When it comes to Christian dating relationships, navigating all the advice on the subject can be tricky. You should spend intentional time with the other person but not so much time that you become consumed. You are asked to be vulnerable but not so vulnerable that it leads to compromising your physical boundaries. You try to ask deep questions but don’t want to rush a relationship. It can be challenging, confusing and downright exhausting to figure out how to date well.
But dating — whether in the early stages or the more serious stages — can be a way that you glorify God and enjoy Him.
Perhaps you are in a relationship, evaluating if it is the right fit for you. Perhaps you are in the beginning stages of getting to know someone. Or, perhaps, you are single and preparing for if/when God sees fit to give you a dating relationship. Regardless of the place you find yourself, you can enter every relationship knowing that God can and will use it to make you more like Jesus.
These eight tips will help you choose the right person, be the right person and develop healthy rhythms.
Depending on your background with dating, it might feel overwhelming at times. You might not have a framework for dating as a Christian and are unsure of where to begin, or you might have grown up with too many different pieces of advice and now feel fearful of making a mistake.
Like any relationship, dating involves two people that are sinful. Despite your best efforts, you will naturally drop the ball as you learn about each other. Knowing this, it’s important to develop a pattern of relying on Jesus early and often. If your energy is spent on trying to date well, you simply will become exhausted, discouraged or distracted from the main thing. When this happens, begin to develop rhythms of prayer, accountability and returning to God’s word.
As you trust God with your dating life more and more, ask Him to remove any anxiety or need for perfectionism. Let yourself completely rely on God’s love, wisdom and care for you as you navigate this new space. While it may feel daunting at times, you are surely not alone.
A relationship is a wonderful gift that can add to your life, but it can easily become problematic if it consumes your life. As a dating couple, you should be encouraging each other to grow together and separately.
Dr. Henry Cloud, co-author of “How to Get A Date Worth Keeping” and “Boundaries in Dating,” wrote a book called “Fantasy” that addresses common “dating diseases” people struggle with. One of these diseases is “dating from a vacuum.”
In short, dating from a vacuum usually happens when you begin a relationship looking to fulfill something missing within yourself. Pretty soon, you feel dependent and it invades all areas of your life — friendships, work, hobbies, etc.
A relationship is a joy, but consider how you spend your time so that it stays in its rightful place. Make sure both of you are engaging in activities that help you grow individually as people. A good rule of thumb is making sure you have time weekly set aside for friends, hobbies and personal reflection.
Dating, like any other intentional relationship, naturally requires time together. As such, the more time you spend side by side, the less time may be spent with other important people in your life.
A good way to make sure you’re not isolating yourselves into a corner where no one truly knows you is to invite people in quickly and ask for their feedback.
To think about this in an everyday scenario — consider what would happen if you ask your friends for an opinion before a big purchase. Now, what would happen if you showed them that same item after you purchased it and then asked for their opinion? To some degree, knowing you are already committed will change their ability to speak freely.
Before committing to an official dating relationship, commit to people that truly know you, that you trust, and that will tell you if they spot things you do not. Your emotions and attraction may unintentionally cause you to jump ahead of God’s timing and your own good. Ask for feedback frequently from people that can help you zoom out and see the relationship for what it is.
Ultimately, you need people committed to God in your life to give you balance and perspective. You need input from individuals who are wiser than you. If you want your relationship to experience health on every level, you cannot date in a vacuum, devoid of others.
This was, without question, the most significant piece of dating advice I received when I was evaluating whether to date my (now) fiancé.
As a follower of Jesus, one of the most important things you should look for in dating is godliness. And while this is a worthy character trait, it’s significant to remember that you are not the same person you were five years ago. There will be times in your life that will press you and shape you. Your interests, friend groups, desires and even personality will change as you move through uncharted territory and new milestones in life.
Think about five years from today. Does this person exhibit signs of growth? Are they open to feedback and aware of their shortcomings? Are they teachable, surrounding themselves with wise people? Are you excited about the person they are becoming? Ultimately, remember that you are looking for someone that is spiritually growing, not spiritually perfect.
In the same way, if you’re already in a dating relationship, think about five years from now for the two of you. Are you setting up healthy rhythms now that will promote real growth and change in your relationship over time? How do you spend your time together? How do you handle conflict? All of these tiny choices over time can lead to significant health or heartache.
Tiny movements in different directions can land you in significantly different, painful spots.
Going in different directions may seem insignificant and easy to ignore in the beginning of a relationship. But as time goes on, those differences can become much more obvious and lead to tension. Before you know it, it’s quite possible you will find yourselves unsure of why you started dating in the first place.
“Are we going in the same direction?” is an extremely important question to ask. When you are dating someone, this is one of the first things you want to consider. You’ll avoid a lot of future pain if you’re honest enough to address the potential relationship-ending issues now rather than later.
Of course, this is especially important in the spiritual aspect of your relationship. Figuring out now whether or not they are surrendered to Jesus can save you an extremely difficult journey ahead.
Additionally, this can be important to figure out in other areas of your life. Are you headed in the same direction with your lifestyles, future plans or passions God has given you? While you are growing and changing, you want to ensure that your fundamental values align.
When you love someone, drawing boundaries is hard. But the lines you draw at the start will leave lasting marks on your relationship.
Boundaries exist to demonstrate how much you value God, yourself and others. They express your care; they do not just restrict your sexuality. Thinking of your physical boundaries as solely restrictive can often lead to compromise in other significant areas. You begin to ask yourself, “What else can I do to fulfill what’s being suppressed?”
Instead of viewing physical boundaries as a “what not to do” guidebook, begin asking yourself, “What do I value?” Some values that might surface are honoring God, caring for each other, real intimacy and/or growing more deeply in your relationship with God and each other. Next, ask yourself how to set up physical boundaries that honor those values.
Any way you slice it, dating always comes with challenges. At the end of the day, you are two different people, learning how to love each other. Depending on your history with dating, it can be tempting to believe that you will naturally jell and encourage one another toward growth. And while that is often true, there will also be moments of misunderstanding, discouragement and confusion.
Solid relationships require both people to invest significant time, energy and consideration for the needs and benefit of the other. This involves taking the time to understand each other, capitalizing on the good qualities and accepting each other’s negative qualities. Do not get discouraged if you stumble or are not where you’d like to be. Look for signs of good character, turning away from sin and a heart that is surrendered to God.
A simple solution to keep you encouraged as you make mistakes is to surround yourself with a wide range of people you can learn from. Ask your married friends about their growth over time. Ask your other friends in relationships about how they overcome conflict. Ask your single friends how they are forming their own character. A wide array of voices you trust speaking into your life will help you see a relationship for what it is — a long process that gets sweeter over time provided that you put in the work.
Who you are before you date someone will not magically change once you invite another person into the chaos. All of the same sinful patterns will surface with greater tension as you navigate possibly hurting someone you care about.
It’s so easy to focus on who you’d like to be in your future relationships rather than who you are today. Do not spend time thinking and praying for a person you might one day meet while neglecting your own spiritual and emotional health.
So, what makes for a healthy relationship? Our own character. The quality of someone’s character determines the character of their potential relationships.
A healthy relationship is between two people that work on their own emotional development, recognize their own strengths, confess their weaknesses and grow together.
Jesus tells us to have courage. Even in uncertainty, you can have confidence that the character and power of God doesn’t change. It is good to trust Him and surrender your desires over to Him.
Ultimately, you can have confidence in remembering that you are not the point of your relationship, Jesus is. Let him weave you together as you depend on Him for all your needs.
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