Whereas We Get Married so We Can STOP Dating

You pick up a lot of material by reading re-tweets and Facebook posts. If you ever need a reason to go on some kind of a rant, I highly recommend starting with one of these two social media elements.

One of the latest to catch my attention was a post by blogger Jarrid Wilson called “I’m Dating Someone Even Though I’m Married”. He starts off with a wonderful description of the girl that he’s “dating” before cleverly confessing that this girl is, of course, already his wife. It’s a little corny and obvious, but he is doing so to make a point.

The problem is that I’m not exactly sure what that point is. I think he is attempting to say that spouses should “pursue” one another in a positive way, by continuing to make one another a priority and treating one another in special ways. We should continue seeking to know more and grow closer to our spouse throughout the marriage.

I’m afraid the point that comes across is that marriage should maintain those same “butterfly” moments that we get in a dating relationship. It seems to glorify the giddiness of dating, and implies that the feeling of dating should be the same in marriage. The idea is a nice one, but it also happens to be completely unrealistic.

I don’t mean this to be insulting towards Jarrid Wilson because I don’t know him at all. I’ve read a few of his blog posts that I liked and checked out the bio on his page. He’s a young seminary student who appears to be fairly recently married, and I see no indication that he has children. He also needs to be a little more careful about handing out marital advice.

Wilson attempts (I think) to make the point that guys should treat their wives well, appreciate them, not take them for granted–all good things, right? The problem is that he equates these things with a dating relationship, and maintaining the same elements of dating as they go into marriage.

Wilson says, “Way too many times do I see relationships stop growing because people stop taking the initiative to pursue one another“.  There is certainly truth here. But then he continues to say, “Dating is a time where you get to learn about someone in a special and unique way. Why would you want that to ever stop? It shouldn’t. Those butterflies you got on the first date shouldn’t stop just because the years have passed”.

After 23 years of marriage and 15 of pastoral counseling, I have witnessed the evidence that way too many relationships stop growing because people are pursuing those “butterfly feelings” instead of pursuing a marriage.

Look, I get it. We tend to get lazy, especially the guys. We forget to “wine and dine” our significant other, forget to appreciate the good things we have. Worse yet, we refuse to change or get help after it’s brought to our attention that we’ve neglected these things for far too long. Taking one another for granted is a recipe for marriage fiasco.

But the answer to this is not to maintain some one-hit wonder cheesy love song relationship, because that will fade almost as fast as a one-hit wonder cheesy love song. Marriage is not a romantic comedy where people can fall in and out of love in 88 minutes, and there are always happy endings. Marriage happens in real life, in real time, and it is real and raw and joy and pain.

And I wouldn’t trade if to go back to dating in a million years.

I don’t want a relationship where I have to spend every minute as if I’m in a job interview. I don’t want to have to dress up every time that we’re together and worry about every word I say and get scared to death if we go out for mexican because I’m worried about the post-meal intestinal backlash. Wilson says that dating is where we go to learn about one another. We learn some things in that relationship, but marriage is where we go to BE with one another.

It is the place where we can be the most real, the most vulnerable, the strongest, and the weakest. It’s not a place where we walk away when the butterflies are not as strong as they used to be. Instead, it is the place where we stick together to work it out even when life just gets in the way. While we cannot let life beat us down to the point that we don’t appreciate our husband or wife, we also cannot go into marriage with the naivety that life changes and jobs and children will change how we interact in our relationships. It will certainly change from our dating days.

And that’s the somewhat frightening thing about this article, or others like it. My fear is that reading how marriage should be like dating is setting people up for unrealistic expectations.

Unfortunately, we exist in a world where marriage “wisdom” comes from seminary students who have been married for 17 minutes, have no children, and perpetuate what they’ve heard from the latest Youth Ministry Sex and Dating curriculum.

I don’t think Wilson is trying to pass himself off as the latest megachurch pastor who has decided that he is qualified as a sex therapist. Or following the latest pastoral trend of referencing a “smokin’ hot wife” from the pulpit (a slightly creepy, rather narcissistic and largely objectifying tactic).

I think effort here is much more innocent, but not necessarily less damaging.  I saw this blog posted and retweeted among young adults and older youth who may be on the verge of long-term relationships and marriage. If they are listening, then it’s absolutely critical to be careful what we say on this subject.

Ministers offering themselves as marriage experts and sex therapists borders on unethical. Personal experience is relevant in discussing marriage, but it is not nearly as relevant as long-term experience, training, and education.

We have some training, experience and accumulated knowledge about marriage; however, we are NOT full-blown relationship experts! (Some are less expert than others). Our main skill is listening and helping people talk through their issues rather than telling people what their marriage is supposed to be.

Yet, people listen and pay attention to what we say on the subject.

This is why the Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:2:  “Preach the word…with GREAT PATIENCE and CAREFUL INSTRUCTION.” It is also wise for us to LISTEN to those who preach the Word with that same patience and care.

That’s also why Wilson and the rest of us need to be a lot more cautious about what we say on the matter marriage and relationships. Especially when “speaking” on the internet. Young people who are just married or hope to one day be married are paying attention.

By venturing too far into areas where we are not experts or even well-educated, we risk doing more harm than good.

No, marriage is not dating. And I don’t want young women and men to look forward to a marriage full of moments that are like the Senior Prom in Pretty in Pink. (Yes, that’s an 80s reference–insert the high school movie from your particular era here). In reality, my senior prom pretty much stunk, I didn’t marry the girl I took, and I rarely ever think about it.

At least I married the girl I SHOULD have taken to the prom.

But marriage and relationships are often that way. Things happen in our lives that stink, and they don’t turn out the way we planned. Mature relationships learn to move past those things and seek something greater for the journey to the future.

We don’t prepare for that by hoping that we’ll still get queasy when we look at our spouse 23 years down the road. We prepare for that by seeking mature relationships with Christ and others, rather than trying to re-create our dating days.

“But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice…”  Hebrews 5:14.

I’ve had enough of dating. I’m glad to be married. Our relationships would be a lot better if we stopped trying to date our husbands and wives and worked on learning to be married to one another.

Keep in mind that dating is supposed to end, but marriage is supposed to last a lifetime. It’s more work, but it’s also a lot more meaningful.

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