10 Reasons to NOT Kiss Dating Goodbye

by | Nov 6, 2018 | Uncategorized | 35 comments

Merchandise is Here!

I didn’t grow up in the “I Kissed Dating GoodBye” culture, but my kids did.

I made Rebecca read the book when she was 14 (sorry, Becca!). I told the girls no dating until they were at least 16, and I strongly discouraged it until later.
Over the years, as the girls grew up, I started to question a lot of the book’s premises, and by the time Katie was 16 I had discarded courtship it altogether.
Interestingly, both my daughters did marry the first person they have a relationship with. But both would have done what Josh considered in that book “dating”–they had gone to coffee with guys; they had gone to dinner with guys; they had even skyped guys. They just never considered themselves “in a relationship” with any of those guys.
And so I’d like to explore this today–and thank you to Christian Mingle for sponsoring this post!
Josh Harris has been on a journey himself the last few years, and has now disavowed his book. He says,

While I stand by my book’s call to sincerely love others, my thinking has changed significantly in the past twenty years. I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner.
Josh Harris

I thought today it would be good to talk through 10 reasons NOT to kiss dating goodbye.

But first, let’s just go over what Josh was proposing instead. In summary, Josh once believed and preached:

  • No “dating”, or time alone, unless you it was explicitly to work towards marriage, and this should not be done until you are at an age and a life stage where you could actually marry.
  • Family should be involved in this decision, and the couple should avoid being alone together until marriage.
  • The guy should approach the girl (and the girl’s father) to talk about potential courtship
  • No physical contact at all until the wedding (no kissing, and even hand holding should be at a minimum).

I’ve already talked about how I changed my mind about dating and courtship. Here are 10 reasons why I think we should actually bring back the idea of healthy relationships with the opposite sex, and getting to know potential mates in productive, healthy ways.

Is dating as a Christian actually bad or can it be an important pat of finding the right partner?

1. Everybody’s marriage journey is different.

Some people will marry the first person they date, and will choose to save their first kiss until the wedding. I know one couple who made such a choice because in previous relationships they had gone too far physically, and they wanted to work on their emotional connection. They felt God was asking them to do this. Other people may not feel that God is calling them to wait to kiss, and they may have other past relationships that ended (even if they did not want them to). To assume that there is only one proper way of courtship ignores our modern society, ignores how the Holy Spirit works differently in each of our lives, and ignores that even biblically, couples were brought together under different circumstances in different ways.

2. Dating frees you to choose a mate

One family with multiple children that I know used the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” philosophy whole hog. It worked great with the first three couples. But then the fourth child started dating someone at 19 that those of us outside the family could see was not a good match for him. However, there was this feeling that if that relationship ended, he would have “failed”. He would have dated without marrying, and that was wrong. So he married her, and the relationship is not a strong one.
The philosophy asks you to be on a marriage track before you are in a relationship with someone–or before you truly know them. And then it hypes up that relationship track so much that if the relationship fails, you feel as if you have failed and you are somehow tainted. You can’t know if a person is a good match for you until you spend some time with them. Let’s not put so much pressure on ourselves right out the gate, and let’s instead get to know people slowly!

3. Having a dating orientation helps relieve the fear of the opposite sex

If “dating” is wrong, and being alone with the opposite sex is wrong, and having any sexual feelings is wrong, then the opposite sex becomes dangerous. This can make the opposite sex seem rather distant, scary, and alien. It’s hard to have natural conversations with people that you are constantly trying to avoid or second guess yourself around. And when you can’t have natural conversations, it’s hard to develop healthy relationships that can then lead to something more.

4. Dating makes it more likely that you’ll marry

If you believe that dating is wrong, and that courtship is something that will happen when God brings the right guy into your life, then your only responsibility is to wait and have faith in God’s plan.
That, I believe, is why there is a growing phenomenon of girls especially who grow up in very conservative households who are not marrying. As Thomas Umstaddt explained in his critique of courtship:

It is not uncommon to find a 21 year old stay at home daughter who has never been asked out on a date. The reason for this is not because the girl is unattractive … The real reason is that few guys are willing to ask permission from a woman’s father to marry her before being able to ask her out on a date to get to know her.
Thomas Umstaddt

That’s tragic!

5. When you want to date, you learn to go after what you want.

If we stop portraying marriage as something that you have to wait for, then we start telling people, “If this is something that’s important to you, then you have to make it happen!”

