“Take your time, but don’t waste your time,” his friend advised me following a call I’d arranged to quiz them about his character. The advice centred on the assumption that our potential relationship was purposeful (courtship), not casual (dating). The former has marriage as the goal from the outset, whereas the latter does not; therefore, courtship could be seen as a ‘more serious’ version of dating. On the other hand, others would perceive any distinction between the two terms as nothing but an issue of semantics. Whichever your preference, please ensure that you date or court responsibly i.e. with marriage in mind.
“A time to gain, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away.” (Ecclesiastes 3:6)
Dating vs Courtship
Courtship = The time when people have a romantic relationship with the intention of getting married (Cambridge Dictionary)
In this chapter, Solomon makes it abundantly clear that everything has its time. For many, that may include a time for courtship. When you begin your relationship, you might gain a spouse. However, it might be necessary to ‘throw away’ that person because during your courtship you’ve discovered that you shouldn’t get married. In other words, you’re basing your decision to lose or keep on marital compatibility. If they’re not your spouse, then you still need to conduct the relationship in a way that doesn’t hinder their ability to connect with their real spouse in a future courtship.
Aimless relationships are a waste of time.
Personally, I don’t see the purpose of any romantic relationship that doesn’t reflect the definition above. It was far more difficult to find a clear and consistent definition of what dating is and isn’t. However, based on the one above, I’ll assume that dating doesn’t necessarily include the intention of getting married. So how do you assess whether it’s the time to gain or lose when you’re ‘just talking’ or keeping things casual? Is the relationship headed somewhere, or is it just for fun? Dating appears to be a waste of time because it doesn’t serve a purpose; it’s aimless. When Solomon said there’s a time for everything, he did not intend for you to incorporate a time for time wasting.
20 Reasons Not To Date
The list below was given to me by a church member nearly 10 years ago. I’m unsure whether she complied it herself as the paper doesn’t specify an author. However, she was incredibly passionate about encouraging us to get into the right kind of relationship. She often used to say, “dating is practicing for divorce” because it’s non-committal and ingrains the idea that if this doesn’t work out, you can move on to the next one. She was insistent that dating is shunned in favour of courtship. Moreover, she’s probably the reason I have a distinct affinity towards the latter term, even when those that aren’t casually dating reassure me that the two are interchangeable.
As you read the list, remember that it was written based on the understanding that dating and courtship are very different. I hope that for those that are dating (in the truest sense), you would consider the long term damage this may cause. Not all courtships end in marriage, but it’s better to have several failed courtships* that were conducted in the right manner, rather than to have dated numerous people and deal with the consequences below.
- Leads to intimacy, but not necessarily to commitment.
- Tends to skip the friendship stage of a relationship.
- Often mistakes a physical relationship for love.
- Often isolates a couple from other vital relationships.
- In many cases, distracts young adults from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future.
- Can cause discontentment with God’s gift of singleness.
- Creates an artificial environment for evaluating another person’s character.
- Develops a self-entered, feeling-oriented concept of love.
- Teaches people to break off difficult relationships, conditioning them more for divorce than marriage.
- Develops an appetite for variety and change, creating dissatisfaction within marriage.
- Causes late marriages, leaving more time for falling into sins associated with singleness.
- Promotes lust and moderate sexual activity, opening the door for fornication.
- Creates a permanent endorphin-bond between two people who will not spend their lives together.
- Creates a standard of comparison by which mates are first chosen, but after marriage rejected.
- Lacks the protections and guidance afforded by parental involvement in courtship.
- Doesn’t prepare children to face life’s realities – it warps life’s realities.
- Devalues sex and marriage.
- Destroys fellowship, leaving Christians alienated and ineffective for cooperative ministry.
- Embarks on a romantic progression before people are ready to follow through (and commit to marriage).
- Encourages short-term relationships over long-term friendships.
*Of course, the serious nature of courtship means that it’s unlikely there’d ever be several people.
The extract below (from Adventist Home by Ellen G White) underscores the importance of being intentional in romantic relationships. A level of intentionality that I believe dating lacks.
“Trifling With Hearts—To trifle with hearts is a crime of no small magnitude in the sight of a holy God. And yet some will show preference for young ladies and call out their affections, and then go their way and forget all about the words they have spoken and their effect. A new face attracts them, and they repeat the same words, devote to another the same attentions. AH 57.1
This disposition will reveal itself in the married life. The marriage relation does not always make the fickle mind firm, the wavering steadfast and true to principle. They tire of constancy, and unholy thoughts will manifest themselves in unholy actions. How essential it is, then, that the youth so gird up the loins of their mind and guard their conduct that Satan cannot beguile them from the path of uprightness. AH 57.2
Your time is precious, don’t waste it or allow it to be wasted. It’s not unreasonable to want to be clear on whether marriage is the goal and someone who is serious about you will not be intimidated by this. If you’re dating and you feel convicted that the time has come to ‘throw away’, then please know that it’s in your best interests.