The world of dating relationships is riddled with challenges to maneuver. How do you find the right one to walk with you through life? What should the relationship look like when? Are there rules, benchmarks, or steps for measuring the depth and health of a relationship? God designed us for fellowship, but it's confusing when relationships don't come together or come together too fast. So how can we be good dates for serious relationships?
There may be people that you love who would like to see you find a relationship quickly, but don’t feel pressured to comply. Choosing the person with whom you want to spend your life should be a selective process. So take your time and be discerning. Relationships are built over time, and should never be rushed into, neither because of your parents nor because you feel the senior scramble pressure before graduation. Drop the rush.
If you've got someone in mind, feel free get to know each other in group settings. Feel free to have dates alone too, so that you can get to know each other--sharing a meal or a movie doesn't mean you're instantly an item (leave that for Facebook!). Be willing to take your time. If you are in too much of a hurry then you will be tempted to settle for less than God desires for you.
Still, while there's no rush, keep the end in mind. The goal of romantic relationships is a permanent, lifelong marriage. That's not tomorrow, but neither are you simply out to have a good time while it lasts. That dishonors everyone involved, including you. Take your time, enjoy the walk, but know there is a destination at the end of the path. Friends hang out forever. Couples grow in intimacy.
At first, we're all on our best behavior to make a good impression. But be yourself. If you find you are adjusting yourself in order to fit someone else's expectations, be cautious. Our friends should make us better people, but don't try to be someone you're not, because it's not true and it's not sustainable.
Also, seek romantic relationships with those that share your faith, and avoid relationships with those that don't. Our culture says religion is about trivial preferences, but true religion is the foundation for how we order our lives. You can't build a life on a mismatched foundation. Do not be unequally yoked. Seek those that encourage you to be more Christ-like. Don't put your relationship with God in second place to enter a romantic relationship.
Intimacy has four facets: intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and physical. Your relationship should grow in all those connections in proportion as you mature together. Do you enjoy talking and doing things together? Is there mutual respect and even admiration of each other's gifts? Are you in tune with how the other is feeling, and what their hopes, joys, and fears are? Are you growing and practicing faith together, in worship, prayer, and service? Are you comfortable, tender, and responsible in each other's space? You need deepening connections in all these areas, not just one. Cultivate them intentionally. Talk about them and make plans explicitly on how you can grow together appropriately if needed. Danger or trouble in one area is a red flag for them all.
God has given you passions that excite the heart and drive engagement with the world. Seek those who share or affirm your passions--it's a natural platform for intimacy. Dating someone with opposite interests means both of you will fight for attention with these things you enjoy, either dragging the other along, or without the other's involvement, or you simply drop the opportunity to enjoy them. Don’t settle for someone who doesn't encourage you in living out God’s gifts in your life. Your passions are part of God’s gifting to you, and should be followed instead of dismissed.
We're all damaged with insecurities, and trying to grow closer touches on our vulnerabilities. Your partner is broken too, and you will step on each other's toes. Expect a little conflict, and decide to treat relationship missteps as opportunities to learn and grow together.
Yet, some relationships will end (and should end), and that will be OK. It is important to look honestly at ourselves without getting too uptight. Let each relationship teach you something about yourself. You have to own your triggers, but you are fully worthy of love. Let your sense of self-worth come from your identity as a child of God and not from what other people think about you. Don’t let your insecurities keep you from reaching out and stepping into a relationship.
Don’t settle for a less than a God-honoring relationship. Don't hold out for someone who is perfect, because no one is perfect. But be choosy for someone who honors God and honors you. Don’t settle for someone who is living outside of God’s guidelines for life. A person of questionable moral character is not someone you want to build a life with. Befriend them, witness to them, but don’t date them--it will only lead to heartache.
Every relationship will have awkward moments. Decide not to get bent out of shape over the screw-ups. There is nothing productive to be gained from kicking yourself over past mistakes. It is a blessing to learn to laugh at your own mistakes. Decide to take life as a fun adventure and acquire some interesting stories and laughs along the way. If you will be able to laugh about it down the road, then why not start by laughing now.
Listen to what the voices around you have to say about your relationship. Gain wisdom by listening to those not emotionally invested in the relationship. If all of the voices in your life are suggesting that your relationship is not healthy, be willing to consider their perspective. If you have emotional wounds that need healing, seek out some professional help before pursuing a new relationship. Bringing our brokenness into a relationship won’t bring us healing, it just brings baggage into the presence of a new person. Let wise counsel set you on the right course for pursuing a healthy relationship.
If our relationships are out of sync with the way that God has called us to live, then it is our relationships that need to change. God has a plan for you, plans to prosper you. Seeking God’s will should be the priority. Matthew 6:33 tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Decide to make following God the priority and discover what blessings he adds to your life.
Dating can be challenging to maneuver, but these truths can help you discover a relationship that will be right for you and honoring to God. You want to be sure that the person with whom you plan on spending your life is someone who honors God and will be a blessing to you in your life.