In spite of all the songs about romance and love, I sometimes wonder whether the sexual revolution has actually stopped young people experiencing many of the romantic feelings that have been expressed in poetry and literature in times when it was more likely that a couple would patiently wait for sexual fulfilment within marriage.
It is a special time of waiting in excited anticipation of being committed to each other forever and realising that it is you that he or she loves, and not just your body.
Romance is difficult to define. It could be described as a feeling of excitement and mystery associated with strong feelings of attraction. It occurs when there are feelings of sexual attraction accompanied by absolute self-control. It is a special time of waiting in excited anticipation of being committed to each other forever and realising that it is you that he or she loves, and not just your body. Romantic feelings are very special and given to us by God. Falling in love was His idea.
Sex before marriage can spoil this excited anticipation, a bit like opening a present before Christmas. Sadly many, and particularly girls, give testimony to the facts: I loved him, I let him and I lost him, and any feelings of romance I had, have gone.
It can be hard to recognise whether someone has true affection for you, if you learn to equate sex with love. A society which encourages early sexual experimentation (even if it is consensual) is likely to be one in which there is little romance and little lasting love. It is possible for a couple to feel very close to one another because of sexual intimacy, but later as they try to face the realities of life together, find that they hardly know each other at all.
Romantic feelings can, of course, be dangerous if they make us impatient about experiencing sexual intimacy, if they encourage us to get into a relationship that is wrong or unsuitable, or if we selfishly indulge in the relationship without thinking about the possibility of it leading to marriage.
When a young man and a young woman start to get to know each other by ‘going out’, romance takes the relationship beyond friendship, so they each feel especially loved. God designed marriage so the strong feelings of romance could grow into a committed love which would be life-long and form a secure foundation for the next generation to be raised in and cared for. Within marriage there may not always be the same intensity of romance, but the committed love of marriage, unselfishly expressed, also brings a deeper security to the relationship as well as a companionship through the ups and downs of life.
What does this mean for Christian young people who are thinking of going out?
The word ‘courting’ has become old fashioned, but you sometimes still hear it used to describe a couple who are going out. Courting was always seen as having a purpose – that after initially feeling attracted to one another, the couple should get to know each other better over a period of time. During this time, they may develop a romantic relationship which will lead to marriage. For Christians, this is the time when a young man and a young woman will particularly try to determine whether it is God’s will that they should get married. It is also important that they think seriously about sexual intimacy, so it is saved and not spoiled. They should also learn not to expect that a marriage partner will satisfy all their deepest emotional needs; the Christian’s primary source of comfort and confidence should always be from God. For Christians, it is important that everything in their lives brings glory to God as they submit to what He says in the Bible and not simply to their feelings.
Romance is special in a going out relationship; make sure that impatience and lack of self-control does not mean that you miss out!