look at what is wrong with love, or how our culture interprets love. Most people look for definitions from song lyrics, poems, TV, and the movies, but rarely from real life, or the Word of God!
Most people assume that loveis the most important thing in a marriage, or the most important reason to get married!
Most, if not all, people who get married do it for love, yet 50% will divorce in less than five years. So, what happened to the love? If love is all we need, should it have worked? Why did it not work? Because, there never was real love, they misunderstood what love is, or they had nothing but love, so there was a huge vacuum in their relationship! Love should not be the horse in front of the cart. Love needs to be a result, not a cause, for getting married. Love is the result of a good marriage, not the fuel to make it. Love is a spiritual fruit that comes from real, Godly character and commitment, which synergistically combines with the other characters of the Word. When the other ingredients of a good relationship are right, then the love will come. (See our article on love from February 2002.)
· Love conquers all!
· All you need is love! (By the way, that did not work for the Beatles, did it?)
· If it is true love, you will know it right away!
· The perfect Mr. or Mrs. "Right" will fulfill you completely!
· Having a strong sexual attraction is a sign of true love!
· If you really love someone, you will have sex with him/her within the first month of dating!
Your objective is not to seek fulfillment or desire, but to choose a mate with whom to live together with in unbroken devotion to the Lord. This brings the fullness that will make your house reflect God, serve for His glory, and be an example to those around you (Josh. 24:14 -15). What about attractiveness? Well, if you are courting, flowing the Biblical principles, and are not attracted to each another, that is a sure sign that something is wrong.
What is Courting? (Hos. 2:19-23)
When you become friends first, then you do not have to burn up a lot of time and energy developing a friendship with the person you are going out with. This will eliminate the games and hiding we tend to do. If you skip the friendship, then your relationship building will be much tougher, and a lot more complicated.
Common Objections to Courting
When I speak to single groups, I often get these objections for courtship; "There is nothing wrong with dating. It is part of our culture." and, "If I do not date, how can I lean how to relate with the opposite sex?" and, "Dating is the only way to meet men/women." And, finally, "Courtship may have worked 100 years ago, but dating is the only way I can meet my potential partner in our modern society."
The first objection centers on the assumption that we will not be able to know or relate to others without dating. This is not true, because we keep repeating the same patterns. People seldom learn anything in the dating game because they are too busy putting on a show and playing games. When we are busy hiding our true self, and trying to get the other person to like us, we become conformers and not learners. While we are so busy conforming our personality to theirs, we end up not changing anything of ourselves. In addition, we are having fun, thus we are not interested in learning. It is usually the last thing considered. Just interview people who have many relationships and see if their behavior patterns change. You will find they do not. In addition, if this were true, then we would have seen the divorce rate plummeting in the last 50 years, as dating has ever so increased, yet the opposite is true. We would also see marriages get better and stronger when, in fact, they have gone in the opposite direction. We would have also seen the rape percentages decrease, when, in reality, they have exponentially increased over the population growth! Empirical evidence and personal experience will clearly show we do not learn about the opposite sex through dating! We learn by becoming friends, listening, understanding, and discovering each another.
Okay, you think you have me now! How can we meet our partner without dating? Come on! Do you really think you will meet a good quality person in a bar, in a nightclub, or in a dance hall? Maybe, if you are very lucky, but in over 20 years of counseling I have never seen a good or successful marriage happen when the partner was found in such establishments! I do not want to sound like a prude, as I liked dancing and nightclubs when I was younger, but I would never have considered women there for me, nor should you. You have to decide the best environment and situation is in which to come to a decision about someone having the right qualities you desire in a mate. If you think it through, clubs are not it!
So how do you meet someone? Churches, ministry outings, referrals from family, school, civic classes, study groups, clubs (school, community, hobby, or church based ones), friends and friends of friends, etc. are excellent places. Look for places where there is no emotional involvement, and no agenda where you are forced not to be yourself. Then, you can be who you are, and get to know the person as a friend first. That way you will see the true personality of each other, the behaviors, likes, and dislikes. Then you can evaluate how that person acts in a variety of circumstances as they can about you. You can see if you "click" and have things in common. When you do this before you commence in the relationship, you will be miles ahead and far better off than in the dating game!
So, is dating OK because it is our culture, the way it is? Consider that our culture also says it is OK to sleep around and lived together first. So, are you going to follow a corrupt culture, or God's truth? The Bible is clear on how we develop relationships. When we go against God's truth, we set up ourselves up for a fall, for heartbreak, pain, needless suffering, and turmoil!
How is Courtship done? Courtship Check-up Steps and List:
Step I: Finding and Getting To Know Each Other.
