I am single for the first time in 23 years after my wife passed away last year. Since then, I have been thinking a lot about my future. Of the many things I thought about was that one day I would like to get married again. Of course, to get to that point there is a process, and in America, that process is called dating.
My, have things changed.
I met my late wife, Michelle, at church. I knew her for two years before she asked me out.
Yes, you read that right. She made finding someone easy for me.
I knew what kind of person she was before I went out on a date with her. I knew her reputation, her friends, her commitments to family and to her church. I knew she shared the same worldview, the same values and the same commitment to marriage as I did long before we went on a first date.
Today, however, people find their mate online. You send virtual smiles to people you have never met. You decide if you would like to date someone by looking at their profile picture or reading their bio. Oddly enough, the very first time you meet them is on the first date. Today, many first dates are what we called in my day blind dates.
In some ways, I feel like I am in the middle of a “Back to the Future” movie. I wish I could find the flux capacitor so I can get that time machine working again. This way I can be whisked back to the early 1990s when dating was much less complicated.
Even though times have changed, I still believe there are timeless truths, at least the truths I adhere to, that haven’t changed. I would like to take a moment to share one piece of wisdom I found helpful 23 years ago and still do today.
To begin, I would say that one truth I have found priceless is understanding the essence of marriage, or at least my version of it. There are at least three options to choose from in deciding what the essence of what marriage should be.
First, there is the modern view of marriage, which is highly individualistic. The essence of marriage in this view is largely centered on personal fulfillment. One’s baser nature becomes the primary foundation as things like hotness or cuteness are paramount in choosing a partner, and integrity and virtue are often overlooked.
Second, there is the traditionalist view of marriage, which is collectivist. The essence of this view is centered on fulfilling a duty where each spouse subordinates their own desires for the good of the family as well as for the good of the community.
According to New York Times bestselling author Tim Keller, both views subordinate the essential essence of marriage, which is the third option, friendship.
Therefore, building a friendship is essential to a successful marriage. So for me, finding the right person involves finding someone who has the potential to become my best friend.
How is this done? Friendship begins like any other friendship. It is not created, but discovered. In a sense, the two people see the same truth and have similar outlooks on life.
To aid in this discovery certain questions are asked. Is the other person passionate about the same things? Does the person share common interests, maintain the same life goals or share the same philosophy of life?
C.S. Lewis once said regarding discovering a friend, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” Things like common interests and common vision are important to developing a lasting friendship.
Once the friendship is discovered, it has to be cultivated and nurtured. This requires, says Keller, availability in order to get to know one another, taking time to learn the inner typography of the other person, and be committed to that person’s emotional and spiritual flourishing. These relational dynamics are realized through great sensitivity and truth telling.
As these principles continue to be worked out, the friendship flourishes. This should be a big part of the dating relationship as well as the marriage relationship.
One last thing. After you do get married, continuing to date your spouse after marriage will go a long way in continuing to grow the friendship.
Tim Orr is an adjunct faculty member in religious studies at IUPUC, where he has served for more than eight years. He is the author of two books. His latest book is, “Islam Rising: How the Christian College Can Equip the Next Generation.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.