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March 30, 2006

Comments

Traci

You brought up several topics in this one blog, Alexandra. Thanks for being honest about the fact that we all find things we'd change in the people we date. Dating is a complex activity, even for those with the best intentions and simplest desires.

I'm only quickly addressing the religious aspect of "missionary dating." I went to a private Christian college, and know many people who use exactly the same categorizations mentioned above, as well as people who start every new relationship with a "missionary" mindset. After four years of watching and discussing this, I formed these opinions:

Dating with the main intention being to change a person's "defects" is arrogant. You said the missionary dater needs to accept the person as he or she is right now; is that possible, if you've already determined what needs to change, and set out to do it?

If the goal is to proselytize, go ahead, but be honest about it. Don't mislead some poor guy/girl into thinking you like them when really all you're seeing is a project. It is possible to share your faith and convert him/her (if that's God's will) without entangling your respective hearts.

There are cases where "missionary dating" works. But, I think it is unsuccessful more often than not. Also, this kind of intentional dating begs the question of what to do if you're dating someone who inexplicably does not come around to your views. Do you dump them? Do they get guilted into going to church or doing things just because you want them to, and not because God has led them to a new place? Do your views change? What if you fall for them and become "unequally yoked" through a genuine belief that they will, someday, change?

I'd say the premise of dating to change someeone, with or without religion involved, is just dangerous ground.

I'm interested to see what everyone thinks.


wendy

I think it's reasonable to want to marry someone who shares your religious values, but in this case, if this is really important to you, then you should only date people who are on the same page in the first place.

I think ultimately you can only marry someone who has qualities you love and admire right now--you cannot expect to change him (or her).

Or, to put it differently, I think the big stuff should come up before you even go out, and the small stuff, if you love someone, you should just let go.

And if people really want to improve the spirituality of their households, then why not start with yourself. You're much more likely to be able to control yourself than someone else. Not to mention that others tend to be more inspired by spiritual people, than by others barking at them to be spiritual. :-)

But a very interesting issue, Alexandra--thanks for getting us thinking about it.

Annika

I totally agree about missionary dating. I have too many friends who wanted to change someone. My (very sensible) parents have always said that you marry who he is now, not whoever you hope to make him, so it's important to choose someone that you love for who they are today, not for their potential.

Liz Neville

I have to throw in my lot with all of the above-- dating to change someone into your ideal is foolhardy and arrogant and a waste of time. It is true that people who commit to each other will, over time, perhaps see some things in themselves that they'd like to change, and then do so. For instance, I now (after 17 years of marriage) like the paper to hang over the roll, not under. However, anything more important than that will generally not come under the auspices of "change potential", and should therefore be accepted as is.

There is something else that the dater should note carefully-- you are also getting the person's family and history, neither of which will be improved by your opinion. If you don't like the man's relationship with his mother, or his habit of missing the hamper, don't delude yourself that you can change it, any more than you can change the man.

What you can change, as Wendy noted, is yourself. You can learn to stop wishing and fooling yourself and start to see things clearly. It's the only thing over which you really have any permanant influence.

R.B.

If you want to mold a living creature to conform to your desires, get a puppy. Don't marry an adult human being and then treat him/her like a puppy.

Erin P

Alexandra,

As always a great, thoughtful blog -- the older (and er, wiser?) I get, the more I believe the big picture stuff - your values & priorities - need to come up very early on in dating. It's not about an agenda, but it's about being comfortable and honest about who you are. I have always looked for sincerity in the other person. Good communication is so important too. Can you share your full range of emotions, your full self with the other person in conversation? Does he accept you for who you are? Do you challenge each other to grow spiritually?

So...I don't believe in "missionary dating." I remember once trying something like this in college and you can't win that tug of war. It becomes too much about proving something and then you lose sight of the person you care about and undermine your own values.

auds

I disagree with missionary dating while totally understanding why one would want one's spouse to have similar values.

One Catholic family I know (with a son who's now entering the priesthood) has an athiest dad who has become a lukewarm agnostic in recent years, and a practicing, passionate Catholic mother.

He says his life is influenced by her life. Especially the fact that she loves him as is, while expecting him to respect certain topics (like contraception, the children attending Sunday Mass etc)

Changing others should not be a goal upon which your love in conditional.
However, people we love can be changed by us.

Karen

I just found this blog through a link from a friend and am enjoying it very much!

Missionary dating is a huge mistake. I have only known of a small handful of situations where it has actually worked out. In most cases, the believer is forced into compromise in one way or another.

Speaking as a woman who has been married for over 31 years, I say this: Make sure your ideals are in line with what is true, right, and Biblical and then do not bend!

kalipay

be a friend if you want to change and help someone. as mentioned above, be honest, not fake to yourself and the other person. or have male friend, or your father better yet, work on him.

Erin

Missionary dating is a tricky situation. my boyfriend and I are completely opposites when it comes to religion, He is a devout catholic and I am a devout christian. Would either of us absolutely love it if the other coverted to their faith, totally. but are we going to force it, no. I think in a relationship there is always going to be some level of missionary in it, whether it is religiously based or otherwise. The trick is just finding a compromise or simply finding enough love to let the other person live in their choices.

Michael

Okay, as regards "Missionary Dating," the "mission field," so-to-speak, is a-buzz with this phrase, mostly in a negative connotation, and mostly also coming from women, it seems. Nothing against you women-folk, but as for us men, we're called to present our women (especially "the one" for me) to the church without spot or blemish, holy and blameless.

