As a way to continue the conversations in The Biola Hour, we've invited Sam Gassaway to blog her thoughts after each episode. This is a response to Episode 31 on dating found here. Feel free to interact with Sam's thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter (@sgkay47).
Noreen Muehlhoff received some trademark gasps and celebratory whoops when she proposed one of the more controversial concepts floating around Christian dating circles today: non-pressured casualness.
Her idea was simple: the purpose of dating is honor, respect and growth. But alas, there is a skewed perspective with which she wages war when she guides Biola couples through relationship counseling—marriage is success.
We date for self-awareness and growth—or at least, we should. We learn how to care for people and how to be good partners as well as good people. More so, however, we learn how to show someone respect in conflict and pursue communication in times of hurt and misunderstanding.
“But that sounds just like friendship!” You protest.
“Well, yes,” Noreen would purport. “The only difference in dating and friendship is that dating has the potential to lead to a different status.” That’s the point. Take the pressure of expecting commitment and marriage off and boom: you have two people who are probably attracted to one another and want to get to know one another better.
And this leads to the concept of the “successful” relationship. Imagine, for a second, if we considered each of our interactions only in terms of failure and success.
Meet a friend at a restaurant for brunch, and the conversation is good and you tip the server generously: SUCCESS. Talk to your roommate about how their shoes smell like a rat died in them, and the two of you have a laugh as you present a can of complimentary Febreze: SUCCESS.
By a tall coffee from a Starbucks barista, and if you stutter or forget your wallet in the car: FAILURE. Forget plans with a friend, or worse, cancel because you have more homework than you anticipated: FAILURE.
If these seem over-analytical and a rather sterile way of looking at social interaction, I would politely agree. But this is how we have been conditioned to understand relationships, and specifically dating relationships.
Dating can be a way to develop and learn. It is not a failure if it neglects to result in marriage. The purpose is in encouraging someone, honoring someone, fostering your own growth and helping you see what kind of partner you need and what partner you will be yourself.
Thus, it follows that the process of dating should not incur the stress it currently does. Women should feel comfortable telling a man they find them interesting and wish to learn more about them. Men should not be threatened by this.
Men, if you are threatened by a woman asking to get to know you better, take a good long look at your own heart and see where that insecurity is rooted. Then, purify the garden of your soul and uproot that heinous and toxic mentality.
Women, if you only ever expect men to ask you out, maybe you should make your intentions explicit. Even more so, ask yourself some deep questions on why you believe it is his obligation to make the first step. Wanting to know someone better is not a sin—you’re not spitting on God’s plan for you by asking to get coffee with the guy who always happens to stop by while you are at work.
Generations of misunderstanding have led people to believe being alone with the opposite sex undoubtedly suggests a desire for commitment, sex, marriage or all three. Let me suggest: the FAILURE is in expecting anything but quality time learning and communicating with another human made in God’s image—wherever on the friendship-to-marriage spectrum you fall.