Before the Ring
How far is too far? How honest should I be about my past with my future spouse?... Jonathan "JP" Pokluda addresses questions along the path to a promise.
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How far is too far? How honest should I be about my past with my future spouse?… Jonathan “JP” Pokluda addresses questions along the path to a promise.
Before the Ring
Dave: Okay; tell me if you can remember a really, really, really bad date with me.
Dave: I’m not talking about before we were married. It could be even after we were married, because I’ve got one.
Ann: Okay, what’s yours?
Ann: Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Dave: I’m thinking of the time we went to watch our youngest son, Cody, play college football in Illinois. You know what I’m talking about; right?
Dave: And we’re driving back. You yell at me in the car and say, “You’re the biggest jerk.”
Ann: I said, “You have been the biggest idiot to me the entire day.”
Dave: Yes, she actually said, “You have been a jerk to me all day.” The reason was—I was/I was an absolute angry, impatient—
Ann: The worst part is that we had to do a message at Kensington on stage on marriage the next day.
JP: Oh, man.
Dave: I actually thought, “She may not even come up with me.”
Ann: We didn’t even conclude the argument until we were on the stage the next day.
Dave: Yes, that was fun; the congregation got to watch.
But anyway, here we are! We’ve got us an expert on dating. JP Pokluda wrote a book—he is a pastor in Waco of Harris Creek Baptist Church—and he wrote a book called Outdated. It’s all about how to do dating right.
I’m sure, JP, you’ve never had a date fail.
Ann: JP, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
JP: Yes, so glad to be here with you guys. I love/I love being with you.
Dave: I bet you are! You’re like, “What did I just step into?”
JP: No; yes, why don’t we go back to that conflict and work through that? [Laughter]
No, I’ve had/the reason I wrote a book on dating is because I feel and believe I did it all wrong. I did all the wrong ways; I made all the mistakes; I paid all the dummy tax. [Laughter] And then I found the Scripture; and then I learned to trust God; and now, I’ve found life in Him. I’ve tried to write down some best practices.
Yes, the subtitle is Find Love That Lasts When Dating Has Changed. It’s so hard to date today. Guys aren’t asking girls out. They feel like girls are always saying, “No.” There is passivity amongst the men that kind of marks the dating world. You have the whole technology issue of: “Hey, should I do dating apps? Should I not?” You have compatibility tests and personality tests.
Yet, we’re/as we’re look for marriage, marriages aren’t lasting. We are getting married less, or we’re getting married later. People that are going on dates are like: “How do I know what I know?” and “How do I find love?” There are just all these angsts. There is just a lot of angst that marks single people today, especially in the church. I believe this book could change the landscape of dating as we know it.
Dave: There really aren’t a lot—maybe, I’m uninformed—but a lot of resources to help. I know when we started dating, I never had a conversation with my mom, or my dad, or any mentor to say: “How do you date?”/“How do you date well?”
Ann: Well, even biblically, what does it look like for a believer to date?
JP: There are more resources than have ever existed before but not great resources and certainly not biblical resources. You have more technology, more dating apps, matchmakers/professional matchmakers, things that exist to help you find your perfect person—that’s part of the problem, because that’s what people are looking for—and yet, there’s just so much angst out there.
I think this book will be helpful to anybody, who is single—whether you’ve never had a prospect; whether you are in a date/you’re kind of dating around/you are dating different people; you’re in a serious relationship; or you’re engaged—I think it’s going to be helpful; or if you are a parent of an adult/you have adult children that you would love to help in this area of relationships.
Dave: Yes, one of the things you said you do—is this every week?—you take questions?
JP: Yes; that’s right.
Dave: So people email you; they contact you. How does that go?
JP: Yes, so I do that on Instagram®. There is a feature in the stories where you can ask a question. I’ll get over 2,000 questions/around 2,000 questions every Friday; and I’ll answer about 100 of those, somewhere between 50 to 100 of those.
Dave: Well, we’re only going to give you one today.
Dave: We’ve got a caller waiting to talk to you. His name is John; right?
Dave: John, you out there?
John: I am.
Dave: You’ve got a question for JP; let’s hear it.
