Monday, March 13, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Two - Part Three

Let's see if I can remember what's happened so far in the chapter.  First, we were horrified by a creepy-as-hell rose analogy for emotional purity.  Next, we learned that Christians marry non-Christians because of dating with a variety of nonsensical reasons to support that assertion.

The next section attempts to tackle explaining why dating is still wrong if both parties are Real Christians (TM).  She has various paragraphs dedicated to explaining why God is opposed to dating of which one stood out to me:

"Most young people plan to date a number of individuals in order to get to know a variety of people-- then pick the best one to marry. What they fail to realize is that the process that forms bonds begins with the very first relationship. Then the break-up process is very painful. In other words, the world's way involves the pain of separation. God's way involves no separation." (pg. 37)


There are so many problems:

  • The first sentence makes dating sound like shopping for a used car - go to a dealership, drive a few cars, look for dings then purchase the one you like the most.  That's not how dating works! .   For people looking to marry, people don't usually get to start a bunch of potential long-term relationships in a short time, bail out of each of them, then go back to the one you liked best and tell that person that you really want to start the relationship again.   A better description would be sequentially moving through relationships with potential partners.  Some relationships are short encompassing a date or two before the relationship is ended; others last for months or years.  
  •  Dating has a wide spectrum of options running from "enjoying a short-term romantic relationship with no expected strings attached" to "beginning a relationship in hopes of finding a long term relationship spanning years or decades" - but I've never seen anyone pull of the idea Ms. Mally has successfully.  (I'm trying to imagine going back 10 years later to a guy I went to a single dance with in high school or college - my version of no expectation dating - and saying "Hey, I've dated a heap of guys since we broke up and I think you're the best!  Let's get married."  I don't see that ending in a wedding....)
  • Humans form bonds.  Most humans form bonds very easily and experience pain when those bonds are broken.  I've been feeling sad for a few days around writing this post because my son will be leaving the NICU soon.  I am so very glad he is coming home - and I am sad because I've made many friends among the staff at the hospital he is at.   Arguing that dating creates bonds that are more painful than any other kind of bond is silly; I'm finding saying goodbye to the people who kept my son alive and supported my husband and I through these hard months more painful than the break-up of many of my short-term dating relationships.  
  • All things this side of heaven will end.   Even the most perfect courtship that ends in a happy, harmonious marriage producing a phalanx of children and lasts 70 years will end when one spouse dies.  God never promised a separation-free life; only help to survive the hard times.

Now, we move into how Sarah Mally understands dating in real life.   She bases her beliefs on her personal experiences of watching people date in school prior to her family's introduction to home-schooling.  This is an interesting choice since Ms. Mally left her Christian school at the end of fifth grade where most of her classmates would have been 10-11 years old.

Allow me to paraphrase the anecdotes:
  • One of Sarah's friends was boy-crazy in fifth grade according to Sarah.
  • Sarah went to a weekend retreat when she was 13 with other young teens.  The other teen girls she was with spent most of the weekend talking about who liked whom.  This bothered Sarah.
This sound remarkably similar to my memories of junior high at a Catholic elementary school. In fifth and sixth grade, we girls were extremely interested in the boys; the boys were completely clueless and disinterested in us.  In seventh and eighth grade, the boys became much more interested in the girls.

Really, the only difference between my memories and Ms. Mally's anecdotes is the spin each of us place on them.  I look back at those times fondly; we were all pretty confused but very enthusiastic about romantic interests.  Ms. Mally remembers those times as people going off the deep end and away from God.
"All this dating seemed foolish to me the time, but looking back on it now, it seems even more silly. And not just silly-- dangerous. It was almost like a big game: Date. Have fun. Break up. Date someone else. Have fun. Break up. None of these kids were considering marriage, so what was the goal of their dating? In Scripture, we do not see any examples of couples pursuing romantic relationships except for the purpose of marriage. I would assume that most of the friends I met this Christian event 13 years ago are now married. Do you think they're dating experiences over the three-day event are benefiting their marriages today?" (pg. 40)