Let me tell you about one woman I’ll call Rachel, who is part of the Bare Marriage extended community. Rachel is 24, and has had a difficult history with bad men in her life. But she knows that she wants to marry. And so, even though her job has moved her across the country, every new community she goes to, she signs up for online Christian dating. Most of the dates haven’t panned out, though she had a great time getting to meet people. But she’s now dating someone that she’s enjoying getting to know, and I’m eagerly watching where this may go. But Rachel decided she wasn’t going to so sit around. She was going to do something about it. And she did.

Similarly, in my daughter Rebecca’s church is a man in his early 30s that she so respected, but who was single. Rebecca was always trying to figure out who she could set him up with, because she really wanted to see him married. But about a year ago he brought a woman to church, whom he had met on Christian Mingle. They’re engaged now, and Rebecca is thrilled. They’re perfect together.

These two people knew they wanted to get married, but they couldn’t find anyone in their social circle. And so they took it upon themselves to reach out. They joined Christian Mingle. They worked hard at creating a good profile. And they were matched with each other (and Rebecca’s really looking forward to the wedding!). The whole church celebrated with them.

I’m a BIG BELIEVER in online dating. I know so many couples who have gotten married through Christian Mingle. Yes, you have to treat it seriously, and weed out people who wouldn’t work for you. You have to be careful and make sure that they do have good character. But let’s face it; many of us only know the people we go to church with, work with, go to school with, or are in our family. And once you get to an age when most of your friends are married, it can be hard to find another Christian. I think the internet has opened up so many opportunities to help us find good mates, and I wholeheartedly recommend trying Christian Mingle!
Here’s how they describe themselves:
Christian Mingle is unlike any other faith-based dating site. Our only focus is on helping Christian men and women find a loving, God-centered relationship built on mutual faith and love. Discover why so many Christian singles find love here.
Christian Mingle's Mission Statement

And if you have a friend, sister, co-worker, or whomever who you would love to see with someone, but they aren’t dating, why not encourage them to try? Even help them set up a profile!

6. Spending time with others helps you learn to recognize a good guy

When Rebecca started attending a College & Careers group when she was just 17, she was asked out for coffee by a number of guys. She went. She learned a lot about these men, many of whom she admired and enjoyed spending time with (they just weren’t a good match for her). But she did meet guys with good character, and she was able to recognize what it was that she was actually looking for. Even if she was with a guy that she didn’t want to pursue a relationship with, she still knew that guys with certain qualities existed, and it was not wrong to wait for someone with those qualities.

Being with a variety of people helps you to learn to recognize red flags.

7. Being with a variety of people helps you to learn to recognize red flags.

Similarly, when you meet a number of people of the opposite sex, you start to recognize when there’s something “off”. When you decide that you are not going to date, and are only going to enter into a relationship with someone you will marry, then you don’t have the breadth of experience to recognize how you should be treated–and how you should not be treated. I know many women who got married young, thinking he was a great Christian because he could quote Bible verses, but really he was controlling.

8. Dating well ensures at least some sexual attraction with a potential mate.

Here’s a bit of a controversial one, but hear me out.

When we say that you should not hold hands or kiss before the wedding, you put off physical contact entirely–including that physical contact which could at least tell you if there was some sort of “spark”. I firmly believe that sexual attraction is an important part of marriage, and it should be a struggle to not have sex before you’re married. That doesn’t mean that we should flirt with “how far can we go”, but you should at least know that your beloved actually does want to make love to you.

However, if you cut off all physical contact, you can run into trouble. When we treat things that are not biblical truths as biblical mandates, especially things that make us potentially unattractive to possible spouses, you aren’t just weeding out the bad ones. You weed out a lot of the good ones, too. Good mates may not be interested in dating you because you’re so “out there”. But more than that, we may unwittingly attract bad ones.

I would have agreed with Josh ten years ago, or at least given this view point more credence. But after seeing letter after letter from women who married porn addicts or homosexuals, I’m more and more convinced that people who struggle with sexuality, such as wrestling with homosexuality or deep pornography addiction, are drawn towards people with hyper-strict rules about sexuality because it gives them a safe place to hide. Even this morning I had an email from a woman who has been married for five years, whose pastor husband told her on their wedding night that he was not interested in ever having sex with her. She may have known that had they been kissing before the wedding (and he pulled away).

Again, I’m not saying that anyone HAS to kiss before marriage. But I do think that those who struggle with healthy sexuality are over represented in groups who decide not to have any physical contact whatsoever before marriage, and that can be a problem.

