[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, and allowing a second chance for those who missed them the first time, I reprint them here, with permission. The following ran in The Forum newspaper on August 23, 2014.]
Living Faith: Dating revisited: Is this the best we can do?
By Roxane B. Salonen
I’ve got three teens and a preteen living in my house with a fifth one on the heels of them all.
It doesn’t always work out. Sometimes families fracture and divide. We live in an imperfect world, which I understand and accept, as does God. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive for wholeness nor do whatever we can to make it happen.
Which brings me back to dating, because marriage doesn’t start at the altar, it begins at dating. The whole purpose of dating, after all, is to discern marriage.
Not everyone agrees. Recently, I shared this anonymous quote on Facebook: “Dating without the intent of getting married is like going to the grocery store with no money. You either leave unsatisfied or take something that isn’t yours.”
“You really believe this?” one friend shot back. When I said yes, he deemed himself speechless.
Maybe it’s because I’m a mother and I’ve been forced to look at this issue from the eyes and heart of one who cares deeply for the souls of her children.
It’s not only a fair discussion but an important one. Our society encourages 10-year-old girls to wear makeup and push-up bras and hints that they are incomplete unless they have a boy by their side.
We seem to think nothing of young dating, yet even while fostering this, caution our young ones to delay marriage until everything in their lives is perfectly aligned.
In other words, we’re promoting couples getting together younger than ever, and marrying older than ever, creating a lot of middle time that can lead to a whole lot of regret.
Spiritually speaking, each person that comes into our lives as a dating partner becomes a part of us. Their soul becomes infused into ours. So the more “experimentation” and failed dating that goes on, the more of our soul is scattered out there, with bits of us left imprinted in the hearts of others and vice versa.
So we enter marriage wounded with baggage from all the relationships gone wrong on our shoulders.
Once the first kiss happens, it’s over. You don’t hear about the second kiss. It’s old news. There are no “do-overs” when it comes to giving ourselves away.
So I can’t help but wonder about courtship – an approach to relationships that allows a couple to discern a future spouse from a respectful physical distance, keeping bonding at bay until the right time.
Sounds foreign and outdated, right? But is our current approach better?
We go from young people being single to leading them straight into a sort of mini-marriage, in which unmarried teens are inclined toward being together 24/7 or close. Eventually, the relationship either burns out or a pregnancy, abortion or marriage happens.
If marriage, it may have a rocky start; if pregnancy, a strained beginning; if abortion, a silent heartache. And with each, society weakens, relationship by relationship.
Certainly, I cannot hold up my own life or family as perfect models of how things ought to be, nor do I pretend to have the answers to what I see as a very complex situation.
But what I do see is that we seem to be missing the reality of the high price of dating gone wrong, and the deep heartache that results, leading to emotional wounds that fester and spread, along with the STDs that sometimes accompany them.
A whole lot of people are suffering and souls being punctured because of our poorly thought-out approach to relationships and dating, and I don’t think we should take it as lightly as we do.
A kiss isn’t just a kiss. It forms a bond that leads to something more. That’s how God intended it. But God also had a perfect plan for how that bond was to be manifest – in a way that would bring about the most long-term fulfillment to us.
Maybe it’s time we looked at dating through God’s eyes. Maybe we need to slow down and stop taking what might not be ours to have. If we did, perhaps a lot of bruised souls might be spared.