Cover Story

Christian boy meets Christian girl

"Christian boy meets Christian girl" Continued...

Issue: "Dating and courtship confusion," June 4, 2011

There's the dilemma. Some guys will only ask a girl out if there's a high degree of probability it will end in marriage. But some young women hate that pressure: "Saying yes to a date is not saying yes to a proposal." College senior Susannah Foote felt that pressure. She is coming off a failed relationship: "It would have ended earlier without all the pressure. . . . You can't hang out. You go from zero to 100, or people will talk."

While guys wait to find Miss Right, some girls "guard their hearts." College freshman Alexandria Nogy didn't date in high school because she didn't see the logic of it. Dating for recreation: No. Investing time with marriage as the end goal: Yes, "otherwise it doesn't lead to anything productive." Maintaining "emotional purity" isn't easy, and sometimes girls get into heart relationships despite their best efforts to monitor their thoughts.

PHC student Hannah Farver invested: Now she is "coming off a failed relationship" and a realization that some of what she formerly preached about courtship doesn't work. Since she didn't believe in "casual dating," she had to be either emotionally separate from the guy, or engaged to him: "If you are dedicated to emotional purity, you are afraid. You either risk nothing or you risk everything." We talked about which Jane Austen book captures what she's trying to say: She suggested half Sense and Sensibility (because of Eleanor's emotional reserve), and half Persuasion (the waiting and waiting), but "without any chance of a happy Austenish ending."

Those who advocate courtship take pains to say that some people have carried it too far and made it legalistic. Brett Harris, one of Josh Harris' younger brothers, is 22 and a PHC junior. He's thoughtful as he critiques contemporary American culture's corrosive effect on relationships.

First, he defends guys who don't initiate. They have real fear of rejection, he says: "They give their heart, and girls spit on it and throw it away." He sees a bigger problem with guys afraid to commit because they are overwhelmed by all the choices. There will always be someone more beautiful, more godly, more intelligent: "We can get caught up in the comparison game." With the choice of a date tantamount to a choice of a mate, Harris says there might always be a better spouse "out there," so people are afraid to settle: "Girls may say they are waiting for a guy, but they are waiting for a particular guy to take initiative."

To get that particular guy to take notice, Nestor and Arevalo at the University of Texas say that girls often resort to "tricky girl things," meaning they find out if a guy is going to be at a particular activity, and then make sure they are there. They find out what time he's arriving, and happen to arrive at the same time: "They end up a default stalker and feeling pathetic."

Or as Catherine Ratcliffe explained, "We feel we are intelligent women with deep thoughts . . . mature and competent in how we handle our relationship with God, and our academics, but in relationships, it's like the Disney Channel." She observes the pressure to have "intentional romance" and concludes, "Now we just need romance."

How do some couples navigate dating/courtship obstacles and make it down the aisle? What can churches do to help them persevere? That's the subject of part two, in the next issue.

Read Marriage and Relationships, Part 2.

Susan Olasky
Susan Olasky

Susan pens book reviews and other articles for WORLD as a senior writer and has authored eight historical novels for children. Susan and her husband Marvin live in Asheville, N.C. Follow Susan on Twitter @susanolasky.

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