A wiser, God-honoring approach involves first establishing the groundwork of friendship, which allows opportunity to explore each other’s character, commonalities, background, and spiritual commitment.

dating marriage or friendship-21

This pattern tends to ignore the shaping influence of the family and the family’s (often) constructive role in giving input about a prospective spouse.

Furthermore, a dating culture, which is becoming increasingly sexualized, does not first focus on establishing friendship and the exploration and discovery of solid character, habits of faithfulness, the ability to resolve conflict, and other factors that contribute to stable marriages.

As I note below, friendship should be the building block for potential growth in romance later on, since dating relationships face the ongoing temptation of physical and emotional intimacy.

Furthermore, if entering and breaking exclusive relationships becomes a pattern during adolescence, it can be emotionally poor preparation for marriage—in addition to increasing sexual temptation.

Maybe they’ll call each other “BFFs” and watch movies or have dinner together, but they do so in a detached way—as though their sexual identity doesn’t matter.

All the while, lines of propriety get blurred, resulting in unhealthy and often unintended emotional attachments.

But without deepened commitment and ultimately marriage, keeping such friendships detached from commitment (platonic) will lead to frustration and hurt.

An occasional date to a homecoming banquet or spring prom—particularly with a group of friends—can just be a fun time for a bunch of schoolmates to hang out together and nothing more.

The other, more common extreme is to plunge into a physically involved, romantic relationship.

This approach reverses the proper order of things, which should involve getting to know someone and building a friendship before engaging in physical expressions of affection that should be reserved for committed relationships.

What are some constructive ways of building healthier, more God-honoring patterns of relating?