One thing that I don’t think is talked about enough in Christian dating circles is emotional chastity. Yeah, I know Boundless likes to pound the “intentionality” drum (mainly in the direction of men), but it’s not exactly the same thing. “Intentionality” makes it sound like you’re running a program called IntentionalityCheck 2.0 that has an intentionality app that you can install on your smartphone to make sure your dating behavior is kept within intentionality guidelines. “Did I guard my heart?” Check. “Did he pay for dinner?” Check. “Did he directly say it was a date and that he would like to pursue me for the purpose of marriage while being the spiritual leader that the Bible instructs him to be while loving me sacrificially as Christ loved the Church so as not to defraud me during this season of singleness?” Oops. EJECT! EJECT!
Emotional chastity, on the other hand, is more a character trait. It’s internalizing a way of living. Just as a physically chaste person not only refrains from improper sexual behavior but also lives in such a way as to not put himself in a situation where physical chastity could be compromised in the first place, an emotionally chaste person guards his heart as a matter of being, not as an item on a checklist to qualify for emotional chastity.
I think that Christian singles today get themselves into more trouble by violating emotional chastity (EC) than by physical chastity (PC). (And since the number of Christian singles who aren’t physically chaste is pretty high, you can only imagine how many aren’t emotionally chaste.) Especially among Christian singles who are trying to practice PC, the EC thing can be a huge downfall, since getting close to someone emotionally is the only outlet for sexual energy that hasn’t been slapped with a big NO-NO sticker. As a result, we have Christian singles entwining themselves into friendguy/friendgirl relationships with endless angsting and drama on one party’s end, which just leads Boundless types to shriek at the men to install IntentionalityCheck 2.0 and MAN UP AND MARRY THOSE WORTHY CHRISTIAN GIRLS.
EC isn’t just for the romantic arena, though; its benefits extend to all areas of life. How many times have you known someone who lacks discretion in how much of himself he gives away to friends, to relatives, to parents, children, or coworkers? EC isn’t about prevention so much as it’s about discretion and self-control – in a word, maturity. It’s about maintaining boundaries that are healthy.
In the context of dating relationships, EC can help a relationship blossom as it was meant to unfold. You’re not oversharing too early. You’re not becoming emotionally dependent on the other person to the point you’re smothering them. You’re not promising things you haven’t thought through or don’t intend to follow through on. You’re taking the time to establish a foundation before you start erecting an emotional three-car garage McHouse with dust-repellent blinds and a mint-green nursery for the twins. Likewise, if you break up, especially if it’s early into the dating process, you won’t feel like someone robbed you.
Speaking of which, I really think that Christian dating advice needs to focus more on break-ups. I feel like there is so much emphasis on just trying to get people to date ~intentionally~ that there’s next to nothing out there if that dating doesn’t work out. Most people don’t marry the first person they date, so what do you do if you realize this person isn’t the one?
Well, that’s easy. You just tell the break-upper that he’s not being sufficiently spiritual or seeking the Lord enough. That’ll teach him to date a girl and not marry her! So many people would benefit from getting broken up with swiftly and succinctly, rather than trying to couch it in LJBFs and “You’re so great, someone (else) will be lucky to find you!”s.