I’ve been through several courses and such designed to teach young people how to handle relationships.
These courses had several things in mind:
1. First of all, no sex outside marriage. This is very basic stuff in Christian circles.
2. No physical contact within relationships. Several Christian books on relationships have featured couples who did not kiss until their wedding day.
3. No relationships at all! A slight exaggeration, but certainly none for teenagers or even uni students
4. Only get into a relationship if you are sure that the other person is God’s will for you to marry. Note that you have to know this before getting into a relationship.
5. Courtship rather than dating, with as much parental involvement as possible.
6. Trust God to bring you someone; don’t look yourself.
Other relevant claims:
1. Never go below your standards in selecting a mate.
2. God will bring you someone you are attracted to.
3. If it is not for you to marry, this will be a calling from God and will be obvious.
But what are the underlying expectations behind this? It was never made explicit, but this , I think, was the implicit promise behind it all:
1. Live your life, study, work, etc
2. You shall have a comfortable middle class life, moving easily from study to a successful career
3. At some stage, probably no later than mid twenties, God will bring you your life partner. You won’t even have to do anything!
4. The S.O. will know it is God’s will for you to be together and so will you! Everything will just happen naturally.
5. The parents of both you and the S.O. will recognise it is God’s will.
6. There will be no hiccups, such as long-term unemployment or illness.
7. The S.O. will fit your picture of what a S.O. should be
8. There will be no false starts or break-ups. No unrequited love.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? A few flaws, though:
1. God uses hardship and difficulty to build character, including, but not limited to, unemployment, illness, unexpected singleness etc
2. God never promises to isolate believers from relationship break-ups, false starts, rejection or other issues.
3. The S.O. could refuse to join the party even if she knew it was God’s will. God does not force obedience.
4. It is very easy to mistake an emotional desire for another with God’s leading
5. With too high expectations, everyone is too good for everyone else and everyone remains single as a result.
6. With everyone not moving unless they know for sure it’s God’s will, noone ends up moving at all. You just don’t get that type of assurance early on.
7. In life, God normally requires us to take at least some initiative.
8. Even Spirit-filled parents can only usually guess at what type of partner is suitable for you
9. “Courtship” as opposed to “dating” confuses the issue and causes some to think that this magical new system will solve all their problems, whereas it creates new roadblocks and unfillable expectations
10. God never promised to supernaturally bring everyone’s marriage partners to them
11. Plenty of people do not marry due to lack of opportunity rather than a calling to celibacy. There are no guarantees of success.