Are You Ready to Date?
We begin this week’s Date Night Advice with the question we ended with last week.
Does anyone ever think to ask that question?
It doesn’t seem that way.
It seems like if two people fall in love (and if their parents are open to the prospect) THEN LET THE FUN BEGIN!
And being in love is fun. Until it’s not.
Why would we say such a thing? Because, though our culture generally treats dating like learning to ride a bike, it’s far more complex and risky than that.
You’d have to be living in a cave Chuck Norris carved with his bare hands, to be ignorant of the emotional toll broken romantic attachments visit upon the hearts of lovers everywhere. And the hookup culture is deepening those wounds.
That’s a far cry from skinning your knee in a bike wreck. It’s more like breaking your leg in a car accident. Only a broken heart hurts more. And longer.
With purpose driven dating, we encourage you to view dating as an opportunity to grow in intimacy, but because of the inherent emotional risk, it shouldn’t be your FIRST lesson. Instead, you need to begin learning the art of intimacy long before you start dating. (At least, you do if you want to be successful in dating.)
Speaking of intimacy, perhaps I ought to clarify. I’m not talking about sexual intimacy. I’m talking about what your soul truly longs for: emotional, relational intimacy.
I’d like to give you several criteria to help you determine if you’re ready to date, but first I want to make one final clarification, and I pray you’ll pay close attention to this truth: not being ready to date is not the same thing as not being worthy of love.
I say this, because I’ve read many excellent posts on this subject and sometimes it’s clear, from the angry comments below those excellent posts, that people aren’t making that distinction. They’re seeing something in the post that’s saying, “You aren’t ready to date!” But what they’re reading is “You aren’t worthy of love.”
And so instead of being motivated to grow or seek the help they need, they determine to defend themselves and lick their wounds. Please don’t do that with this post.
If you feel like you’re lacking any of the following criteria, it doesn’t mean anything in regards to your worth as a human being, made in God’s image for His glory. It doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be loved, understood or accepted. It doesn’t mean there isn’t an amazing relationship in your future.
It simply means, you have areas of growth you want to work on before pursuing a serious relationship. And fortunately, if these areas are brought to your attention through this post you can start doing that right now instead of waiting until you’re stuck in an unhappy marriage. CONGRATULATIONS, wise individual!
Have others dated and even gotten married without meeting all the criteria below? Absolutely.
But just because God is gracious (and He is) that doesn’t make it a good idea to test that grace. Indeed, I hope you’ll see the list below as shared in His grace for Your very best!
#1: You have learned how to honor your parents.
For better or worse, one’s relationship with their parents has an irrefutable impact on your emotional and relational health. Of course, that includes your dating life.
Maybe you get along with Mom and Dad. Perhaps you get along with one, but not the other. Maybe there’s such serious dysfunction you can only get along apart from them. Perhaps you don’t even know your parents.
Regardless of where you’re at, honoring your Father and Mother is the only commandment with a promise; a blessing you want as you navigate the wide world of dating, and certainly a blessing you want on your future marriage.
Despite the level of difficulty, in learning to honor our parents we learn to honor others. Consider this commandment a class prerequisite to pursuing romance. If you’re intent on skipping this class, don’t expect passing Romance 101 to be easy.
#2: You have made peace with your loved ones.
Beyond your parents, who are the people most responsible for who you are today? Siblings? Other relatives or family friends? Take a moment to write them down.
Have you learned how to get along with any of them? Perhaps it’s impossible for you to actually get along with your parents, but there should be some healthy connection to the people in your past.
Let’s put it this way: if you can’t live at peace with your past family, you cannot magically expect to live at peace in your future family.
I’m not saying past family failure means you’re doomed relationally. What I am saying is you have to deal with your family background. Not you “ought to” or “might want to,” but you have to.
You may need to get help from a group like Celebrate Recovery, or Samson Society. You may need to get counseling. But what you don’t need at this point is a serious romantic relationship. At best that will merely medicate your past hurt and, at worst, it will complicate it.
#3: You have solid same-sex friendships.
In the words of Nate Larkin of the aforementioned Samson Society, “We all have same-sex needs. They’re just not sexual.”
Do you even know what your same-sex needs might be?
If you don’t, you will likely wind up expecting your romantic interest to meet those needs. And you’ll be frustrated when they don’t. And they will too.
Do you know the best place in the world to grow in these kinds of relationships?
We’ll talk about that next week as we continue with our prerequisites for Romance 101, but it’s likely you already know where you could grow in strong, healthy friendships like this. Care to guess in the comment section?
And while you’re at it, discuss these questions with a good friend or two or more:
- Can you honestly say that you have learned how to honor your parents? What would they say? What would those who know and love you best say?
- What are your strongest family relationships? If your family is so dysfunctional that you don’t have any positive familial connections, what other close relationships do you have to fill that mentor/protector role in your life?
- If you were married to someone who got along with their family the way you get along with yours would that strengthen or weaken your marriage?
- Do you consider yourself a peacemaker? If so, what is the evidence. If not, do you know someone who could teach you and would you consider asking them?
- Do you have solid, same-sex friendships you know could pull you through anything? Have they already pulled you through tough times?
This post is one in a series on Purpose-Driven Dating which we define as follows: Intentional time invested in one other person for the purpose of growing in intimacy that might lead to a life-giving, life-long marriage. Our current focus: …for the purpose of growing in intimacy… The series begins with this post.
DNA: It’s What’s For Dating
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The LoveEd study guide series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE YOU FALL IN LOVE! It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. Check out the first two 8-lesson study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better? And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!