Is the faith factor playing against your love life? Let’s have a look at whether or not it is harder to date as a Christian.
Dating can be really, really easy for some people. They meet someone, a week later they are already in the “hanging out” phase, and then six months later there’s a ring or two involved. I’ve known quite a few couples in this boat where things have gone exactly like this and they’re still doing really well years later.
These are probably the few people who everyone wants to be like. Unfortunately, these are the minority that the majority wishes they were like. I know I wasn’t in this boat.
For everyone else, dating can be really, really hard.
My main exposure to the current state of the dating market is largely in Christian circles. I am super involved in church life and a large number of my currently single friends are Christians across various churches. And as people head into their late 20s, 30s, even 40s, and still not able to find someone they deem to be suitable (or someone who deems them suitable in return), it can be an extremly frustrating experience.
And you begin to wonder… is it harder to date as a Christian than otherwise? Is my faith causing me additional grief in the area of dating?
Well my short answer is… no. I don’t believe it is harder to date as a Christian. This is for the simple reason that the exact same complaints being made in the faith community regarding dating are just as loud and frequent outside of it. Take a look at Pew Research’s studies from August 2020 and look at the sheer percentages of non-religious people who say they feel they’re too busy, haven’t had much luck, or most depressingly, “feel like no one will be interested”. That one made me sad out loud.
Or the number of dating apps in active circulation making for many dating horror stories across all corners of social media and the Internet. Or the number of magazines, news sites, TV shows and movies honed in on dating at any age, from teen to elderly. One that comes to mind is the brilliant Single By 30 which I featured in 10 Realistic Movies About Love (Well, Realistic-Ish).
But I will say, Christians do face a set of unique challenges implicit (and explicit) to their faith in the world of dating. Whilst all people struggle universally with a number of issues, I thought it would be worth highlighting the issues that you may be thinking about as being an obstacle or perhaps you haven’t realised was a factor as someone looking to consider their faith in their relationships.
So let’s have a look at this. Is it harder to date as a Christian? Maybe.
The sex factor
I think in the ages of people most likely to be reading this that we can’t talk about it being harder to date as a Christian without discussing the sex factor. If you’re following the Christian ideal to the letter, you are probably dating without having sex in following the “no dingaling without a ringaling” approach.
All Christian dating books hammer this one. Looking at my bookshelf or the shelves of your local Christian bookstore on any pre-marriage book whether it’s from Myles Munroe to TD Jakes to Nicky & Sila Lee to Gary Chapman to Kevin Leman, even to the now controversial Joshua Harris and Rob Bell, Christian authors of all denominational backgrounds are fairly unanimous in putting forward saving it for marriage. More than this, every church that does a relationship talk, seminar, panel, forum or conference echoes this sentiment.
So, we get it, Christians are burning with desire but requested to wait, which is even echoed in Scripture outside of Christian “law” such as in Song of Solomon or even Job. Those of a “secular” persuasion are not bound by such a factor as they do not adhere to a faith doctrine, with the average number of dates from a 2017 Groupon study before getting hot and heavy being between 5 and 9. Given you’d be in bed with the person in the first month or two if you weren’t being a good little Christian based on that, this is a huge difference.
How you handle this probably dictates a lot of how your dating is going, as well as the extra pressure below the belt that’s driving just how long you’re going to be able to keep up the romantic parts of your relationship before you turn into hubba hubba.
So, what does this lack of sex mean from a practical standpoint? It usually means more internal sexual pressure and less attachment.
Once again, this is following the Christian ideal. It’s a good chance the people you’re considering have already been sexually active in the past (or currently), and how you’re going to approach that is probably just as important as how you view this dimension in your own life. You talk grace and truth – dating is going to be your ultimate test on how you apply both. To the people you date, but also to yourself.
And before you’re too heavy with your judgment hammer, I wonder how you yourself have gone in this area? You should be held to the same standard that you’re wanting to hold others to.
Christians tend to fall into two responses – treating sex as evil and just hating it, or having sex “too early” and feeling bad about it. Usually the first approach results in people avoiding dating entirely to avoid stoking any sexual feelings, and the second approach usually involves throwing themselves at it too quickly.
