Issues With Christian Dating

teapot with manicured hand with text "issues with christian dating"

As a recovering Christian who still loves Jesus but objects to large parts of the fundamentalist Christian culture I was raised in, I have some reflections on Christian dating in the light of what’s going on in my personal life.

Most people know that back in ancient times, the 1980s, many people didn’t cohabit. Nowadays for the most part people do cohabit, even if they are Christians. Not so if they fall on the fundamentalist evangelical spectrum, or if they have something to hide.

This makes dating a bit like a high-stakes game of poker. You put on a poker face with the intent that if you bid all, you win all, and you’re able to feed yourself at the end of the night.

In this poker round, you are both the player and your bid. You view your date as the pot. Likewise, your date sees themselves as the player and the bid and you as the pot. What I’m trying to say is, you’re both greedy, hungry, anticipatory, and there’s more than fun and games going on here from the minute you message someone on OK Cupid. You’re objectifying each other. Is this person a good mother? Will he be a good provider? Is he a spiritual leader? Will we make a good home together? What will they give me?

What I’m trying to get at here is that there is no enjoyment of the other person for who they simply are, and there is no fun in dating.

For many high-anxiety types who come from fundamentalist homes, realizing the first time I just sat back and relaxed – or enjoyed myself – was a big deal. I was out of college and hiking on my neighborhood trail. I wasn’t analyzing anything, trying to grapple with hidden meanings, or attempting to ascertain whether I deserved to be viewing nature in all its glory or not. Nature was her own thing. She was cool all by herself. She didn’t serve me. I wasn’t here to get anything out of her other than to see what was up. And, I wasn’t here to persuade nature of anything. I was just walking down a dirt trail, tripping over tree roots, getting sweaty and dirty, purely myself. It was the first time I had done something like this. And I enjoyed it for what it was.

Likewise, I believe healthy secular dating adopts this model. You message someone on Bumble because they seem interesting and you want to see what’s up. There are no wedding bells going off in your head at your first coffee meet up. All this is is a relaxation into a person. If the relaxation turns sharp and uncomfortable, you tell the person goodbye, and you ease on into the next phase of life, whether it involves another person for a while or not.

I’m not saying secular dating is without its pains and pitfalls, because anything involving human beings is messy. But I do believe it has far less dangers than the traditional Christian dating model.

Christian dating is, at its best, objectifying and idolizing, whereas secular dating is far more down to earth and honest. If you want to get to know someone, it’s best to see them as a human being instead of a potential spouse. More open conversations flow that way because there’s less stress and pressure.

I may be writing this because I’ve been burned, but I’ve had other girlfriends coming from fundamentalist evangelical homes echo my sentiments. At the end of the day, it’s up to you whether you want to walk down an aisle blindfolded or slowly acknowledge someone for who they are.

I Got Cinderella’d and It’s Not All Great

My husband and I come from two different worlds. He comes from a different stratosphere than I do. I don’t get along with his family, even before I ran away twice. They mistreated me while we were just dating, and I never really understood why until I looked at class differences and ableism.

I can understand not liking me after what happened in January, but the hate I received before my wedding day didn’t make much sense to me. I was threatened with a letter from a church to stay away from my husband because I was “depressed.” Not to mention all the snide remarks about me being a bed warmer and my husband needing a vasectomy.

Unfortunately most of this was communicated to me through my husband, so it was all secondhand information. But it took me to the point where they have to ask permission to come into my house (which I usually do allow because I was raised to be a hospitable southerner) and I will never, ever voluntarily go into their homes.

In rich families, children are investments. Not in a way that children are investments for the future, but in that they can make money for the family. Who they choose to marry has a direct impact on how much cash the child makes for the family and how much of a financial burden they will be.

I was developing fibromyalgia and lupus symptoms while dating my husband. Most likely I was seen as a money pit. My husband told me his family was afraid I would drag him down.

Let me stop right here with this gosh darn ableism. An able bodied person can drag any slooshin person down. Anybody can drag anybody down. I have some friends I cut out of my life who were nightmares. And dragging someone down is cyclical. I most likely will reintroduce those negative friends again once I feel I can. We’ll start out positive and go back down the negative gravy train eventually, then it’ll get too much. But a marriage is commitment. Part of commitment is saying, “I will love you even when I think you suck.”

People fall down and then they come back up again like a dolphin out of water, complete with sex for pleasure and all.

Rich people tend to hide these basic life lessons from their kids by controlling them with gifts that come with invisible strings only made visible when the kid steps out of line. Basically, rich people scare me.

Grace and Gratitude

The Bouquet that started it all.