  • Dangerous is far too strong a verb to use here unless she has an actual anecdote about how one of the people referenced before ended up dead or severely injured by early teenage dating.
  • The kids were far too young to get married - but they were gaining skills that would lead most of them to marriage someday.  Skills those kids were starting to acquire include:
    • Reading and sending non-verbal cues to show interest in potential dates
    • Communicating interest or disinterest verbally
    • Thinking of and executing interesting activities with a romantic interest
    • Evaluating their personal enjoyment and satisfaction within a relationship
    • Managing personal relationships within a larger community of peers.
    • Navigating break-ups on both the personal and communal level.
    • Learning coping mechanisms for strong emotions like infatuation and disappointment.
  • Some percentage of "courtships gone wrong" stories occur because young adults are diving into romantic relationships with marriage as a goal before they've learned the skills that most people start picking up by observation or by practice in adolescence.
  • The sentence " I would assume that most of the friends I met this Christian event 13 years ago are now married" struck me as filled with oddities.
    • Ms. Mally is not in contact with any of her "friends" from junior high.  I had one close friend from junior high who I stayed in contact with until she passed away as an adult.  I've stayed in sporadic contact with about half of the 40-odd kids I was in the same grade with between K-8th.  By sporadic contact, I mean we are either FB friends or I have run into them somewhere in the last 20 years.  
    • Since I kept in light-weight contact with my classmates, I can safely state that around 25% of them were married by age 26.  No one married prior to 22 or 23 to the best of my knowledge.  Half of us married between 27-30 and about 20% married between 30-35.  The handful of folks who have not married yet are in long-term relationships or have been in long-term relationships.  I bring this up because CP/QF books on courtship/dating often over-estimate the number of human beings who marry young - and thereby add to the level of anxiety for women who are unmarried in their mid-to-late twenties.
  • No, Ms. Mally, I don't think your friends's marriages were irreparably harmed by their forays into dating as a young teen.  In fact, their marriages occurred in no small part to the fact that your friends were learning skills that made finding their spouse easier for everyone.
Ms. Mally explains she's following God's way by waiting for God to introduce the right person in her life and by keeping her parents involved when she starts courting.  This is presented as ground-breaking and revolutionary when those two ideas are pretty common among people who are dating.  I always figured that if God wanted me to be married, I'd meet someone who I wanted to marry and who wanted to marry me.  Ms. Mally and I differ in how much initiative we allowed ourselves to take.  I signed up for online dating; she is waiting for her prince to appear among people she knows.  Likewise, my parents are good people and want me to be happy.  I trusted their opinions highly when I was dating since I knew they had my best interest at heart and wouldn't interfere unless they saw red flags in a relationship that I missed.

The final hurdle to jump in this chapter is the sensible question of how young women will meet eligible men if they don't date.  (For me, the bigger question is how young women will meet anyone if they are home-schooled, home-churched or part of a small, isolated denomination, and do not work outside the home.)  Ms. Mally assures readers that they don't need to date to find out what a person is like:
""You are probably acquainted with dozens of boys whom you are sure that you would never marry. And do you know what? You didn't have to date them to find that out!" (pg. 41)
  • That is some horrible advice.  In fact, neither my husband nor I would be here if our ancestors followed that advice.
    • My mom and dad met for the first time when Mom helped her older brother move into his college dorm.  Mom was 16, completely stuck-up and obnoxiously preppy.  Dad was 20, told horrible jokes and was in full-on-hippie mode.  In short, Mom and Dad found each other completely repugnant when they first met.   In spite of that, they found each other far more interesting when they met again two years later.  They fell in love and got married at 22 and 26 respectively.
    • My husband's maternal grandparents met when Opa was standing with a friend of his on a bridge when a boat passed by them.  On the boat was a lovely young woman who was amply endowed.  Opa nudged his friend and asked if he knew the name of the young woman "with the great tits".   His friend did know who the young woman was.  She was his younger sister - and his friend was not amused.    He refused to give Opa a ride home from the dance they were going to and warned his younger sister about his pervert friend.  This lead to her avoiding Opa for several months.  And yet, they've been happily married for over 60 years having moved from the Netherlands to Canada followed by the US.
That, my friends, brings us to the end of Chapter Two.  The next chapter is titled "Guard Your Heart".  I'm sure we are in for some great times.

On an unrelated note, my son is going to be coming home soon.  I am going to try and publish two posts a week - Monday and Fridays - but my energy level may not be up to that for long.  I do promise, though, to come back someday :-)

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