Why do the Christians I date let me down?
One of the things I hear more than I would like to are stories from Christians who say how upsetting their experience of dating a Christian was. While it’s true that no-one is perfect, some dating decisions in church cause a lot of hurt and are unloving. We need to talk about it, and we need to: Say It Isn’t Okay, Tell God We’re Angry, and Talk About Wider Fulfilments.
Whilst I am giving talks on dating and relationships, I naturally get to chat to people after the talk, or beforehand while I’m setting up. People are often keen to share their experiences, ask questions and ask for advice.
This is a real privilege. It’s great to be able to offer help, support, and enable them to see how they can make godly decisions in their situation.
However, some also share their bad experiences and open up about their past hurts. This is really important and it’s vital that they do this, and talk about it openly and honestly, even though some stories are heartbreaking.
People are often so relieved that they can finally share their challenging dating experiences with someone in church, and really talk about the reality and struggles they face.
One time, a woman I spoke to said that she was dating someone for a few years. He was a Christian and involved in leading a church, and they were discussing marriage. Then one day he just said it was over and gave no real reason or closure. Two weeks later he was dating someone else.
I remember chatting to a guy who really liked this woman in his church, and she would lead him on and say she was interested then date someone else. This happened a few times, and he felt hurt and angry about the situation.
I also remember giving a talk once about how to build healthy dating cultures in church, and one woman said ‘Well the guys in here treat us worse than the non-Christians, so what’s the point?!’
These stories are heartbreaking.
Dating is complicated and confusing, but you would hope that Christian dating cultures would involve more respect, kindness, and selflessness. You would hope that it’s somehow different, but this sadly isn’t always the case.
When you add online dating to the mix, it seems to get harder. People interacting, sending keen messages then going quiet. Not getting as many responses as we’d hoped for. People having different expectations when it comes to acceptable behaviour online, and being let down as a result.
So how do we make sure dating is different in church and Christian circles? How do we address the fact that sometimes Christians are hurting their fellow Christians through their dating decisions?
We Need to Talk About It
We can’t unpack this question fully, but we can focus on taking the first step and realising: We need to talk about it.
In some churches no-one talks about dating, so people who get hurt feel like they can’t mention it or ask for help. Or dating is spoken about through rose-tinted glasses, and any tough situation is seen as going against God’s will somehow. So again, they can’t talk about the disappointments.
Well, I believe that we need to talk about it. I would argue that there are 3 things we need to remember:
- Say It Isn’t Okay
- Tell God We’re Angry
- Talk About Wider Fulfilments
1. Say It Isn’t Okay
I always say that no-one is perfect. Dating isn’t about finding a perfect person, but about two flawed people committed to making it work. In all circumstances we need to show grace and forgiveness.
However, this doesn’t mean that when someone really causes a lot of hurt it’s okay. Or that it doesn’t matter.
We need to say it isn’t okay. Maybe to our ex directly, maybe via a private online message, maybe to our mentor/church leader, but at the very least we can say to ourselves and our friends that it was out of order. It shouldn’t have happened.
Dating is hard and can sadly lead to us getting hurt. We’re allowed to say it can hurt. It doesn’t make us bad people, it doesn’t mean we somehow went outside of God’s will. Something happened which shouldn’t have.
So, say it isn’t okay when someone we trusted let us down.
2. Tell God We’re Angry
We also need to be real with God. He doesn’t want us to hide things from him. He wants an authentic relationship with us and wants us to talk to him and be honest.
If we feel let down by someone we didn’t expect, in a situation where we may even have thought this could be the person I will marry and God is in this, it can be devastating.
We need to be honest. We need to say to God what we really think and why. But also, be willing to listen to his response as well.
3. Talk About Wider Fulfillments
Nothing I say will give a foolproof plan. Dating, online or offline, involves people and it can involve disappointment.
We can’t stop that, but we can make sure things are in place to help us if we go through a tough time. In our dating situations, or any situation really.
That’s why no matter what our relationship status is, we need to be investing in friends and family. Investing in hobbies that bring us self-confidence and self-worth. Investing in community projects and ministries. And investing in our relationship with Jesus.
Our fulfilment can’t come from just one person we like.
When our fulfilment is wider than one thing, one date, one person, if something goes wrong then we will have support and know that our identity is rooted in wider fulfilments. We will be better equipped to keep some perspective. It will still hurt, and be rubbish, but we hopefully won’t feel as lost.
I realise dating is messy, and there isn’t a perfect answer. But I think in church many bad Christian dating situations can go unchallenged, and those who are hurting can miss out on much-needed support. Especially if we use online dating and the problems aren’t easily seen or understood by others.
Imagine if we addressed the elephant in the room, and in our Christian dating cultures we acknowledged that Christians are hurting other Christians sometimes, and we therefore: Say It Isn’t Okay, Tell God We’re Angry, and Talk About Wider Fulfilments.