Last time, we looked at the introduction and chapter 1 of I kissed dating goodbye. Next up, Joshua Harris tackles the seven habits of highly defective dating. This ought to be fun. Let’s examine each of them and see if they have any merit. Let’s also check to see if Harris stays true to his two promises in the intro: he doesn’t believe dating is a sin and it’s okay for a male and female to meet one on one.
No 1: Dating leads to intimacy but not necessarily to commitment.
At first glance this seems correct. After all,we can all point to relationships that moved quickly but then fizzled out due to a lack of commitment. Harris also points out that dating is a fairly recent phenomenon and courtship is older. Harris believes the true purpose of dating is just to get close physically for a short term relationship without any commitment. This sounds convincing, but it is ultimately a straw man argument, because there are other purposes of dating.
For example, you can date just to get to know someone else. Or you might be trying to develop your relationship skills. Or maybe you are dating with long term commitment as a possibility but you want to see if you are compatible with the other person first. All of these traits fit the definition of dating perfectly. Harris is making the mistake again of lumping in the practice of dating with immature high school antics. Harris could make the case from this point that it may be unwise to date in high school, due to social constructs that prevent commitment such as our western ideals of adolescence, but he cannot make the point it is wise to avoid dating entirely.
No 2: Dating tends to skip the friendship stage of a relationship.
Harris defines dating as being based on physical attraction and a friendship as being based on mutual interests, and dating skips the friendship stage. This brings up a key question. Have you ever met someone who didn’t want to date someone with similar interests? Many male gamers are obsessed with finding a gamer girlfriend to share their hobby with. Casual dating allows people to get a sense of someone’s personality and interests. Immature dating is only concerned with the physical.
Also, the idea that one must be friends before you can start dating isn’t necessarily true. Some people start out as girlfriend and boyfriend and grow to have a deep friendship and vice versa. In addition, by keeping it casual initially, you can discover if you do have mutual interests.
No 3: Dating often mistakes a physical relationship for love
Harris is again equating pure immaturity with dating. Teenagers and immature people might not realize it, but for any good relationship you need to have some common interests and compatible personalities. Dating can help you figure those traits out if you don’t become “too serious, too fast.” Many people who have practiced courtship in the past have brought up that courtship encouraged them to get too serious too quickly and prevented them from really getting to know each other due to emotional barriers. Isn’t that ironic?
No 4: Dating often isolates a couple from other vital relationships.
Harris mentions that couples need to see each other in other circumstances such as around family and friends. This makes sense, which is why you should not become possessive of your significant other and try to see them in different circumstances to get a handle on what they are really like. A possessive relationship that shoves out family and friends is not healthy, even in married relationships. I have seen several marriages where the spouse demanded all attention to the detriment of other relationships.
Once again, Harris is confusing immaturity and possessiveness with dating.
No 5: Dating, in many cases, distracts young adults from their primary responsibility of preparing for the future.
Interesting enough, Paul writes that marriage can also put barriers up when it comes to evangelism. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 states: But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord; how he may please the Lord. But he who is married cares about the things of the world; how he may please his wife. There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world; how she may please her husband. And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.
Any commitment will necessarily take away from other commitments. That’s how relationships work because you only have a certain amount of time. How you manage the time spent for each relationship is up to you. That doesn’t make dating, marriage, engagement or friendship bad, it just requires some balance.
No 6: Dating can cause discontent with God’s gift of singleness.
This is straight up poor exegesis. In 1 Corinthians Paul personally recommended singleness and not getting married period. However, he doesn’t command singleness as such, he just says it works for him and God gives him the ability to remain single. But it isn’t a bad thing to get married if you have a desire to do so.
This gift of singleness as Harris described it was more or less Paul’s personal preference that he recommended for a particular context. Paul is not describing a stage of life that Harris is describing.
No 7: Dating creates an artificial environment for evaluating another person’s character.
Here, Harris defines dating as being exclusive one-on-one outings that prevents you from seeing each other in different contexts, such as around family and friends. While this is a practice within certain dating relationships, it is immature. Any relationship expert would recommend you see each other in different environments to get a grip on who they are as a person.