The years of singleness are not wasted! Enjoy them! Use this time to work on yourself, your relationship, your growth in the Lord, and as a time of preparation for marriage. If you feel you do not want or need to get married, then do not! You may have the Gift of Singleness. The Bible calls us to be consecrated and holy before God. This means having His purpose and Will in mind, seeking Christ and His Kingdom first, not your own. You need to find out your spiritual gifts, and call in life. You must become comfortable with who you are before you seek someone else. How can you expect your future spouse's place in the church and world to be clear if you do not know what yours is?
· Seek a potential mate from quality sources!
· Look to be friends first. Build a friendship. This is your first priority and will lay the foundation for the entire relationship! That way, you will get to know each other more deeply and more real!
· They must be a committed Christian; not just saved, but sharing the same theology and spiritual growth aspirations. (2 Cor. 6:14)
· You both need to be growing in the Lord, enjoy going to church, enjoy serving God and others, and be a faithful member of a church.
· You cannot enter in to a relationship or marriage in an attempt to fulfill your needs or theirs!
· Be willing to address each other's faults and work them out with God, and a pastor or counselor if necessary.
· Do not rush or be too eager. Allow the relationship to build slowly over months, over years (at least two).
· Always be real, and allow the character and fruits of the Spirit to flow through you, being respectful and courteous to your date. If you are not naturally courteous and respectful, then do not fake it. Rather, allow the Lord to work on you before venturing out with others!
· Do not get into a long-term relationship too young! You have to learn about God and yourself first! Get some experience in building relationships with others before seeking marriage!
· Know your vulnerabilities, and areas of past and potential hurts, and deal with them. If either of you are still suffering from childhood or adult traumas, you will be handicapped in effectively building a relationship. Get emotionally healthy first!
· Do not seek a relationship just to please your family, friends, or anyone else!
· Be enthusiastic to know more about each other, and do not be shallow or superficial. Ask the penetrating questions and do not have unrealistic expectations!
· Do not try to court more that one person at a time. In addition, put some time between relationships. Do not feel you have to be in a relationship to be whole!
· The potential mate does not have to be perfect, since no one is, but you both need to be willing to grow and mature.
· You must know how to resolve conflict and differences without anger, (see our discipleship channel for helps in this area)!
· Make sure both of you know how money works. Have a good Biblical concept on how to deal with budgeting and debt. Most conflicts in marriage deal with finances!
· You cannot expect a future marriage partner to fulfill your needs in any area, instead of God. Remember your commitment and covenant to God, that as a Christian, you are holy and set apart for a higher purpose. Remain sexually pure until you get married! If you have committed your heart to God, then it becomes consecrated to Him (Gal 2:20-21)!
· Know the type of person you are looking for in regards to intelligence, personality, goals, spiritual maturity, character, political outlook, future children--and how to raise them, chemistry (how you click and relate), even appearance-be realistic!
· Do not look for someone who is an opposite. They may attract you at first, but they will soon repel!
· Develop a healthy outlook on what real Biblical love and intimacy is!
· Realize that the "dating game" is a dangerous game to play! It will rob you, your future spouse, and God! Whether you are the predator, or the prey, you will be hurt and diminished by the dating scene.
· Before you are engaged, you should hide some of your more expressive emotions and feelings in your hearts.
· Listen to your family and to mature mentors whom you trust!
· God calls us to Purity, so be pure! (1 Thessalonians 3: 11-13; 4:1-8) Please see our article on "Whatever happened to Virtue" in our Devotions and Articles Channel!
Step II: The Engagement Period
Save your more intimate emotions for this period. Enjoy your engagement! This is the time you will discover how well you work together, solve problems, and plan a big event. If this is just a time of stress and chaos, then you need to stop, and go back to step 1. Things will NOT get better when you are married! This is the time when hidden personality problems induced by stress come out, and if the two of you cannot work through them, you definitely will not be able to do so in marriage! Therefore, you need to be willing to work even harder to continue building your relationship. Get into a good marriage-counseling program, and attend a marriage conference or retreat. Most people think once you are engaged, coupled with social and family pressures and expenditures, you have to get married-WRONG! This period is not a guarantee that the two of you will get married; it is a time to make sure you are right for each other! If you force each other or allow others to, you may end up in the wrong relationship. It is far better to have the heartbreak of a broken engagement than a lifetime of a wrong marriage. Remember God is in charge; He has a plan. Be in tune with His, and not yours!
Step III: A Very Happy Marriage! (Song of Sol. 3:4)
· If one of you does not embrace any of which we have talked about so far, you will have an extreme strain on your relationship, and the odds of success are a 50% divorce rate. Of the marriages that are left, most are miserable! So, consider how important it is to get your act together before you say, "I do!"