I never thought I would meet a nice guy. Or a decent guy. A kind guy. Someone who was sweet to his mother and animals. The kind of guy who had interests, passions, and hobbies. A real person that cared about things that mattered, who lived for a cause, and wanted things in the earth to grow.

This is, to many people, the definition of an interesting person. But when my fiancé went out of his way to meet my dog, get to know my roommate, FaceTime my father, all before we became an official couple standing in my doorway with a bouquet of wildflowers, wherein I made the move – I knew he was intentional. Nothing he did was by chance. He saw the world in a grand design of patterns, a graph of charts and maps to set upon to reach a glorious destination. His heart was tender but it’s beat was strong, rhythmic and deep, he was searching for someone with whom it could roam the forests with in the daytime and snuggle up with by the firelight after dark. That heart saw something in mine and it didn’t want to leave.

If I seem like I romanticize him here it is in part true. He deserves it because of what I’ve put him through, and the path that he’s chosen that I’ve so often warned him about: a life married to someone coming to grips with chronic pain.

Very often I flip flop between positivity and deep negativity on this blog. It’s hard to remain objective at age 27, engaged and not used to parts of yourself you didn’t know exist emerging in pain on random days of the week. My fiancé has been a real trooper in that he miraculously understands that when I try to rain on his parade, it’s my physical pain talking. This is why he is my Bear. He is strong and elusive, yet fuzzy, warm and a great comfort.

A few weeks ago I wrote Bear a letter and asked him to put it on the wall, somewhere he could easily see it, in case my pain took over and I didn’t behave how I wanted. In the letter I put a piece of myself that was still gentle and loving and would give him a kiss when he needed it if he would only look at it.

Maybe that’s marriage insurance, but I can only do so much for my dear Bear right now.

To my Bear, I give you all the tenderness in the world and I thank you for sticking by me through all my inexplicable suffering. I’m glad you’re the team optimist. Let’s make it to the wedding day.

Why I Turned to Online Dating

My entire life, I only attracted and dated schmucks. Even these instances were few and far between, maybe once every three years. 

It wasn’t that I was unattractive at the time. I was fit, tan, and pretty. But I was shy and dealing with a lot of trauma. My insecurities outshone my physical features, and that drove away men more than any of my better qualities could attract them.

When I was in college, I had a particularly bad dating experience that left me feeling broken. During and after the breakup I felt like a shell of a person. I didn’t even feel human. What happened between the two of us made me develop agoraphobia and I feared men the most. 

For a while this wasn’t a problem, until I met a certifiably nice guy at my friend’s wedding the summer after I graduated college.

He was tall, handsome, and polite. At the last slow dance of the evening he approached and respectfully asked me if I would like to dance. I said yes. It turned out to be the last song of the reception, and we quickly exchanged names and numbers.

I checked him out with my friend, the bride, and found out he was a close friend of the groom. She was excited for me, enthused with the idea that I had found my future husband at her wedding. Her husband had great things to say about him.

Hopeful, I became electrified when he texted me saying he was coming to my area. He asked me to dinner and I decided to go to a vegan diner relatively close to my house. I really didn’t want to mess things up so I scrubbed my front door which was covered in bird poop (my family and I had a family of swallows that lived above the door that we couldn’t bear to get rid of). To my surprise he pulled up in a brand new red Lexus.

Well, I thought, this is going to be different.

I was dressed in my bridesmaid dress (faux pas, but it wasn’t formal, more like a sundress) and he came to the door in a suit. I think. I don’t remember. He was dressed much nicer and more fashionably than most guys I’d met. My parents met him at the door high school style and I was dying inside, knowing I was falling on my face with this dating thing. It was no wonder I was single and an old crone by Christian standards at age 23.

When we made it to the diner, he expressed he wasn’t expecting something so informal. But he was charmed by the local artwork for sale on the walls, and tried to make eye contact with me. I felt anger turn up in my stomach when he did this, and it wasn’t because I did not like him or find him unattractive. Quite the opposite. My manphobia had reared its ugly head, and I found myself giving him terse and abrupt answers to his polite questions.

I finally had a gentleman, and my brain was on the fritz. This scarred brain, hurt by all the scoundrels it had been with before, did not know what to do with a decent human being.

He proceeded to continue with the date, but I cut it short after I couldn’t bear it anymore. I felt bad about this after a few days because I did like him, who wouldn’t, so I texted him. He told me he didn’t want to be in a long distance relationship, and I understood.

After this I went to therapy for six months, got a big kid job and moved out with a family friend from high school.

