Time to let romance be boss?  

by
23 June 2017

Vicky Walker looks at Evangelical angst about courtship today

Dare to Date

Aukelien Van Abbema

SPCK £9.99

(978-0-281-07701-4)

Church Times Bookshop £9

 

AUKELIEN VAN ABBEMA, a professional counsellor in the Netherlands, has advice for people wanting to meet a Christian partner. Dare to Date is the culmination of her experiences looking for a mate, case studies from her work and friendships, and advice drawn from the Bible and relationship books.

The book is a punchily written modern presentation, concentrating on the importance of connection: to yourself, God, community, and eventually to another person. Taking a straight-talking tone, Van Abbema identifies some common habits of single-and-seeking Christians, and offers helpful and practical ways to break out of frustrating patterns. Overall, her advice is practical, encouraging, clear, and sometimes blunt.

Many of Van Abemma’s case studies are drawn from her work, and, as a private therapist in a metropolitan city, she appears to get her clients from a certain demographic. Consequently, the stories won’t all resonate with readers who don’t have “ability to sail” or a Master’s on their must-have list, who come from more diverse backgrounds and experiences, or who aren’t 25 (stated as the best age to marry).

Most readers should be able to draw from this book useful tips on navigating online dating and new norms. Advice on building a supportive “team” to keep up morale, recognising and breaking unhelpful dating patterns (including not dating at all), dealing with rejection, and looking beyond types and ideals to meet potential romantic prospects is useful for all ages.

Where Dare to Date feels less modern is in the gender stereotypes that run through it. The “Further Reading” list includes a scientifically dubious Mars and Venus title, and the much-debated biblical courtship tome I Kissed Dating Goodbye. References to Drs Cloud and Townsend’s work on establishing boundaries, meeting new people, and emotional health are helpful, and it is useful to see them interpreted by an author who has applied them in her own life.

Van Abemma suggests delaying kissing when dating, and waiting until marriage to have sex, and sits this alongside defined gender-roles. Women are encouraged to wear sexy dresses and let their hair down, men to bring their best jokes and pay on dates. Women relate to shoe references and want fancy proposals, men to cars and James Bond.

Dare to Date is a book for single people who have bought into these roles and ethics and who believe there is a “right” way to do things, and that relationships and marriages should look a certain way. Readers who find life and love less straightforward or traditional may not see themselves represented here.

 

Vicky Walker is the author of Do I Have to be Good All the Time? (River Publishing and Media, 2011).

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