9. Dating helps you mature–in a good way

If you’re the one who is ultimately responsible for your future, then you’re more likely to take concrete steps. You may move out of your parent’s house, or even out of your parent’s church, to find a church with a larger college & career group. You may change cities if there aren’t a lot of marriageable prospects near where you live. In short, you become an adult.

10. Dating makes you more interested in self-growth

Finally, I believe that people who have a healthy orientation towards dating are also more likely to pursue self-growth. If finding someone to marry is simply a matter of faith and waiting, then there’s nothing you can do about it. Might as well binge watch Netflix. But if finding someone good means meeting people, and getting out there, then you have to go outside your comfort zone. You try new things. You join new groups. And you start to realize, “Maybe it’s me who has to change?”

Like Andy Stanley said,

“Be the kind of person the kind of person you want to be with wants to be with.”
Andy Stanley

The New Rules of Sex, Love and Dating

That’s the story of my son-in-law David. He was madly in love with my daughter Katie, but she turned him down, because she wasn’t sure his faith was strong enough. So he went on a deep two year journey where he examined her words, examined his own heart, and dedicated his life to God. Katie saw the change, and the rest is history.
What about you? What do you think about dating? Have your views changed? And have you ever tried internet dating? Let’s talk in the comments!
And if you are someone who is here because you want to get married–why not give Christian Mingle a try?

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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35 Comments

  1. Phil

    Hello Ms. Sheila! – When I read your post today I was arguing along the way waiting and hoping and knowing you would address it and then I got to number 8. Yes! Here is what I was thinking. I am going with the line of thinking from Gary Thomas’ Love Language. I am aware that he has a book directed at children’s love language. I have not read it yet but I assume there are similarities to the original. When I read that my children also have a love language I immediately started identifying it so I could love them the way they want to be loved. My oldest is a gift lover. My youngest is a quality time guy. My middle daughter is probably a chip off the old block and just like her mother. She loves physical touch and quality time. So here is the thing. I am going to tell my daughter she cannot touch a boy/man when she is dating? She cannot lean on him while sitting on the couch, hold his hand or kiss? How is she supposed to know if that person can love her the way she needs and wants to be loved if she cannot find out what he is like? As for the struggle with sex – well yeah – seems to me everyone must struggle with it. Because sex is the physical connection to God I see the struggle with sex as part of the struggle to form a relationship with God. From my point of view on my own self past, I didn’t even get an opportunity to try and get sex right. So instead I was afforded the opportunity to struggle with sex of the destructive type. Today I can offer my children a struggle of intention from God, instead of a struggle of intention from this world. Here is my Bible Verse from yesterday: James 1:2-3 NIV Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that testing your faith produces perseverance.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m glad you resonated with that one, Phil, because #8 was the one I was worried about!
      And I hadn’t thought of the love language thing, but you’re so right.
      I just know that I had never really considered this line of thinking until I started getting all the emails from women worried that their husband was actually a homosexual, or from women married to guys with no sex drive because of a porn addiction. And I remember thinking, when my girls were in their late teens, that I didn’t want them marrying anyone who didn’t at least struggle to not have sex before they were married. It needed to be difficult. I’m not saying that anyone should be majorly making out and stuff like that; but even if you just kiss and cuddle, you can know when it’s a struggle. You just can.
      Thanks for your thoughts!

      Reply
      • Natalie

        Oh my gosh, that was beautiful, Phil! Profound! I didn’t even make the love languages connection ! And as someone who’s primary love language is an exact tie between touch and quality time, the whole courtship mentality (no touching, only supervised visitations where you feel awkward saying how you truly feel since a third party is right there), courting like that really sets someone like me up for disaster! (Words of affirmation is my very close 3rd, and how could sweet, romantic sentiments be really shared in the presence of my mother or father) lol

