While not all of these thoughts apply to everyone, there is definitely a few observations I have made about dating as a college student at a Christian university. As a young, single, college student (ahem, ladies), dating is a conversation piece. Everyone is interested in who is dating whom, and who is interested in whom, and so on. There is even this unspoken (okay, well, sometimes spoken) mantra at Christian universities proclaiming, “This is the only time in your life that you are surrounded by 1500 people of the opposite gender who are your age and share your belief system; find a spouse.” While there is value to recognizing the unique romantic opportunities we have as college students, the push for dating definitely has its downfalls as well.
Foremost, actively trying to find a relationship can be precarious. Its not uncommon that someone remarks that they want to be in a relationship. In and of itself, it’s not a harmful comment, but many people reach the point of only looking at the opposite sex as potential dates. Since coming to college I’ve caught myself wanting to get to know someone only because I think I could date them. However, when I learn that they are taken, I stop trying to befriend them. Therein lies the danger.
If we are only interested in someone because we think we could date them, we actually have little to no interest in them, but are only interested in the social benefits of being in a relationship. Otherwise, we would continue to befriend this person, not so that we could date them, but because we want to be friends.
Your spouse ought to be your best friend. If you are interested in making someone your spouse (i.e. dating them), you should be just as interested in making them your friend. If you are not interested in befriending someone, you are not interested in dating them.
When it comes to dating we need a mindset change. It comes down to this: dating is not a means to social benefit; dating is a means to marriage. The pursuit of relationships is not a bad thing when we recognize we are dating to ultimately seek a marriage. But we’ve hijacked that definition. Instead of two compatible friends mutually pursuing marriage together, dating becomes two people desperate for companionship.
I wholeheartedly believe that people should be friends before they date. Friendship, like dating, is just one step of many towards a budding relationship or marriage. But we have no need to rush past rungs of a ladder, or we are likely to fall. I’ve seen too many relationships that started solely out of a desire to be in a relationship rather than genuine affection and care another person spiral downward. Furthermore, it is objectifying to date only for social benefits, as your significant others becomes a tool for your social desires. The affection felt is nice, but isn’t always genuine. While some relationships that start this way end pleasantly, many don’t because of the rush to form a relationship.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t want to be in a relationship or get married. Nor I am saying that we shouldn’t keep our eyes peeled for an opportunity to join in a mutual, life-giving, pursuit of marriage with someone we care deeply about. But in the urgency of getting your “Mrs.” degree or finding a wife, many people forget about friendships, and jump further and faster than they should. It is okay to just be friends with people of the opposite gender and have no romantic interest. It is okay to graduate without dating, falling in love, getting engaged, or getting married, because life goes on after college. Our post-collegiate lives are filled with unknowns, but I assure you that our opportunities do not cease with a presidential handshake and a diploma in hand. We will continue to meet people; we will make more friends. And someday, we may just find someone worth marrying. Let’s not stress if that day is not today.