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Dope Dating Advice with Kerry Neal: Covenant or Contract?

Covenant: To enter into an agreement

Contract: To enter into an agreement.

If you look up both words, you’ll see that the dictionary uses them interchangeably. Thus, it makes no real distinction between the two words and their meanings, even when providing examples of how to use them appropriately in discourse. However, there is a subtle but significant distinction between the two.

Let’s examine.

A contract explicitly lays out the terms of what has been agreed upon and provides a timeframe for the agreement to be honored. It also defines the scope of the agreement, how the two sides will function, and to what degree each party is responsible. It also describes what steps to take if the agreement should be violated and how the two sides shall sever it. Thus, there are clauses in contracts that allow for and even anticipate the breakdown of the agreement.

Now, let’s look at a covenant.

Although a covenant is also an agreement, there are no escape clauses with covenants. It is a pre-determined bond that the agreement will not be broken. This is seen in most wedding ceremonies, where the vows are made to one another and God. That said, I’m not trying to go down the road of having a religious conversation, but in the context of marriage and commitment, the understanding is that the marriage never ends except by death.

Now, don’t get me wrong—of course, a lot of people today with presumably strong religious and spiritual convictions divorce despite embracing the covenant concept. Moreover, even though God ultimately allowed divorce proceedings to take place, it was not a part of His original plan as humanity began to become increasingly depraved in their actions within marital contexts.

So, what does any of this have to do with dating?

Here’s an observation: I hear so many people who desire to get married often time talk about what they want but what will make them exit the relationship—lying, cheating, drama, money challenges, intimacy issues, etc. This occurs on both sides.

I remember talking to a group of single people and a handful of married people. I first asked the single people, “Let’s make a list of anything and everything that you would not tolerate in a relationship and would immediately leave. Meaning, if this happens, you’d end the relationship.” They begin to make their list, and of course, you know that cheating led to the list. In the end, they cited a total of 10 infractions.

After we exhausted that list, I asked the three married couples—all who had been married 20 plus years and identified as being happily married, “Please look over this list that is made up of the sentiments of these single people who desire to be married one day—but clearly have their deal breakers. Please let us know how many items you have seen in your relationship over the 20-plus years of marriage.” The three couples perused the list closely and then started to laugh. Of course, I assumed they were laughing because there was no way any of those infractions would arise in their relationships. So, I said to them. “I know—it’s a stupid question—you’ve been married for more than two decades, and you’re happy, and there’s no way any of these things have ever come up in your relationship…correct?”

Their response was all the same: “ALL of these infractions have taken place in our relationships!”

As the single people in attendance looked stunned in disbelief, I asked, “How is that possible—all these things took place, and you’re still together and happily married? Impossible!”

Although they all gave different responses, they were very similar: they learned to persevere, forgive one another, practice being trustworthy, and in the end, despite missteps on both sides, they said divorce would not be an option for them.

So let me bring it home—approach your dating aspirations with the mindset that you only want to entertain people who feel divorce is not an option. It’s not foolproof but look for a person willing to forgive and not hold grudges; look for someone who recognizes that no one is perfect, and grace should be extended and not hold you to a standard of perfection. Consider being with someone who, if nothing ever changed about you, they’d still find you perfect for them!

You’re probably thinking this person will be hard to find—and you’re right! Someone this unique may not be widely available.

So, hold out for the covenant person, not the contract person.

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