Every fall, young men and women descend on college campuses across the country, freshly free from parental accountability and looking for love. It’s a unique time of life that likely won’t repeat itself. Never again will you have instant access to so many people of the opposite sex.
Naturally, some young Christians view college as a great time to find Mr. or Mrs. Right. They hit the ground combing through the masses, looking for the most eligible bachelor or bachelorette. Others are only interested in having a weekly or yearly companion to hold hands, snuggle, and take out on dates. There’s no real intention toward marriage.
I know both hearts well. I began college dating without intentions until a friend challenged me. “Can you see yourself marrying her?” Soon after, I started dating to find my wife. Both periods of my life had one thing in common: I was a serial dater — one who dates a lot of people in a short span of time. Here are five lessons I learned for serial daters like me.
1. Look before you leap.
Leaping before looking has led to many broken hearts and some difficult marriages. People leap into relationships for various reasons that are often not filtered through biblical qualifications and principles. Anxiety, for instance, is a common cause of getting into relationships before we’ve carefully examined a person. Doubt overwhelms our minds. Satan whispers, “You’ll never get married if you pass this one by” or “You can’t do better than this.”
For others, physical attraction makes us compromise. Proverbs warns us of the deceitfulness of charm and the vanity of beauty (Proverbs 31:30). We’re also warned that “desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way” (Proverbs 19:2). Romantic pursuits rooted in beauty and charm usually lead to regrets and heartache.
Consider how your actions have affected the droves of people you’ve been romantically involved with. Entering into a committed relationship with a person you haven’t properly examined not only hurts you, but it hurts them as well. Serial daters view the opposite sex as rides on a playground — you use them to fulfill your momentary desires and move on when you’re bored.
Essentially, you’re looking to your own interests and not to the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Paul challenges us to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). Christ did “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility [counted] others more significant than [himself]” (Philippians 2:3). When you serial date, you’re not operating with the mind of Christ, but in the spirit of the anti-Christ. Christians look before leaping to protect others and not just themselves.
2. Labor to kill sexual sin in your heart.
The question many Christian students want to know is, “What is God’s will for my life?” The Bible answers this question: God’s will for your life is “that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). Scripture paints a beautiful, holistic picture of sex. When enjoyed in the marriage bed, it’s pleasing to the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:2–5). But when it’s engaged outside of marriage, it reaps misery and sorrow. Moreover, Christians who engage in unrepentant sexual acts outside of marriage defile the church (1 Corinthians 5:1–13). Sexual deviance is rebellion against God as Creator (Romans 1:18–25). It communicates what your heart really thinks: I’m right and God is wrong.
You should labor to kill all sin, but for many of you, sexual sin in pornography or inappropriate dating relationships is likely your greatest adversary. Serial daters endlessly seek satisfaction from relationships, which inevitably leads to sexual immorality. Fulfilled sexual desires alone and out of context will never make you happy. The pursuit of lasting pleasure through sex is a mirage and snare for a thirsty soul. It will always leave you dissatisfied. The Bible offers you something better than sex.
3. Lean on Jesus to satisfy your soul.
“Jesus is enough.” I know you’ve heard this time and time again and your response is, “I know.” I would love nothing more than to type an answer that’s going to satisfy your desire to discover the magic bullet that radically changes your perspective on your singleness and eliminates all struggles with discontentment. At the end of the day, all I have to offer you is Jesus. And as offended and misunderstood as you may feel by that advice, I still believe he is enough for you.
I entered marriage secretly thinking it was the magic bullet. I thought marriage, sex, and other things would satisfy this unending thirst. I disregarded married people who warned me to cling to Jesus and not view marriage as the answer. Marriage didn’t quench my thirst, but it did expose my idolatry. Marriage is one of the most gracious sanctifying agents that God can give us. At times it hurts, but intertwined in those moments are glimpses of heaven and a picture of the gospel.
Many men and women have pursued love, sex, career, status, fortune, and power only to discover that at the end of their pursuit is more of the unhappiness they thought they escaped. We are indeed “enigmas whose solution can be found only in God” (Our Reasonable Faith, 23). Discontentment is the enemy of the soul that seeks satisfaction in Jesus. Jesus offers our souls true satisfaction in every stage of life that will leave us neither hungry nor thirsty (John 6:35).
4. Listen to older men and women.
During my short life, I’ve come to value the wisdom of older men and women. They are a precious gift to young men and women. College students, be intentional about seeking out these relationships. Throughout Scripture we’re given a model of the older instructing the younger (Proverbs 22:6; Psalm 145:4; 1 Peter 5:1–5; Deuteronomy 6:4–9). The apostle Paul instructs older women to “train the young women” (Titus 2:3–5) and Titus is told to “urge the younger men to be self-controlled” (Titus 2:6–8).
Be open and honest with older men and women about your patterns in dating, especially your failures. Observe their marriages. Invite hard and uncomfortable questions. Heed their advice. This approach will prove fruitful and could break sinful habits.
5. Love your Bible more than you love marriage.
College is full of activities that can keep you distracted from reading your Bible. There are always games to watch, friends to hang out with, and love interests to pursue. This reality can be exciting, but it’s also hazardous for the soul. The Bible teaches that Scripture is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). It is your one-stop shop to know God himself, the truth about sex, marriage, friendship, and the key to real joy.
When you forsake the Scriptures, you forsake divine revelation and wisdom from God. Scripture must shape how you see God, your college experience, and relationships. You must love your Bible more than you love marriage if you want to end a cycle of serial dating.
Hope for the Future
I’ve been amazed at how much my past serial dating haunts my marriage. I’ve often reflected on former relationships and the ways in which they have limited or inhibited my love for my wife with deep pain and regret. I’ve frequently sat in silence weeping over past heartaches and the trail of broken hearts I’ve left behind.
I take no pleasure in the amount of girls I pursued, but I have found joy in the gospel of grace. God has been kind to give me a wife who, though she can’t relate, constantly applies the balm of grace to my old wounds. And I’m learning, day by day, lessons I want to teach my children so that they live more satisfied in Jesus than I was in their singleness and dating.
If you’re a serial dater, you should repent. Abandon broken cisterns and flee to the fountain that never runs dry. Mourn over your past and trust in the righteousness of Christ. There is hope for future freedom in Jesus.