Perhaps the happy medium would be to embrace what the apostle Paul suggested in 1 Corinthians 7, that it is better to marry than to burn with passion.
In other words, moving towards marriage is the goal. Putting it off and completely neglecting dating or building intentional relationships with a special someone for years and years, or having super long dating or engaged relationships, is inviting additional pressure in this space.
If it’s on your roadmap, it should be in your action plan. You won’t always have success, but at least your part of the equation will be being filled. As Zig Ziglar said, nothing changes until you do.
It’s a good idea to have a mindset to be efficient at dating so you can ask the right questions and get the answers early, so when the sexual tension increases (which it will if you both like each other), you’re not staying in dating or engaged land for a time period well beyond the point your body and sensabilities can handle, and you can enjoy it in its proper Christian context in a timely manner.
A lot more emotional porn
I’ve written a lot about pornography and its impacts on people as it forces a real human to compete with a fictional ideal.
And as much as there is a lot of visual porn out there, there is a lot of emotional porn. Especially in and around Christian circles.
What do I mean by emotional porn in this sense? I mean that we pump up the ideal husband or ideal wife as such an impossibly unrealistically glorious level of existence that no normal human or person under 45 can actually compete.
It’s like people want the body of John Bevere with the arms of Craig Groeschel with the humour of Judah Smith with the financial acumen of Joseph Prince. No disrespect to any of these very successful and prominent ministers but people use these great men in their 40s and 50s as their measuring stick for who they should date when they’re 18, or 28. Substitute in the squeaky clean image or impression people get from their local female pastor for the image I think that guys contend with as the equivalent.
Probably about 10 years ago it was the character of Michael Hosea from Redeeming Love that many a Christian man had to compete with but I feel like Christian fiction books like these have died down in popularity. Perhaps instead they have been replaced by a conglomerate of all the Christian dating books you’ve ever read describing 300+ different excellent qualities in a partner, causing the ideal partner list to become entirely prescriptive, leaving no room for any variation from a perfect guy or girl you have constructed in your head.
These lists are great but I think we need to remember we need to have eyes to see them in a real person. You’re going to need to love a person more than you love the fantasy in your head.
Many people are works in progress and on their way to success. If you can’t recognise a faithful, successful man or a prudent, wise, powerful woman in your immediate age group to what sort of level is appropriate for their age then you won’t be assessing people fairly.
Now I am absolutely a huge fan of great men and women of God being put into leadership and being held up as examples for all of us to aspire to. But we need to be careful not to take the example and use it to eclipse all non-pastor level dating options, because there are a lot of great and eligible dating candidates who embody the principles of these people with lifestyles that look different.
A very high standard and set of ideals
See the emotional porn section above. I think I covered off most of the concerns with our use of Christian standards in assessing what sorts of people are eligible there, but just in case the P word scared you off and you feel like standards and ideals are getting in your way, have another look.
I think the other dimension here is that Christian dating ideally is for the end game of marriage. Our faith pushes us towards such a commitment. When people do not have any principle pushing them towards a long term commitment, the definition of success in dating is vastly different.
I know quite a few people who’ve commented that it seems harder to date as a Christian than it was before they became one. I implore such people to consider the goals for your dating now as opposed to how you approached it in the past. Maybe you’re doing better now than you thought.
Overspiritualising and not being able to distinguish feelings
How do you know when it’s God or you? What do you do when you get feelings around someone? Or you don’t have any feelings at all?
It’s harder to date as a Christian when you can’t make an accurate assessment on the role of feelings in your relationships. The truth is that feelings follow decisions, and they often make terrible leaders.
Fortunately there are several amazing Christian doctors and thought leaders in this space for more of a deepdive in the blend between faith and the science of the mind. Check out the works of Dr John Townsend, Dr Henry Cloud, Dr Caroline Leaf, and Brene Brown for help on matching up faith, feelings, and facts. All of these have an exceptional amount of free content and information on YouTube and their relevant social media pages.
