The End of Dating?

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The New York Times had an interesting article today called, The End of Courtship. In it, the author Alex Williams clearly lays out a growing trend among young adults to forego traditional ways of courtship, including dating, for quicker forms of bonding. This has been called “hooking up”. This growing social trend is a rejection of how men and women have approached bonding prior to marriage, namely  courtship and dating. One woman describes “hooking up” as somewhere between a date and a high five where couples pair off to “hang out”. What seems to be included is a spontaneous sexual encounter free of commitment although this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.

The typical response is we need to move back to more traditional forms of courtship! In fact, some Christian circles have even eschewed dating for more of an older courtship model (remember, I Kissed Dating Goodbye?). There certainly are some good things that dating and courtship bring but in a mobile society such as ours how beneficial would it be to create a Christian culture where we throw back to an old school form? As some have gently pointed out, it’s not that either courtship and dating don’t have shortcomings associated with them. Further, as Tim Keller says in The Meaning of Marriage, “Why (stop with) courtship? Why not go all the way back to completely arranged marriages?”

Two quick thoughts. Part of the problem with a hookup culture is that it tends to either bond people too quickly, often with sex as the end goal, or it perpetuates laziness in just “hanging out.” Truthfully, I like hanging out with people but there is something about demonstrating intention as men and women form relationships. It doesn’t serve a greater good to force a relationship too fast nor to slow it down to a snail’s crawl. In our age of instant gratification, it seems to be helpful to have ways of gauging a person’s character prior to expressing intent. While it slows the process down from going too fast, it certainly keeps it from just “hanging out” with  no intention in mind. One of the markers then of healthy attraction should include ways to decipher a person’s character.

Second, it would be good to take into account value that older forms of courtship and dating provided: family, church, and community. While I’m not advocating going all the way back to earlier forms there were “guard rails” that were erected in the form of institutions and groups that seemed to help raise cautionary flags and provide avenues to get to know people apart from artificially  moving it ahead too quickly. In a very mobile society, at least one of the functions of community is to help provide these railings.

Most young adults see the community as the place to meet people. It’s a way of trading the nightclub scene and bars for a safer environment. This is what I think Lauren Winner is partly getting at when she speaks of the value of “acquaintanceship”.  I totally understand that. But another purpose of the community is to provide guard rails for people to keep them from trying to figure this out on their own. In some ways, the community functions as a surrogate family to help shepherd people in a way where the group members learn together and rely on each other for insight that might overcome our own personal blindspots or uncontrolled desires. This is to help people not just meet people in a group and then take off. The group actually models and shepherds people in a way where relationships grow naturally.

4 thoughts on “The End of Dating?

  1. “But another purpose of the community …The group actually models and shepherds people in a way where relationships grow naturally.” – The wisest words in your thought today, Jon.

    I wish when I was “dating” someone had explained and cautioned me of the toll that “dating” takes upon a soul; and the danger that is created by relationships outside marriage.

    It wasn’t until much later in life – and after a divorce, I might add – that I began to understand the damage I had suffered by having “girlfriends” before I married…. The saddest part about all those relationships – some of which were racked with sin and inappropriateness – is the irreparable harm that might have come to the Kingdom (and others’ spiritual growth or decline) as a result!

    There is nothing so sacred on this earth among Christians as our bond with one another.
    When we enter into “dating” with each other or “hooking up” – a relationship geared more to satisfying our needs to be “partnered, desired and pleased” — we risk damaging the most valuable earthly bond we have: Agape Love in Christ Jesus with one another.

    Courtship and then Engagement is (to me) not unlike a “betrothal period” in the ancient Jewish model… it is a coupling with permanent intent that considers the familial bond in the Heavenly Kingdom more important than personal feelings, setting the priority upon making sure the Sanctity of our Union with God is preserved so that on the day He unites us in marriage – our intention to glorify Him is achieved!

    The Lovely Heather had a horrible time just trying to get me to kiss her when I courted her – And YES I courted her and made it known I was doing so. The reason I felt so apprehensive about just kissing her was that I never wanted for us to “do” something that would break our Brother/Sister bond in Christ and make us unable to worship side-by-side if we were not to marry.

    Not enough attention is made to the Sanctity of our Fellowship I think… But that’s just me. Thanks for the thoughts. I love your blog.
    p.s. – I just read that part about The Lovely Heather again… I hope it didn’t make her sound like a hussy.

    • jonnitta

      Great thoughts and worth discussing! Ty, how can we “modernize” courtship? I think it’s important for guys to become men communicate their intentions and actually follow through but I get it when younger people think some of the courtship process feels a bit “antiquated”. For instance, I wouldn’t hold it against a guy if he asked for permission from a father to date their daughter but to establish that as a rule doesn’t really satisfy me. Second, even the courtship model runs the risk of idolatry. For instance, a person values the “method” more than they do character. In other words, you can watch any of the Jane Austen novels turned into movies. I’ll bet that very few want a picture of courtship like that. While there’s something about guys treating women with much respect than hooking up with them, I don’t think anyone really wants to go back there…

  2. TyHoad

    And BY THE WAY: The very best example of great courtship: The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara…
    “No Patty-fingers, if you please!” Classic.

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