LET’S TALK ABOUT DATING
In a society where one-night stands are the norm, and relationships are regarded as disposable, how should we approach dating? Is it normal? Is it healthy? Keep reading to find answers to our most frequently asked questions about dating.
WHAT IS DATING? WHAT IS COURTING?
Moral Revolution would give courting and dating the same definition. Oftentimes, men and women choose to date without giving any thought to marriage, and this is where we see people make messes. In their eyes, dating is done solely for recreation and with no thought for future consequences.
We, however, suggest that dating is a stage that couples explore on their road to marriage. (These stages include friendship, dating, engagement and marriage.) In this second stage, couples intentionally spend time together to get to know each other and test compatibility. This can happen in group settings or one-on-one interactions.
WHAT DOES HEALTHY DATING LOOK LIKE?
Healthy dating looks like a healthy man and a healthy woman figuring out if they want to put a bow on their friendship, called marriage. In short, a dating relationship can’t be healthy unless both parties are healthy. By healthy, we mean both parties know who they are, have worked out their past baggage, have been walking in purity, are known in community and live a full life.
In this phase of the relationship, these two people focus on learning about each other and enjoying each other in such a way that if they did not continue on to engagement, they could end their relationship in an honoring and safe way.
Dating should consist of lots of fun, clear communication, building trust, conflict resolution, and sharing of each other’s worlds including home life, family upbringing, core beliefs, work ethic, character, and life goals and ambitions.
We do not recommend that you talk about all these things on the first date. We do not recommend that you try to figure out if he/she is “the one” on the first date. There is no set time frame for how long couples should stay in the dating stage. Our advice would be, take your time, you’re not in a hurry. Don’t try to fast-forward the process.
Try to think about dating as a time of discovery.
HOW DO I KNOW IF HE OR SHE IS “THE ONE”?
DOES GOD PREORDAIN RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN A HUSBAND AND WIFE OR ARE WE FREE TO CHOOSE OUR SPOUSE?
The idea of two people being preordained for each other is Biblical and can be accurate. It can be revealed to them through a prophecy, dream, etc., specifically identifying whom they should marry. If this happens, both parties in the relationship need to receive a word from God for themselves. Once both parties receive a word, they should share it with their leaders, mentors, spiritual parents, friends, etc., and get feedback so that they are not isolated with this directional word. Isolation is no one’s friend and has caused many people a lot of heartache.
Moral Revolution believes that for the majority of people, any man could make a marriage work with any woman (and vice versa), however, there are some couples that are more compatible (based on strengths, personality, culture, life calling, etc.) than others. Either way, it is important to keep in mind that marriage is a continual pursuit of your partner. We believe that someone “becomes the one” when you marry them. Your decision to love them, make commitment and make covenant for the rest of your life is powerful and important decision. God honors the covenants that you make. However, it’s still your choice to make and God would never force anyone to do something they did not want to do.
To conclude, the question of “the one” can go either way. It can work for certain people but for the majority of the 7 billion people on the planet, it comes down to choice. Even though God is sovereign He has given us each a free will to choose and who we marry is a powerful decision that affects every area of our life. So I would say choose wisely, get counsel, pray, and know who you are and what you need/want in life and in a life partner.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M READY TO DATE?
God gave us an opportunity to use dating as a time to explore ourselves as well as other people. It’s important to realize that if we’re not a full person, we’re not going to attract one. If you’re looking for someone to complete you, make you happy, solve your problems of loneliness and pain, then you’re probably not ready to date anyone. Only God can truly fulfill those areas. We all have a spot in us designed for God and God alone (sometimes referred to as the God Spot). Yes, we are meant to be in community and meant to be in relationship with others but if you’re relying on people too much for fulfillment, you may have put others in your God spot. This can lead into codependent behavior, manipulation, depression, anxiety, etc. as it’s impossible for them to consistently meet all of your needs. Make sure God is where He should be first before you seek intimacy with others. Remember, dating is about learning to give, not just receiving. If you feel confident that you’re going to God first to satisfy many of your needs, you’re ready to get out there and start pursuing healthy relationships.