John: Yes; JP, I’ll share a little bit of this story before I launch into the question. Last year, living in Dallas, Texas, one of my best friends is dating a godly woman from South Dakota. I’m from South Dakota originally. I just asked this godly woman, that my best friend is dating, “Hey, are there any godly women from South Dakota, where I’m from originally, that I missed, and I have overlooked, and I should be pursuing?” She said, “Well, John, there’s this girl”—I’ll just call her Jamie for this story’s sake—“There is this girl named Jamie that I really think you should pursue.”
After an Instagram DM—which I guess is, maybe, pointing to our culture—me and Jamie swapped numbers. We started texting. In February, my roommate from South Dakota in Dallas said, “Hey, my girlfriend is coming down. Would you mind if Jamie comes down that you might meet her for the first time?” She ended up coming down—this is a Thursday, Friday, Saturday—then they were driving back Sunday. It wasn’t just a date, but it was a weekend.
Thursday, after work, I show up with flowers at my coworkers house, which is where these two girls are staying. I mean, she opens the door. We hug—like, it just kicks off from there—we had a great night. I drop her back off for the night. I get back to my roommate that night/same night as the date. I said, “Dude, she’s amazing; but I just don’t think we’re aligned in the same way. She’s got a heart for Haiti, and I just don’t see myself being in Haiti in the near future. She’s living currently in South Dakota, and I’m living currently in Dallas. I just don’t think we are running in the same lane. Though she loves the Lord, and though she is really cool, I just don’t think I’m going to pursue her.”
We went into Friday. Friday, we have a date night as a group. I struggled to make eye contact with her; and the whole night, she is just grabbing for attention in any way and every way. I’m just like so internally conflicted to the point where we’re going to get Krispy Kreme after dinner, just me and her. We get in the car; she goes, “What was up with you tonight?” Man, on the way to Krispy Kreme, I just start divulging my heart: “Hey, I don’t plan to pursue you. I think you’re amazing.” I’m affirming, and I’m affirming; I’m trying to share a hard truth of like, “But I don’t think I’m going to pursue you.”
At this point, she is in tears; and we’re parked in the Krispy Kreme parking lot. She’s going, “Oh, so you do this all the time; huh? You lead a girl on just to break her heart.” I’m like, “I’m trying to be kind. I’m trying to be loving.” I’m like—after an hour of crying—I’m like, “Do you still want Krispy Kreme?” She’s like, “No; not really.”
The next day—this is where the story really takes a turn—she said, “Hey, first night, Thursday night was great because we were in person. Second night was awful, because we were in a group setting.” We had planned to go down to Waco, to Magnolia Market, as a group, on Saturday. She said, “I don’t want to be in a group with you; I just want to be with you, one on one.”
I’m like, “Yes; right. I’ve already wrecked this girl’s weekend; if I say, ‘No,’ to this, what is she going to do?!” We spent 12 hours together on Saturday: we go to brunch; we go hiking; we go to a Goodwill; and a church service on Saturday—all to end that night—she goes, “Hey, John, I’ve been a jerk to you all day. All day I just badger you: ‘You do this to every girl; huh? Who do you think you are working within a ministry? I thought you were a man of God,’”—all of these things. She gets to the end, and we’re at dinner; she goes, “Dude, I’ve been a jerk to you.” We just reconcile on the last night, Saturday; but then, we make a commitment to not talk to each other for a week.
She ends up going back to South Dakota, and she calls me. I’m like, “What are you doing?! Don’t call me.” I text her, “I thought we weren’t going to talk.” She calls me again, and I ended up just having to remove her number and unfriend her. It just felt so wrong.
This is my question, JP: “I tried to set healthy expectations, but where did I go wrong?”—that’s the question.
JP: Yes, man. Thank you for being vulnerable with us. I thought you were going to ask, “Should we have gotten Krispy Kreme or not?” [Laughter] That’s where I thought you were going.
Dave: The answer is always, “Yes!” [Laughter]
JP: I thought it was going light-hearted; but yes, is there anything/do you have anything that you wish you had done differently as you replay that story? I mean, is there something that comes to mind that you’ve been kind of sitting on, like, “Man, I really wish I would have done this differently…”?
John: As weird as this sounds, in reflection, I think the one thing I wish I would have done differently is not allow my coworkers to speak as much into the situation as they did.
