Representatives from Counseling Services and Student Life weigh in
Views | Matt Kelley
Editor-in-Chief Matt Kelley polls various Bethel representatives about life and love.
Confession time: I feel like an outsider. I spent three years at two public colleges before attending Bethel, so when I arrived on campus, several things struck me as odd, but none more so than the dating culture here. Gadkin, Nikdag, floor roulettes, ring by spring, group dates – it was all new to me.
So when we decided to put out The Love Issue, I had every intention of writing a well-researched editorial on the pros and cons – well, mostly cons – of Bethel’s dating culture. But when I spoke with Myrla Seibold and Nathan Freeburg, of Counseling Services and Student Life, respectively, they articulated all of my observations, concerns and impressions better than I could have hoped to. Rather than muddy it up with my own language, I figured I’d let them speak for themselves.
Seibold is a psychology professor and staff therapist with Counseling Services. She has young adult daughters and has worked at Bethel for two decades.
Freeburg is the associate dean of leadership and community development. He has been married nine years and has spent 15 years at Bethel, including his undergraduate education.
How would you describe Bethel’s dating culture?
Myrla Seibold: There’s a lot of pressure from the moment they walk through the door to find somebody. A lot of people come here with the expectation that, this is a Christian college, this is where I’ll find my mate.
Nathan Freeburg: I find some students – and probably more commonly with the female students – come here with the sole intent to find a partner.
How does that pressure compare to what other college students are under?
MS: I think there’s more intensity to it than at a state or secular university, where people can just hang out and you don’t assume. But at Bethel, assumptions are quickly made. If you’re seen sitting in the Commons having coffee with someone, the rumors start flying.
NF: I know from talking to students that there is some pressure from parents as well. They say, “We sent you here to find a nice boy (or girl). Why haven’t you done that yet?” I don’t know if that’s the majority necessarily, but I know that there is that pressure.
How do students typically respond to that pressure?
MS: There are those people who pair up freshman year and think, “This is it.”
NF: All that pressure causes students to just pack-date or group-date, instead of going on real dates. Because if they do, then that’s it; “Well, I’m stuck with this person.”
Is this the same for Christian students at all colleges?
NF: Size also has something to do with it. If you were at the University of Minnesota, you could go have coffee with someone in a million different places, and it wouldn’t feel like as public of a declaration.
Are events like Gadkin and Nikdag bad, considering they might alienate singles?
MS: The numbers are skewed here with many more women than men. So unless you’re drawing from a source outside of Bethel, there isn’t going to be a perfect match.
NF: I’ve talked to so many female students that say, "The guys are chicken – they won’t ask us out." But guys tell me that if you ask a girl out, that means that you are automatically getting married. But these events are a chance to ask someone out without feeling bad about it and without quite as much pressure. I think there’s a lot of safety there.
What is one piece of dating advice you’d give to Bethel students?
MS: It’s OK to go slow. You don’t have to be in a rush to find somebody. And even when you are in a relationship, it doesn’t have to be so serious. I see a lot of seniors who thought they wanted to marry somebody, but now that they’re engaged and talking about a real wedding, they’re not so sure. But whatever stage you’re in, it’s fine to just slow down.
NF: I think too often students try to find their identity in another person. Then when that relationship goes sour, they don’t know who they are. I’ve seen a lot of students get hurt that way, where they don’t know who they are and they take on part of this other person. I wish somehow students could take more time figuring out who they are and how God has gifted them.