One of the few nonfiction titles I selected this year is a short book called Be Affected, which challenges and encourages young Christian men as they enter early stages of dating. It’s kind of a quick tips guide to successfully navigating those first relationships and build great boundaries and habits for dating relationships in general. It was a fun read, so I’m super excited to be able to talk a little more with author Riley Choquette.
Q&A with Riley Choquette
What inspired you to write BE AFFECTED?
In my residential college, I got to share a couple of songs at a coffee shop night, and I realized that both of the songs I had chosen were about dating relationships not working out. In between the songs, I took a moment to explain that people don’t have to feel crazy when they are deeply affected by their desires to be in relationship, that it’s even a good thing from the perspective of Divine image-bearing. After I had finished, a young guy came up and thanked me for sharing that perspective.
A few weeks later, we had a dating and relationships panel discussion, and I had the pleasure of representing single men. Experienced couples offered great wisdom that I wanted everyone to hear, but at the end of our time I found myself longing to communicate very practical dating advice to the young guys in my community. After a few days of being unable to fall asleep easily because I was dwelling on the advice I wanted to share, I decided to write it down.
If you could pass on only one bit of wisdom to teens and young adults who are looking for dating relationships today, what would it be?
Men, ask her out! Women, give a clear answer!
A frustrating amount of drama and pain results from the fear of plainly expressing the desire to learn about someone on a simple date. If more men would ask women on dates, we would have less pressure in dating, more freedom, and more joy. That’s the big-picture view.
On an individual level, asking a person out provides relief through clarity. The best way to know if someone wants to go on a date with you is to ask! There’s little good to over-analyzing whether someone is interested in you when you can simply ask the person who knows the answer. Clear asking and clear answering are good gifts in a realm full of ambiguity (and the insecurity that comes along with it).
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing Christian singles today?
In my opinion, the greatest hindrance to healthy dating is sexual impurity. Our culture defines dating in terms of sex and not in terms of marriage, which places ruinous expectations on Christian singles. That said, left in a vacuum, Christians would still struggle with purity because of the desires of our own flesh.
In light of that sad reality, Christians falter in two ways. The more common trap we fall into is compromising with the world on what good dating looks like, allowing sexual contact to cause unnecessary confusion, heartbreak, and pain in our relationships. Sometimes shame from stumbling in the area of purity hinders Christians from dating confidently, instead of pressing into a gracious God who forgives and heals.
But we also err in reaction to the world, by thinking that everything related to dating is worldly and wrong. God invented marriage, relationships, and love, and He owns them all. Christians should not fear romance; rather, we should embrace healthy dating as a witness to the world of our relational God.
What did you learn as you wrote BE AFFECTED?
I learned how awesome my parents are. I distinctly remember receiving the basis for the practical parts of dating, and even ending dating relationships, from my mom and dad. The bottom of good dating is consideration for other people, which my mom instilled in me in part through countless briefings before school dances: “When you pick her up, shake her dad’s hand. Look him in the eye. Tell her she looks pretty. Open the car door for her…” But beyond telling me what to do, they told me who I am. “Be your sweet, thoughtful self.”
When I was in my teens, the popular Christian dating guide was I KISSED DATING GOODBYE by Joshua Harris, which encourages Christians to pursue courtship as a relationship model rather than dating. What do you think about courtship versus dating?
Courtship is pursuing an exclusive relationship with a mind toward ending it in marriage. I think the model was developed out of a genuine desire for purity and a desire to avoid unnecessary heartache. Healthy Christian dating shares some goals and attributes with courtship, namely that its end is marriage and it desires to pursue that end in purity. The method is what differs.
Courtship is exclusive. While as a pursuer I ask only one woman at a time on dates, I think it’s healthy for both parties to be free from commitment in the early stages of dating. This protects both men and women. Why would I give part of my heart or my body away to someone that I may not be dating a month or even a week from now? Dating opens up space to get know someone’s personality without the pressure of starting a formalized relationship. In general, I think more pursuit of marriage among Christians would be a good thing, but the courtship model raises the start-up cost too high. In the earliest stages of romantic relationships, sometimes my friends will say, “I really just don’t know if I like him/her.” to which I can happily reply, “the point of dating is to find out!”