· Make a covenant to choose to walk with surrendered Lordship faith in Jesus Christ: "I choose to be filled with His Spirit. Since I choose to be filled with His Spirit, I choose to love and honor my spouse! "(Galatians 5:22-26)
The problems with Courtship:
This model is by far the best one that we can use to find the love of our life, because it is what the Bible teaches! That does not mean we will not have problems with it, as we live in a fallen sinful world, a church that is not perfect, and a community of Christians who do not always follow God's Will or His precepts. However, my experiences in dating, going out, clubs, and even being engaged only to have it broken once, left me dazed and confused. I followed what society expected, and I got nowhere. So, after a careful study in dating and courtship while I was in seminary, I saw the potential for courtship. I then taught what I had learned to many singles groups in the late 80's, and practiced it myself. In addition, after getting my act together and following the courtship/ Biblical precepts I have shared with you, God brought the love of my life into my life and we were married in 1995. If I had married the other women I was chasing, knowing them as I do today, I would have been in utter misery! God's precepts and plan was much better than mine! So, put your trust in Him and His ways!
What are the potential problems?
The first ones would be your parents! Good parents are able to filter out the trouble and problems you may get yourself into. Thus, in the courtship model, they are the primary participants in seeking and choosing your mate. When you are done screaming, "no, no, no," think it through. Who loves and knows you best? Because of social misgivings, busyness, not following Christ as Lord, or even being a Christian has left this vital role empty for most single Christians. If the parents are deceased, or refuse to think in light of Biblical precepts, you will have to be extra careful and discerning yourself. Seek a mentor, church leader, or pastor who is spiritually mature to help youweed out and protect you from "unqualified applicants." Also, sometimes, even if your parents are not Christians, they still know you and can exercise great discernment on your behalf. Even if your parents do not want you to marry someone, and you feel they are not mature or are Christians, still listen and heed their advice. They still have spiritual authority over you, and, in most cases, have your best interest in mind. In my experience, I have rarely known them to be wrong. Even if the parents are not in the ideal role, the only problem for you is being extra careful and discerning--get a mentor!
Their Family: You have to know that when you marry someone, you marry their entire family, too! If their family does not like you, find out why, and what is wrong. Listen, and be discerning. Find out what you can do to make things better. Make sure you are in prayer and seeking what is best for the both of you and both families. Remember, God is sovereign and in control, even if the parents are unsaved! See their pastor for advice. If the family is not Christian, then consult the pastor of your potential mate. If you have their pastor's blessing, but not their parent's, you may be on the right track. Seek counseling and remember, if their parents do not like you, even if all the other signs point to "go for launch," you will still have significant problems unless you can win them over.
One of you is divorced: Biblical marriage is an unbreakable life-long covenant. Once you are married, even if you made a mistake, you still have to stick with it and make it work. The fact that you did get married to each other means there was and is a spark between the two of you, and you will have to figure out a way to make the fire. There are tremendous amounts of good resources from Focus on the Family, and Family Life Today that can help you! As fallen human beings, we make mistakes and cater to our bad judgments. Fortunately for us, God is a God of forgiveness and healing. Sin is in the world and Christians are not immune from making mistakes. However, this issue is in hot debate, as the Bible implies that if you did not get divorced for Biblical reasons, such as unfaithfulness, abuse, or abandonment, you cannot be remarried. So, seek wise Biblical counsel, and be in surrendered prayer to His Will and not your own. Then, if there is the factor that one or both of you have children, you have to consider their needs, extra blessings, and extra problems.
Not effectively communicating: If you work the courtship like our American style of dating, you will not build a solid, deep relationship. You must be able to ask questions, listen, and be vulnerable to reflect, challenge, and address each other's shortcomings, faults, and areas that need growth. Take it slow and develop your friendship first. If you do not do this, then you will be among the countless relationships in our culture filled with miscommunication, hurt, and misery!
Following God's plan is not easy. The world's way is! However, when we indulge in the world's way, the easy will quickly turn into hurt and chaos! So, that easy ends up being very difficult indeed! God, without a doubt, has a wonderful plan for you, but that plan will take effort, time, commitment, risk, and self surrender. It goes from what you may think is good and right to what really is good and right. Take to heart that these principles will work and will enable you to find the love of your life, the one whom God gives you, and who is the best for you. It may happen quickly, or it may take years to find him or her. Remember the characteristics of love from 1 Corinthians 13, and apply them to your search. Focus on the patience. At the same time, do not sit on the couch and wait. You have to get out there and take risks and possible rejection. You have to go where they are, work on yourself, and be open and vulnerable. If you are not willing to take a risk or work on yourself, you will be trading a little hurt from rejection and pride, for the unwillingness to build your character, and that will result in a lifetime of hurt and loneliness. And, you will miss what God has for you.
© 1988, 1998, 2002 Richard J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of "Into Thy Word Ministries," a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word, and is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in
© 1988, 1998, 2002 Richard J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org
Richard Joseph Krejcir is the Director of "Into Thy Word Ministries," a missions and discipling ministry. He is the author of the book, Into Thy Word, and is also a pastor, teacher, and speaker. He is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary in
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