        Reply
  2. Bethany

    I wonder if you’ve read his follow up book about how to have a relationship. His first book wasn’t as much a dating how to, as an argument against casual dating. (With little to no future thoughts and only based on physical aspects) his 2nd book brings up some good basic starting points and a basic guideline for serious dating. Which is ultimately what any book is, a starting point for learning about that subject. I read 5-7 books on dating and spouse hunting, as well as the 8 marriage books that mom had. My father liked to talk about relationship stuff with all of us. So I was presented with multiple possible approaches to them. I highly recommend it!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I did read Boy Meets Girl, Bethany. That’s where he really consolidated his thinking about relationships. Again, my hesitation is that it’s a very one-dimensional approach (which is what Josh now believes as well). The absolutely-no-touching until marriage, with all of these rules about physical contact, aren’t really feasible to many people today, and I do think that they’re really legalistic. I also think it encourages people to spend too much time in “false” situations, like going out to dinner or spending time in groups, and not enough time in the real life world, like having to cook dinner together or clean a kitchen together or go grocery shopping together. Those are important things to do when you’re dating, but if you’re never, ever allowed to be alone with the person, then you don’t get to do real life. And the problem is then you don’t see red flags because you don’t see a person doing normal, everyday things.
      I know that you can be alone in an apartment with someone you’re engaged to without having sex. My kids know that, too. But a lot of the rules-based things make these things so off limits that it can then impede truly getting to know someone, too.
      The other thing that concerns me is that this whole philosophy, I think, works much better if you’re male than if you’re female. If you’re male, you can approach a woman you’d like to start courting. If you’re female, you really can’t. So it leads to women just sitting back and waiting for that “Mr. Right” instead of seizing the day and being proactive about finding the kind of life you’d like (like I said in the post).
      I like your idea, though, about reading a variety of books and then figuring it out. The three that I’d recommend the most are Gary Thomas’ Sacred Search, True Love Dates, and The New Rules of Love, Sex and Dating. Those are great!

      Reply
  3. Emily

    One more book I’d recommend is “I Married You” by Walter Trobisch. It can be hard to find these days, but it’s a fabulous explanation of the ideal in Christian marriage.

    Reply
  4. Christina

    I married my first boyfriend. We were good friends before he started pursuing me. Before he was a Christian, he had gone far physically with many girls and had had sex. I had never even kissed a guy. Because of the this, my now husband wanted to guard the physical part of our relationship because he knew how much he had struggled before. After prayer, we decided to not kiss until marriage. More so his idea than mine due to the sin he had previously been enslaved to. We were looked at very oddly for this decision. Ultimately we wanted our relationship to glorify God & not our flesh. We still did struggle physically though. I was overcome with these sexual desires I had never experienced & he struggled due to going all the way & now having to refrain. I guess my point is what you said at the beginning Sheila that you really just have to pray & ask God & discern what is healthy & how can He be shown through your relationship. I’m not saying we were “more godly” or anything like that due to our convictions, I just want to encourage people that above all, seeking God in your relationships is the most important thing you can do. You may look weird to the world but if you’re following God, believers aren’t meant to look like the world.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s really well put, Christina. And I think you’re exactly right–God WAS calling you both to wait to kiss, because that’s what your husband needed. And I absolutely believe that God does do that.
      I just don’t think He does it for everyone. And so we have to be careful about making blanket statements, and instead ask what God wants here and what best glorifies God. Great comment!

      Reply
      • Christina

        Thank you Sheila! I completely agree. Definitely not for everyone and that is ok! When we have rules, we tend to just follow the rules because we are “supposed” to instead of asking God, “how can we glorify You through our relationship?”…whether you marry that person or not. Good article!

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Glad you liked it!

          Reply
  5. EM

    I’m from the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” culture… and I have to say I agree with you, Sheila! In my relationships I set the standards of what we would or wouldn’t do, with my bf. But as time went on I realized I didn’t truly know if the guys I dated were really interested in me in the way that I would need to feel loved. I am a physical touch kind of person and I needed that closeness (appropriate touching, that is! Cuddles, hugs, kisses…) to feel loved and wanted. When I met my now husband (online, btw! ;D) I had changed my opinion on dating… while my dating had always been purposeful, I no longer felt the need to make “rules” – like no hand holding. I wanted our relationship to honor Christ… But the guy had to feel that way too and I could tell the kind of respect he had for me, but also that he WANTED to be with me, that I was indeed physically attractive to him.
    I was a “I will NEVER online dating!” kind of person until my dad encouraged me to just try it out. People can be specific about what they’re looking for in their profile and better find a good match because of the intentionality of creating a profile that reflects YOU. Also, I reasoned, if I didn’t like it I could always delete my profile and get off the site. Well, I’m here to say that I met my husband within 3 days of being on the site. We emailed/texted/talked on the phone for almost a month before we met in person. Within 8 months we were engaged and in 3 more months, married! We have now been married for 2+ years! And or first baby was born on our 2 year anniversary! Our intimate life is AMAZING. I credit you for helping encourage me as to what great sex can look like! Thank you!!!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, EM, that’s amazing! I’m so glad you shared. And I totally agree with you–online dating can be an incredible tool. I hope some people check out Christian Mingle–or encourage some relatives/friends to!

