Last year I wrote a blog post titled Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed. In that post, I explained how I went from a courtship advocate running PracticalCourtship.com to no longer believing that Modern Courtship is a viable model for most people.
The post went viral.
I hoped to reach ten or twenty thousand people. The post ended up reaching over a million people. We had visitors from every nation in the world except for North Korea.
I did not talk much about my personal life in the post. The result has been that so many people have Googled my marital status that it is now a recommended search term for my name.
So let me set the record straight that I am not married… yet.
Currently, I am happily practicing Traditional Dating and going on dates with different women. I am optimistic about the future.
Over the past several months, many people have used my marital status as a way of discounting or challenging my ideas. I would now like to respond to some of those objections.
“You don’t meet the Biblical qualifications to be a teacher because you are single.”
I have been told, “According to 1 Timothy 3:2, elders must be ‘the husband of one wife.’ So, as a single man you do not have the authority to teach.”
I would like to say that there is a difference between being an elder and sharing what I have learned. If we reject the words of single men, we would need to throw out the teachings of Jesus, Paul, and many other saints throughout the ages.
Also, many heroes of the faith started teaching before they got married:
- John Wesley
- George Whitefield
- C.S. Lewis
My authority to speak does not come from being married. It comes from being a child of God.
“You are still single. So, your ideas don’t work.”
I’ve been practicing Traditional Dating for less than a year. My singleness has far more to do with my 28-year-long commitment to Modern Courtship than it does with my one year of Traditional Dating.
Complicating matters more is the fact that since the blog post went viral I now live in a fishbowl. Many people observe my personal life, looking for things to criticize. So, dating is more complicated for me than for others.
Many people, both old and young, have used Traditional Dating, to find an amazing husband or wife. Traditional Dating is a time-tested model that worked for generations in the past and continues to work today.
“Only happily married people are qualified to give relationship advice.”
There are two problems with this kind of thinking.
The first problem with this argument is that it presupposes that we cannot learn from failure.
As my dad says, “success is a poor teacher.” In many ways, we can learn more from failure than we can from success. People who have failed are often painfully aware of why they failed. People who succeed often misattribute the cause of their success. Social Scientists call this attribution bias.
In researching this book, I have interviewed a lot of people. Even more have contacted me, filled out a survey, or left a comment on my blog. Sometimes I feel a bit like I am running a confessional as people share their mistakes and their successes with me.
So, in doing research for this book, I am just as eager to talk to people who have failed as I am to talk to those who have succeeded.
As Roy H. Williams said, “A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.”
The second problem is that this argument assumes one story can be representative.
I’ve been contacted by hundreds of married people since my blog post came out last year. Many of them share their story with me as their argument either for or against my ideas. They are describing one tree and then building an opinion about the forest from that one tree.
There is a bell curve of human experiences when it comes to relationships. Any one person’s story is just one data point along that curve. I am trying to write about the entire forest. To do that, I need perspective on more than just one tree. I need to hear all those stories of success and failure. The more people I talk to, the more dots along that bell curve I can construct.
If I were married, I would be tempted to give my story an extra amount of weight. In some ways, it could dilute my objectivity. Every marriage is unique. Every family is weird. The “typical” family has two and half children. Having only half a child is really weird. No one person’s experience can be representative of the whole. This is not about me.
This blog and the book are based on my study of history, culture, and the Bible. I’ve also poured through scientific studies, statistics and have interviewed people around the country.
At first I hesitated to talk about myself at all because I was afraid my story would be a distraction from the message. The result is that people made assumptions about my personal life and then built arguments on those assumptions.
This is not about me.
The reason my original blog post spread was not because I’m a celebrity. It spread because it resonated with the people who spread it. The post has nearly 200,000 shares on Facebook because singles around the world are looking for a better path to marriage.
My marital status does not make the ideas any better or worse. The ideas stand or fall on their own. They either work or they don’t. One person’s experience will not prove the ideas good or bad.
If some people don’t want to buy Courtship in Crisis because I am still single, that’s fine. My hope, though, is that people will read the book, put the ideas into practice, and marry the love of their life.
Appreciate that oft seem willing to take on your critics, as that’s part of what you sign up for as a writer. Regarding this piece here, a few of the typical questions thrown your way seem to be tailored in a way that you are able to defend and I’d assume you’ve heard, but haven’t addressed a few others.
