by Chelsea Connor Posted Feb 14, 2018
We celebrated Valentine’s Day this week, so we thought it would be a good time to bring up everyone’s favorite topic: dating! Specifically, we thought it would be fun to sit down with Pine Cove’s Chief Ministry Officer Craig “Dutch” Langemeier and ask him all the things about dating before marriage. He gave us some wise advice!
Q: Let’s start this dating conversation with the topic of singleness. What if someone is longing for marriage but not dating? How does this person wait well?
A: By entrusting yourself to a faithful God. This is an act of faith, especially if you’re in a spot where there’s not a relationship happening or no prospects for that. But just like in any situation of waiting, you can entrust yourself to the God of the universe, who knows what’s best for us and knows the timing of what’s best for us.
Q: What does spiritual leadership look like in dating?
A: Great question. With anything we’re doing—whether that’s in a career, in a relationship, in singleness—Jesus needs to be our one thing. When we are in love with Jesus at a heart level, and when we are fully devoted to Jesus and seeking Him, the overflow of that will be spiritual leadership. In a relationship it is better caught than forced.
Because of the biblical model of male leadership in a marriage, this can sometimes put pressure on a dating relationship or on a single female. For example, she might say something like, “I’m just waiting for someone to lead me spiritually,” when the responsibility inside or outside of marriage is to pursue the Lord with a whole heart.
It can be tricky because there are a lot of misconceptions about what this looks like. Spiritual leadership is modeled in Jesus’s life: by sacrifice in service and humility, and I think it is often confused in our Christian culture with strength, dominance, and opinions. But, if men led spiritually in relationships the way Jesus led, there wouldn’t be much confusion in this in dating.
Q: Is it important for my boyfriend/girlfriend to go to the same church as me?
A: No. This depends on the situation. It is an important aspect of a relationship to be able to discuss spiritual things, but you can be discussing those spiritual things no matter where you go to church. The question really is, are you both in the Word and submitted before Jesus?
Q: Do you have any tips for long-distance dating?
A: As a college student or as a young single, just trying to find time to be together is important. I’m a fan of living in the same city for a period before you get married. There are a lot of things you don’t see when you’re only seeing the best of a person on certain weekends. I wouldn’t say this is a law, but just general wisdom. You can definitely make it work with helpful tools like FaceTime and Skype these days, but just keep in mind that when you’re dating from a distance, you’re probably only seeing them at their best on a weekend when you’re together. But honestly, anytime you are trying to mesh two lives into one, it is going to be a challenge, whether you dated long-distance before marriage or not!
Q: Is it okay to have close friends of the opposite gender that I’m not dating?
A: Yes, it is okay to have friendships of the opposite gender who you are not dating, but I’ve always reminded my girls that nearly always someone falls for the other. It’s hard! Also, keep in mind, once someone does get married, your deep friendships with people of the opposite gender by necessity need to get shallower and less frequent. You’re messing with fire if you keep this into marriage!
Q: Should a girl always say yes to a first date?
A: No. Especially if you don’t trust them or their character! A girl doesn’t have to be highly interested to say yes to a first date, but she can say no if she has a clear reason. Reasons might be they are in different stages of life, he’s an unbeliever, he’s not in a good spot to be dating, she’s not in a good spot to be dating, there might be a lot of baggage on either side, or there could be plenty of other factors. But yes, there is freedom here.
Q: Do you have any “top tips” for purity in dating?
A: Josh McDowell, a well known author on this subject, reminds of this important truth. “An aroused hormone has no conscience.” Said differently, if you are trying to make purity decisions in the moment of temptation you will probably not have a lot of success. Sex before marriage will definitely create a sense of false intimacy. In marriage, sexual intimacy is the one way you connect with each other that you can’t do with ANYONE else. Keep this in mind! In a dating relationship before marriage, know your tendencies for your struggles (not just sexual things), and put some boundaries in place. For example, if you are trying to be healthy, but you have the tendency to eat all the chocolate you see, you make a decision to not buy the chocolate at the store so it’s not even in the house to tempt you. Make decisions to set boundaries in dating ahead of time to help you be wise!
Q: How do I know he/she is the one?
A: I don’t think there is any set answer here. I have known many people who felt like they knew on the first date. Others who thought they knew early but it eventually didn’t work out. And others who thought there is no way this would ever work and they end up together and have an amazing marriage.
Keep in mind through all of this that marriage is not about what you get, it’s about what you give. It’s more about dying to yourself and serving than it is about finding the perfect “one”. That might take all the “movie romance” out of it, but if you look at a biblical marriage, the ability to love that person is not dependent on how you feel. It’s about making the choice to love every day! Operate out of freedom and faith in this area. You choose someone with character that really loves Jesus! It doesn’t have to be all fireworks and butterflies.
Q: What are major red flags to be looking for in a person I’m dating?
A: There can be a lot, so I probably won’t list them all. Definitely watch out for character issues like trust and honesty, as this is a huge deal. Look at their relationship with their parents and friends. What are those like? Also, someone’s past decisions can be an indicator of future behavior. If someone has been manipulative/deceptive/dishonest, or he/she has the tendency to jump in quickly in a relationship and then breaks hearts, that is an indicator that should concern you. (Of course we know Jesus can change people!) But, it is very important to pay attention to how someone has behaved in the past. People can hide a lot when they are in a dating relationship, but past struggles will more than likely come out eventually.
Where is their first love? Is it Jesus or you? It can feel really good to be “on the throne” of someone’s life, but no one can carry that weight forever. This is a really dangerous spot to be in a dating relationship, because only Jesus can be on the throne and carry that weight.
There really is a lot to be watching for. This is one of the reasons we see Pine Cove relationships often work out, because we investigated a lot of the red flags for you! You’ve already got similar interests to invest in the lives of people for the sake of the Kingdom. I always say Pine Cove was the original match.com.
Q: Do you have any other overall dating advice?
A: If you are getting to the point of engagement, I really strongly encourage good premarital counseling, whether that is through your church or with someone else. The more potential issues you can talk through before marriage, the better! It might even be that during premarital counseling you figure out you are at an impasse. Talking this through before marriage will set you up so well. If you’re in the Dallas area, I really like the Merge program that Watermark Church provides, but any good premarital counseling is going to be helpful!