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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Defective Dating vs. Effective Dating

Josh Harris wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye when he was 21. I daresay his experience with dating was minimal, so he doesn't actually know what GOOD dating looks like. I have added my own commentary in italics to his Seven Habits of Highly Defective Dating. It doesn't have to be defective.

1) Dating leads to intimacy, but not necessarily to commitment.
Dating doesn't always lead to intimacy either. The "intimacy" could be just a peck on the lips at the end of the evening, holding hands or putting an arm around each other at the movies. Is that wrong? It's up to you to decide--somewhat depending on your cultural background. Affection is a normal desire and can stay pure. In fact, I would suggest that not touching each other at all sexualizes even the smallest touch. Some people have vastly different affection needs and can hide this behind the rule of not touching at all. This may lead to great unhappiness.

2) Dating tends to skip the 'friendship' stage of a relationship.
A Christian couple I knew "skipped" the friendship stage and went right into dating and commitment. He gave her a ride home from a Christian camp and shared a peach together--this resulted in some kissing. They had four children together, ministered at church together and would still be married today had he not been killed in a tragic car accident.

3) Dating often mistakes a physical relationship for love.
Not necessarily. But some physical attraction and affection important to a successful marriage. This is what sets apart a good marriage--I don't mean sex, I mean other kinds of physical intimacy.

4) Dating often isolates a couple from other vital relationships.
Not necessarily. Isolating oneself from others is a sign of an unhealthy relationship, one that is important to watch out for. But there is a need for couples to find out how they interact with no one else around or marriage will be a complete and total shock.

5) Dating distracts young adults from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future.
Dating can be a part of preparing for the future by developing the social skills to communicate with the opposite sex. Though it's possible to develop some social skills in other ways, the skill set needed for communication with a spouse is a slightly different skill set--at least for a successful partnership.

6) Dating can cause discontentment with God's gift of singleness.
The statement holds the assumption that the person has the gift of singleness, that it is an actual gift and that wanting relationships with the opposite sex is not healthy. The idea of the gift of singleness for so many singles is a modern concept. For Christians to say to a single woman "the Lord is sufficient and you have the gift of singleness" sounds like a spiritual version of Gloria Steinam's quote "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

7) Dating creates an artificial environment for evaluating someone's character.
Meeting one-on-one for ice cream, going out to dinner, seeing movies, talking on the phone, going to church together, going on walks together--these are artificial environments?? Since when? They work for our friendships, why wouldn't they work for someone we are dating or even courting? If anything, college and high school are artificial environments because you are surrounded by peers who are close in age. The working world is drastically different. A spouse is someone with whom we will have hours upon hours of one-on-one time. How will we handle it if we have no experience with being with that person? Dating couples can do practical things together like running errands. It's not all artificial.

Unless a man is prepared to ask a woman to be his wife, what right has he to claim her exclusive attention? Unless she has been asked to marry him, why would a sensible woman promise any man her exclusive attention? This is the only part I actually agree with. However, many times exclusive commitment may be a prelude to engagement without a formal betrothal.

Is it just me or was church once about actually going to church and worshipping the Lord as opposed to everyone keeping increasingly bizarre rules? I've come to the conclusion that at once time society was more moral and therefor these rules did not fall to the church alone to dictate.

In fact, there are some really wonderful books about doing dating right. One of my favorites is Are You the One for Me by barbara DeAngelis--Psychologist and New York Times Bestseller. It covers as wide variety of topics that are blank or not dealt with in the Christian dating liturature I have read. Yes, it is essential that we pray and seek the Lord, but beyond that, there are some important practical relationship considerations. And though the author is not Christian, you will find yourself agreeing with her 100% as she declares being of different religious backgrounds to be a compatibility time bomb. She says it's not just about love, it's about commitment and compatibility. That's important to all of us.


Elusive Wapiti said...

I haven't read Harris' book, but it appears from what I've read thus far that I would join you in taking significant issue with what he has to say.

I found your comment about the whole "gift of singleness" meme quite apt. Very few people have a true "gift of singleness", the rest of us need a mate, even though Paul warns us that we'll have trouble in the process.

The "gift of singleness" is just a cop-out in my opinion, a way to mollify women (and some men) who haven't yet found a partner.

"Dating creates an artificial environment for evaluating someone's character"

What does Harris propose to replace dating with? From what I've seen thus far, 'courting' doesn't quite cut the mustard either. Moreover, I don't think that dating creates the artificial environment...rather, we create it ourselves by putting on fronts such as being on our best behavior, wearing nicer clothes than usual, women dolling themselves up with makeup, etc.

gortexgrrl said...

Excellent post!!

Stellar quote here:

For Christians to say to a single woman "the Lord is sufficient and you have the gift of singleness" sounds like a spiritual version of Gloria Steinam's quote "A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle."

Well done, SSC!

Steve said...


I like your comments on Harris's "defects" with dating.

As I share in my blog, I was shocked when I first read his book that he didn't share any of the problems that occurred with his alternative. Believe me, dating isn't the only approach with problems.

The church Harris is now Sr. Pastor at had over 20 years experience with "kissing dating goodbye" including a number of problems. Why Harris chose to not mention these sure if baffling.

I even set up a blog to discuss this book.

I Kissed Dating Goodbye: Wisdom or Foolishness?

SavvyD said...

Wapiti--we need people to be on their best behavior. If people are on their worst behavior, there is no second date. Most guys like women to wear at least a little makeup. I assume most people can wear jeans and know how to dress down, it's nice to see that someone can dress better than that and thinks you are worth the effort. :)

SavvyD said...

Steve--I've been to your blog! I would love it if you reprinted some of my stuff, yes??

Amir Larijani said...

Savvy, Wapiti: I couldn't agree more. Harris, for all his good intentions, has done more damage to Christian singles than he ever could have imagined.

I've taught enough singles classes to have seen what singles experience from trying to live out Harris's advice.

What he and Elisabeth Elliott don't understand is that we do not live in the 1930s anymore. Demographics have changed, and social dynamics have changed. The infrastructure that was in place--that was conducive to earlier marriage--is not in place anymore.

Ergo, replacing the "dating" paradigm with something else is easier said than done, and I would question whether the marginal benefit will justify the marginal cost.

At the end of the day, we're likely to get more legalism when we need less of it.

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