Written by Rachel Ramey
Before I really delve into this, I need to clarify a couple of things. First of all, “traditional dating” is kind of a vague concept, and not everyone will define it the same way. That brings me to my second clarification, which is that this post is specifically intended to address points raised by Mr. Umstattd in the blog post referenced above.
Your brand of “dating” may be different than described here; if that’s the case, and my comments aren’t relevant to it, then they aren’t intended to apply in that situation! When I get to the last post of this series, I hope a good deal of discussion will open up about pros and cons of various methods. (Which is not to say you can’t comment here. I welcome comments on all of these posts! I just have left the part that most obviously lends itself to open discussion for last, after we finish laying a bit of a foundation.)
The primary point that Umstattd raises in favor of what he calls “traditional dating” is that its very casualness and accompanying lack of exclusivity provide an innate protection against temptation.
“The lack of exclusivity helped the girls guard their hearts and kept the boys from feeling entitled to the girl. How could a boy have a claim to her time, heart or body if she was going out with someone else later that week?”
“Each decade added more exclusivity, intensity, and commitment to dating and saw a subsequent rise in temptation and promiscuity.”
“proposed solution involved adding even more commitment, exclusivity and intensity, the very things that lead to the problem in the first place.”
“The commitment, exclusivity and intensity of dating is what lead to temptation and compromise in the first place.”
He even goes so far as to suggest that “traditional dating” is God’s way out of temptation (as per 1 Corinthians 10:13).
“Where sin abounds, grace abounds more. I understand Grace to be the power of God to do the will of God. The power of God is greater than the power of our sexualized culture. …This is not the first time Christians have lived in a sexualized culture….In each of those generations God provided a way out. I believe that for our generation that way is Traditional Dating.” (emph. original)
When he lists his “Advantages of Traditional Dating,” this is once again the first point raised. (I’ll get to the others in a moment.)
“Less Temptation – It is hard to fall in love with Bob on Tuesday when you know you are going out for coffee with Bill on Thursday. This lack of emotional commitment leads to less physical temptation. Less temptation leads to less compromise.”
The primary problem I see with this theory is that it employs a sort of “tunnel vision” in viewing the changing culture. It is a significant observation, I think, that getting too committed too fast can lead to issues. That’s one of those concerns worth raising for discussion! But he has honed in on this change in our culture’s dating norms, while overlooking other (very significant) changes.
Our culture has made a shift to a great “possessiveness” earlier in the course of a relationship, but I’m not sure it typically qualifies as “commitment.” (I suspect this hearkens back to a desire to “belong” – another issue worth discussing as a problem in our society.) But in our culture at large, there seems to be less commitment, and varying degrees of exclusivity. Unfortunately, regardless of the level of exclusivity, we still have high physical expectations. (As a culture.)
It is pretty well expected that a first date will involve a kiss. It often involves heavy kissing. And not infrequently, first dates in our culture even include intercourse. This is true whether or not there’s a commitment to the relationship over the longer term. That’s a far cry from a typical first date in 1935!
I am not suggesting that everyone reading the original blog post is likely to go out with plans to have intercourse on the first date. What I am pointing out is that this is not 1935. The entire cultural setting is different, so the “casual date” of today and the “casual date” of the 30’s cannot be viewed as synonymous. There may well be just as much pressure to get emotionally involved with “casual” dating today as with courtship; more likely there will be a good deal of pressure to get physically involved with “no strings attached.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider that an improvement.
I agree that we need to look for ways to avoid the trap of making everything about close emotional ties before a young man and young woman are ready for that, but I don’t think this is that way. (I also suspect that how we define “date” can play a notable role here.)
The next “advantage” offered for “traditional dating” is “more interaction.” The strong implication here is that having to talk to a girl’s dad is off-putting and, therefore, is singularly responsible for young people’s lack of dates (or any courtship-related equivalent).
“More Interaction – I know many homeschool girls who are frustrated that they never get asked out on a date. …The real reason is that few guys are willing to ask permission from a woman’s father to marry her before being able to ask her out on a date to get to know her. Even when this permission is requested, it is unlikely to be given.”
Well, maybe. I think it’s a given, going into this series, that there are people taking courtship to an unhealthy extreme. I don’t dispute that. When dealing with these extremes, it is probably true that some young ladies are “held hostage” to overbearing regulations. But given that the original article didn’t claim to make a distinction, I think we need to ask ourselves whether this applies across the board. And I don’t believe it does, at all.
I know many homeschool girls who are frustrated that they never get asked out on a date. I know many public school girls who are frustrated that they never get asked out on a date. Some of their dads require that a guy ask his permission before taking his daughter out. Others don’t. Most of the time when they do, if the guys haven’t asked the girls out yet, they don’t even know that’s a requirement yet, so that hasn’t played into their decision at all.
Sometimes guys just don’t ask girls out. This has been a fact of life since…pretty much forever. Maybe they’re shy. Maybe we’re not raising our boys or girls with confidence. Maybe it’s a matter of the right person not being in the right situation/setting at the right time. Maybe the guy is not comfortable asking a girl out until it “means something” and he’s not ready yet. The point is a girl not getting asked out isn’t necessarily all about her dad. (I’d venture to guess that it usually isn’t.)
If you have been rejected by a bunch of dads, it might be worth asking yourself why. Maybe they really are that nitpicky, but maybe not. Maybe you’re going after girls who aren’t a good fit. Or maybe you really do have a problem you need to deal with. It’s probably worth asking yourself if there’s something you should be fixing on your end, rather than just assuming that the fathers of every single girl you’ve ever had an interest in are power-hungry household dictators.
