The Anticipation of Romance

Many a young person will experience a chill of excitement down their spine at the thought of courtship! Many are convinced that courtship or “going out” should bring with it a higher level of relating with a member of the opposite sex, which they have never experienced before. But what is that “higher level” and how shall it be attained?

The truth of the matter is that very few young people are clear in their minds as to what they should expect in courtship. Normally what they are anticipating is what may be called a romantic relationship. But here the problems start, as they must decide what romance really means. Unfortunately, many, including Christians will define romance according to what they see and hear from the world around them.

Most of these sources seem to speak with one voice as they define romance in courtship as being equivalent to physical intimacy. What do we mean by physical intimacy? By physical intimacy we mean the courting couple engages in activities like fondling each other, caressing, petting, kissing, tight and prolonged embracing, and in some cases even actual sexual intercourse.

Advocates of Physical Intimacy

The pressure on a courting couple to indulge in physical intimacy comes from the following:

  • Magazines and Novels.
  • Electronic media—For example, soap operas.
  • Music—Both audio and their corresponding videos.
  • Examples and stories from peers and older people. The young person probably knows some fore-runners in courtship who had gone physically intimate.
  • Misquoting the Bible. Many a young person will rush to the book of Song of Solomon as their proof that the Bible supports physical intimacy in courtship. But Songs of Solomon, among many other lessons, is teaching us about the beauty of sexual love as expressed in a marriage relationship.

From all these sources, the message seems to be one and the same: Go physical if you are courting. As a result many young people desire to have a special friend, but for the wrong reasons.

Building the Marriage Pyramid

The marriage pyramid shown below traces for us the different levels of growth which a healthy relationship should go through from the time two people meet each other to the time they are married.

  • Level 1—General relations are experienced by all human beings who interact with each other even before they start courting.
  • Level 2—In addition to the general relating, a courting couple adds the component of romance to their relationship.
  • Level 3—In addition to general relating and romance, a married couple adds physical intimacy to their relationship.

Physical IntimacyWhat the Bible Teaches

The Bible teaches that you need authorisation from God to physically handle a member of the opposite sex in an intimate way. Only under the marriage covenant is this authorisation given, as we can see in 1 Corinth 7:4. This means even you yourself do not have the authority to allow another person to get physically intimate with you outside marriage.

It is not a question of how well you handle each other physically so as not to cause sexual problems. No, you simply do not have the authority to do so! This is similar to driving a car without a drivers’ licence. You might be the most skilful driver but as long as you do not have a drivers’ licence, you are not allowed to drive.

Physical intimacy is exclusively reserved for marriage. It is a component of marriage. Just like a steering wheel is a component of a car! What would you think of a grown up person, dressed in a suit and running along the main road “driving” only a steering wheel that he has wrenched from a car? You would laugh, of course. In the same way, sex is part of a whole package. This package includes all the components of physical intimacy, which we have already highlighted. How did king Abimelech discover that Rebekah was Isaac’s wife and not his sister as he had earlier told him? Genesis 26.8-9 tells us, “When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelech king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelech summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”Abimelech knew that the act of caressing belonged only to the marriage relationship!

If you are not married the rules on how to relate with the opposite sex that apply to you are the general ones like those found in 1 Timothy 5:1-2 and Matthew 5:27-28. The Bible does not provide a set of special rules for those who are courting.

The Content of Wholesome Romance

Remember we said that a courting couple can and should enjoy an exciting and romantic relationship without getting physically intimate. What does this romance consist of?

