A good friend of mine asked me some time ago last year if I was dating. I honestly replied in the negative. She was taken aback. It sounded awkward. Another mate I had back in elementary (he was quite boisterous) was rumoured to be having a dating relationship with three ladies. Surprisingly, he felt good about it when confirmation was sought, claiming it to be a necessary evil.
The issue of dating relationships has kept swirling time and again. Many have expressed varied opinions on the subject and it has been a cause for controversy and much debate. It has been discussed at length during relationship talks at our various parishes, forums and friendly associations and it almost never appears to be conclusive. What I have personally observed is that we love to talk about it, but somehow we fear to delve into it.
Dating relationships have become embedded in modern society as a result of the ‘hookup culture.’ This is basically where a young man meets a young lady at a social gathering or an outing, have a little chit chat, and finds the other party desirable for a brief sexual encounter, then gives in straightaway. That postmodern culture has contributed massively to the constant and ever pervading desire to engage in a dating relationship.
The stripped dignity of womanhood to a mere tool of self gratification through the mass media has also facilitated this trend. Women are employed almost in every venture; advertisements, music videos, movies, cover magazines and even businesses to exhibit what makes them physically attractive and sexually suggestive. They have been turned into only what can offer immediate pleasure. Our modern society has arrived at a standpoint where what really and mostly sells is sex. So we see women only for the external which ought to be exploited and nothing more.
A false sense of emancipation by women of our generation has deepened the hunger for dating relationships. A young lady presumes that for her to fit into our society and to make people bow to her and not be trampled upon makes it necessary to change her outlook and manner. She goes in for what will make her more sexually appealing. In her sense of fashion, what is best suitable and commandeering is what is hot and sexy. Facial cosmetics are employed to greatly enhance their beauty to the extent that they become a different person without makeup. The manner of speech and actions are made to suit the norms of seduction. By these methods, the young lady feels powerful, is welcomed in the popular society and hardly realises that she has embraced an illusion.
We have become weak in mind and heart. Lost all self restraint “like a city broken into and left without walls (Proverbs 25:28).” Modesty both in mind and body has become obsolete. And so, unable to muster control of our inordinate passions, we find it easier to feed rather than starve them. And somehow we deceive our selves and shut our consciences so as to avoid feeling the guilt of our actions not divinely inspired and its consequences thereof.
Let us consider these points so that we can actually come down to whether or not we should engage in dating relationships and when;
1. What actually motivates a person to start a dating relationship?
2. What does one seek to give or receive in the relationship?
Some people genuinely presume that since they know that they will marry someday, there is no harm in dating, so for them, it is a by all means necessary venture. But I ask, have we known the mind of God and His will yet? Do we have any control of the future? If there is no readiness to marry, there is absolutely no reason good enough to go into a dating relationship.
The objections mostly stated are that one should not wait since it may get too late in finding a life partner. Ever realised that we pray to God asking for guidance and wisdom in everything other than in intimate relationships which we prefer to use our discretion instead? So we simply lunge forward and attach ourselves to anyone we find some level of connection. That assertion of being smart and proactive is borne out of nothing but fear and lack of complete trust in the infinite goodness of Our Blessed Lord who in His wisdom is able to “give us all things. (Romans 8:32).”
Seeking to find a sense of fulfilment, to appease one’s hunger for companionship due to isolation or to satisfy a craving sexual desire is a recipe for disaster if that is what a person hopes to receive in a relationship. If only what a person can give in a dating relationship is their resources then it becomes a trial and error. And it is a diabolic mindset if one hopes to satisfy their sexual desires. For the pleasures of the body lasts but for a while, but the soul perishes for eternity. It is wise and best not to “stir not up nor awaken love until it please. (Song of Solomon 3:5)”
We need to develop intimacy with God since He desires intimacy with us in the Holy Eucharist. Because of this intimacy, He comes to us under simple forms of bread and wine. He hides his awesome glory that we fear not to approach Him in Adoration. Why? So that He can make us who He is and grant us all we need to fulfil His will! We need to make the best use of time at our disposal to grow in devotion to God; nurture our virtues that we may become men and women of value; frequent the Sacraments and attend Mass devoutly, make visits to the Blessed Sacrament, pray and read holy books that we may be people filled with holy fear and show forth God’s glory. That is finding total fulfilment in the One who made our hearts and placed in us His divine love without Whom we become restless and unfulfilled.
We should make it a habit of being silent before God and to listen to His voice; discern His holy will for our lives so that we will accept and act accordingly. It keeps us from making unnecessary and irreversible commitments. This is wisdom.
We can learn to build healthy friendships with people of both sexes and maintain a sense of loyalty to them with no attached strings; treat them with great respect and care for them in the love of God. There are times where people have assumed that I have had intimate relationships with members of the opposite sex. They say so because in their eyes I treat them quite the way they would treat their dating partners. It is obvious and possible then that one can keep friends and yet make them feel loved and respected.
Through these, we understand that our love for God and in obedience to him supersedes that which we can give to any human. And the wonderful aspect is that we begin to attract people who are exactly what we become and radiate. So we are able to share God with others and give what is valuable, spiritual and lasting.
We learn how to be unselfish and love genuinely in the spirit of self giving love in imitation of Christ’s and not that which is merely emotional, vain and empty of the love of God. We become better suited and prepared for a lifetime union with the one we decide in harmony with God’s will for the rest of our lives in holy matrimony.
Dating on impulse with no Godly inspiration gives so much room for sensuality and false commitments because it is not grounded in God but on a mere necessity as we may believe. It can lay hold of a person such that their circle of friends, habits, interests and extent of association become influenced. There is also the lure of giving much of one’s time and energy to the other; an obligation to put in more coal in the hearth to keep the intimacy burning. It can make a person struggle to wholly commit to God and to love Him more perfectly.
To explore and have fun under the pretext of dating without any real intention to be united in holy matrimony is rarely beneficial. Since it is built on a foundation of eroticism, it becomes fragile and not genuine. It even becomes a haven for the diabolical when it is satiated with giving sexual favours for clothes, cosmetics, money and other material gains as a source of benefit.
We must learn to take hold of ourselves, break away from the hookup culture which is very diabolic and the spirit of modernity. The Church thrives because she refuses to move with the times and hence moves the times. So should we as young people muster our passions and practise self restraint. Starve those affections rather than feed on them with the false notion that God is merciful and will understand the millenial age. We cannot live a life of mere illusion which can warrant temporal and eternal consequences.
I will conclude by citing words from an anonymous picture quote I found on social media which read:
DATING WITHOUT THE INTENT OF GETTING MARRIED IS LIKE GOING TO THE GROCERY STORE WITH NO MONEY. YOU EITHER LEAVE UNSATISFIED OR TAKE SOMETHING THAT ISN’T YOURS.