Is “steady dating” really a sin?
I was reading the teenage guide for confession, and in the “fornication” section, it mentioned “steady dating” (placing oneself in the near occasion of sin by dating the same person steadily with no intent for marriage within approximately 12-18 months). I’m a sophomore in college, and have been dating my boyfriend for two months. I don’t want to get married until I have graduated with at least my bachelor’s, so I have three years to go. So am I really sinning because I don’t want to marry my boyfriend in 12-18 months?
Without looking at the guide you were reading, I don’t know for certain what it says, so I will answer the question of “steady dating” independently of assessing what that author was trying to say.
Steadily dating someone for a long period of time when one has no intention of marriage in the near future is not a sin but it is imprudent. The purpose of dating is to discern marriage. If your individual circumstances mean that you are not a position to be considering the vocation of marriage in the near future — and twelve to eighteen months is a reasonable timetable — then you should be wary of entering a committed relationship with one person.
That’s not to say that you can’t casually date a wide-range of people, as do older teenagers and young adults, with the intent of socializing and learning how to interact positively and constructively with the opposite sex. It is only to say that it would be imprudent for someone with no current interest in marriage to become involved in the type of relationship that is expected to either progress to marriage or end. One reason it is imprudent is because “steady dating” encourages the kind of physical intimacy that is appropriate only to those who are engaged to marry. Regularly engaging in that kind of physical intimacy with no expectation of marriage may lower one’s inhibitions about chastity outside of marriage and place one in the near occasion of sexual sin.