  • It consists of engaging in social activities of a wholesome nature. Wholesome romance will involve engaging in activities of a light nature but which help your friendship to grow by having great fun together. This is, of course, in addition to the more serious issues of courtship, which are not the subject of discussion here.
  • The basis of wholesome romance is that God created human beings as social beings meant to enjoy mutual relationships by sharing their lives together. It involves developing the friendship between two people and developing their levels of communication.
  • Some suggestions of romantic activities:
    • You must learn to play with each other. I mean real positive playing, just like children do! Laughter is good medicine for developing any human relationship. It loosens you up and deepens your level of communication. Playing can take many different forms:
      • Board games: Snakes & Ladders, Ludo, Scrabble, Chess, etc. Most of these are cheaply available in our shops.
      • Outdoor sports: Tennis, badminton, bowling, etc.
      • Local games: akalambe, hide and seek, touches, insolo, etc.
      • Include group activities.
    • You must arrange outings
      • Eating out.
      • Visiting couples and friends.
      • Taking walks—enjoying nature.
      • Attending various social events; weddings, church socials, watching as opposed to playing sports, etc.
    • You must learn to give pleasure to your friend.
      • Giving of Gifts—these need not be expensive. It is the thought behind it that matters.
      • Giving of compliments—discovering and appreciating the good in your friend. This is a right use of the tongue as opposed to criticising, which comes more naturally to most of us. Note that there are a lot of positive things to appreciate about your partner other than their body parts!
      • Expressions of gratitude and apologies.
      • Know that the abuse of the tongue is one of the greatest weapons the devil uses to destroy marriages. So learn to use it positively in courtship.
    • You must learn to enjoy doing things together.
      • Church activities—prepare Sunday school lessons together, for example.
      • You must learn what things your friend is interested and involved in.

The Hindrances to Wholesome Romance

But why is this type of romance so rare? Why the assertion that African people are not romantic? There are a number of factors that we need to fight and overcome:

  • Our culture—Most of us have been brought up in a culture which taught us that we were not supposed to play with members of the opposite sex. Boys are not supposed to play with girls and girls are not supposed to play with boys.
  • Our backgrounds—Whether it is playing with members of the same sex or the opposite sex, most young people come from a background where they did not experience quality times of playing and having fun. For the boys, apart from the occasional playing with a wire car and hunting birds, life revolved around school. For the modern boys, playing means computer games and watching movies. For the girls, apart from playing with a few dolls here and there, life consisted mostly of school, household chores and watching soap operas. Both backgrounds terribly lack fun activities like sports, games, going for outings, appreciating the arts (music, poetry, literature, etc) and healthy play times with members of the opposite sex. All these ingredients are vital for romance in courtship.
  • One’s personality or upbringing—The combination of one’s culture and background has produced in many a young person a personality that finds it very difficult to appreciate fun and pleasure. They find themselves with no or very little capacity to give or receive social fun and pleasure. With respect to functioning as a social being, they find themselves reserved and unsociable.
  • Wrong doctrinal beliefs—When the young person who has thus grown up with such a poor social background becomes a Christian, they will try and seek justification from Scripture for their unsocial approach to life. Many have, therefore, ended up believing that the Bible teaches that playing and fun are wrong, no matter how wholesome they might be, and that courtship is a time for serious business only and must be run like a business entity!
  • Wrong beliefs about romance – Put such a young person in courtship and you have a time bomb about to explode! Since they have not developed the capacity to enjoy and give wholesome fun and pleasure; and yet deep down they want to experience a higher level of relating with a member of the opposite sex; they conclude that this level can only be attained through secret physical intimacy.

Cultivating Wholesome Romance

There is need therefore to deliberately cultivate wholesome romance in courtship by attending to the following:

  • Get your doctrine right. Marriage was meant to provide the highest social interaction between a man and a woman. The delight enjoyed by the husband and wife in a marriage relationship is distinctly brought out in the Song of Songs. Wholesome romance in courtship prepares the couple to experience such delight in marriage.
  • Discover areas of common denominator and develop them. When you enter courtship each one of you comes in with a peculiar social background. Put everything on the table and resolve to integrate and develop your social backgrounds. For example if your friend plays badminton and you don’t; resolve to learn playing badminton so that you can be playing together. Do the same with other interests like interest in music, poetry, going for outings etc. Do not despise or denounce your friend’s social interests if they are wholesome and not sinful.
  • Commit yourselves to learning new hobbies and interests together. We have already stated that most of us come from very poor backgrounds socially and we might bring very little to the table. This should not discourage us. Rather decide with your partner to learn and develop new hobbies and interests which will enrich your romantic lives. This will take commitment and hard work but it will be a highly rewarding experience.
  • Involve others: Courtship is not time to isolate yourselves. Involve others in some of your social activities. Group activities like outings, sports, games, meals etc can add significantly to your romantic life.
  • Be creative: The secret of wholesome romance is creativity. Apply your minds to it and do not be lazy. Good things do not come easy! Many young people conclude that you need a lot of money to engage in social activities. This is not true. All you require is a lot of creativity! For example instead of going to a restaurant for a meal you can go to a couple’s home or put your resources together with another courting couple and have a braai together.