I penned dating advice before Jess and I got married (over three years ago). Seems like a good time for a re-think now that we now have so many young single friends.
All of us need at least a little help. (Hitch, 2005)
“How do you develop a healthy romantic relationship?” (We all ponder this)
This may be one of the biggest questions. And if you’ve read the whole Bible, you’d be surprised to find that there’s not a ton of instruction. Sure. “Avoid sexual relationships until you’re married.” “Cultivate a close relationship with Jesus.” and “Learn to love others.” But that doesn’t necessarily help young folks navigate the dangerous waters of romance. So maybe some advice will help?
“Why do you want to date?” (Ask yourself)
No, seriously. Take a moment and think about it. Why do you want to date?
Are you trying to find somebody to spend the rest of your life with? Are you in a season of life where it’s time to do that? If not, maybe it’s not a good idea to start dating. You might just be setting yourself up for heartbreak. Romantic relationships can be a source of some horrible heartbreak (duh). So you may not want to mess with something as fragile as your heart until you’re ready to pursue a spouse.
Back to the question: Why do you want to date? Is it because you feel like nobody loves you and you want to feel complete? This may come as a shock, but a romantic relationship will amplify that insecurity, not solve it.
If you’re looking for pure and unconditional love, maybe look to Jesus before you look to another screwed-up human being?
Just a suggestion.
Actually, maybe I should be more pointed? Don’t pursue for pursuit’s sake. Discover whether this somebody you could spend the rest of your life with. If they’re not the person you could build a future with, or you’re not at a point where you’re ready to do that? Don’t do it!
Yo, seriously heal yer hearts! (Overcome heartbreak)
Your heart is the most important part about you. It’s what God most treasures about you. And your heart’s health is what determines your quality of relationships.
Please don’t start a new romantic relationship when you’re heartbroken. That stuff trickles. You’ll carry all your hurts into your next endeavor even if they sit nice and tucked away for the moment.
The King of Hearts wants to heal you and make you whole again. If you haven’t worshiped God in a while, you may forget (or simply not know) that he loves to put your heart back together as you give it to him.
Heartbroken? Maybe it’s time to let Him in?
Don’t date, hang out! (Become good friends first)
Using the term “Christian dating” can be a bit of a misnomer. The hangout seems to have replaced the 1950s model of “going out on a date.” Hanging out in group settings seems to be the best place to get to know one another. It’s at least a lot less volatile than going out to dinner and interviewing one another about what you want in life.
The hangout process is safer; less volatile. It’s less make-or-break. There’s a greater likelihood that you can remain friends if things don’t work out.
This doesn’t mean that an established couple shouldn’t be going out on dates to connect with one another. However, I do believe that healthy relationships need to develop a friendship before they get romantic. That’s why hanging out is just a good idea.
More importantly, don’t date in isolation without a community of friends around you to help navigate tricky heart-matters. Hanging out in groups can open the door for all the healthy benefits of community.
Date their friends (Value each other’s friends and family)
No I don’t mean to pursue your date’s friends. But you do need to value them and befriend them. You’re probably not courting just one person. You’re courting everybody they’re closest to.
Did you see the movie Hitch? Remember the part where Hitch teaches Albert to treat his love interest’s friends as more important than her?
In the Christian context, that’s their closest spiritual family (church). These are the people who help your love interest make their decisions. Their lives are interconnected. And you will be interconnected with them if you get married.
You must participate with them, love them, and demonstrate your true character to them. You might find that their friends become your family.
Respect one another, dangit! (Don’t be a *****)
While I wouldn’t recommend learning everything you know from 19th century English courting habits, I would absolutely recommend gentlemanly and lady-like conduct.
Gentlemen, open doors, pay, prefer her decisions over your own, and speak kindly (but honestly). Most importantly, respect her in every way. Never treat her as an object. Ladies, unlock his car door before he gets to it, don’t exploit his paying for you, prefer his decisions over your own, and speak kindly and honestly. Most importantly, respect him. Don’t bad-mouth him – to his face or behind his back.
And both of you: spend healthy time apart. You don’t have to talk to one another through Facebook Messenger incessantly. Don’t break-up or talk about breaking-up over text. If you need to have a serious conversation, have it face-to-face. Maybe over coffee.
Since it bears repeating, let me iterate: respect one another. Seriously.
Want sexy? Become sexy. (Especially spiritually.)
Pursue the sexiest mate you can find. However, you may need to redefine “sexy.” A person’s body is not the most important part about their sex-appeal. Their emotional health may be the sexiest thing. Can you trust this person with your heart?
If so? That’s pretty sexy.
There’s a safety and an appeal to somebody who is arms-wide-heart-abandoned to God. Even the worst bad boys will admit that there’s something seriously attractive about a godly woman. One young woman told me she was attracted to a young man because of how he worships God. I don’t think this is an isolated case. I’m convinced this is a universal rule: whole-hearted God worshipers (who love God and others with pure hearts) are sexy. Additionally, nothing is more attractive than virtue and integrity. Humility is paramount! Those quick to admit when they’re wrong? Hot.
Any of this sound good to you?
Great. Now become this kind of sexy. Pursue virtue and maybe discover what it means to really follow Jesus.
Build on mountains. (Like Jesus and other healthy couples)
Once you start building your life with somebody, you’re gonna need something bigger than each other. If you claim to be a Christian, this should probably be Christ himself. Focusing entirely on one another can slowly and subtly turn your romance into a gross pile of festering sewage. A human being isn’t your goal and never should be. If they are, you could end up like my puppy, Luna, who caught a Frog in her mouth and suddenly had no idea what to do with it. You need a mission and a vision bigger than yourselves. Maybe that vision and mission could be embodying God’s Loving Kingdom in the world around you? Just a thought.
The whole purpose of a relationship is to connect. If you stop doing this when you get married, you’re gonna have a bad time.
Seek wisdom from people with time-tested relationships. If your friends haven’t ever had a relationship last more than a few months, maybe they’re not the best ones to go to for advice?
Questions? (Don’t be shy)
I missed a lot. This is by no means complete or as well-thought out as it could be. So I hope to fill that void with discussion.
What did I miss that’s important to you right now?
What have you been afraid to ask?