      Reply
  6. Anastasia

    Reading theough your article, I just realized that I have been living my dating life as an indirect recipient of this ‘Kiss Dating Goodbye’ message. Wow! I got some messaging from some insta-famous people and applied that message subconsciously to my life. I’m 30 and have really started to challenge my thoughts on the dating space, submission, and marriage.
    I love this list. Thank you for always pushing against the status quo!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m glad you appreciated it, Anastasia! I think there is a lot of “extra-biblical” rules floating around right now that aren’t helping us at all.

      Reply
  7. Bethany

    Sheila-bang on… all of it. You have right thinking. Keep it up and be encouraged today.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Hey Sheila,
    I’ve been a fan of your blog for a while now, but this is the first time I’m commenting! I like that you’re opening up this discussion as it seems the Christian community is split over some of these topics.
    For instance, I’ve read /heard that some Christians push back against the online dating scene because there is a lack of community online that you would find at your church; at church, you can ask around about someone’s character that would not be afforded to you online. They are their only witness to their character. Then there’s also the matter of safety upon meeting these people (that is not to say that safety is no longer a concern with those you meet at church).
    Also, as a woman who very much identifies with physical touch, I’m all about the hugging, hand-holding, wrapping their arm around your shoulders in the movie theater…but kissing makes me cautious. This is due not only to the situations that could follow, but also how it can hurt a relationship and the people within. While kissing is a form of intimacy, it can also hurt one’s walk with Christ if they find themselves embroiled with lustful thoughts and emotions thereafter. I’ve always thought that it was best to leave no room for temptation if you felt yourself inclined to do so.
    I suppose I’m a little old-fashioned because I really like the idea of Courtship. The term dating confuses me: some people think going on dates together means dating while others think that labels such as “bf/gf” have to be established first. There’s even the: “We’re just ‘talking’.” I always considered Courtship (dating) to be a process of evaluation for marriage which is why I identified so much with it as opposed to the world’s view of dating. I liked the definite intentionality behind the meaning of the term.
    I think this is all very hard to wrap our minds around as so many well-meaning Christians are trying to get a firm grasp on the best way to approach this season of life (myself included) and I’ve found myself spun about so much by differing opinions. Nevertheless, I think it’s vital that we keep talking about this and I would like to hear more from you. Anywho, I just wanted to add my two cents. (:

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Really good thoughts!
      I think the problem with courtship is that it makes everything so serious right off the bat, so it’s like you can’t go for coffee unless you can picture yourself marrying the person. But often you can’t do that until you know them first. So it makes no room to just get to know someone, which is important. I know for a while my oldest daughter was going for coffee with different guys several times in a month. That might be frowned upon, but she was just getting to know people in a healthy, easy setting where they were able to talk. And she didn’t click with any of them, but there were still good conversations and good friends. That’s the sort of thing I mean. Sometimes you do need to take time to just talk before you can say, “I want to date this person.”
      As for kissing, I really think that’s up to you. I think God does warn some people that it’s a bad idea. But I don’t think not kissing saves you from certain thoughts. It really doesn’t. I think it does give you an outlet for affection, which is important when you’re seriously together. But for some, it can definitely go too far. So I think that’s where listening to the Holy Spirit, and not assuming there’s a one-size-fits-all makes sense!
      I’m glad you stopped by and commented today!

      Reply
    • Jim

      I agree with you 100% Anonymous.

      Reply
  9. katie

    How important do you think accountability is? I am almost 19 and I have never been in any relationship. But absolutely none of my family is Christian. Prime reason the courtship thing wouldn’t have worked for me anyways. I’ve been thinking about signing up for online dating someday but I’m afraid since nobody is looking out for me. I go to church by myself but I’m not really close with anybody there so they can’t either. When I read Christian dating articles they always talk about how important accountability is and I don’t know what to do about it. If I started dating my family will probably make cheeky comments too since to them dating means you’re having sex. I’m not close with my mum and I’ve never talked to her about these things and to be honest I really don’t want to. So maybe I should wait until I have moved out and have some Christian friends? I don’t know when that is going to happen though. It could be a long time. I’m still really young so I’m not too worried but my family has already basically asked if I’m gay a few times since it seems I have no interest in guys whatsoever!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Katie! That’s a great question. Honestly, I’d say that the most important thing for you right now is to get in a great church community. If you’re in a church where you’re not meeting anyone, then join a small group. Volunteer somewhere. Get involved. Even if it’s signing up for nursery duty! Find people that you talk to on a regular basis. Then invite someone out to lunch one Sunday. Just start talking. But you definitely do need a Christian community around you, and that will be even more important if you do start dating. And who knows? If you find a Christian community, you might also find someone worth dating!

