By the time my wife and I were ready to be engaged, we were both quite ready to be done with the frustrations that come with dating. As I have counseled newly engaged couples, many of them have felt the same way. They were all glad to be done with dating. Unfortunately, for those people who would prefer to not go through the dating melee to find a mate, there does not appear to be an alternative that our western american culture is ready to embrace. Although one could hope that the method for dating espoused here might take hold, there is little hope for a change in the near future. Even though dating has a monopoly on the match-making business, a dating relationship cannot and should not last indefinitely.  It must come to an end.

Every dating relationship should find its end in either a break-up or an engagement. Chapter 4 of this blook will focus on these two potential futures. First we will consider how to know whether or not the person you are dating is “the one” in chapter 4.2. Then, chapter 4.3 will focus on how to break up with someone you know is not the one. The remainder of the chapter will outline the rest of the method for becoming engaged and, finally, married.

Before we get to those topics, however, I should explain further why a dating relationship cannot and should not continue indefinitely:

Marriage is a better option than cohabitation.

There is a growing trend of relationships that are intentionally choosing to not get married. Instead, they are opting to live together and otherwise carry on as if they are married without making the commitment. If they have a 50% chance of getting divorced anyway, why bother? Why tie yourself down to just one partner, too? You’re both bound to get tired of each other anyway. Dating  makes it easier to enjoy the pleasures of marriage without any of the commitment.

So, why is marriage a better option?  How is that possible?

There is only one reason:

Romantic relationships that intentionally choose to avoid marriage are based entirely upon performance and are, therefore, completely insecure.

Dating relationships (at any stage) hang by a thread. Guys and girls will break up with each other for the silliest of reasons. Sometimes the slightest turn-off can become a ‘major’ issue. Whatever the reason, the fact is that a dating relationship stays alive only while each person operates within the expectations of the other. As both the man and the woman jump through the appropriate ‘hoops’ to appease the other, the relationship stays alive (Unfortunately, this kind of behavior characterizes too many marriages too). However, any relationship that is so dependent upon the performance of two flawed people that are chiefly looking out for themselves will always lack any element of security. Neither the man nor the woman will be certain that the other truly loves them –  or ever will.

In fact, in such a relationship, true love is impossible.

Why? The unfortunate truth about dating is that both the man and the woman are using each other to get what they want. Whether it’s physical pleasure, companionship, or a future spouse, both persons in a dating relationship enter into it to get something for themselves. Dating is a necessary evil and must not continue indefinitely simply because it creates and fosters a dysfunctional relationship.

How is marriage any different?

Marriage is the first opportunity a couple has to not be self-focused. In marriage, the dating couple is forced to stop being in the relationship for themselves. If they seriously consider the vows that they make, they must realize that they are making a promise to love the other person at the beginning of the relationship (before either person has had a chance to perform) that is not conditional on the other person’s performance. They must choose to give their love away expecting nothing in return (and be excited to do so!).

A marriage that is based on love that chooses to serve the other person in spite of (and together with!) their failures is not a relationship that will ever hang by a thread. Both the woman and the man will know that they each love each other – not necessarily through the way they feel or things they do, but because they promised that they would.

Some might say that promises aren’t worth anything these days. While that may be true, the forthcoming promise of one shouldn’t even be contingent upon the expected promise of the other. Nowhere in the wedding vows does it say, “I’ll love you if you love me back”. Wedding vows are promises that do not have conditions in them. They are declarations of love for the other person that says, “I have no idea what is coming in our future, but whatever does come, I will love you. Whether you stay the same or change, whether you fit my expectations or not, even if you become less attractive to me, I promise you I will still choose to love you. I tell you this now because I love you not because of what you do, but because of who you are.”

Can’t a dating couple do this on their own, though, too?

No. Because the most important thing about the marriage commitment is that it is a real commitment made in the presence of people who know you and who will hold you to your word. It is also a promise that is made in God’s name (most of the time) and is a solemn agreement.  In marriage, the man and the woman make both a legal and spiritual commitment to each other that they both agree to keep.

At best, all a dating couple can do is pretend.

[read on to the next chapter]

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Do you agree that true love is only possible within marriage? 

Would you consider dating a ‘necessary evil’?