[This is a fairly hastily written post, and one that is more stream of consciousness than anything else. I will probably take this material and re-organize it some point in the future, but until then I wanted to get my thoughts down and see what people think of them.]
The topic of “dating” and the dating culture has been on my mind a lot lately, and has received mention in my last post and the post before. So when I read the latest post by April over at Peaceful Single Girl, a fire was lit in my mind. The actual inquiry of the post was not what occupied my attention, however. Rather, it was the title: “Accepting Attention from a Guy who has a Committed Girlfriend.” [April has since changed it]
Something bothered me about it at first, and then I realized what the problem was: the term “Committed Girlfriend.” I realized that this was an oxymoron, and noted as such in a comment at her blog, which I will replicate here (plus typo corrections):
There is no such thing as a “committed girlfriend.” The term is an oxymoron. The word itself is a recent invention, scarcely over a hundred years old. And it signifies a woman whom a man has not committed to. Commitment comes into play only when a couple is engaged or betrothed.
Unfortunately, the dating culture has infiltrated deep into Western culture, and the notion that you can have a “committed girlfriend” has come along with it. Now, I don’t mean to call April out over this, because I’m sure she never thought twice about using the two words together like that. After all, I didn’t realize it right away either. It only goes to show just how far the rot has penetrated our culture.
Truth is, the words “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” shouldn’t ever be used in a Christian context. They are connected to a system, “dating”, which embodies a lifestyle and mode of thought which are incompatible with Christian teaching and living. In addition, there is another, more practical reason why dating should be rejected: its notion of “Exclusivity.”
Dating as a Disorder
As I have explained before, dating is a monstrous chimera which combines the SMP and the MMP together in an unholy union. When the word “dating” is used, it can included a whole range of activities which range from the sinful to the foolish to the outright bizarre. As commenter Deti explained it:
No one teaches you through it. No one coaches you. No one can teach or coach you, because there’s nothing to teach. There are no rules, no customs, no traditions, no constants, and no common frames of reference. It’s different for everyone.
Fundamentally dating means whatever you, or someone else, wants it to mean. And this is something Christians need to reject. While we shouldn’t resort to legalism, we recognize that the Christian process of seeking a spouse is one that includes rules and proper modes of behavior. We are called to chastity, and fornication is a clear sin with serious consequences. By its nature it is a system with a few winners and a lot of losers. Nor is there anything that can be “fixed”, because it was never right to begin with.
Tying into the impetus for this post is the fact that “dating” encourages what we might call Exclusivity or the “steady” boyfriend/girlfriend. The idea is simple: you have a single boyfriend/girlfriend who you go “steady” with, that is, you date them and only them. This is where the notion of the “committed boyfriend/girlfriend” comes from, even though there is no commitment at this point. If you “date” someone else on the side, then you are “cheating.” Frankly, this last word seems appropriate, because in my mind the whole thing is a sick game played by the Adversary.
But sticking to the topic, this exclusivity is foolish and should be utterly rejected. Yes, that is right, I am arguing against going “steady.” The idea that you should “date” a single person at a time is an inefficient at best, and wasteful and dangerous at worst. Simply put it is an awful system for finding and keeping a marriage partner. It has no basis in history or tradition. In short, it should be thrown out. Why is it so bad?
1) Time Waste- “Dating” someone to determine if they are worth marrying can take a long time. 6 month to 18 month “dating” periods are far from uncommon. Then throw in the engagement period. Well, what happens if it doesn’t work out? Suppose you date someone for a year only to learn that it just won’t work out? Well, guess what? That year was wasted. Whatever insights you gained are far less valuable than the time lost. This is doubly true for women. A woman who spends a year “dating” only to learn that it won’t lead to marriage just lost a year of fertility that she is never going to get back.
