Saturday, July 09, 2011

Dating vs. Going on Dates

Some of you may have read my previous post on our family "Three Rules for Dating," and might be wondering how in the world any of us ever met our spouses!  This post will hopefully shed a little bit of light on "how this could work."  Far from trying to tell you how "you should do this," I'm rather trying to sketch out "how one could do this."  My own experience has been far from pain-free, far from sinless, far from perfect, however, I do believe that I was spared much heart-ache and sin!

I went to a public high school with an academic magnet program, which was quite the unique experience!  I had many friends and was friendly with everyone, guys and girls alike, but stayed out of the boy-girl drama, and had my closest friends at church.  There were only a hand-full of believers in my entire school.  But that was what I wanted-- a practice mission field.  Going in with that kind of expectation helped me guard my heart very well.  I knew I wanted to go on to college, that I loved studying and learning, and that I had no business giving my heart away just yet.  I turned down guys who "asked me out," taking the chance to tell them about Jesus and Who He was to me, and also to explain that I viewed dating as preparation for marriage, not divorce, and that I didn't think we were really ready to think about marriage just yet. :)  They usually looked at me a little strange, but accepted it.

What about prom?  I went in a group with a "date" who was really a friend (one year I went with a school mate, believer, and my senior year I brought along one of my closest friends from church, who also happened to be my cousin).  Both times we went out to eat in a group, had a great time getting dressed up and taking pictures, rocked out the dance floor and got picked up by our parents by midnight.  Both nights formed some of my favorite memories of my high school career, and I had no regrets from any of it.  Good, clean fun with my friends, getting to dress up pretty and do "special" things... what more does a high-schooler want?

This pattern of learning to relate to guys and girls in group settings, of not being opposed to going on memorable "dates" as friends in groups, and being clear about my own standards and desire to remain only friends came with me to college.  (There was a year in between where I got my heart broken, but I'll share that in a final post.)  My parents had asked me not to allow myself to be drawn into an exclusive dating relationship ("courtship" to be technical) until my sophomore year of college, and in hindsight I appreciate how wise that was.  I had many guy friends, some of them fairly close (I think it's naturally easier for girls to relate to guys-- that's how it's supposed to work in marriage!  Guys just aren't all... dramatic!), but it was always clear that we were just brother & sister, or friends if they were unbelievers.  My closest friends were girls; my roommate, classmates, dorm-mates, friends from church. 

Before I go on, let me differentiate between "dates" and "dating.In my mind, a guy and a girl can go on a date as a "get to know you."  They might like each other (or just one might like the other), they might think they possibly could start liking each other, they might just have heard good things about each other.  Going on a date --usually out somewhere, alone or in a group-- has the intention of getting to know each other specifically.  However, it doesn't imply exclusivity.  There were weeks and months where I went on dates with different guys, and wasn't a girlfriend to any of them.  I only ever truly dated one person:  the man who is now my husband, Ryan.  And once we started dating and I was "his girlfriend," I never went on another date with anyone else!  (I've heard other people call going on dates "just hanging out," and dating "courting")

Why allow one-on-one dates at all?  Well, honestly, because sometimes there's just not much other way to get to know someone.  Sure, you could get them into a group, but if it's just an excuse to talk to her, why not skip making everyone else feel like a third wheel, and spend some time getting to know The Girl. Oh yes, in case this doesn't go without saying-- I never asked a guy out, but rather let them ask if they were interested.

Ok so here's how I rolled.  I had my own "Three Date Rule"-- I'd give any believing guy who asked one date.  (Well, except for Presbyterians, because I knew my Baptist convictions were too deep to ever be able to submit to a Presbyterian husband.  My RUF campus pastor loved to tease me about this!)  If I liked something about them, and they asked a second time, I'd say yes to a second date.  By the end of that date (as well as any group activities we'd done) I'd usually have a pretty good idea of whether I'd consider dating them long-term, with a view towards marriage.  If they asked for a third date, and I was game, I'd tell them it was time to call my Dad and get his blessing (for guys that I went on out-of-town group dates with, to formal balls, I would have Dad interview them before date 1). He asked to meet with them, got to know them a bit, gave them the "what are your intentions towards my daughter" talk, and if he trusted them, he would give the OK, and we'd go on our third date.  Usually by this point I knew whether I was interested enough to be exclusive, and we'd have the DTR ("Determine the Relationship" talk). With everyone but Ryan, I had be loving and honest enough to tell these amazing guys that I didn't think I was the right one for them (talk about making yourself feel about this big), and to make it clear that I didn't want to become exclusive or date at all any more.  Hard as those talks were, they were much easier than a break-up would have been!!  Stopping a relationship from becoming exclusive is way easier than having to back-track and get un-exclusive!  I will also say that on dates or in dating relationships, the Beloved's admonition to not "arouse or awaken love until it so desires" is one to take seriously; emotional guardedness= emotional purity (and less broken hearts!)!!  Fun as it is to feel all giddy and infatuated, if it clouds your thinking or leads someone else on, it's not worth it!

I also wasn't afraid to use the Dad card to scare off guys I didn't want to date. :)  One was too chicken to even talk to my dad at all.  Easy one to cross off my list!

Please, feel free to ask questions, make comments, or post your own dating do's & don'ts!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Great Article on Due Dates

... or why that term is a complete misnomer!  I am so proud of several of my friends who have been patiently waiting days and even weeks past their "due dates" (more like guess dates) in order to give their children all the time they need to come out strong and healthy!  This article is so equipping and helpful!  I pass it on to you as a way to increase your knowledge reservoir!

