Thoughts on: Dating and Community

I was on my way home from Yankee Stadium the other night when I witnessed the perfect exchange to illustrate some things I’d been processing.

As I walked up the stairs of my subway station, I overheard two guys talking beside the entrance. They were probably in their late twenties, and it seemed like they’d been friends for awhile.

One said to the other, “Dude, we were all rooting for y’all. Are you sure you didn’t see anything working out?” He wasn’t angry with his friend, just surprised and maybe a little sad.

I didn’t hear anything else, so it’s possible that I heard things out of context. However, this type of exchange, as I mentioned above, is one I’ve considered.

Why? Because “dating in community” can be a tricky thing.

Not only does one consider his own emotions and those of the person he’s dating, but he’ll also—in some form or fashion—be “forced” to reckon with the emotions of his friends. (Well, he will if he brings his significant other around “the crew.”)

Now, you may be asking, “Why does this matter?”

It matters because most people either long to be in a relationship (and may not know how to process those feelings) or are in a relationship and want to help their single friends.

With that said, I’ve listed a few questions that may commonly get asked amongst groups of friends, and I’ve responded (in some cases fairly generally) with some thoughts that I'd share if/when these questions get asked in my own friend group.

I recognize that I have limited personal experience from which to draw. That said, I’ve also referenced some Biblical texts and insight from other resources I’ve read. If you've been following along my past dating-related posts, you may recognize a line or two. 

Questions about any of this? Please comment below or email me directly.

“WHY DO PEOPLE DATE?”

Simply put, we date for companionship, to have “a person.” This is true for me, but furthermore, I see dating as the evaluation process for marriage. If I don’t see marriage on the table, then it's a good sign to seriously consider motives for being in that relationship and/or break up.

(See Genesis 1:28 and Proverbs 18:22)

“HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO DATE?”

Often times, I hear people talk about a “spark” or “connection,” which sounds nice but also vague. However, with my being a romantic, I can’t deny the desire I have for that to be true for me too. If we say we’re dating for companionship, then a connection seems obvious. Right?

“WHAT IS A ‘CONNECTION?’”

Many things can lead to a “connection:” common interests, friends, location, line of work, etc. My “connection” parameters certainly align with some of those categories; but as a Christian, I’m praying for my companionship to be rooted in ministry partnership. Hopefully, who I date (and then ultimately marry) would be 1) pursuing a relationship with Christ, 2) serving the church community she attends, and 3) willing to do that in partnership with the person she dates/marries.

(See Proverbs 31, 1 Corinthians 15, and 2 Corinthians 6)

“HOW DO YOU AVOID BLIND SPOTS?”

These may look differently for everyone. It could be physical attraction or some type of educational pedigree. It also might be the “well, this isn’t how I ever thought things would go, so I’m not interested” mindset. 

While I haven’t dated too much, I look at this question and answer it the same way I would for any other area of life. Specifically, I consider: 1) how I’m praying about the relationship (potential or actual), 2) how my friends are responding to what I’m saying/doing, and 3) how would a potential introduction to my family go down. (Note: don’t read this as Drew’s the guy who’s already thinking about the “family introductions” at the start. It just shows that family is important to me.)

Another thing to do is date in community.

“WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ‘DATE IN COMMUNITY?’”

Dating in community, at least to me, means that you’re pursuing a romantic relationship with another person while letting your friends actively keep you accountable. It also alludes to the fact that maybe a guy and girl would be friends (in a larger group) before anything romantic happens.

This phrase gets thrown around a lot, at least in my city circle. Some people are afraid of it, and others crave it. Admittedly, I probably fall somewhere in between.

“WHAT ABOUT IF THINGS DON’T WORK OUT?”

This is a big question that only brings more questions. If it doesn’t work out, will your friends abandon you? If it doesn’t work out, will you have another chance, with that person or someone else? If it doesn’t work out, will your friends still care for the other person and treat her with respect?

These are real questions. And while I don’t have complete answers to them, I will say that it will all be okay. Yes, this sounds cliche, but it's true. It's true because the Lord sees you where you are (in singleness and in dating), and he loves you deeper still. And if this is true, then you can take the risk and trust that you'll be okay.

“I’M IN A RELATIONSHIP. HOW DO I HELP MY SINGLE FRIENDS?”

  • Care for them by inviting them into your lives, for quality time in small groups and large ones.
  • Care for them by caring for your significant other; your single friends need to see that. 
  • Care for them by setting them up when you know someone who could be a match, but don’t "helicopter parent.” 
  • Care for them by not letting them hide in the shadows of loneliness and grief.

“WHAT ARE SOME THINGS TO PRAY AS IT RELATES TO DATING?”

  • Pray that we would find identity in a greater source than another human. For me, that’s God.
  • Pray for your own growth and maturity and for wisdom.
  • Pray that you would “become the person you’re looking for is looking for.”
  • Pray that you would be able to surrender your feelings of fear, insecurity, and idolatry.
  • Pray for purity, healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.