The Case for Casual


Irvin originally wrote and submitted this op-ed for Professor Paul Glader's Persuasive Writing and Speaking course. The year was 2013, and I was a freshman at King’s on a Valentine’s date with a junior. Well, to be candid, I was on a Valentine’s date with my crush of the last several months and I was unequivocally on Cloud Nine.

We met at the beginning of the year and, as I came to know later, he immediately took a liking to me. Things were good for us, which in all honesty was lucky, because we could not have been more opposite. Our relationship was sweet and it progressed gradually. After a month or two, he was ready to stick a label on us. Once his reservations faded, it was just a matter of weeks before he wanted to seriously discuss marriage. He had never dated anyone before and I had been in only one relationship, extended and tumultuous as it was. This marriage talk was rather disconcerting. I had no such interest in the matter as an eighteen-year-old. How were we on such different tracks?

In a word, the culprit was intentionality. Intentionality is not a bad concept, but at King’s, there is a certain brand of intentionality that is the common denominator of many love stories. It seems as though the Kingsian culture dictates that men be deliberate, cautious, and meditative when pursuing women but this approach often amounts to confusion, annoyance, and a rather unfortunate feeling of inadequacy for the single women at King’s. College years are the time for growth, maturity and, most importantly, education. This education is meant to prepare us for the real world, and the same educational philosophy should be applied to dating.

We have all heard the phrase “guard your heart”, which in Christianese translates to “no hanky-panky.” This also implies that the only person you should date is the person you will marry. The power of choosing a spouse then falls to the man in the relationship because in accepting a date, the woman has inadvertently accepted an eventual marriage proposal. But is this really fair? Few people enter their first relationships knowing for sure that they want to be with that person forever. But here there are many relationships that develop only once the man is certain he could see himself with a woman.

I contend that casually dating can be a positive activity. Going on a date is merely getting to know a person armed with the prior knowledge of mutual attraction. It could be a date to a dance, to coffee, or dinner and a show. A single date should not carry a promise of long-term commitment. All that matters is that intentions are clear. Paying for a latte or footing the Seamless bill is not enough of a clue. It is here that intentionality comes back into play through striving to intentionally communicate, and intentionally treating each other with respect, so that in the event of a break-up, there is no respect lost.

Guarding one’s heart does not have to have a direct correlation to the number of dates you have been on. For example, I have a cousin who has been on dozens of dates, but as a Godly man, he knows what he wants in a wife, and he is trying to find her. This serial-dating approach is not for everyone. However, there is something to be said for mustering up courage and taking chances on potential relationships. In these relationships, both individuals grow emotionally and spiritually, integrating lessons from previous relationships into a current one.

Had I forged ahead with my aforementioned ex boyfriend past our expiration date, we may have bitterly called off a highly publicized engagement because of our differences. Instead, we mutually split atop my apartment roof after I surprised him with his favorite Starbucks drink. We were actually together for seven months, and unlike my first relationship, my heart was carefully guarded. We placed trust in each other, trusted each other to respect the relationship, each other, and our emotions. It is freeing to say that I have no regrets about our time together.

My relationship philosophy says that dating is a means of seeing what you want in a spouse, not what spouse you want. Believing a prospective romance has potential to go to the altar is rather naïve, and exposes a previously impenetrable heart to a new brand of heartache bought by unmet expectations. A properly guarded heart does not let itself wander into the territory of marriage without communicating with its partner heart. A properly guarded heart sets boundaries for itself and lets God lead it to the proper pit stops before it reaches its final destination.

Photo Source: Ryan Answers