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22 Feb

As most couples in our culture won’t take the arranged-marriage approach, dating—or something approximating it—is the system they are left with.And while dating itself isn’t morally wrong, it has its pitfalls, as we have seen.In such settings, it’s quite clear one marries into a —something many Westerners could stand to learn.Disney movies and novels commonly portray two autonomous individuals who “fall in love” and then forge their future together, often against all odds and objections.As I note below, friendship should be the building block for potential growth in romance later on, since dating relationships face the ongoing temptation of physical and emotional intimacy.Furthermore, if entering and breaking exclusive relationships becomes a pattern during adolescence, it can be emotionally poor preparation for marriage—in addition to increasing sexual temptation.Maybe they’ll call each other “BFFs” and watch movies or have dinner together, but they do so in a detached way—as though their sexual identity doesn’t matter.All the while, lines of propriety get blurred, resulting in unhealthy and often unintended emotional attachments.

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As we look at some of these questions, it would be wise to review some of the pros and cons of dating.Dating may have the advantage of “screening” a prospective spouse before making any commitment to marriage. There is the tendency to become attached prematurely without wider exposure to the opposite sex (just think of a guy and a girl pairing up during university freshman orientation).Also, if steady dating is begun too early and continued too rigidly, the development of friendship and true partnership—which is so important to a healthy marriage—may be eclipsed by increased attention to physical expression and emotional intimacy, which can blind a person to the shortcomings and character flaws in the other.This pattern tends to ignore the shaping influence of the family and the family’s (often) constructive role in giving input about a prospective spouse.Furthermore, a dating culture, which is becoming increasingly sexualized, does not first focus on establishing friendship and the exploration and discovery of solid character, habits of faithfulness, the ability to resolve conflict, and other factors that contribute to stable marriages.