This may come as a shock to most of you, but it’s not easy being a single adult when you’re mired in Christian culture. There’s no “dating,” so much as you’re only looking for potential spouses. There’s no exploration, since you’re saving everything for marriage. There’s nothing “casual” at all. (And good luck dating someone who’s not sufficiently Christian.)
Joy Beth Smith, an author and associate editor of Christianity Today, talks about the difficulties of being single when surrounded by evangelicals as well as the difficulties of dating in a secular world in an interview with The Lily.
I’m weary of dating in the church. Growing up as a conservative Southern Baptist, I was conditioned to believe that the purpose of dating is for marriage. You only date when you are ready and able to be married, and you only date people whom you would consider marrying. This, of course, presents all kinds of problems: How do you know when you’re ready for marriage, and is anyone really ready for marriage? Are you ready at the end of college, after your brain fully develops, or maybe once you’re financially stable — and your fertility is starting to decrease at an alarming rate?
As a married woman, I will just say this: Aside from being of legal age, no one is ever truly “ready” for it. It’s a lifelong growth process. Hopefully, you end up with someone who encourages you to be a better version of yourself, and vice versa.
Smith rightly notes that this mindset to marry ASAP can cause you to look at dating partners as commodities, rather than as people.
Toward the end of the interview, Smith offers valid advice that is just as applicable to the secular crowd as it is to other Christians: Don’t waste time chasing people who don’t want to be with you. Believe people when their actions show you who they are. Be honest and take risks. (She notes: “Dating people of various faith backgrounds has been enlightening for me — though that reality deviates from what I was taught growing up.”)
Reading between the lines of the interview, Smith also seems to be saying that you shouldn’t put your life on hold until you get married. Having attended many workshops and Bible study groups for single women, Christian culture definitely has an unhealthy obsession with marriage, which greatly contradicts their message that one can only be fulfilled with Christ.
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