In terms of avoiding heartache, the courtship model definitely wins in the short term. Healthy dating, on the other hand, makes little attempt to hide from rejection or pain; it allows itself to be affected by the desire for relationship. Dating is for the bold, and when done well, it’s an opportunity to show off the image of God. I don’t read an explicit command in scripture to find marriage in one way or another, whether by arrangement or by courtship or by dating. Two things are certain: that we are to pursue relationships for God’s glory, and that neither marriage nor human attempts at purity can save souls—only Jesus does that.
Are there additional resources you recommend for teens or young adults who are beginning to explore dating relationships?
While there are a number of helpful articles online and countless books on dating, I believe the best resource for young people who are looking to date is community. Young people should talk through dating plans and ideas and struggles with family and friends who know and love them.
In the book, I talk about both preparing for a date and debriefing from a date through community. Once, when I was hoping to finish a canoe I had been building so that I could use it for a date, an amazingly wide circle of friends came around me to help finish the work and to cheer me on. And on multiple occasions, I’ve called my mom or my friends not only to tell them about a date, but also to find out how I feel about it. My community knows me well enough to speak into my decision making: “She sounds awesome! You should go on another date to be sure.” “I don’t know, man, you don’t seem that excited.” My community is still there and still loving me, even as the potential for romantic relationship comes and goes. It gives me the confidence to keep going.
Parents, be aware that it can be tricky to get these conversations started, especially with young guys. It takes time and patience and it can’t be forced. “Any cute girls on your radar?” is a good place to start.
About Riley Choquette
Riley Choquette is a young, Christian man who is passionate about good dating. He is from Edmond, OK and currently lives in Waco, TX where he recently graduated from Baylor University.
About Be Affected
Be Affected charges young men, especially in the Church, to embrace the value of dating as an aspect of divine image-bearing and offers practical advice on how to do it well. Written from the perspective of a young, single Christian man, this books offers a theological explanation of the importance and goodness of dating, highly-practical advice on asking for and planning effective dates, and honest encouragement for when things don’t go as planned.
From the Introduction:
Books about dating all face one of two problems: either the author is married, or the author is single. In the first case, it’s too easy to think ‘Well sure, that approach worked for you, but that’s just one story.’ What if the married author has fallen out of touch, and he or she doesn’t understand how things are these days? In the case of a single author, even more doubts arise: ‘How can I be sure whether any of this works, if it hasn’t worked out for you?’
That kind of thinking assumes that the goal of dating is finding a spouse, which is true. However, even though the ultimate indicator of success in dating is marriage, there are plenty of ways to be successful without yet having found a spouse. This book will detail some of those ways.
This very small book is meant as a practical guide to the early stages of dating. To maintain its usefulness, I will try to keep explanations brief and advice blunt. I write from my own experience and perspective—that of a young, single, Christian male—so this book is written primarily to young, Christian men. (That said, I feel non-Christians and females may still benefit from reading sections of this book.)
I write as one who is still trying. Nobody wants to be good at first dates, because that means the dates aren’t working! It’s much better to get in the game, find who you’re looking for, and get out, without having a lot of practice. But in terms of exploring compatibility with a number of women for whom I have much admiration and respect, I’d say I’m doing okay. I rarely avoid anyone out of embarrassment, and I have gained friendship with several awesome ladies. I can be honest, though, in saying I’d still prefer a wife over a number of new friends.
With this being a book of mostly practical advice (with some theology thrown in to back it all up), I think of it as an “80%” book: it will work for about 80% of the intended audience about 80% of the time. “But,” you say, “I don’t want an ‘80%’ relationship! I want something special!” My expectation is that what makes a relationship special is how it sneaks up and surprises you, and how it changes what makes sense to you and what doesn’t. Even walking intentionally toward a dating relationship, I fully expect to be surprised by love. This book will attempt to cover part of the walking.
There can be no pride in writing from a place where I’m still walking. I’m merely trying to make more peace for people like me. I see a lot of trouble and conflict in my generation from avoidable mistakes in dating. I see just as much trouble and conflict, if not more, from a fear of dating, especially among young people in the Church. I have hope that sharing my little experience may add to someone’s peace and make life simpler for my young friends and for me.
In truth, you have probably already heard much of the wisdom contained in this book. It’s a lot of common sense. The advice contained in this book is mostly simple, but I’m not foolish enough to call it easily-executed. Dating is hard! It takes guts, and work, and planning. It takes vulnerability and effort, and even effort to be vulnerable. But we don’t want dating to be easy, we want dating to be worth it.