Maybe so. Maybe not. This is a pretty subjective thing and, frankly, it’s going to vary a lot based on the specific situation. I don’t think this is readily quantifiable. Certainly it isn’t quantifiable based on the “evidence” (or, rather, lack of evidence) in the post.
I’m sure there are some courtships that ultimately end in heartbreak. There are others that don’t. On the flip side, there are dating relationships that ultimately end in heartbreak, and others that don’t.
“More Marriage – Let’s face it, most married people got married because they dated first.”
Um, yeah – and most people who graduated from high school graduated because they attended an institutional school. That doesn’t mean homeschooling or tutoring don’t work. It’s a numbers game: there are more people in the United States who attended institutional schools than those who homeschooled, so equal results would produce higher numbers of those who graduated from institutional schools.
The logic on this one is sorely lacking.
The rest of the content with regard to this “advantage” is more speculation, generalization, and unsubstantiated claims.
Even if a higher percentage of those who dated ended up married than those who courted, that’s still not the full picture. We’d have to examine what percentage stay married. What percentage are happily married. Whether those who “courted” and did not get married would have married had they dated, and vice versa.
This is probably the most important claim to consider as we examine this whole question. Something designed to result in marriage is clearly not effective if it doesn’t ever result in marriage! We need to consider whether it’s effective! But the post really doesn’t answer this question. It takes some speculation and a small segment of the anecdotal evidence and makes a definitive claim based on those things.
We need to ask the question…but then we need to look for real answers based on real facts.
This supposed “advantage” of “traditional dating” is highly subjective. Who decides what’s fun? By whose definition of courtship is it inherently not fun?
More significantly, though, it’s largely irrelevant. I believe God appreciates us having fun, but that’s not the most important thing in life. There is no biblical command to have fun. There are no notable biblical principles that suggest our lives need to be fun. The Bible is clear, though, that godly marriages are something God desires.
So it’s important that we consider whether our methods are likely to lead to godly marriages. It’s not so important that we consider whether they’re fun.
(Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting that they have to be inherently not fun! I’m merely saying that this consideration should not be near the top of the list.)
“More Matchmaking – Modern Courtship doesn’t really have a mechanism for matchmaking. How can there be blind dates if the man must first get permission from a father?”
I’m not really sure why blind dates are the standard here. It’s actually not impossible to set up a blind date where a man has spoken to a woman’s father first. (A blind date is “blind” to her, not to everyone around her. Isn’t an arranged marriage a blind date, in a sense?) But a blind date is not necessarily desirable, either – at least not for everyone.
I’d venture to guess that fewer than half of the married people I know ever went on a “blind date” (and probably very few of them met their spouses that way.) They still got married, because there are plenty of ways to meet people!
I’m not really sure how the author expects that people meet other people, in a typical, non-courtship, cultural setting (especially given other comments he made about groups, etc.) The majority of us met our spouses through the normal course of living our lives. Either they were people we naturally encountered by doing business, attending school or church, interacting within our communities, etc., or they were introduced to us by others we encountered by those means.
Nowadays there are some who met through dating services and the like, but that is definitely not a throwback to 30’s-style dating!
More League Awareness?
“More League Awareness – Not everyone has the same level of attractiveness, character, intelligence and wealth. Parents tend to see their own children through rose-colored glasses. …It is easy for “no guy to be good enough for daddy’s little princess”.”
Again all parents are painted with a broad brush. I’m well aware of my children’s strengths and weaknesses. My daddy was well aware of mine, too. We all have a reasonable perception of where we fit into the grand scheme of things, thankyouverymuch.
Just because a parent can have a blind spot in a given area doesn’t necessarily mean a parent must have a blind spot in that area. And courtship doesn’t create this problem, nor does dating fix it. It’s independent of both. Plenty of parents think their kids can do no wrong – and plenty of these parents are quite mainstream.
Suggestions for Singles (or for Single Men)The following suggestions are all made either for single men or for singles in general.
“If she says you need to talk to her dad first, just move on to the next girl. Don’t let the fact that some women have controlling fathers keep you from dating the girls with more normal families. There are a lot of fish in the sea and some dads are nicer than others. Remember that this man would have become your father-in-law, and controlling people tend to control everything they can. So avoiding women with those kinds of fathers can save you a lot of heartache down the road.”
“Do what your grandparents did and go out on dates with lots of different people before going steady with any of them.”
“Don’t marry the first person you have feelings for.”
Is there biblical precedent or principle for any of these? Of course there’s no command in the Bible to date or marry a girl whose dad asks to meet you first. But there are no biblical principles (that I’m aware of) in support of any of these recommendations and I can think of a few these seem to fly in the face of.
Honouring older men, honouring our parents (and encouraging others to live out biblical principles – like honouring their parents), following God rather than man, not awakening love before the proper time, guarding our hearts, treating other men/women like brothers & sisters, honouring one another, etc.
If these recommendations don’t clearly violate principles like these, they at least fail to prioritize them.
The general sense I get from this whole section is not, “I fear we’re failing in our desire to please God by embracing courtship; this set of guidelines I’m laying out is, in my estimation, a much more effective means of honoring God,” but, rather, “Do what feels good.”
Next: Misconceptions, Concerns that Aren't (Always) Legitimate Concerns - Part 5