Jan 082014 29 Responses

Dating to Break Up: A Unique Perspective

Dating advice coming from me is like a Kardashian speaking at a convention on poverty. Generally one should only speak on a topic with which they have experience. When it comes to dating, I have very little experience. The only person I ever really dated was Jenny. There might have been other girls, but even a judge would have a tough time deciding if we ever actually dated. He would have to determine the technical definition of a date and I doubt any witnesses would admit to having gone out with me. So I only have one experience. Of course another way to look at it is that I’m one for one, batting 1000. Either way, I have some advice.

Jenny and I dated with a perspective which I think was valuable. Many look at the dating process and believe Christians should not engage in it. I understand this thought. I was of dating age when I Kissed Dating Goodbye was published. (Part of me wants to title this blog post, “I Frenched-Kissed Dating Hello” but it would be an out-of-date reference). Yet dating is the culture in which we live and for those who aren’t looking for alternative way to find romance, I would have one piece of advice:

Date with the assumption that you will break-up.

It seems counter-intuitive. It’s the last advice I would give to someone getting married. Never marry with the idea you will divorce, but do date with the idea that the relationship will not last. It’s simple statistics. Most people date several people before getting married. My story is the rare story. Chances are, you will date several people before you date your spouse. Since that is the case, you should always begin a relationship assuming it will end. You can always change your mind (but you shouldn’t do so too quickly).


Jenny & I in college at a fundraiser, 1999.

When Jenny and I started dating (October 6, 1998 and there is no way she would remember the date) she was emphatic she would not have a serious relationship her senior year of college (See: On George Straight, a First Kiss, and Seminary Women or A Preacher’s Wife). Her plans were big. She would travel, explore and experience the world before she settled down with someone. Her perspective caused me to assume we wouldn’t date after graduation.

The Danger of Assuming a Relationship Will Make It

Most people go into a relationship wondering if this is the one (as if there is “the one.” If you think there is just one person for you, read Happy Valentine’s Day, You’re Not My Soul-Mate). Several problems develop from entering into a relationship assuming it will work:

You move too quick both physically and emotionally. Instead of guarding one’s heart, many people enter into a relationship and far too quickly test the relationship by giving away their heart. They move too quickly both physically and emotionally. The physical connection clouds one’s thinking and makes building an honest friendship (they key to a healthy relationship) difficult. The emotional speed is often one-sided and unhealthy.

You lose your ability to see things critically. By approaching a relationship from a “I assume it will work” mindset, one loses their ability to properly judge people and events. The viability of a relationship is often determined by one’s desire for a relationship instead of the actual person. The more one party desires love, the more likely they are too see love. This causes them to overlook major problems and flaws.

You may scare off potential mates. Studies have shown that people are often more attracted to people who are less attracted toward them. By assuming the relationship will be long-lasting, we are more likely to smother a potential mate rather than attract them. (Note: if someone quickly makes you the sole object of their affection—run. If they quickly make you their everything, they will likely expect you to always be their everything. As great as marriage is, no spouse can be everything to the other.)

Dating With the End In Mind

Assuming that a relationship will end is not the same as what some do by sabotaging every relationship. The former is born from health while the latter is born from sickness. Some sabotage every relationship because they are afraid to get close to anyone. They assume they will never have a healthy relationship and it often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Dating with the assumption the relationship will end is a different perspective. When Jenny and I began dating, I told her that whenever we both got married, I wanted to be proud of the relationship we had. My hope is that we would both be able to tell our spouses about our dating relationship without shame. You should date for several reasons:

Date to have fun. The most obvious reason to date is to enjoy the experience. We were not created to be alone. Experiencing life with someone else is enjoyable. Too often when someone dates with the assumption the relationship will last, they miss this aspect of dating. Everything is so serious that they never have fun. Early dates in a relationship should be about having fun.

Date to learn. Another reason people should date is to learn how to interact with the opposite sex. We are not created with an innate understanding of the opposite sex. It’s a learned experience. Dating can provide opportunities to learn about ourselves and others. This can give valuable insight before the marriage relationship.

Date to find. By dating a variety of people, someone can find the qualities which are important for them in a future spouse and which qualities do not matter as much. Many people have a list of what they do and don’t want in a future spouse. Often times those lists include things that do not truly matter. Dating will help clarify what does matter.

The Benefit of Assuming a Relationship Will End

Dating with the assumption that the relationship will end has several benefits. Here are a few:

You move more slowly both physically and emotionally. If you know the relationship will end, you are far less likely to give your heart or body to the person. Slowing down the physical and emotional aspects of the relationship would strengthen the dating process. Friendship should always be the primary focus early in a relationship. (See: Pastoral Advice for Single Women)

You evaluate things more fairly. By assuming the relationship will end, you are more likely to see the good and the bad. You have no reason to downplay flaws or overlook negative qualities. This will improve the decision making process of picking a spouse.

You are more likely to date more than one person. If I could change the High School dating culture in one way, this might be the first change. Many teenagers start dating just one person far too early. This limits their experience and causes the relationship to progress far too quickly. Instead of dating one person exclusively, more people could benefit from dating multiple people. (Of course this should always be out in the open and never with deception.)

(Bonus benefit) You appear more attractive. Emotional health is attractive. Being emotionally healthy enough to date others without being in desperate need of their love will actually make you more attractive to others. It’s not our main desire, but it doesn’t hurt.

This Is Especially True in High School

While I would recommend this approach at the beginning of all relationships, I would especially recommend this mindset for relationships before college. Few people truly marry their high school sweethearts. I can only think of two couples from the time I was in high school who are married to each other. High school is not the time to find a spouse; it’s the time to learn, have fun, and do nothing which will greatly hurt your future. Dating with the assumption you will break-up can be a more healthy way to date. Even early in college this approach might work best. Some might reach a point in life in which the only reason they want to date is to find a spouse. If that is the case, they may not choose this method, even though I believe it is the best approach to take.

Change Your Mind

Most relationships do not make it past seven months. It’s possible this is a natural time frame in which we can change our perspective from assuming the relationship will end to exploring if it might work. While there are always exceptions, I would strongly hesitate making this switch before the seven month period. Until then, assume the relationship will end. Have fun, be smart, protect your heart, learn, and wait for the day in which you are surprised with the relationship that did not end. For more, see: The Single Life and Valentine’s Day What to Look for In a Mate What to do Right When You’ve Already Done Wrong

29 Responses to Dating to Break Up: A Unique Perspective
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