It was subtle, but it was there. I caught what was being implied: If I dated more than one person before I married, I was compromising.
An implication that “failed” relationships took a piece of the heart, a piece that could never be taken back. An implication that I could never fully love my future husband if I went out with anyone else before him.
The same language is used for sexuality, but it was stretched to include emotional attachment. As a teenager I was thoroughly confused by how I was supposed to get to know someone (without becoming emotionally involved)…then guarantee that the relationship would end in marriage (all without being emotionally involved). It didn’t make sense.
What didn’t make sense to me as a teen still doesn’t make sense today—because it’s nonsense.
Love is a risk. Always. You cannot guarantee that ANY relationship will go the way you hope, because all relationships are with flawed, sinful people. This is the nature of love! God Himself took the ultimate risk (guarantee, really) to be grieved by the sin of mankind. Yet over and over we see Him offering Himself, lovingly, to people who reject and wound Him. Any human love will risk the same—including in dating relationships.
Christians struggle with this because the secular dating model is extremely flawed. It confuses sex and love constantly, equating the two, and often using sex as the prequel to committed love, instead of vice versa. This is not God’s way.
But God’s way doesn’t guarantee you’ll marry the first person you date, either. The Christian model for relationships is based on sacrificial love: willingness to set aside OUR desires for the betterment of the other person. We save sex for marriage because covenant always precedes intimacy in God’s world. We honor one another because God has called us to show love and respect. But even when we do everything “right,” a Christian relationship might end. Breakups happen. Does this mean we’ve failed?
The “piece of pie” analogy leaves no room for redemption. With this narrative, dating more than one person before marriage leaves you with a heart no longer able to love—a heart “given away” too many times. And while we SHOULD use wisdom when entering relationships, dating more than one person before marriage does not automatically make someone a poor candidate for wifehood. It can actually teach you a whole lot about yourself and relationships—two things you need for a solid marriage.
Much of this depends on the person and the nature of the relationships they were in; there are people who do not date well, who are toxic and ungodly, and who DO bring extensive baggage to their marriages. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m pointing out that dating more than one person before you choose “The One” is neither sinful nor damaging if done in a God-honoring way.
I dated several people before meeting my husband, and so did he. Each of those relationships taught us profound truths about ourselves, drew us nearer to God and directed us into a more robust spiritual life. The ending of those relationships eventually led us to one another. God redeemed things that were not ideal and not always beautiful because that is who He is: a Restorer.
We should not preach a message that is clearly not Scriptural out of fear that people will abuse their freedom. Instead, we should disciple one another into a strong faith in God, which will in turn lead young women to make WISE dating decisions, not dumb ones. Those decisions may still end in breakups, but those breakups will lead them nearer to Christ. That’s what the Spirit-led life looks like.
Maybe you WILL date and marry only one person. That’s wonderful! But the girl who doesn’t do that has as much hope for a wonderful marriage. God is amazing that way. Redemption is no respecter of persons; Jesus makes all things new. Even the things we never thought could be restored.