Nearly three years after apologizing to Christians and calling his advice against dating in his best-selling 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a "huge mistake," author and pastor Joshua Harris revealed he and his wife are separating.
“We’re writing to share the news that we are separating and will continue our life together as friends,” the former lead pastor of Covenant Life Church, the founding church of Sovereign Grace Ministries in Gaithersburg, Maryland, announced on Instagram Thursday.
“In recent years, some significant changes have taken place in both of us. It is with sincere love for one another and understanding of our unique story as a couple that we are moving forward with this decision. We hope to create a generous and supportive future for each other and for our three amazing children in the years ahead. Thank you for your understanding and for respecting our privacy during a difficult time."
In I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Harris argues that traditional dating is "a training ground for divorce" because it puts people in the habit of quitting relationships when things get tough.
The book, marketed to teenagers and 20 somethings, also discourages teen relationships and promotes courtship, a process in which a couple moves purposefully toward marriage with their parents' blessing and involvement as a better alternative to dating. Any kind of physical intimacy before marriage, the book argues, is a violation of the sacredness of married sexuality and could lead to lifelong regret.
“While I stand by my book’s call to sincerely love others, my thinking has changed significantly in the past twenty years. I no longer agree with its central idea that dating should be avoided. I now think dating can be a healthy part of a person developing relationally and learning the qualities that matter most in a partner,” he said in a statement.
“There are other weaknesses too: in an effort to set a high standard, the book emphasized practices (not dating, not kissing before marriage) and concepts (giving your heart away) that are not in the Bible. In trying to warn people of the potential pitfalls of dating, it instilled fear for some—fear of making mistakes or having their heart broken. The book also gave some the impression that a certain methodology of relationships would deliver a happy ever-after ending—a great marriage, a great sex life—even though this is not promised by scripture,” he continued.
“To those who read my book and were misdirected or unhelpfully influenced by it, I am sincerely sorry. I never intended to hurt you. I know this apology doesn’t change anything for you and it’s coming too late, but I want you to hear that I regret any way that my ideas restricted you, hurt you, or gave you a less-than-biblical view of yourself, your sexuality, your relationships, and God."
Three years later, many people who claim their lives were affected by purity culture and books like Harris’ are still upset.
“I blame books like this and exhausting archaic thinking about sexuality for a bad relationship with my husband today. I was sex shamed,” educator and writer Lisa Michelle wrote on Twitter Thursday.