Relationship Status: a commentary on Regent dating culture
The first inside joke I became privy to when I came to Regent was about the Regent Water.
“Don’t drink the water, or else ring by spring.”
In the college years, relationships are prevalent, and are rather different from high school relationships. College students are more independent, entering into the adult world. We no longer have to listen to our parent’s guidelines, we have more choices on how we progress into those relationships. We also are at an age where the topic of marriage is not as far off as it once seemed.
After talking with many other Regent students, there is a lot of speculation about whether we do relationships well, and if certain trends seen in Regent dating culture are healthy. I sat down with a couple students to ask their opinions and views on our dating culture.
A fuzzy marriage-focus
The first person I talked with was Dan Keever, a senior Communication major, who is currently very happily engaged. I asked him what his views on Regent culture were. “If I could put one word to it, I’d say it’s well-intended,” Keever said. “When you are in a relationship, you love to be able to give that other person a sense of safety – emotional safety – and a big part of that is you want to know that the person you’re with is going to still like you tomorrow. Sometimes, whether its pressure of the other person or even just pressure inside our own hearts, we feel obligated and pressured into committing to more than the Lord has told us to.
“For example, for Madeline, I had made a boundary with the Lord after the last relationship I’ve been in not to say ‘I love you’ until we got engaged, because of how quickly I had said it before and how little it took to earn that. It was so hard not to say it all the time.”
“… we’re not dating for marriage. We’re pretending like we’re almost married men in the dating stage before we understand what a long-term commitment is…”
He said him and Madeline did not talk about any real future planning until he had permission to marry her. “I think we misunderstand earning commitment from each other and giving it when we’re sure we can back it up.”
I also asked him what his view on whether Regent relationships are too marriage-focused. “I think that if we were dating to marry, we’d understand how long that road is. Even now, Madeline and I have four months until we get married, and when it comes to boundaries we say, okay, pace yourself, you’ve got four more months of being engaged and you can’t cross any line until you go past that. Your affection for the person is going to grow and maybe you need to give it some space to grow. To answer the question of is [Regent dating] too marriage focused: I think we think it is, but we’re not dating for marriage. We’re pretending like we’re almost married men in the dating stage before we understand what a long-term commitment is, before we understand if our career paths and callings are compatible.
“We got a bunch of 18 to 22 year olds who are trying understand and guess what the best course for life is and that’s hard. If you want to say that you’re a marriage-focused-dater, start by pacing your [physical and verbal boundaries] – what you’ll say, what you’ll not say, what you don’t commit to. So, I think we are marriage-focused, but if we understood what that was, marriage-focused would make a very different picture in our minds.”
Love in times of singleness
I also talked to Emily Bernard, a sophomore Communications major. She is single and loving it, bringing a unique perspective to this discussion. “Christians in general tend to move fast in relationships, particularly from the dating stage to the relationship stage. There can be different reasons for that, of course, but I believe Christians see dating as a way to marriage, which is good and correct. But I feel like that is an underlying reason as to why Christians date differently.”
We brought the conversation to hyper-intentionality, a trend defined by being too intentional in relationships early on, focusing more on the end game of marriage rather than progressing naturally in the relationship. I asked what effect she felt hyper-intentionality has on the dating culture. “I feel like it could go either way. For some people it could mean they jump into relationships super quick, or it could mean they are super picky.”
“… not enough Christians view singleness as a gift, but it is. It is a gift because it is a time given to us that we are supposed to use to grow closer to the Lord…”
She went on to talk about her time being single. “I’ve had a lot of time with the Lord and allowing him to romance my heart. And that has been the best experience – having that time with the Lord I wasn’t able to have in a relationship, or that I didn’t pursue I should say. I can see the Lord and his perfect love, so one day I am not trying to fulfill my need for love with someone else, but rather allow the Lord to fill me with that. I just love being single because I love spending time with the Lord in an intimate, vulnerable relationship.
“I feel not enough Christians view singleness as a gift, but it is. It is a gift because it is a time given to us that we are supposed to steward and use to grow closer to the Lord, to allow him to work in our hearts, to really prepare our hearts for a relationship. We are called to steward whatever is given to us, and that includes what season we are in.”
Relationship status update
Regent, overall, is good about dating for the right reasons. Many of us hold onto the value and virtue of marriage and look for that to be the ultimate end of dating. However, because we see this as the end, there is a tendency to rush the dating stage and start part of the marriage stage early. The danger in this is that we miss the process of pursuit, we miss the preparing of the heart for that commitment.
Whether you are in a relationship or single, take advantage of this gift. You have time to grow and to serve, be good stewards of that. Don’t rush the stages, but rather prayerfully lift up where you are with the Lord and grow in that present, moving on as the Lord moves in you.
Before I ended my conversation, I asked both Dan and Emily if they had any advice or wisdom to give to their fellow students.
“The danger in this is that we miss the process of pursuit, we miss the preparing of the heart for that commitment.”
“An absolute is that your friends really don’t know what they’re talking about, parents usually do,” Keever said. “Generational wisdom is invaluable and not just per se the closest adult, but find an adult whose life you respect and who knows you. Be willing to just put your life, your relationship, on display. Madeline and I have steered clear of a lot of potential traps and pitfalls because our relationship was willingly not hidden from our parents. Wherever our physical boundaries were, wherever our emotional boundaries were, those were put basically accountable to the people we were accountable to.”
“See everyone around you as brothers and sisters, as children of God, before you see them as a potential partner,” said Bernard. “I feel like that is the way we are meant to live together, in a familial-type community, and we are supposed to love each deeply as brothers and sisters. If we are not seeing each other this way first, then we are not able to do that. It is unhealthy to us and not fair to those around.”
Enjoy this time you are in, but remember we are always meant to grow closer to the Lord and rely on his guidance for our lives. Every relationship and every life is different. Your relationship may not fit the mold others are following. Remember that you are a unique individual, and if and when you are brought into a relationship with another unique individual, your relationship will reflect that uniqueness.
Gather wisdom, pace yourselves, let the Lord guide you, and move in love.
Danielle Crowley is a Staff Writer for The Daily Runner.