Dating Wisdom I Wish I had Known
Marriage Log: Day 8,496
Whether you endured the passing of another Valentine’s Day, or delighted in it, you can’t miss it’s arrival. It’s like a loud, Italian relative coming to dinner. (Hey, my Father-in-law is a loud, Italian relative.)
And since my birthday is Valentine’s Day, it never catches me off guard. Not even after 46 years. I can always here it coming.
But here’s what did surprise me this year: I suddenly realized that this particular February 14th means I have now been married for half of my life on earth.
If you’ve read a good number of Date Night Advice posts, you know my 23 years of marriage to Julie have been beyond fulfilling for us both. Indeed, I have not only grown to know and love her more, but I’ve grown to know and love her family more as well. (Including that one loud, Italian relative I love like my own father.)
But our marriage almost never happened.
Because we almost never happened.
That is to say, we almost never became a couple.
And after we did, we then had a tremendously difficult time maintaining sexual purity.
As I look back now, a man who’s been married half of his life, I see most of my problems stemmed from completely distorted perceptions of sex, dating and relationships. Ideas I started forming as early as third grade.
Perhaps you might have some skewed ideas hindering your dating life.
That’s why I’m sharing dating wisdom I wish I had known back then, in the hopes that it might empower some wise individual (you maybe?) to arrive at their half-way marriage point with less emotional/relational baggage.
So for your consideration, here’s one bit of wisdom from every year of Julie and my 23 years of marriage.
#2: Fun isn’t a sufficient reason to date. In fact, it’s probably an excuse to cover the real reason you want to date.
#3: Dating for status is using people. Which is frowned on in most cultures.
#4: It would be impossible to overestimate the impact of the media on your beliefs about sex, dating and relationships. And it’s likely not a good impact. If I had known the breadth and depth of the influence my television/film/music exposure was having on my life, I would have been more discriminating. Far more.
#5: Belonging is only something you feel when you believe it. Which means that simply having the affection of a girlfriend or the acceptance from the cool kids, won’t change anyone’s life all by itself.
#6: Romantic feelings should not be awakened before their time. And firmly grasping what this means is imperative for relational health.
#7: Love is not something you find, earn or lose. And since I didn’t know this…
I wasted precious time looking for love in dating, while missing the wonder of the love I already had in the form of un-sexy, non-mushy-gushy relationships with family and friends.
#10: Flirting is as fun as it is insincere. Which means it’s probably not the best way to relate to the opposite sex.
#11: Don’t date strangers. OK, so honestly this was one thing I didn’t do, but I’ve seen so many people do it and heard the resulting first date horror stories, and I don’t want yours to be next. So sue me.
#12: Sex is a conversation. I thought the secret to sexual purity lay in knowing how far was too far. This was far from the truth.
#13: Rejection isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it’s not only a normal part of life. It’s unavoidable. But if I had been more intentional about developing strong healthy relationships with other guys, I’d have been able to weather dating rejection far more successfully. Even though I’ve been rejected by friends too.
#14: Trying to impress a girl is selfish. And it’s immature, but I digress.
#15: Contentment is a discipline you have to learn. It’s not a destination you reach or a prize you earn. Which, translated, means being in a relationship, or getting married, or enjoying bed-breaking sex with your trophy wife isn’t going to magically make you content.
#16: Sex isn’t bad, but it is dangerous. And because of this…
God’s rules about human sexuality are meant to promote our flourishing not hinder our fun.
#17: Trusting that if I do what God wants, He’ll do what I want isn’t really trusting God. It’s trusting I know better than Him. And that’s the opposite of trusting God.
#18: Forgiveness is the single most important relational skill. So important you simply can’t thrive in long-term, sacrificial relationships without it.
#19: If you know what you’re looking for out of relationships you’re far more likely to find it. I barely had a clue the day I got married. And my marriage not only paid the price. My entire relational history was defined by my ignorance.
#20: Waiting for marriage to have sex is the wrong way to look at both sex and marriage. Sex isn’t something to wait for. It’s something to save for marriage. Whether you’re single or married.
#21: Marriage should not be the purpose of dating. It should be the goal. And there’s a HUGE difference between the two.
#22: Dating can be an adventure! In fact, I now see how…
God used the process of dating and courtship to accomplish all the things a great adventure should do: grow me up, draw me closer to Him, push me to risk and reward me for exercising faith and wisdom. Though often not the reward I was looking for.
#23: You should date like Batman. No. I’m not talking about wearing a mask. I’m talking about acquiring the tools, skills, and knowledge to succeed at the task before you attempt to tackle it.
Hope those little tidbits gave you some direction. I encourage you to click any of the hyperlinks above and GO DEEPER. You won’t be sorry.
Certainly not when you’re celebrating your 23rd anniversary. Or the birthday when you realize you’ve been married for half of your life.
I hope you’ll remember to drop us a note then.
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!