When we were kids, my friends and I built ramps out of scrap wood over which to launch our BMX bikes. We’d never play it safe and put the ramp on the grass. No, it had to be on the sidewalk or the street, because that’s what the pros did. After one painful crash, shards of asphalt embedded themselves in my knee. Before bandaging my wounds, I knew I first had to dig out those foreign objects so my knee would heal properly.
Likewise, you will date better, save yourself pain, find healing, and might even find your spouse sooner when you remove the “debris” that has infected Christian dating. I’m talking about dating myths.
Over the years, as I’ve spoken with singles, I’ve been stunned by some of the misconceptions people believe. In fact, I created a survey and asked people to give me the most common beliefs they’ve embraced or heard about Christian dating. While the list was exceptionally long, I found some that showed up repeatedly. So it’s time to bust them (in no particular order) and give ourselves the freedom to date.
Myth #1: Men are only interested in a woman’s looks
Some women blame men’s superficiality for why they’re still single. But it takes much more than a dazzling profile photo to land a quality Christian guy. Mature men, like women, are looking for a complete package in a spouse. We seek a woman who has a deep faith in God, a sharp mind, a servant’s heart, a fun-loving personality, and that feeling of chemistry. For men, chemistry is the mysterious combination of a woman’s inner and outer beauty that draws him to her. The truth is, a woman’s looks are just one factor of many that make her desirable. She doesn’t have to be a model on 99 percent of guys’ nonnegotiable lists.
Myth #2: Getting married means that you’re mature
Marriage is a relationship where you get to grow up. It has been called a “crucible” for our character, because a good marriage will force you to learn how to communicate, resolve conflict, and share what’s going on inside. Yet it’s a myth that single men and women can’t cultivate the same character through relationships with roommates, mentors, counselors, and close community. Marriage is not the litmus test for maturity any more than remaining unmarried measures immaturity. Immature men and women marry each other all the time. I’ve seen married couples quibble like children after being together for decades.
Maturity can be better measured by how individuals handle their emotions. Maturity is being able to feel an uncomfortable feeling while not acting on it. How you respond to an angry coworker, what you do when you’re tempted to sexually sin, and how you follow that impulse to buy that extravagant outfit or 85-inch television — these situations reveal how emotionally grown up you are — not whether you have a husband or wife.
Myth #3: If you do all the right things, God will bring you a spouse
For many years I thought that if I doggedly prayed, read the Bible, and staved off sexual immorality, then voila! I would find a godly wife. But as I write this book, I’m still waiting to be married. Now I see my future wife as a blessing from God, not as a reward for my spiritual efforts. God doesn’t owe us anything. We have a grace-based relationship with Him, not a merit-based one. And whether we stay single or find a spouse, nothing can surpass the gift He gave through His Son, Jesus: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son” (John 3:16).
God is not the means to an end — He is our end. He’s the goal.
Myth #4: You’re too picky
As much as I am for getting you out there to date, I am more interested in helping you keep your standards high. Singles often hear “you’re too picky” if they don’t date frequently or if they turn down a seemingly viable match. But it isn’t a matter of being finicky; it’s matter of holding high expectations. Famous marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman stated that “people who have higher standards and higher expectations for their marriage (including romantic ones) have the best marriages, not the worst.” But if you aim low, you’ll experience a lower quality relationship. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, people who hold higher standards for marriage will find more satisfying ones. (Editor’s note: For more on this topic, see “Revisiting ‘When to Settle.’”)
Myth #5: Dating will solve your loneliness
Although dating will undoubtedly add a friend to your life, if you’re extraordinarily lonely or depressed now, a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse won’t fill that hole. Loneliness isn’t caused as much by a lack of a romantic partner as it is by your need for deep and meaningful relationships now. You can find these through family, friends, and a caring church community. Wait to start a relationship until you’re emotionally ready. Feelings of isolation can lead you to lower your expectations and choose to be with someone your healthy self would have avoided.
Myth #6: You must know what you want before going on a date
My friend took a woman out on several dates. They had a good time together, but he sensed a hesitation in her about continuing dating. After asking her about it, she responded, “I’m still figuring out whether I’m attracted to you or not.” Fortunately, he was secure in his self-image, and her response didn’t sting. What was clear was that she needed time to see if they had any spark between them. A few weeks later, she got the information she needed and didn’t see them moving beyond friendship. They stopped dating and amicably parted ways. Kudos to her for going out and taking a risk when she was unsure.
Dating is a process of discovery, and you don’t have to have all the answers at the outset to purposefully get to know someone. What you learn will propel you to move forward or take a step back.
Myth #7: All the good ones are already taken
The lie that asserts the “good ones” are taken sets singles up to be stressed out and make poor choices in dating. Some university students fall into the trap of the senior scramble during their last year in college. Or they make their mantra, Get a ring by spring. On one hand, college can be a perfect place to meet your wife or husband. There are few periods in life where you’ll be surrounded by so many singles. But if your search is motivated by a fear of missing out, or you’re way past college age and live with regret that God left you behind, then first you have a theological problem. Heaven doesn’t run on a shoestring budget. The Lord isn’t scratching His head wondering if He has the right puzzle pieces to put your love life together. Be assured: Plenty of male and female fish are still in the sea.
Myth #8: You’ll meet your spouse when you stop looking
People offer this pithy maxim when, in their opinion, someone they know is putting too much effort into getting married. Or, if you believe the previous myth, maybe you’ve thrown in the towel on your search for a spouse. There is merit in not acting out of desperation and benefit in taking a hiatus from seeking a spouse. But the idea of completely sticking your head in the sand and expecting to find a serious relationship is an oxymoron. Much of what we long for, such as discovering a satisfying vocation, experiencing God, and meeting our future spouse, are byproducts of God’s grace plus our labor.
Myth #9: When you find The One, the relationship won’t be work
Once you meet the man or woman of your dreams, the work doesn’t end. As author, reformer, and presidential advisor Booker T. Washington wrote, “Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as the result of hard work.” This is true in all realms of life, including developing terrific dating relationships and healthy marriages. Any good and godly endeavor requires regular practice.
Myth #10: More dating choices will make you satisfied
It’s commonly assumed that the more choices we have, the better. It’s also assumed that we have the capacity to sift through and prioritize unlimited choices. But studies including different varieties of jeans, chocolates and other goods have all confirmed the fallacy that more choice will make you happier. We weren’t designed to have endless options.
Likewise, infinite possibilities won’t necessarily make you more satisfied when choosing a mate. Although it might be attractive at first, too many choices can hinder your dating and leave you feeling less satisfied.
There are so many additional myths in dating, it would take a whole book to cover them. Think about the myths you’ve carried into your dating life. Why have you held onto them? Maybe it’s time to let them go and move forward into the truth.
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Adapted from How Should a Christian Date?: It’s Not as Complicated as You Think by Eric Demeter (© 2021). Published by Moody Publishers. Used by permission.