John: I remember gathering around a table before she came down. They were all like, “This would be amazing,” “This would be amazing,” “This would be amazing.” I’m just like I’m almost riding this euphoric high of other people’s praise—
JP: That’s right.
John: —in trying to date in community. I’m like, “Come on down.” I just don’t know if it was the right timing.
JP: Yes, a few things come to mind. That’s one of them; I think setting that kind of level of expectation and pressure on a date—and that’s why I think we need to hit the pressure release valve—like, “Man, we’re/it’s just coffee. We’re just hanging out, just a guy and a girl. We don’t know if we’re building a friendship or a marriage. We have no idea, but I hope it’s one of those two.”
Could you imagine/like what if God never made our hearts to be broken? What if He didn’t create our hearts to be broken in the way that they are through relationships that He meant for us to stay friends until we had some idea that this might be marriage? I think that’s more biblically aligned than the way that we date today. I think that’s probably the first thing: is just the expectations and the pressure that was placed on the weekend.
Ann: So should he have said that?—“Hey, let’s just make this clear of what this weekend is going to be about.”
JP: Yes, yes; “This is two friends hanging out. That’s what this is. I think, by the end of two friends hanging out, we might determine if we want to try to date long distance; but right now, here is where we are at.”
Then, too, I think the second that you—that whole love must be sincere, Romans 12:9—that when you had those thoughts, “I don’t know what to do because we have the entire weekend,” I think, at that point, you could just be really honest. I always think honesty—you can say all the things in a kind way—hold onto that; say all the things in a kind way. So whatever you are thinking, you’re like—she senses something is off—say, “Hey, as we go into today, I want you to know what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. I’d still love to spend time with you. What I don’t want to do is lead you on. Here is my fear…” Just begin to have those conversations as early as you possibly can.
The third one is almost a contradiction to that a little bit—is also you can think, “Like I don’t know; I don’t know if one time with a person is going to be enough for me to determine whether I should spend the rest of my life with them or not. I don’t feel like we are aligned, but I can still go at this with a little bit more curiosity.” But you can’t do that if you go back to the first thing I said—if there is that much pressure on the relationship—where it is like, “Oh, I’ve got to figure out if this is the one or not.”
Those are some thoughts. Then I also think there is a red flag when she says, “Hey, I don’t want to hang out with you in a group; I want to hang out with you, one on one.” My sense is that’s some control kicking in. She’s still clinging to: “No, I’m still hoping.” Even in the way that you described the—“I can’t believe you always do this. You do this with all these girls?”—that’s a game. I think that is her being playful and a defense mechanism on her part.
I just/that we learn to date the wrong way. Love must be sincere; let’s not play games. Let’s just turn our thoughts into words and be honest with each other.
Dave: Here is another question in terms of honesty. Let’s say you’re pursuing one another toward marriage. It looks like you are, maybe, going to get married. How honest should you be with your future spouse about your sexual past or big mistakes you’ve made in the past? Do you just leave them in the past, or do you bring complete honesty? Is there a balance?
JP: It’s a big question; I get asked a lot: “When?” and “How much should I share?” On the when, it’s what you said when you believe this is going toward marriage—right?—you want to begin to have those conversations. You want to share everything they want to know. In regards to saying all the things, another thought that I had is you want to know yourself. If you’re a little bit of an emotional roller coaster, I think it’s unloving to pull somebody through all of those ups and downs. Like if your feelings are changing like the wind blows, take some time to figure out, “Okay, what do I really feel?”
You don’t want to be, like at the beginning of the date, like: “Hey, I don’t think I like you anymore,” “You know what? I think I was wrong; actually, I think I’m in love with you. Do you want to marry me?” “No, hold on; I don’t think we should ever see each other.” Push pause; take a deep breath and figure out, “Okay, how do I feel?” Sometimes, we don’t know; we just need space to really figure out, “How do I feel?”
Then I’ll say something a little bit controversial to that is: “How important is how you feel?” That’s where you/I think you want to have some amount of logic that trumps even the way that we feel; because feelings are real, but they are not always reliable. Sometimes, they lead us in the wrong directions; so just know and understand: “Hey, how important are my feelings?”