Also, The Spark. The minority get it, and if you haven’t got it and you’re not careful, you’ll be waiting til the end of days for your feelings to magically change on their own. More in 6 Problems With “The Spark”.
Factors in church life
A few years ago I wrote a similar post to this one entitled Is It Harder To Date In Church? In it I had a bit more of a deepdive into the church specific (rather than Christian specific) factors that seem to affect people’s success in dating.
Overall though, I would argue here that it’s not the spiritual factor as much as it is the familiarity factor affecting a lot of dating. Many Christians rightly recognise the importance of being best friends with the person you date and eventually marry. However, it is a much shorter list of people I find who are actually willing to consider dating any of their friends. More on this phenomenon in 6 Pros and Cons of Wanting To Be Friends First
A poor understanding of predestination
Predestination is even more scary of a P word than porn to many Christians. We know it’s in the Bible, we know Calvanists have a view on it and we know that apparently everyone else disagrees with them so we just hide our heads in the sand whenever it comes up in the Bible study or the sermon series.
However, when we go to date people, our theology of predestination underpins much of our behaviour.
If we believe God destines everything without our involvement then we tend to become quite passive in our approach to dating. I have been very sad to see many great men and women who would otherwise be wonderful partners who are still waiting for God to bring someone their way because they want the destiny plan of God fulfilled by His hand alone. Decades have gone by and unfortunately all that has been accomplished is wasted idle time and many missed opportunities because they “didn’t feel led” when a really good opportunity came their way.
If we believe it’s all dependent on human effort then we make decisions negligent of our faith and may make decisions that take us away from things we are definitely called to in life. Called to missions or evangelism or building in churches but oh well the person I’m dating doesn’t care about any of that too bad. What eventually happens in these relationships where their directions were quite different from the start is unnecessarily high levels of resentment because you didn’t get to be the person you know you needed to be.
In truth, even John Calvin himself presented a more balanced perspective on predestination than either extreme leads us towards.
Romans 9 is a scary chapter to some but it shouldn’t be. It’s simply telling us that there are certain people and cases where God emphatically intervened in history to prove a necessary point. For everyone else though, we even see hundreds of time throughout Scripture that partnership is the way God works. Jesus called us to steward. David embodied faithful in little, faithful in much. Joseph demonstrated having a God given dream and committing to it in every season and location. Not just destiny, not just action – but both.
Faith without works is dead. What you believe has to align with how you behave.
And Christians are excellent at striking this balance in buying a house, looking for a job, or finding their next travel destination. They’ll pray, they’ll submit the decision and the process to God, they’ll consult Him all the way, but then they’ll research the market, they’ll get dressed up, they’ll go to interviews, they’ll put themselves out there, they’ll seek advice and get respected people who have success in that area to comment and suggest, and they’ll keep doing it until they achieve their goal.
But when it comes to dating, oh no I’ll let God do it all.
And then years have gone by and you’re blaming God.
But He’s probably up there thinking, well, I did tell you everything you needed. You have the right information, you have good godly counsel and advice, you are able to pray for peace and direction, and you’ve even had a lot of people come through your life who match the description of what you say you’re looking for, perhaps they even tried to ask you out.
In your love life, who is actually waiting for who?
If you keep a passive view of dating, then you’ll also likely be passive in your marriage, whereas Scripture reminds us that anything we aren’t faithful with we’ll either destroy or lose. We see it happen all the time how easy it is for one person to get the girl but then ruin her completely. Or vice versa.
What you do matters. It will matter when you get married, and it matters just as much before.
I firmly believe that if marriage is a dream in your heart that you want to see fulfilled, I believe God put it there and wants to see it fulfilled. I also believe marriage is God’s idea and one of the best ways for a person to feel valued and realise their full potential.
I fully relate to people who say that the journey of dating can be difficult. I’ve definitely been there. In truth I know very few couples today (maybe 10 or less) where one or both of them didn’t face challenges in the dating journey. But the reward of getting it right is so good.
So, is it harder to date as a Christian? It might be at the moment, but hopefully some things to consider so that it doesn’t have to be.