Case in point; “You’re still single, so your ideas don’t work” isn’t how I’d frame the question. Having been married for a decade, it’d be more along the lines of, “What you’re saying works in theory, but until you’ve experienced the true highs and lows of marriage of parenthood, the monotony that couples experience, the rough seasons of life, etc.”
I’ve commented on your work before, so forgive me if I’m repeating myself, but it’s all relative and some of this courtship talk, the notion of not marrying a best friend, et al—it comes off like someone in junior high school talking about negotiating the terrain that is college life.
It’s the lack of experience that somewhat, “invalidates” (for lack of a better word) what you’re laying out there. Has nothing to do with the concepts not working because you’re single and everything to do with the fact that you simply haven’t been married to personally know where the courting process and winding up with a best friend will take you.
(I also write this knowing that someone married for 50 years would look at the 10 years I’ve put in this far and would laugh me out of the room, explaining that even with a decade, I had no clue what real marriage was all about. Again, it’s all relative.)
Felt the same about the posed question here, that only happily married people are qualified to give relationship advice. Again, a more logical way to frame that based on the topic here would be, “Only folks who have been married and experienced the highs and lows of marriage are truly qualified to talk about how the courtship process worked out for them and if marrying a best friend is a good or bad idea.”
… and regarding Biblical qualifications to be a teacher being invalid due to a lack of a spouse, I shudder to think what those folks think of anyone who has joined the priesthood or become a nun. Are we saying that Pope Francis or the late Mother Theresa “don’t meet the Biblical qualifications to be a teacher”? Please.
You’re more than qualified to teach and certainly have a knack for it. The issue at hand here remains how qualified is someone that’s never been married to speak with such authority on two becoming one and all that good and bad life experience that goes into that union—as well as the stress that follows due to parenthood, career issues, money problems, loss of loved ones and all else that life throws at you.
Night and day dealing with those things as an individual, opposed to as a joined-for-life couple.
Isn’t this just a textbook example of the genetic fallacy? People should grapple with your arguments and evidence, not whether or not you are married.
While you may not be married, when I Kissed Dating Goodbye came out in 1997, Joshua Harris was NOT married. He married his wife in October of the following year. Here is a very influential book that is written by someone not yet married about dating and courting. I see NO PROBLEM with you writing a book on the same topics of dating and courting while not yet being married.
Wow! I didn’t know that!
And he was pastoring a church before he was married. I live near it – it is HUGE.
While I did not know it at the time, it was pointed out to me by an online discussion group that seemed to have a number of his groupies.
Not married yet. You and thousands of other good brothers and sisters.
I hated the idea of dating. I went on one date in highschool and about 4 my freshman year of college. Since I had decided NOT to marry it seemed rather pointless. Then I got into a very controling church group that practiced something called “courtship” which I had not heard of before. But instead of bringing parents into equation, it was the church leadership. Parents were to be ignored. Your argument that the ideas and verses supporting courtship also support arranged marriage ring true as that is what it devolved into. The elders arranged marriages as bonuses for those single young men who worked especially hard for the congretation. Of course on paper that was NOT how they said it worked.
I bucked the trend and followed the “paper” and was shot down when I tried to start a courtship. I was told by the elders and home group leaders she was “too immature;” she had “not even green fruit” and “it would be years before she was ready to get married.” 6 weeks later her engagement was announce to another guy. Her arrangement was already in the works and they did not even have the decency to tell me.
So I bucked the trend again. And was turned down. So I kept at them. Over and over for months. Finally the elders relented and set up the courtship. It lasted a whole 45 minutes. The time it took to call her with an invitation to dinner where I asked her to marry me and she said yes. 37 years later we are together (yes there have been problems) but at least 50% of those arrangements broke up – maybe more like 60%.
Then it came our own kids’ turn. Date? Court? Arrange?
Our answer was “Yes, Maybe, and NOT IN A MILLION YEARS!”
They all chose well.
So date easy and pray hard. Emotions can easily get attached to someone – anyone – and can make it awefully hard to hear God. Having a few independant voices that have no agenda can be very helpful – mutual friends, her friends and family and your own friends and family. Listen and weigh their advice carefully; but do not give them the keys to the car.
“My authority to speak does not come from being married. It comes from being a child of God.” Bam! and amen!
And I believe you just might get more of a hearing BECAUSE you are single, at least from sons and daughters, if not the parents.