2) Encourages Complacency- If you are going “steady” with someone, you might not feel the impetus to speed things up towards marriage. This is something that is probably more likely to “afflict” men than women, but it can happen to both. However, if you are part of a system where the guy or girl you are “seeing” (calling upon, or being called upon) has other potential interests or suitors, then you have an incentive to decide sooner rather than later. Basically, you have to worry that someone else might propose to her first, or he might propose to someone else first. In either case, it discourages drawing out the courtship process. This is a potential concern because “Hard Monogamy” is not natural to either men (who are naturally polygamous) or women (who are naturally serially monogamous). [Ed note: Interesting theory/observation: When Hard Monogamy is socially enforced men are forced to switch from their natural polygamous inclination to a pseudo-hypergamous one] Men will resist committing because they are inclined to “play the field”, while women are hypergamous and so are inclined to wait for a better option to come along.
3) Restrictive- A dating system which encourages “going steady” is a system where men and women cannot consider many serious marriage partners. The requirements of going steady mean that they will miss out on a lot of potential spouse candidates because they are locked with their current partner. I happen to think that finding a good match is as much a numbers game as anything, and “dating” gets in the way of considering enough potential spouses.
To sum up everything I said before: Exclusive dating where you date only a single person at a time to vet them for marriage is a time waste, encourages complacency and overly restricts the potential spouses you can meet. As such, Christians should emphatically reject this system.
Calling, Courtship and Engagement
I propose that instead of a “dating” system that something akin to the old concept of courtship be instated. Without giving it too much thought, I think a three step process/system would be ideal. Step 1 is the “Calling” phase, Step 2 is the “Courting” phase, and Step 3 is the “Engagement” (or Betrothal) phase. The basic gist is that single young women interested in marrying would (through their family) make it known that they were looking to marry. Word would get out, and single young men interested in marriage would direct their attention towards these young ladies, all through a filter of family and community support.
Step 1- Calling: During this phase the young men (Gentleman-Callers) would “call” upon the young women (Ladies-in-Waiting), that is, visit them either at home with her family present or at an event designated for the purpose. I should note this would be after receiving permission to call upon the young lady from her family beforehand. They would engage in a discussion/interview where they would try to learn more about one another. Assuming that both parties found this somewhat agreeable at first, this process would continue for a while over a series of different visits and events. These discussions would be light in tone, mostly just filtering to see if there was some kind of spark, and any glaring obstacles to marriage. However, the important thing is that each Gentleman-Caller would be calling upon potentially many young women at once and each Lady-in-Waiting would have many of those Gentleman-Callers visiting her. All in all this process could take a number of months.
Step 2- Courtship: Once a Lady-in-Waiting has been open to visitation long enough, and has had sufficient time to vet a number of Gentleman-Callers, she will narrow down the (hopefully) slew of men calling upon her to a smaller number of Suitors. These men will be able to Court her, that is, to actively seek to determine if they are compatible and should marry one another. Of course, they would have to receive family approval to move to this next step as well. Whereas Step 1 was “light duty”, Step 2 is a more serious affair. The young woman should be seriously considering the young men who are her Suitors, and trying to determine which of them would suit her best as her husband. Meanwhile, the Suitors will be trying to determine if the young lady in question is worth their lifetime commitment. Depending on the situation, a man might be a Suitor for several young women at once, especially if he is high value (aka has a high LAMPS score). During this phase the families should meet to make sure that there won’t be any conflicts which could trouble the marriage. This process should take a few months, say 3 or 4 to be safe.
Step 3- Engagement: Once a Suitor is convinced that a Lady-in-Waiting would make a good wife, he will seek permission to marry her from her family. Assuming that they grant it, he can propose to her. If she accepts, then they become engaged. (If she doesn’t accept, it can be either a flat out rejection, in which case he turns elsewhere, or she asks for a little time to think on the matter. But this should be a few days to a week or two, at most.) At this point, and this point only, they become exclusive. The gentleman ends all of his other courtship and calling, and the young lady dismisses any remaining Suitors or Callers. Wedding plans are made, as well as plans for the marriage itself.
So anyways, these are my initial thoughts on the subject. As I said, pretty stream of consciousness stuff. So have at it, and tell me where I am wrong, point out how foolish I am, and so on and so forth.