“Don’t date until you’re ready to get married.”Every Chastity Speaker
I have been dating an awesome girl, Phoebe, for about a year-and-a-half now. My relationship with her has brought me closer to God and made me a more virtuous man. If these past few months have taught me anything, it is this: I was NOT ready to get married when I met Phoebe.
Oh my goodness, if I had married anyone at that point in my life, even the most patient, saintly girl ever (which also happens to be Phoebe), I would have royally screwed up that marriage. Not because I was mortally sinning or being a huge jerk, I just didn’t realize all of my wounds yet.
You learn a lot about your own brokenness in a relationship. This isn’t something people like to talk about. This past year, I’ve started to see my rough edges, and that’s not fun. Even small things like when Phoebe comes over and I haven’t done the dishes and there’s a shirt on the couch.
I can be impatient, I can be selfish, and there are wounds from my childhood and past relationships that I thought were healed, but I was actually just avoiding them. I’m probably more wounded by my past sin than I even know.
So when someone giving dating advice says, “Don’t date until you’re ready to get married,” I get a knot in the pit of my stomach and fear starts to creep in. Should I even be dating? I haven’t addressed all my flaws yet…
For a lot of high school students, this advice is good and fixes a short term problem. If you tell a sophomore, “Dating is to find the person you’ll marry,” they’ll likely freak out a bit and avoid a bad relationship with someone. But in the long term, I think advice like this is harmful.
It puts pressure on relationships if you go in thinking “I could marry him/her.” It also puts pressure on us as individuals. We psyche ourselves out and think, “Should I date this person?? I’m not ready for marriage and I have to be ready for marriage if I’m ready to date, so I probably shouldn’t go get coffee with him!!”
(This isn’t an exaggeration. Roughly eight of my friends said this to me in college.)
What does it mean to be “ready” for marriage? I used to think I was ready for marriage because knew marriage is “a full, faithful, fruitful, and total commitment of a man and a woman for the procreation of children and the good of the spouses.” But knowing what marriage is didn’t make me ready.
Being “ready” for something means to be fully prepared for every circumstance that will come your way. If that’s what readiness is, then no single person is “ready” for marriage. Every marriage is different because every person comes with their own baggage, wounds, expectations, hopes, etc.
I wish I could make a simple list about how to date for marriage or prepare for marriage but I can’t for two reasons. One, because I’m not married (duh). Two, because there are very few absolutes in relationships. Some people have little rules like, “Don’t go to the movies on the first date” but these things can’t be applicable to everybody.
The one thing I do know that will help you be “ready” for dating or ready for marriage is this: Every day, commit to become better at sacrificing your desires for others. We should stop telling young men and women to “be ready for marriage” and tell them to learn how to sacrifice for each other.
Ultimately, this is what the Christian vocation is. To love like Christ loved us. The only rule for dating is to love like Christ and find someone else who will, too.