Within the first few months of us rooming together, I learned my friend had an evil ex as well that she was trying to put behind her. After I volunteered at a few funerals, she kept nudging me to sign up for Tinder, find a guy, settle down, and have the “wedding of the century” (my exaggerated words in an attempt at a joke, not hers) at our home area to make up for all the funerals. 

I like boy talk as much as the next girl, and it seemed to me that in today’s world, the only way anybody went on a date was to go online. My roommate was extremely beautiful, and it seemed odd to me that no one would approach her in person. She explained that nobody approached anyone in person anymore. 

The more I heard about her dates, the more a creeping notion grew in my brain. It wasn’t about finding someone to settle down with. It was about healing.

Maybe I could use these dating apps to expose myself to men gradually, screen them for red flags, and heal myself of the fear I was living with. 

Although the fear is not completely gone and it bleeds into my current relationship, I have found great healing in going slow and giving it a shot. Along the way I found my fiance. 

It is true that I came across some really bad apples. With online dating, it is imperative to use caution and safety guidelines. 

Some people are real jerks and can really test your emotional limits. Walk away and let yourself be. 

When the time is right, your healing will come. I did not desire healing for years. But when I wanted it I found more than I bargained for.

And now, a recap:

Pocket full of starlight: Online dating can be used for multiple purposes, including overcoming our greatest fears.

Pocket full of darkness: Online dating can be emotionally draining and dangerous, please exercise caution!

My Busband, My Husband

Photo credit: Tauni Joy photography

My fiancé came over to comfort me, as is his good fiancé custom. He truly is a blessing. When it comes to words I can only say that I am the luckiest.

We are two quiet, nerdy people, who enjoy art, animals, and nature. Together we sit and play with the dog, each knowing that the other is there, and even though there is not a fire burning in the fireplace we feel a warmth. This is love.

Love found me at the strangest of times. It found me when all the mom advice and rom coms in the world would tell me it shouldn’t. I was not at the top of my game. Not crushing it at work. I was entering into my health crisis and the fight of my life when I met my fiancé.

When I first met him at a vegan burger stand, I had been throwing up every night for two months and generally feeling a malaise. I hadn’t wanted to come to the date. He was an internet stranger from a dating app. I was nauseous with a fever and hadn’t slept for a few weeks from vomiting all night. In order to meet him we had to go to a halfway point that was 20 minutes away and I was driving a 25 year old car. Before I had bought a new car after graduating college, but that had been totaled 6 months prior.

Instead of cancelling, I changed into grey leggings, a knit coral V neck and my nice grey winter jacket. It was raining and I had just gotten my hair done earlier that day. I tossed on a beret and eased my way down my apartment stairs.

When I got there, I saw a nervous looking dude in thrifted khakis and a polo beneath a street light. He was curled up against a pillar and it looked like he was soaked from the rain. The light made him glow a strange jaundice yellow, and when I approached him there was fear in his eyes with a gentle sadness. Trepidation, a fear of a repeat date. Being that guy again.

I took it as extreme shyness and smiled my biggest smile. At that moment I decided I was going to make him feel comfortable, no matter how silly I looked. Now I am extremely shy, horrible at conversation, but I decided to find a common subject and talk on it. He revealed he went to church, so we talked about Christianity. I know, I know. Bad move. But he apparently liked it.

We went to an art supply store next. I pointed out some tools I used in art school, which brands I thought were best, and we had an intelligent conversation. There I noticed something remarkable. The yellow light was gone, and he was glowing white as a lion’s star, like the beacon of happiness had landed on him. He had a gentle essence about him, and I knew this meant he was a good, kind person. Call it stupidity or call it intuition. I will call it intuition, because he has been nothing but kind to me.

We decided to go shopping at the mall, but on our way to our cars, I began to feel as if I would vomit. I was almost afraid I would not be able to drive home and would need to call an Uber. Apologetically I turned to him and explained I was sick, and that I liked our date. I asked him to text me when he got home, and to be safe driving. He smiled, and said he would in a triumphant yet sad voice.

I drove home, feeling miserable, anxious about the wet roads and my nausea. When I got home, I noticed I had a notification. This man had actually texted me that he had arrived home.

What.

Me, pessimist that I am, figured he thought I was trying to get out of a bad date, which I wasn’t. He had some form of hope that I was not and believed I actually was ill. Our first trust fall was our first date. This is how it began, and this is how it is.

Now, a recap:

Pocket full of starlight: people who say you have to have your life together to find a good person or love are flat out wrong. You are deserving of love even if your ducks in a row are a bunch of angry geese.

Pocket full of darkness: expect to be judged for your angry geese.