DOES AGE REALLY MATTER?
There aren’t any hard and fast rules around age limit and dating. We just want to be careful if there’s a huge divide in maturity and life experience. The question isn’t really if it is right or wrong, but if it is healthy. It used to be the norm for an older man to be with a younger woman. But in our culture, that has changed.
What we typically think when we see a younger woman with an older man is that she either wants the security that an older man gives her, or she has father issues and wants a father. Both of these scenarios are intimacy avoidance – they keep you from having real intimacy. However, this does not have to be the case – there are very healthy relationships where the man is older and the woman is younger. The same could be true for a younger man paired with an older woman.
It would be good to know why you are attracted to someone much older or younger than you. Is it that you truly love the person and they happen to be the age they are? Or are you avoiding intimacy? Are you trying to live out a fantasy? Are you trying to fill a void of parental love and affection? Rather than looking at rules, you need to understand why you are attracted to older (or younger) men or women. Be completely honest with yourself. It could be perfectly healthy and you could have a long term wonderful relationship.
HOW FAR IS TOO FAR? WHERE IS THE LINE?
Moral Revolution believes that God put an internal line in each of us, that tells us what is/is not appropriate regarding our sexual choices. No one can draw your “line” for you; it is determined by what turns you on, and what your personal convictions are. Though the Bible does not explicitly describe what kind of physical behaviors are acceptable before marriage, it does give us wisdom. Song of Solomon 2:7 warns us not to “stir up a love (don’t excite your body, don’t go there), until the time is right and you can see it through.”
There’s nothing more tortuous than getting all hot and bothered and having to strain against your entire being, the way you were designed, and stop what you desperately want to follow through to completion. This is why our one concrete suggestion is that you learn what your point of arousal is, and save it for your wedding night.
Many people try to push the envelope and go as far as they can, physically, without having sex. We would suggest that if purity, holiness, and honoring yourself, your future husband, your marriage, and God with your body, soul, and spirit is something you have decided to do, then it seems like you would want to do whatever it takes to protect that decision. Playing the “how far is too far card” is like playing with fire.
One last thought: When it comes to defining “the line” in your relationship, whoever has the most sensitive boundaries in the relationship is the one who defines what happens. For example, if one of you is comfortable with kissing, and the other isn’t, then kissing is not permitted in your relationship. Be sensitive to one another and protect each other as you choose your physical boundaries.
WE’VE GONE TOO FAR (PHYSICALLY OR SEXUALLY).
HOW DO WE GET BACK ON TRACK?
The first step is to repent, and truly make a heart transition. You can say that you want to stop and change, but until there is godly sorrow in you, your repentance will not bear fruit. Next, you must evaluate your vision and core values. You both need to get on the same page; what do you want your relationship to look like? If one person wants to abstain from sex while the other doesn’t, it’s going to be difficult to respect each other’s boundaries and fight for the vision that you have.
If you want to abstain from sex because you think it’s “the right thing to do” but don’t know why, you probably won’t have much motivation to abstain. You need to be deeply committed to protecting yourself and your significant other. You need know your value and know who you are in God. Know that you were made to be loved, treasured and adored, and that real covenant is worth the fight. Believe that you are worth waiting for. Believe that you have something to offer someone other than your body. Make sure you align with your significant other in the area of core values and if you don’t, take some time to reflect on the vision you have for your future marriage or relationship.
Start establishing healthy and appropriate boundaries. Be real with one another. If you can’t be alone together without things getting too intimate, it’s time to start hanging out in groups or in public places. Be honest with what works and what doesn’t. If you consistently keep pushing things too far, bring in some accountability so that people can help you both get on track. When you have people rooting for you who believe in your relationship, it can be the motivation you need to make wise choices and say no. Remember that there’s no shame or guilt here and we all make messes. The question is, how are you going to clean up that mess?
