Thoughts on Dating for 1st Gen Christians
Here are a few thoughts on "dating" for Christians from broken families or a less than ideal Christian community...
I see three major stages the occur along the journey from “acquaintances” to “engaged” for many modern Christians (i.e. 1st Generation). I’m sure you could splice them and create more. Some people love complexity. I prefer to keep it as simple and flexible as possible. These are broad categories. It works kind of like a funnel that increasingly narrows. As you work your way down, there are fewer candidates and the intensity and intentionality increases.
Stage 1 “Interested but not exclusive”
This is where interest towards possibility of something more mere friendship has been made either explicitly or implicitly. You might grab coffee or go to an event together. This may be one time. It might be several times. But the intensity is low. It is more a getting to know you phase than anything.
Is there something here? Is there chemistry? Is this mutual? Is this a possible candidate for marriage? Consequently, there is no need for it to be formal or exclusive. You can be “seeing” multiple people in this sense all at once. The key is you don’t lead someone on. If “it” isn’t there, you back out.
Generally, the courtship crowd requires the permission of the father to even enter into this stage. I see that as often unnecessary and even unhelpful. It dials up the intensity. It can obligate the daughter to see someone she isn’t interested in. It also gives hope to guys who don't have a chance and would do best to look elsewhere. It turns what could be a single “date” into multiple dates.
Stage 2 “Interested and exclusive”
This is where mutual interest, general shared commitments, and chemistry has been established. The question being asked is if they could be A marriage candidate (that’s been established) but rather if they are THE candidate. Therefore, you stop “seeing” all others and dial up the intensity. Here you dive deeper on all things.
What is his/her family like? Do they like you? Is it a total mess? How much in common do you have not just in the general issues but secondary issues? Is he crazy controlling? Does he have emotional control? Is he just a dreamer or is he a doer? Is she disrespectful? Is she unwilling to follow a man’s lead in even small things? Does she desire motherhood? Does she have a lot of debt? Etc. I think this is the most important stage. Therefore, I think consulting your parents before becoming exclusive is advised (not required). However, it all comes down to age, life stage, and familial relationships.
Stage 3 “Engaged”
This is where you have mutually established that as far as you both are concerned you are THE candidate for each other. However, you still need the approval of the broader community: parents and the church. This stage exists as a heavy check before vows are exchanged. Chances are this really started somewhere during Stage 2.
P.S. This assumes that you are only dating professed Christians (sincere is ideal but sometimes you can tell at first) and taking steps to avoid fornication.