      Reply
  10. Natalie

    Another Sheila article to save for my kids (now babies) to read when they’re older.
    I was definitely raised in the culture this article speaks of. I feel like 99% of Christians I know who were raised in the church in the early to mid 2000s were raised like this too. Thankfully, my parents didn’t strictly enforce this philosophy. However, my Christian school friends and even one of my teachers (who was only 14 years older than us and also single and following this philosophy) definitely strongly followed and believed in courtship and “trusting God”. (Side note: that teacher didn’t end up marrying till she was 39, and she ended up marrying a guy who had wanted to date her since they were in their early 20s!!! Talk about wasted time!) I felt like as a woman I should wait for the guy to make the first move in every respect. That would explain why no boys ever seemed to show any interest in me till I was in my second year of college (when I started to loosen up that viewpoint, talk to guys more as people, and not be so “uptight” as my now-husband says).
    To speak to point #6, I will say that the more experience you have with guys on a relationship level (not necessarily physical/sexual, mind you), the more you’ll be able to spot good vs bad traits! That couldn’t be more true for me!!! My husband was the second guy I dated. My first bf only lasted for several months when he found out he wouldn’t be getting any sex, so really, I don’t even count him. My husband and I dated for a month shy of 5 years before getting married. It wasn’t until half way through year 4 that I started realising he had some fairly serious personality flaws (mainly laziness in his spiritual and physics life… sloth, gluttony, eating addiction). But by that time, I felt like I was too invested. I was already out of college, we had dated for so long, we had done stuff my other pro-courtship friends thought scandalous (like making out, so I felt like I’d already given myself to his physically and crossed a line when really I hadn’t)… I felt trapped, and like I’d made my bed so now I’d have to lie in it. I love him dearly, but our marriage definitely has its struggles. He’s from a lower socio-economic class than I have (but thankfully is brilliant and has an excellent job and is driven professionally) and doesn’t have a very nice family (lots of mental disorders and druggies, etc). I feel like he definitely married up, which means I feel like I probably could’ve found someone a little more right for me. I know that sounds egotistical and arrogant, but it’s a little gnat that flies in the back of my mind and whispers things like that sentiment to me sometimes, especially when we’re working through an issue. I know there’s no going back now, and that he’s really not such a terrible match for me and that it could’ve been SO much worse. But because I’ve only essentially dated him, I’ll alwahs wonder “what if”, even if I only wonder it just a little and very occasionally.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, Natalie, that’s tough! I do think “marrying up” can be a real thing–I know other marriages where that’s been the case, too.
      It sounds like you’re totally committed to him, though, and that you’re trying to make it work, which is great. I’d just say, keep finding things to do together. Keep having fun together. I think couples forget how to do that, and that’s when the love dries up. When you keep having fun together, you can find passion, even if it seems far off. And if you can, keep praying together. I think spiritually intimacy breeds real passion, too.
      I hear you about feeling scandalous, like you had already gone too far. I know other women who have felt the same thing. But you’re on the other side now, so don’t look back too much. Just keep looking forward–and raise your kids with different viewpoints!

      Reply
      • Natalie

        Thanks Sheila.
        I think the whole dating your spouse concept is super important in keeping a marriage strong. He’s been my best friend since we first started dating. We used to love doing things together. But in recent years, he’s been experiencing more physical repercussions from his food addiction (that’s a nice way of saying he’s gotten super fat) and finds it hard to go things with me that don’t involve sitting around on the sofa or in a restaurant. I love fine dining too and a good Netflix binge night, but I also need variety and the outdoors like we had when we were dating and engaged. That’s what’s been the hardest part for me: feeling like everything I suggest for ways we can reconnect end up getting shot down by him because he “doesn’t have the energy” or the activity “makes his feet hurt”. I just feel like if he valued me and our marriage, he’d lose the weight. Heck, at least lose the weight so you can be an active part in our children’s lives and not just sitting on the sidelines and not getting involved and hands-on with them! It’s really hard for me emotionally and mentally.
        I think a spiritual revamp is ultimately what he needs. And that would also effect his weight and eating issues too. He’s never prayed with me in the 9 years we’ve dated and been married. He says he’s not comfortable praying out loud because prayer was never modelled to him by his parents. (sounds like an excuse to me. He hasn’t lived with his parents in almost 15 years). I’ll pray for us out loud sometimes and he’ll sit next to me with hands folded and eyes closed, but honestly, I don’t like doing that. I don’t like being the spiritual leader in our marriage 100% of the time. I want someone to partner with me, not have a parent-child relationship with me when it comes to spirituality.
        When I think of my husband, the first thing that comes to mind is “I want a man, not a child”. I want someone who’s not lazy and is willing to do things that make him uncomfortable for the betterment of his marriage and family. I just really wish I’d realised these things before we got married so that he could’ve been already aware of and working on them before the marriage. But that’s not the way it happened, so I have to assume that’s because the Lord wants me to somehow minister to my husband in a way I couldn’t have before marriage. 🤔🤷🏼‍♀️