Ann: Well, speaking of that, when we talk about: “Don’t give your heart away too soon,” I think people are like: “What does that mean? What do you think that looks like? Should I protect my heart? Should I give my heart away?” I mean, that was a big thing in the ‘90s, maybe.
JP: Yes, I do think there’s a danger of emotional promiscuity; and so promiscuity doesn’t have to be physical. It can be the late-night “me-too’s,” long, lingering intimate conversations that begin to pull your heart a direction.
It’s similar to the question that John asked earlier, where it just sounded like, after that first date, like she was all the way there, like, “Man, this is great; I can’t believe this is so real.” It’s because of all those expectations that others have placed on that “relationship.” I say relationship in quotes because it was one date; right? I do think we just want to watch that.
What I see a lot in dating couples today—and even friendships—is people are playing married. You get the late-night text at 11:30: “Good night, sweetie; I love you”; just two friends talking, but they are meeting an emotional need that they were never meant to meet. So be careful; don’t play married. Let marriage be marriage; let dating be dating; and let singleness be singleness. Everything for a season is a gift; be aware what gift you are in.
I would just say of those three, guys, dating is the least fun. Like marriage is a lot of fun; it’s amazing—your ministry strengthens/you can go and be together and strengthen ministry; have children; you can have sex; you experience intimacy—marriage is a lot of fun.
Singleness is a lot of fun. You can, in an uninhibited way, build the kingdom. You can go places. If I’m like, “Hey, I’ve got a helicopter outside, and I’m looking for people who can go into Syria and build the church for the next year; all of your needs are going to be met, but you have to go within an hour,” who could I take? Mostly single people—a lot of married people would be like, “Well, I’ve got soccer practice on Thursday,”—singleness can be fun.
Dating is like marriage without the benefits; it’s the interview. Like no one wants to stay in the job interview; you want to get the job. That’s why I say: “Date with a purpose; date with intentionality; and date for as short as you possibly can.”
Dave: One thing we haven’t talked about and would love to hear your perspective—and you mention it in the book toward the end—is just the whole purity/sexual purity part of dating and how to do it God’s way. How would you speak to a single person about that?
JP: People will ask/the way the question can come at times is: “How far is too far?” You know, we try to break this down: “Well, what kind of sex can I have? Is sexting wrong? Kissing? Can we make out? What is okay?”
I would say, “Understand that you were/male and female were made to come together and that God invented sex. It was His creation; it is good; He invented it. He made it what it is, but He put it in a place in the covenant of marriage. Outside of that marriage, it’s dangerous.”
I don’t think/a lot of single people don’t realize that what they are doing is just foreplay. Their body is preparing for sex, but then it doesn’t get to go there; that door is closed. That is unloving/that’s one of the most unloving things that you could do for someone. Yet, we do that with someone that we say we “love.” That’s where I would say the line is: “When your body begins to prepare for sex, you’ve gone too far. You want to stay away from that line.”
Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 7, “It’s better to marry than to burn with passion.” You want to get married; right?—that’s the: “Don’t marry someone who doesn’t love Jesus,”—all of the things that we’ve talked about—but know that sex and intimacy is for marriage. I would recommend/1 Corinthians 6 says: “Flee sexual immorality. All the sins that a person commits are outside the body; but whoever sins sexually sins against their own body.” He says, “Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit.” So as you run toward Jesus, you are running from sexually immorality. So run toward Jesus; if you have that there, it solves so many problems that you can make.
Ann: So talk to the person that has just done it all wrong—
Ann: —like even physical intimacy; they’ve done it all wrong. What’s their hope?
JP: So I’m talking to me. I’m talking to me, circa 2000 and 2001. I would just say, “That’s the beauty of the grace of the gospel. God is no longer holding our sins against us. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. God delights to show mercy. He enjoys showing us mercy.”
As you repent—and what repenting is: turning from your sin and turning toward God—He can heal you. There is also confession. James 5:16 says that there is a healing that comes through confessing to other believers and with prayer. But continue to pursue Christ. Surround yourself with other believers. You continue to confess; continue to pray regularly. Remove access from toxic behavior, from toxic people, from websites, from social media sites that trip you up; remove access to them.
