“Only date someone you would consider marrying.”

This is oft-given advice. On the surface it makes sense. I’m sure every time it has been given out of purity of hope. But how do 18-year olds know who they are so they know who they would consider marrying? How do 21-year olds know who they are so they know who they would consider marrying? Or a 25-year old? Or a 32-year old?

Obviously this question is more easily answered the older someone gets. Mostly because the person knows who he or she is the older a person gets. We don’t expect 18-year olds to truly know what they want out of life. Or 21-year olds. Why would we expect them to know what type they think they want to marry? I’m sure they have a list of the kind of person they think they want to marry and dreams of their wedding day (and for girls, a huge Pinterest page of wedding ideas) but all of this does not equal knowing who they are yet to know who they are a match with.

And then there are those tragic relationships of someone believing this person is his/her type to marry so he/she stays in the relationship to “fix” him/her at whatever cost.

I subscribe wholly to Dr. Henry Cloud’s stance that you don’t date to lead to marriage. You date to find out who you are and who you want to marry then. What? I will repeat that again:

You don’t date to lead to marriage. You date to find out who you are and who you want to marry then.

Dating is more about learning what you need and want and can trust. Dating is an activity to get to know someone, do something fun, and with no pressure.

No pressure? I hear you say “what?” again. The pressure is put on when you think the person you are dating is someone you would consider marrying. Now that coffee date is no longer just coffee but becomes the first of a supposed grand love story that will supposedly end with a love for a lifetime. That is pressure. Dating should be a wonderful time to find out about other people and what they are like. As well as finding out about yourself and how you need to grow and change. I call this brave dating.

I know. Dating also has so many negative connotations. So much heartbreak has happened from dating. So many bad memories. For some, dangerous situations have arisen from dating.

Also in the midst of the “hook up culture,” dating seems to be outdated. I bravely surmise that to actually date someone is still desired by many. And there are many good men and good women who desire that love for a lifetime but are genuinely stumbling in their attempts to find that. May they all find these articles so we can do some matchmaking!!! Not that I am in the business of matchmaking. I feel called to challenge single adults to rethink their dating practices and to coach them along the way. I have a lot of opinion about  Christian dating

Here is a truth that is true to the core of my being. I’ve been married for 20+ years to a wonderful match. This has been a good marriage after 18 years of dating. If I followed the rule of dating someone whom I would consider marrying, I would never have dated John. I had many good reasons to not date John—that is all a part of our story that delights everyone when we tell it. Yet I had this stance toward dating–brave dating is finding out who you are. 

After John snuck in an ask for a date (brave man!)—and caught me off guard with it (because he was so not my type)—I went on the date with this spirit of adventure and learning. What more can I learn about this guy? What more can I learn about myself? I learned a lot. John learned a lot. After a long friendship, I decided he was a guy I could marry. He so definitely was not that in the beginning. If I had never given him that random chance, I never would have found this great match.

Dating is an adventure–mostly an adventure in finding out about yourself. It takes bravery. But the risk is so worth it. There is no simpler joy than being in a great match of a relationship. That’s your heart desire too, right?

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