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Oh, Natalie, I’m so sorry. I actually want to write more about marriage and weight, because this is a huge (pardon the pun) issue that so many deal with. What do you do when your spouse has gotten so large that it’s hard to do anything together? And it’s even hard to have sex? That is hard.
          I would say this: What God wants for your husband is that he confronts the reality of how he is living and that he grows. God wants growth, not stagnation. And he gave us our lives for a reason. So anything you can do to get him up and moving is important. Even saying to him something like: “I understand that moving is hard for you, but I believe that’s a problem. And so once a week we’re going to go for a walk after dinner. No ifs, ands, or buts. We’re going to move!” Or something. Because he really needs it, and he needs you to be his champion in this.
          I love your heart for loving him regardless, and just keep praying that God will help you see the good side of him.

          Reply
          • Natalie

            Thanks for the ideas Sheila. And I really look forward to any future articles you write about marriage and weight gain (especially morbid obesity and when it’s the husband – not the wife – who gains weight. I find the internet lacks that topic but has plenty of the reverse).
            I’ve actually been finding it easier to love my husband on this matter because he recently found out he has high blood pressure and is not even 30 yet. So I honestly don’t know how many more years of marriage we have together. Could we 40, could be 5. That new health development plus focusing on myself and my prayer life (since I’ve realised I can’t change him no matter what I do or say or try) have given me a new outlook on my marriage and how I treat my husband. I don’t want to lose him prematurely, but with a BMI of 45% and only increasing over the years, I very well might. So I’m cherishing every moment we have together, even our very lacklustre sex life.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Natalie, that’s a great attitude. I’m glad.
            And I do want to write more about this! It’s so heartbreaking. I’ll say a prayer for you.

  11. Sonia

    I’m neither from the “kissing dating goodbye” culture nor have I read Joshua Harris’s book. But when I got into a group that promotes a similar approach (they say that God shows them whom to marry) with at least apparently great success, I found it great and became quite strict about physical contact etc. This turned off one guy who possibly might have been a good match. Later, I met another guy who was interested. When I told him about my views on dating, he said he couldn’t know if he wanted to marry me as long as he didn’t know me well. I found that a good point and we went on dating, even with physical contact and kisses. Less than two years later, we married. We were a more or less happy couple for almost eight years. After we had our second child, he passed away. After some time I began to long for another man in my life. I thought I had to be proactive and registered at a Christian online dating platform. One man began to chat with me and I found him somewhat attractive but had the impression I had to stop this online dating thing. Furthermore, my father sent me a book by Elizabeth Elliot, maybe Quest for Purity. So I deleted my profile rather grudgingly but later I came to the conclusion it was good because he was from the other end of the world and this would have made it very difficult, especially for my children, to get to know him in the real world. I’m not against online dating, but if you have children, you should look for someone who lives not too far away so that the children can be involved in the relationship, too.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Hi Sonia,
      I’m so sorry about the loss of your husband. So sorry. That must be so tough! And yes, I’d totally agree that looking for someone who lives close to you is so important, especially once you have kids. I do know a number of couples who all live in the Toronto area who met on a Christian dating site. But they wouldn’t have met otherwise!

      Reply
  12. Madeline

    I’m commenting a few days late, but I just wanted to say that I love your approach Sheila! I especially appreciate that you push back against the idea that everyone should do relationships the same way. I am so grateful for the time that my husband and I had just doing every day life together before we got married. Some of those times were at my parents’ house with my family around but there were also times when we got to be alone; I think both prepared us for marriage. When we got engaged people told us that we don’t *really* know each other yet, that it will be so different once we’ve lived together for a while. But honestly, there were no major shocks. We just kept doing life. Obviously, the situation is different if you’ve been long-distance or are moving away together because that will be a different kind of transition in addition to getting married, and that’s okay too. I think that strictly enforcing chaperoning and that sort of thing takes away the chance to see how just the two of you operate together. But again, if a courting-style relationship works for you, I don’t want to assume that what worked for me us is *the* way.

