To some readers of this post, the very title is absurd—of course it’s not wrong to date more than one person before settling down with the one God has for you! But though our culture has normalized serial dating, Christian culture has done the reverse. In an effort to “guard hearts” and promote purity (both with good intentions), Christian culture puts a lot of pressure on young people to marry the first person they date.
This isn’t said in so many words. It’s insinuated with analogies about emotional purity and “sticky tape” hearts given “one too many times” before marriage. We’re told our future marriages will be hampered with comparison and discontent if we date more than one person. Yet this kind of pressure makes that first relationship far too serious, too soon.
So is it really wrong to date several people before meeting your spouse? I don’t think so. Here’s why.
It’s Not a Sin to Date More One Person
When we make extra-biblical laws—e.g., “You should only date the person you marry”—we need to get to the heart behind the rule we’re following. Where is this found in Scripture? Since the Bible doesn’t contain a book on dating, we must look to God’s context for relationships and romance.
From Scripture we can deduct several principles to guide our relationships:
- Love is a choice and an action before it is a feeling (1 Corinthians 13). Therefore, our dating relationships should not be flippant and shallow, disregarding the lives involved.
- We should make every effort to stay in peace with other believers (Ephesians 4:2-3). This means that serial dating and breaking up, moving quickly from one relationship to the next for selfish purposes, is not God’s will for our lives.
- However, not all relationships are meant for the long term. Sometimes we need to separate from bad company (Proverbs 13:20).
So is it a sin to date more than one person? I don’t see this having a precedent in Scripture. What would be more concerning is a lifestyle characterized by serial breakups. This points to a heart issue far deeper than dating relationships: insecurity and dependency on man instead of on God.
No Relationship Is Wasted
If we can date more than one person before marriage, how do we respond to a breakup? What was the point of a relationship gone sour?
Breakups serve many purposes, not the least of which is our own spiritual growth. Through our breakups we learn more about ourselves, others and God. We determine where we need to improve in our own lives and what to look for in the lives of others. We shift our focus off the present and onto the sovereign will of God.
No relationship is wasted if you lived it to the glory of God. Sometimes God is most glorified when a relationship ends, whether His glory is revealed in the peace both parties have at the conclusion or through what you learned in the process.
Be Okay With a Date Being a Date
When we pressure our relationships with the need to marry the first person we date, we stop being our most genuine selves. We start viewing brothers in Christ as prospects, acting as husband-hunters instead of sisters in the Lord. Not only does this hamper our dating lives, but it also colors our conversations with ulterior motives.
We need to be okay with a date being just that: a date. It may grow into something more, or not. It may end in a breakup. But if you live it out for the glory of God, those days are not wasted. Those dates are not wasted. Each relationship we engage in teaches us something we take into the future—including into our future marriages.
So is it wrong to date more than one person? Not in and of itself. What matters is the motive of the heart. Walk by the Spirit of God into the will of God, and each step you take only brings you closer to the heart of God Himself.