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless." (Ephesians 5:25-27)

Not that I should seek to change her, and certainly not that the relationship will be perfect, because we live in a sinful, fallen, broken world, yet if there is some quirk about her personality that is bugging me, especially if it flies in the face of godly living, I need to make it plainly known, especially if it is going to interfere with the desire for unity in the relationship. I want to be able to say to my church family, with confidence and unerringly, that indeed, this is the genuine article, this is the real thing, it's authentic. I want to be able to make disciples (not necessarily believers) of all nations in a winsome, unwavering manner, in this regard.

How in the world can I possibly do that, with confidence and in good conscience, if I haven't first confronted my woman, with the truth in love, whom I am dating, courting, or whatever (you pick the terminology) with the concerns I have for her well-being? Answer: are my concerns God's concerns? Delight in the Lord, and He will give me the desires of my heart. The desire of my heart is for her to be all God wants her to be.

"In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church--for we are members of his body." (Ephesians 5:28-30)

Here's the substance of the husband's part in the relationship. If husbandry is my calling, then I'm to feed the relationship and care for it, just as Christ fed and cared for the church. It's a body-living thing, risks and all.

"'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.' This is a profound mystery—-but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband." (Ephesians 5:31-33)

And here's the mystery. It's not only a body-living thing, but it's a profound mystery as well. The leaving, cleaving, one-flesh-ness of the relationship is a profound mystery. Anyone who has spent any length of time in serious prayer and devotion and/or has had any degree of personal experience coming face to face with the issue can tell you, this is a serious issue. Not something to "play around with" as seems to be the application of a "Missionary Dating" approach. The miracle of two lives meshing together as a single bodily unit, the profundity of it, is a marvelous picture of the kind of relationship Christ wants with His Church.

And so, while I encourage you to date, find a safe way to do it, among friends, family, etc. Get to know one another as friends. I don't care how intentional or purpose-driven you are in your quest, if you don't have a foundation, if it's not Christ-centered, it's not going to work, or if it does, it probably won't last, thereby flying in the face of the permanence marriage is supposed to exhibit. Keep it in perspective and count the cost up front. Basically, it is a matter of simple faith; love my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love my neighbor as myself.

YBIC,

Michael

bria

It's been very illuminating to read the blog and everyone's comments. I have a bit of a different perspective to offer up and would like some feedback: I am currently deep in a relationship (I'm talking planning wedding) with someone that I love deeply. On our second date, I told my partner in detail my (somewhat out-of-the-box) beliefs, my history with the church, and employment in ministry. He, likewise, in detail told me of his professed non-belief.

We accepted each other as-is, and for over a year, it worked very well. When I read the scripture, I see Jesus focus on love, and tell people time and again their focus should not be on the rules...on religiously "doing things the right way"...but on the love, and the rest will follow. I've had a hard time dating others with my beliefs because no one walks the same way I do, and I'm really put off by religiosity. I just want to see the love. My man is actually the most Christ-like person I've ever dated, plus he exhibits all other characteristics I ever wanted in a person.

Recently, I've been going through some tough times in my life and wanted someone to pray with...more than just someone, my partner. I couldn't really go to him. I noticed a gap in unity...but then, is it healthy to try to get ALL your needs met by one person? I know God's design for marriage, but in a flawed world, I wonder how well it ever works? I confronted my partner about my need to connect with him on a spiritual level, and he decided to do some exploration.

I now notice that this is something I really desire...a oneness in spirit. But we're already planning the wedding. What do I do? Could that be a sign to stay the course? Or should I get out while I still can? I'm just asking for opinions...what do you think?

anne

Hi Bria,
In my opinion, I think I would postpone the wedding. Let your guy continue to explore and see where this leads him. B/c what if, after his exploration, he is still not really interested? YOU now know that you really do desire spiritual compatibility.
I'm hoping you really seek and find Gods peace in all this! God's Best to you!

Ashley

I see missionary dating as a believers way of saying to God, " You know God, I got this! I know what's best for this person. So YOU just sit down and put your feet up!1 I got this under control!"

We ALL know how well that works!!

Jasper

I've had a girlfriend before whom I thought was a non practicing Catholic. I told myself that it'd be easy to let her see what the Lord intends fornus through what he communicates with in the Bible. Later on in the relationship I found out that she wasn't really into the Catholic faith, she has been rejecting that Jesus is God, she believes that God is somewhat just a force that's around the universe. She believes in pantheism, or in nature. I thought I could dissuade her and lead her to believe in what I believe in. But I have learned that we are all given free will. No matter how hard we try to share if the other person's heart is closed it will be next to impossible. Eventually we broke up because our values and principles do not match. Save yourself the heartache, think and pray earnestly before going into a relationship. Ask for God's guidance everytime. Follow His desires and you'll be on the right path.

Joe

Two beautiful "Christian" single women start dating attractive unsaved single men with "player" pasts. They tell these men no sex until there saved and married. Both men come to profess Jesus as their savior. Both end up with their beautiful brides.

Now what saved them? Pent up sexual frustration or God saving them? I know I sound very cynical, but I have friends who married...one a believer and the other an unbeliever.....went to church for awhile and now.....won't have anything to do with church....and it happens all the time.

Acts 8:9-25 is a very interesting text....which begs the question....what does light have to do with darkness?? 2 Cor 6:14

I hope someone reads this and thinks about it.

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