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Let’s Talk About Dating, Part 3: The Harm in Hanging Out

teens at summer festival
In case you haven't heard, "group dating" has become the spiritual way to date for Christian singles. However, dating is more intentional than "hanging out"

Read Part 2 of the series here.

In case you haven’t heard, “group dating” has become the spiritual way to date for Christian singles. This method involves guys and girls hanging out in platonic groups. It is supposed to help people build friendships that eventually become “something more.” However, the reality is that this group dating mentality has morphed into coed packs of friends who never actually get around to dating. Consider Anna and Cody:

Anna and Cody are part of a group of coed friends hanging out at someone’s house. Anna sits down on the couch, strategically leaving a wide open space next to her. Cody wanders over and casually takes a seat next to Anna. They ignore one another.

After about a year and a half of pretending to watch TV, Cody turns and asks Anna how things are going. She answers. They turn back to the TV.

The group of friends decides to hang out this weekend to go hiking. Cody and Anna are pleased that they’ll see one another again, but do not let on. They are no fools — they can’t let anyone know that they are interested in one another! Besides, this type of group dating is ideal. There is no commitment and no fear of rejection. Perfect!

The whole “guys and girls hanging out all of the time but never actually dating” is somewhat popular in Christian culture. Sometime, these group get-togethers are wonderful — they allow you to meet new people, have fun and spend time with good friends. But, in my opinion, these group outings are not always good, for the following reasons:

For one thing, if you want to be in a relationship with someone, you eventually have to get to know them at a deeper level. Group dating can be great in the beginning — it’s a non-threatening way to figure out who someone is. But groups have a lot of people, a lot of interruptions and a lot of surface-level conversation.

An article by Jason Illian, “5 Commandments of Dating,” talks about why group dating has become popular in Christian culture, but adds that, when it goes on for too long, it can become hurtful:

The church devised the group dating concept because it recognized the futility and dangers of how most people date in American culture. With pregnancies, diseases, and divorces on the rise, they wanted to protect their flock from having similar heart-wrenching results. I can appreciate their intentions, but going from one extreme to another has not alleviated our problems. It has just given most singles a whole new set of issues to deal with—loneliness, despair, and confusion ranking at the top of the list.

I think that possible problems that can arise from co-ed groups just “hanging out” for all eternity is that it allows for a lack of commitment on both sides. Girls and guys get a lot of the emotional support that they would be getting from a boyfriend/girlfriend without having to take the risk of possibly getting hurt. Illian thinks this is a bigger issue for the guys:

One of the biggest problems with group dating is that it allows men to be passive. In a group setting, men can shun accountability and responsibility. They don’t have to make any plans because someone else will. They don’t have to be responsible for anything because it is easy to disperse ownership with others involved. And they don’t have to ask any one girl out because they can enjoy all of them at the same time! Men don’t have to be proactive leaders—they can simply be pack hunters.

Illian points out that marriage is not a group outing. Eventually it has to be two people figuring out how they’re going to live life together. In Illian’s opinion, one-on-one dating is a great way for men to learn how to lead in a society where they have not been taught what leadership looks like.

As for women, hanging out with guys in groups sometimes feel more emotionally safe. Dating and commitment can be scary because it’s possible that your heart can get broken. We’ve been taught to “guard our hearts” (something we’ll address in another post), and group dating seems like a safe way to do that. However, we girls often end up getting emotionally involved even without commitment — group dating doesn’t always protect us from heartbreak. And, when we’re constantly willing to hang out with guys without requiring any commitment, we’re encouraging behavior that allows for tedious, non-relationship relationships. No bueno.

So, in the end, I think it’s great to hang out with friends — guys and girls. However, as singles who want to move toward marriage, I think we need to be wise and intentional with our time — including the time we spend just “hanging out.”

Read Part 4 of the series here.

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About the Author

Denise Morris Snyder

Denise Morris Snyder is a mom, wife and part-time discipleship pastor at CrossRoads Church in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. She previously worked as an editor for Focus on the Family and a writer for David C Cook. She has her Master’s in Old Testament Biblical Studies from Denver Seminary.

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