Zu Magazine is a publication of Zu Media. Below is an article from Issue 2: Contentment

Staff Writer | Katrina Williams

A great deal of individuals, especially in young adult Christian circles, feel the pressure to look towards marriage when dating. Date for a spouse, or don’t date at all. This kind of “date for a soul mate” idea encourages shame towards the idea of anything casual.

Contrary to popular Christian belief, casual dating may actually be a positive route to consider. It can become a way to learn about yourself, and learn to love others through a method that most young Christians do not seem willing to explore.

Casual dating is not necessarily for everyone. But, it paves the way into a new way of thinking; one which many Christians have always been told to condemn. Pastors, psychologists and research have shown that it might just make you more content.

Nicole Unice, author of “Brave Enough: Getting Over Our Fears, Flaws, and Failures to Love Bold and Free,” wrote an article for Relevant Magazine explaining two types of dating that exist in the Christian universe. The first is “ideal spouse dating.”

“This [ideal spouse dating] involves judging a potential guy or girl for the 38 qualities you are looking for in an ideal mate — before even grabbing coffee together,” Unice said.  

Our qualifications for a future spouse puts pressure on the people we date, which may often lead to disappointment and discouragement.

The second Christian method is for those who find ideal spouse dating intimidating and/or overwhelming. These Christians simply avoid dating altogether. According to Unice, this type of dating spurs a lot of hanging out, which ultimately leads to confused and mixed feelings.

Instead of pursuing the two avenues of Christian dating — dating for a spouse or avoiding dating altogether — it might be time to change your perspective. According to dating experts like Dr. Aesha Adams-Roberts, casual dating could be the solution.

Instead of looking at what you want in dating, or pointing out the flaws in another individual, Adams-Roberts explains that you can focus on making sure both you and the other person walk away from the date better off, “even if you don’t ever see each other again.”

Instead of using dating as a means to find your fantasy person or fulfill your dating requirement list, contentment can be found without the pressures of hitting the bullseye on the first shot.

“That tall, handsome guy who does mission trips every summer may be good on paper but a horrible partner, and casual dating can reveal that before you become emotionally invested,” Adams-Roberts continued.

For many Christians, the question becomes: why would God put somebody in my life if we aren’t meant to be? With all the pressure to follow God to your future spouse, it is hard to understand that dating just for fun can be acceptable.

Publisher, journalist and professional blogger Hannah Ettinger wrote an article titled, “Christians take Dating too Seriously,” where she condemned spouse dating.

Hettinger believes that many Christian people are convinced that it should be easy to get things right in relationships “because they have Jesus, so it should be possible to find your mate quickly/early on without dating around a lot.”

This mentality causes young Christians with failed relationships to experience self-shame and insecurity. In the midst of a breakup, Christians might believe they misinterpreted God’s plan for their lives, however it might be to time to rethink this interpretation.

According to Hettinger, Christians should not feel shame when serious relationships do not work. Dating does not always have to be serious and marriage-focused.“Maybe it can just be getting to know people and yourself. Maybe it can just be enjoying a person for who they are,” she said.

Even if Christians do accept short-term dating, there are some difficult aspects and consequences that come with it. Pastor of Gospel Life Mission Church, Tom Hwang, published an article about the consequences that come with these relationships.

“It almost feels like a ‘sin’ for Christians to break up because like a marriage, ‘they should’ve tried to make it work,’” Hwang said. “And usually after a breakup, Christians are expected to take a one-year vow of dating celibacy — otherwise they’re shady for moving on too quickly.”  

Because dating somebody for fun is uncommon in the Christian world, those who casually date might be seen as outsiders. This judgement is something that individuals have to be prepared for when they decide to date casually.

“God can use the dating process to heal some things in you, build up your relationship toolkit, and prepare you for the marriage you want,” Adams-Roberts said.

She explained that attempting to date casually might be against all that you currently understand about dating. However, you can potentially come to understand things about yourself that you may not have known otherwise.

Casual dating isn’t for everyone. But, for many it can afford an opportunity for healthy exploration and introspection, and ultimately aid in learning about what a beautiful marriage could look like.