College Students: Reclaim Dating Rituals That Build Great Marriages

College Students: Reclaim Dating Rituals That Build Great Marriages

Several times each school year, I speak to our college students at Trevecca during a chapel service. Today, I’d like to share excerpts from one of my talks last year. It’s on a topic that’s near and dear to my heart—the future of Christian marriages and Christian families.

Today’s young people live in a culture that prefers “hook-ups” for casual sex to committed dating rituals that require sacrifice from each person and help lay the foundation for solid Christian marriages. Last year, I wrote a book, Human Sexuality, which explored this subject.

It’s my prayer that college students, young adults, and singles everywhere will heed the call to abandon the world’s idea of “relationships” and return to lives of integrity and the pursuit of great, biblical marriages.

Relationships between men and women have become ambiguous during the college years; they’re fuzzy and undefined.

So undefined that quite often you’re with someone and you’re sitting there wondering, Is this a date or not; what is this we are doing right now? That sense of ambiguity is rooted in the fact that you are a generation that has grown up in homes that have been less stable than homes of previous generations.

Surveys tell us that yours is a generation who has watched marriages that have caused you to think, “This is scary. It’s a big risk. This is an area that frightens me and maybe the best thing I can do is somehow protect myself from getting into this kind of relationship.”

And if love is risky or maybe even unattainable by your definitions of what you’ve seen, the conclusion your generation draws is that maybe its better to stay detached. Maybe it’s better to keep relationships at a distance, and be very indecisive about relationships. I mean, to put it bluntly, if you never say to a person, “Would you go out on a date with me?” then you never risk the opportunity of hearing the words, “Not in your lifetime.”

If it’s unclear how a relationship might begin, it’s even messier about how it might end. How do you end something you’re really not sure even began or not?

The rituals of dating—popular among my generation—that progressed through “going steady,” engagement, to eventually end in marriage have been obliterated in your generation.

At the same time, you’ve lost the rituals of how to break up. Because if the relationship is nebulous to start with, if it’s just kind of fuzzy, how do you break up something that you really don’t know started?

Scott Stanley says relationships have moved from a practice of deciding to a practice of sliding. From a practice of deciding: “I want you to go on a date with me.” “Yes, I will.” “No I don’t.” That’s deciding. To a practice of sliding: “Hey want to hang out? Want to go study? Want to go to the Hub? The Cube? The coffee shop? You want to go do something like that?”

Where we once decided and committed to get to know a person through the process of dating, we now try to slide into relationships with no devotion or definition attached to them. The essence of commitment is making a choice to give up other choices. It is to declare through communication where a relationship is and where you are in it.

But our culture is so ripe with anxiety attachment that it just feels safer not to do that, not to decide. Then we don’t risk rejection in the middle of it.

There are serious problems with this in terms of our development as people who could one day be headed toward very serious commitments of marriage.

According to recent surveys, you still want to get married. It’s 90% or above who say I want one day to have a loving, secure, committed, and devoted relationship with a person. So, here you are in a dating culture that has abandoned the very rituals that lead toward that thing that you so want.

Now, I want to try to give you a bigger picture than even your own narrow world if I could.

Imagine the group of your children who will be sitting here at your age in the next generation that’s coming along.

Can you imagine the attachment anxieties that they will have when well over half this body—if not more—were to say, “I grew up in a home with only one parent. I saw the pain that this brought into my parent’s life, and I don’t want ever that to happen.”

I’m here to say to you this morning that you may be the generation in which marriage is recovered and recaptured or lost.

So I want to say to Trevecca [and all college] students, reclaim the kind of dating relationships that build great marriages!

Do it for the sake of a witness to God in this world. Do it for the sake of children that need to be born. Do it for your own sake and don’t get sucked in to what a hook-up culture is doing by cheapening the kind of decisive relationships that need to occur as a foundation in the world where we are today.


  1. Todd Wiseman says

    Good stuff from the Reverend Doctor President Boone. Thank you for your challenging observations.

  2. Rachel Hughey says

    I now follow your blog and I love reading it! Thank you for enlightening us with your thoughts.

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