WHAT ARE SOME HEALTHY WAYS TO CREATE TRUST, INTIMACY AND CONNECTION IN A DATING RELATIONSHIP?
While it is normal to want to use our bodies to bond, it is important to have a healthy connection outside of a physical relationship. Having a highly sexual relationship with someone dominates your ability to build trust and connection naturally and healthily, and makes it difficult to really see that person clearly.
Healthy of connection is built over time through various experiences with the person you are dating. Intentionally experience them in different environments; what are they like at church compared to home? With their family compared to their friends? You can learn a lot about a person just by watching them; you’ll see if they are stable, mature, integrous or trustworthy.
While many people feel that their strongest attachment to their boyfriend or girlfriend is their physical relationship, talking, having fun and doing everyday things together are the best ways to build an intimate connection and trust. Take risks with each other to share what you are afraid of, what hurts you, what you’ve been through. Allow them to really see you, and respond. When another human responds to you with deep understanding and compassion, connection is inevitable. Share your needs with one another, and take care of each other. Learn each other’s love languages and start “speaking them” to each other. Practice communicating. Learn to apologize and make things right. Learn how to keep each other safe; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Don’t push each other’s boundaries (physically or emotionally), but instead, be kind to one another and be patient. If you practice these things, you’ll be well on your way to a vibrant, safe, intimate relationship.
HOW CAN I PRACTICE HEALTHY PHYSICAL AFFECTION WITH THE PERSON I’M DATING WITHOUT TIPPING INTO LUST?
Physical affection is one of our basic, human needs. It is also one of the ways God created us to bond with another person, so it is natural that we want to be physically affectionate with the person we are dating. The best way to make sure that your physical affection is lust-free is to honor the boundaries you two have decided on. What turns them/you on? Avoid doing anything that will push their emotions too high. You don’t need to refrain from all things. For example, you’d be surprised how far a back rub or cuddle goes for someone whose love language is physical touch. Be honest with your intentions; if you feel yourself trying to take, rather than give, you may be listening to lust.
If your significant other’s needs seem insatiable, they most likely have a different need that must be met. Once we get our spiritual and emotional needs met, our physical needs tend to quiet down. This may seem unlikely, but it’s absolutely true. Know this one thing: you are not responsible to meet all their needs. They must get what they need, spirit, soul and body, from a variety of sources.
Challenge one another to keep your thought life clean and pure by teaching yourself to think of other things whenever an “out of bounds” thought pops into your head. Do other activities together, rather than sit alone in your house watching a movie. Get outside, go for a bike ride together, go mini golfing, etc. and connect on different levels while remaining active.
WHEN IS IT AN APPROPRIATE TIME TO SHARE MY SEXUAL HISTORY WITH THE PERSON I’M DATING?
HOW DO I DO THAT WELL?
One thing you shouldn’t ask or do: “Tell me everything and all of your sexual history.” Asking questions or divulging too much too soon can sometimes not help satisfy curiosity and wondering. First thing, don’t drudge through their baggage or load too much of your own onto their back. Ask the person what they want to know because not everyone wants to know everything in your past.
With that said, if you want to develop emotional intimacy, trust and connection with someone, sharing your struggles and history is a way to build that. If you’re not ready to take your relationship further then think about which stories you can share that aren’t emotionally vulnerable for you to do so. For example, if I used to struggle with pornography but I don’t anymore, I could share that with someone so that they can get to know me and my past without the possibility of pain and feelings of rejection if they don’t respond well. If I’m currently struggling with pornography and it’s a sore spot for me, I might only want to share that with someone until I’ve developed trust and connection with them. If they don’t respond well, I might want to take a step back and establish some new boundaries when it comes to what I’m sharing. The key is this: don’t allow your level of emotional intimacy to exceed someone’s commitment to you or the commitment you’re willing to make. Emotional intimacy is powerful and sharing past and current struggles will accelerate that bonding process.