**Disclaimer-- not having read the other posts on this blog, I can't vouch for them. Like anything, I'm guessing it's a mixed bag.  Also, this post does feature a side-shot of a nude pregnant torso, so be forewarned!**

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Three Rules for Dating

Lately I've shared my family's "Three Dating Rules" with several people in vastly different circumstances, and each time they've been met with enthusiasm.  SO I thought I'd type them up and share them, along with some personal stories (dating examples) from my own history in a follow-up post.  With all the dating going on right now (some of the kids I have a relationship with have already had serious boyfriends-- even sexual relationships-- and innumerable breakups by age 14), it still surprises me how few parents sit down and sketch out a family vision for dating & guy-girl relationships, which will hopefully end in marriage.  Even kids from excellent families often tell me very sad stories of "wish I'd known" which could have easily been avoided had they had a "Game Plan" going into it.

So, Daddy, this one's for you. :)

I was in my early teens and my sisters were still middle-schoolers when my family joined up with another family with daughters my sisters' ages and started a Bible study on dating.  Our dads got together and wrote the curriculum themselves, incorporating skits, object lessons, and guest interviews from actual couples.  All were QUITE memorable-- ask any one of us 6 girls, a good decade later, and we all still remember a lot, if not all, of what we were taught.  It was also a lot of fun.  Seeing your dads dress up as Pet Smart employees, jocks & geeks is really hilarious.  Someday if I get a publisher's ear I'd LOVE to get that curriculum published!

But I digress.

First, our dads laid the foundational tenets of our family's view on "dating:" (this is my own interpretation, from memory, not a word-for-word transcription...unlike the Three Rules)

A. It's a process that is part of children still functioning under the authority and protection of their parents (especially their fathers), NOT something kids figure out on their own.
B. It's primarily to be a way to evaluate suitability for marriage, NOT to have a good time.
C. It's for those who are secure in God's Love for them, seeking to serve God by serving others, NOT a way to feel loved and served.
D. Marriage is not the be-all and end-all.  Though it's desirable and what we prepare for (statistically it's most likely), a life devoted to God is the goal, single or unmarried.
(Those familiar with the dating-vs.-courtship-vs.-betrothal debate will see that this fits under 'courtship.'  Recreational dating is a better preparation for divorce than marriage, and betrothal is not realistic nor natural in our culture; but I could write a whole post on that.  If there is interest, I can!)  

 All of us knew that our dating relationships would begin with our suitor asking for our father's permission, guidance, and ongoing involvement, as well as the incorporation of our whole families into the relationship.  We were all still under our dad's authority & protection until the wedding day, not our boyfriend's nor our own.  What a relief!  Good parents know their kids pretty well, and can usually size up suitable partners for them pretty accurately, without the rose-colored glasses to cloud the picture.

Ok, the Three Rules are:
1.  Only date those whom you find interesting and attractive.  No pity dates, no revenge dates, no desperate dates.  If you don't think they're fun to be around, you don't have to say yes, no matter how awesome everyone else thinks s/he is.  Not to say you couldn't hang out a bit in groups to try and find out whether they might become interesting & attractive to you... but saying 'no' for no reason other than personal preference isn't wrong.  See Song of Solomon -- we are supposed to find our spouses fascinating (and spouse-hood is the aim of courtship!).

2. Only date those who meet the criteria met upon beforehand by you and your parents.  If you are a Christian, than Christianity is a non-negotiable (marriage between an unbeliever and a believer is expressly forbidden in Scripture, and it is also a great sorrow to all those who find themselves in one.  Since dating is evaluating suitability for marriage, this is a no-brainer.  2 Cor 6:14)  My criteria included being over 5' 11'', not having a temper, enjoying different cultures, being spiritually mature & able to lead me, and being open to missions & adoption (among other things).  My dad added 'able to provide' to the list (something most girls don't think about).  If you make the list BEFORE the Potential steps up, you won't be trying to make it "fit" any one person.

3. Only date when you are in a season of life when you could reasonably consider marriage (not necessarily immediately, but in the natural course of an un-rushed relationship).  This would change for each person.  In my situation, I was committed to pursuing a degree at a university, cramming several different programs into 4 years (with the help of lots of high school credit), and I knew I was not interested in marriage soon after high school.  So my folks asked me to wait to get into a dating relationship until after my freshman year of college, allowing me to really get my bearings, to build deep friendships with girls, to be free to enjoy my new home without any one person monopolizing my time, and to figure out what my focus was to be.  I wouldn't trade my days on campus for anything-- I grew so much, threw myself into my studies, made amazing memories, learned so much, loved hard and made really deep friendships-- none of which which would have been possible if I'd had a guy claiming most of my mind and heart space.  **note that I did feel the freedom to go on individual dates with different guys in a non-romantic context (different school functions).  We always went in groups and had a blast!

The main reasoning behind this last rule is to guard against temptation-- especially sexual but also towards discontentment. "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." (Song of Solomon 8:4)  If you let yourself fall in love with The One when you are unable to be married (relatively) soon, frustrations are multiplied!  I think this applies to kids who start to like each other in high school; you can keep an affection in check by not entering into a commitment until you are able to keep it, and keep it soon.  You won't have to let immaturity ruin a great friendship. :)
So... those were our three "rules," and they have served me well.  One of my sisters is also happily married, and in a wonderful twist, one of the other girls in our study is now dating my first cousin... HAH we knew they found each other "interesting and attractive"!! =D

What guidelines did you have in your families, or do you want to have in yours now?