Sharing spiritual intimacy with someone while you’re dating can be tricky. On the one hand, you need to witness your boyfriend’s or girlfriend’s walk with the Lord in such a way that you can be sure he or she is showing spiritual fruit (i.e., signs of godliness and true repentance), displaying spiritual growth, and if you would want this person spiritually leading you (or following you) for a lifetime. On the other hand, dating is a time when you are simply getting to know a person who interests you. To go on a date with someone is not to commit to loving and caring for him or her for a lifetime.
Years ago, I heard a college professor’s wife tells us girls that when a boy invites us out for a burger, it does not mean he’s committing to feed us for the rest of his life. There is no lifetime commitment during the dating phrase of a relationship, so it’s important not to bond spiritually in the same way you would if you were married.
Two people in a dating relationship are two very single people. It doesn’t always feel that way because dating couples often like to combine their lives to appear as though they are married (e.g., keys to each other’s apartments and cars, combining their finances, never seeing one without the other at family gatherings, etc.). Some couples even wear wedding bands before they get married as a signal to the world that they are together.
But the truth of the matter remains that before two people are joined in covenantal matrimony, (i.e., made a vow before God where He recognizes a man and woman as husband and wife) they are single in God’s eyes. The emotional intimacy that comes from intense spiritual connection is not intended for unmarried couples.
When an unmarried couple engages in sexual activity, it bonds them together emotionally and spiritually – but, not in a healthy way because sex was created by God to be shared between a husband and a wife within the bounds of a covenant together. When the couple breaks up, it rips their hearts emotionally because they created a bond between them before their relationship could handle it (i.e., in the shelter of the covenantal marital bond).
When a couple bonds themselves together spiritually in a way that only married couples should, breaking up can rip them apart emotionally for the same reason. There is a level of intimacy that comes with spiritual bonding that a dating relationship is not equipped to handle. Married couples need to bond spiritually because they are now teammates for life. Since we believe that God created marriage for His glory, it makes sense that He would want married couples to become a strong, spiritually connected unit so they are equipped for the work He has for them.
Creating a deep spiritual bond with another person makes it much harder to part ways even when parting ways is in both parties’ best interest. When I was a teenager, I had a lot in common with the guys I dated. We lived in the same town; we went to the same church; we had a lot of the same friends; we were in the same stage of life. With so much in common, why would we ever have been worried about breaking up? However, sitting here fifteen years later – after college, after moving to a different state, and after realizing my interests and life goals – it is clear I would not have been a good match for them. We’ve chosen different paths and God is leading us in different directions.
Had I become deeply bonded with any of these guys spiritually, it would have made breaking up that much more gut wrenching. In fact, we may have chosen not to break up. We may have decided to just “make it work” even after realizing we had different callings and dreams. Too much spiritual bonding during the dating phase of a relationship places too much pressure on a couple who is just getting to know each other.
It may be important as well to reference back to our post where we define what we believe are the differences in dating and courting.
As this series continues over the next couple weeks, we will discuss various spiritual disciplines (e.g., reading the Bible together, praying together, etc.) and we’ll discuss safe levels of spiritual connecting for those in dating relationships!