What's With Our High Stakes Dating Culture?


During my experience as a pastor, I’ve had the privilege of spending time with a lot of people in really healthy marriages. I’ve realized that no matter how they met, what they’ve walked through, the one thing that makes a marriage work is the foundation of great connection. My wife and I got married because we just couldn’t do without each other. I call it friendship on fire. But how do we get the “fire” if we won’t do the friendship? As I watch dating culture around me, I wonder if “finding the one” has become so “high stakes” that everyone is too scared to take steps towards simple friendship, which is where it all starts.  

Are you open to connection?

My wife and I like to play dating matchmakers. We suggest all kinds of great people to our single friends, but I’m often surprised at how quickly our suggestions are shot down with a flat out “no way.” “But you haven’t even met them!” I argue. Making a decision about pursuing someone with no relational connection is counter-intuitive. You simply don’t have the information needed to make that call.

Relational connection in its simplest form is just getting to know someone. If a decision is being made about someone without getting to know them, it means it’s being made based on a few details that are likely minor, and probably external, like how they look, what their bank balance is, or where they work. Maybe these questions are important, but when all is said and done, the only question that really needs answering is whether or not you like being with that person.  Last I checked, you can’t answer this question without first getting to know them. The truth is, inside of connection, all those things that seem important start to shift. As you give your life to another, what matters to them starts to matter to you. We have things in the wrong order if we’re worried about all the details before we even know if we connect.


Have the courage to be different

Let’s be honest. In our culture, someone suggests a coffee date and the assumption is saying “yes” means agreeing to a trajectory towards marriage. It’s time to change this by choosing to lower the stakes. All it takes is deciding to take the first step, “I will get to know you,” and honestly communicating that connection is your goal. If we can do this, there is no need to get out “the list,” compare callings, or seek the word of the Lord before stepping out the door. We then create a space for friendships to develop.

It’s time to make connection the simple goal again. I know it's a vulnerable area. I know that fear easily creeps in and dating presses all the buttons. But it’s time to take a stand against a “high stakes” culture and dare to connect. Culture changes when brave people decide to do things differently. Fight for friendship, and I’ll be praying it gets set on fire!

Originally published on benpwilson.com.