    Reply
  13. Whitney

    Hi, Mrs. Gregoire,
    My name is Whitney and am twenty-three. I enjoyed reading this article and it brings up some questions that I was wondering if you could answer.
    First, how do you feel about “making out” as it is called. I struggle with this because I have heard from some Christians that it is sinful but I have heard others say it is fine. So I was wondering if you could tell you me your view on it.
    Second, I am going to vet school in less than a year. While I am not ready to marry anytime soon, I decided to try online dating so that I could date more; I did this so that I could better understand men and discover the traits I value in a man so that after vet school it would be easier for me to find a potential spouse. The problem is most of the guys who like me on Coffee Meets Bagel don’t seem interested past the initial match. I am being patient with this and realize that this may be due to my going to vet school. However, I would still like to go out on more dates even if it doesn’t turn into a relationship. Do you have any advice for me? Thank you so much!

    Reply
  14. Nicky

    Hi Sheila — love your thoughts on pretty much everything! My take on dating is probably a little odd, and maybe it’s just the terminology. I always felt that “dating” as the culture uses it is such an artificial context, and if the goal is to get to know someone better, than a contrived context with a declared interest right off the bat tends to cause people to conceal rather than reveal who they really are if there is already a vested interest and hope that the other person will like you. When I was single, I asked the Lord to allow me to get to know my future husband in some other context of every day life that wasn’t dating, because I wanted to see just that — who is this person, what is he like when he is tired, what is his work ethic, is he responsible, how does he treat women he is not trying to impress, etc. What is he really like when he’s not on his “best behavior”. And God was so kind as to let me have that — we worked together for two years and did many things in group and friends and as coworkers, and he gained my respect and admiration in a hundred ways. When we asked me to marry him, we hadn’t “dated” in the traditional sense, but I certainly knew him very well and we had spent all sorts of quality time together. Thirteen wonderful years of marriage and counting!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s lovely, Nicky! I think there’s definitely something about getting to know someone “in real life”. So important. I think that’s often easier, too, when you’re still in school and you have no money to go out on “dates” but you have to cook at home. That’s likely why I got to know my husband so well, too. We were in campus ministry together, and just ate together, and it just worked.

      Reply
  15. Deborah

    I love all of the statements you made Shiela. I am a college minister and worship leader at our church. I have a 19 year old man who has been labeled “girl crazy” by many of the other men in the Christian college student circle. I’ve become pretty close to him and have talked with him about his focus on girls. In my opinion, he’s not simply crazy about girls, but is on the look-out for a potential wife. He isn’t dating around, but is taking his time getting to know girls and doing quite a bit of flirting, which is frowned upon by his peers. I honestly believe this to be conditioning of the legalistic purity movement that many of the other students have grown up hearing. In this particular situation I think the effects of “courtship” and “purity” ideals have put this kid between a rock and a hard place. He is being told he MUST be the one to pursue a woman, but when he does, he is shamed for being “girl crazy.”
    It’s important for us as the church to come alongside young believers and single men and women to help them navigate and make wise decisions about dating and boundaries.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I absolutely agree, Deborah. And I think allowing young people healthy ways to get to know each other and even date is important. Seriously, if you can’t do that in church–where can you? There should still be boundaries, etc (no stalking!), but we do need some openness here.

      Reply
  16. Becky

    Hi Sheila, just found you while googling top Christian books on marriage/ dating.
    Wow great article, I agree dating gives us experience and experience rocks. I knew what i wanted when i was younger, but now i know what i want to the N-th degree (thanks experience!).
    I have seen areas i needed to work on in myself thanks to dating.
    Ive learned what character traits I despise because Ive seen those in people I’ve dated in the past, i.e. actions not matching their words, telling me one thing on Monday and something else on Tuesday.
    I did not know people with sexual issues lurk in no touch relationships, makes sense though.
    Not sure about online dating, you have to put your age on there and I look 10 years younger than I am PTL. The Holy Spirit has been telling me to go out more at night so Im going to seek out some new opportunities in my areas of interest. That’s about it, keep writing.
    Oh, p.s., thoughts on dating non Christians? Im never going to choose man over God, ever. So, if someones open to exploring Christianity because they respect me? Why not? There are no single men in church, unless they’re really young.

    Reply

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