‘Date to marry’ or ‘Marry to date?’
I’ve heard this question asked lots of times, albeit in different ways. ‘How do you know if someone is the right person for you?’, ‘How long should you date before you get married?’, ‘Should you date at all?’, ‘Surely, if you know deep in your heart that someone is right for you, there’s no harm in going ahead and marrying them…?’
Both points of view have their advantages and disadvantages, which I hope to shed some light on. One thing worth remembering, however, is that every relationship is different and there is no ‘one size fits all’.
Let’s look at the first; ‘Date to marry’
Some people see this as the traditional way of doing things; you meet someone, go on a few dates, decide you like them enough to enter into a long term relationship, or courtship, as some prefer to call it. The point of this period is to see whether you are compatible for marriage. During courtship, you get to know more about the person; you see them in different scenarios, with friends and family and in different seasons of the year. You get to know their likes and dislikes, and if they have any annoying habits. The longer the courtship period, the more you get to know about the person. Somewhere down the line (maybe a few months, or perhaps, years), you decide that you know enough about the person to take that step towards marriage.
One major advantage of courting someone for a while before marrying them, in effect, ‘dating to marry’ is that there are no surprises when you do get married; you don’t find out something major about that person that you can’t handle.
You may also start dating someone and come to the conclusion that it isn’t going to work out because you are not compatible. This is a good thing; a broken engagement / courtship is better than a broken marriage.
There are however, some disadvantages to having a long courtship period. The obvious one is physical intimacy. The desire to get closer physically is sometimes one of the main reasons some Christian couples decide to get married sooner rather than later. If you love someone and are physically attracted to them, it is only natural to want to take that relationship to the next level physically. Having a long courtship period basically means that you have to wait longer, and not everyone is blessed with the patience to wait.
Another possible disadvantage (if you choose to see it that way) is linked to having children. Women have biological clocks and medically, the older you are, the less fertile you become. If this is something that concerns you particularly, waiting a few years before getting married can be challenging. On this issue, I try to remind people that God is the ultimate giver of children, and if His plan for you includes having kids, then, it will happen. It is also worth remembering that marriage is first of all about the husband and wife; children are an additional blessing.
Now, to the other side of the coin; ‘Marry to date’
Some people claim to ‘just know’ when they meet that special someone. For some, it’s the peace in their hearts. For others, a confirmation they’ve asked God specifically for. Whatever the reason, some people decide to trust their instincts or their gut feeling and just go for it.
The argument for this is that, sometimes, we over-complicate this whole marriage thing. Surely the most important thing is that the person loves God, you guys get along and you have some things in common. Being physically attracted to the person obviously helps too. So, if you’re prayerfully searching and you meet someone that ticks the right boxes for you, why not trust that God is guiding you and take that step?
There’s also the school of thought that says that you’re never going to fully know someone, no matter how long you date them, so you may as well take the leap of faith, sit back and enjoy getting to know your husband or wife in the wonderful institution of marriage. In effect, you start the ‘dating’ process, whilst actually being married. Sounds all romantic and exciting doesn’t it? Well…
The obvious disadvantage of the ‘marry to date’ philosophy is that you could be in for a shock when you get married. Suddenly you realise that he burps every time he eats, or that she picks her nose when she thinks no one is watching. Or better still, he can’t cook to save his life but expects a freshly cooked dinner on the table when he gets home from work every day! Hmmm…
If you marry someone without taking the time to get to know them, without seeing them in different scenarios, with family and friends, at different times of the year (yes, some people are different in the winter compared to the summer), you could be in for more rough patches than you care to count.
Those against the ‘marry to date’ idea will also tell you that marriage is too big a decision to make without adequate and thoughtful consideration, which takes time.
But, others will argue that if you are walking with God and being led by His Spirit, you can ‘just know’. This may sound crazy to some people, but is not at all crazy to them.
Where do I stand in all of this?
I personally believe it is crucial that you get to know someone as much as possible before getting married to them. Even when two people are right for each other, you can never underestimate the importance of taking the time to get to know each other. During the courtship phase, you get the chance to ask each other questions and discuss your dreams, and plans for the future, amongst other things.
But like I said at the beginning, every relationship is different, and what works for one may not work for the other. We’re all different individuals, and as Christians, I believe God leads us in different ways.
So, what do you think? Date to marry or marry to date?