“You’re going to be fine; you’re going to be okay,”—that’s what I would tell you. It starts with Jesus. Look to Jesus, confess your sins, embrace the message of the gospel—that He has paid for your sins—that’s what the gospel is; the gospel is not for the perfect person. Jesus is a Savior. In His job description, He is really, really good at saving sinners. So if you’re a sinner and you turn to Him, Jesus is enough.
Dave: I would just conclude with—I’m sitting here beside Ann, 40 years married, three kids, six grandkids, 40 years of ministry—
Dave: —from day one of our marriage, the reason we are sitting here, beside each other, is we actually did the dating process God’s way.
Dave: Again, not perfectly; but man, oh, man, it was like everything that you’ve written about in your book, we didn’t have yet.
Dave: Thank God it’s out there now for someone to get.
It was God’s Word applied to our relationship; and here we sit. Again, we’re not—it’s not like a guarantee you’re going to have the marriage and ministry we have—but because we did it His way, we sit here with a legacy we would have never been able to produce on ourselves; God did that.
Ann: I would add this, too, Dave—is even if you didn’t start like that—
Ann: —it’s never too late.
JP: That’s our story.
JP: We started wrong; but when I’m with you guys, I think the mistake that your listeners will make is: “Oh, that’s good for them.
JP: “That’s not available for me.” I would just say, “It is!”
Ann: It is for all of us.
JP: You can do what they did; and I mean, now, books are written about it. There are radio shows about the—it’s a renowned love—because it was built on Christ. Monica and I did everything wrong—and I mean just about everything wrong—but when Christ came in, and we began to build our marriage on Christ—we have scars/like there are hurts there—but what we have is something beautiful, now, too.
If you desire marriage, that’s available to you; but also finding that in your singleness, and a complete life in singleness, is also available to you.
Bob: Ultimately, our contentment is not found in our circumstances. The Apostle Paul in Philippians 4 said, “I’ve learned the secret of being content whether I have plenty or whether I have want, whether I am free or in prison.” He could have said, “I’ve found the secret of contentment, whether I am single or married.” The secret of contentment is our relationship with Christ and finding our strength and hope in Him.
Dave and Ann Wilson have been talking today to Jonathan Pokluda, the author of a book called Outdated. We’ve got Jonathan’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com to get a copy.
Maybe, you are married; but you know somebody who is single or dating. Maybe, you want to go through a book like this with your teenager or pass it on to your college-age son or daughter/a young adult you know. In fact, there is a young man at our church, who I gave this book to a few weeks back; and he has thanked me for his copy. You can order Jonathan Pokluda’s book, Outdated. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order it or call 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I know that most of us, who have been listening to Dave and Ann Wilson’s conversation with Jonathan Pokluda today, are not in a season where we’re dating; but we probably know somebody who is. David Robbins, who is the president of FamilyLife, is here with me. David, even if this is not the season we’re in, we have an opportunity to help someone, who is in this season/help them avoid the minefields; right?
David: Absolutely. One of the things I love about the conversation is that it believes in the next generation. It calls forth the next generation, just like Psalm 145 says, “One generation commends Your works to another. They tell of Your mighty acts…” so that the gospel continues go forth, generation after generation. My own son, Ford—his most recent book that I gave him was Outdated by JP—because it set such a great foundation.
I just feel like we need to be thinking about—whether it is your own teenagers, or grandkids that you have; whether it is someone at work that’s in the dating scene—“How can you believe in them? How can you invest in them? How can you pour your life into them?” and “How can you pray for them?—and have the conversations to keep helping them navigate the unique season they are in.”
I just want to encourage you, right now, to whomever came to mind, when I was thinking about either a teenager or a young adult in your life, take a moment as we close and pray for them right now.
Bob: Yes; and then maybe just send them a note, an email, a text, and say, “I want you to know I was thinking about you this week. I prayed for you; I know you’re in a challenging season.” Maybe, get them a copy of JP’s book, Outdated, and give that to them as a gift. Speak into their lives and point them toward Christ. That’s a good word, David. Thank you for that.
We hope you have a great weekend. Hope you and your family are able to worship together with your local church this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when Dave and Ann Wilson will talk with Arlene Pellicane about how parents can help manage their children’s screen time and why that’s so important as your kids are growing up; that all happens Monday. I hope you can be with us for that.
On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend. We will see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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