Dating can be like going to Disneyland with all the excitement and anticipation, but it can also be like ending up in a horror movie with trauma and pain. Dating has changed over the years, and in today’s society, it is just hard.
You have culture telling you things like shallow hookups from Tinder is perfectly acceptable, or that talking for weeks and then just ghosting is normal. A comparison culture fueled by Instagram making it seem like everyone else is living a perfect life with a perfect hot partner, traveling to perfect places. It doesn’t help that when you turn to the church as a refuge, you find people of strong faith but they don’t offer much advice about dating. The only dating advice really offered is short…. “Don’t have sex before marriage.” So helpful… Thank you, I didn’t already know that. What else ya got?
In biblical times, dating was not a thing, as their culture was one of arranged marriages, usually in the teen years. So the bible doesn’t talk a whole lot about dating, at least not directly. Fortunately, it does talk about wisdom and the importance of being intentional.
We have a VERY INTENTIONAL Heavenly Father who loves marriage. It’s this beautiful image of Jesus and the church. Okay, okay, I know you’re asking, why am I talking about marriage when you need to date first. Well, this is where intentional dating comes to play. You need to know what direction you are going before you start your journey, or you’re going to end up lost in the desert for 40 years single.
7 Things to Keep in Mind While Intentional Dating
1.SEEK GOD. TRUST GOD. WALK WITH GOD. BE PATIENT WITH GOD. FIGHT TEMPTATION WITH SCRIPTURE.
This may look familiar because it is step 7 in How to be Happily Single. Even if you are Happily Single and starting to date, it talks about the foundation work before you start dating. The truth is, you really should do this in EVERY ASPECT OF LIFE. Being obedient to Christ is our number one priority in life and in order to do that we need to look to him in every situation for his guidance.
We are so blessed to have the Holy Spirit with us at all times, we can just ask him for knowledge and he will bless us. I’m not going to go into too much detail here, because it is listed out in Part 1 in this series. But, know this. God loves you and loves God-honoring relationships. He will guide you and give you discernment in what directions to go to find your right partner.
James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
Philippians 1:9-10 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ
2. KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES
Some boundaries are going to be different from person to person. This is where step 3 Discover Who You Are, and step 6 Define Your Ideal Relationship in part 1 in this series really comes to play when intentionally dating. You need to know who you are, and what your needs are in a partner.
For example, I have a very dominant personality. Think alpha female to the extreme. Scripture states wives are supposed to submit to their husbands. Well in order for me to do that I really need a strong alpha male husband. A man who loves the Lord with his whole heart is one I can respect. So, I won’t even entertain the idea of dating someone that has a more passive personality, because I know naturally I will try to dominate him when that is not what God has asked me to do. I have learned this through self-discovery and defining my ideal relationship, dating an alpha male is a non-negotiable for me, but that is going to look very different to someone else. I know submission is a hot topic for a lot of women, I promise, I get it just, stay with me. I’ll talk more about the breakdown of Ephesians 5 in Part 3 of this series.
A boundary that is a non-negotiable for all Christians because it is stated in the bible, you must be equally yoked. Trust me on this I speak from experience, dating evangelism is NOT a good idea and you both will end up hurt. I’ll break this down. Below you will see a photo of two oxen equally yoked and two oxen unequally yoked.
When both partners are madly and passionately in love with God, you are equally yoked. When one person is madly in love with the Lord and the other is a non-believer, you are unequally yoked and it is called dating evangelism. You are hoping that by dating, he or she will find Jesus. It almost never works.
I dated a man for almost 3 years. I loved him deeply and prayed and prayed and prayed that he would give his life to the Lord. Unfortunately, what happened ended with both of us heartbroken and broken up. He did not give his life to Christ and he deterred me from going all-in with God. This unfortunately is what happens in almost all unequally yoked relationships. The person who is a believer usually thinks they are strong enough to not be swayed away from God and the non-believer usually feels like they are not good enough as they are.
When you communicate through your words and prayers that they need to change and become a believer, you interrupt the work of the Holy Spirit, by communicating they need to CHANGE before they are accepted. Which is the exact opposite of GRACE. Let the Holy Spirit do the convicting. He’s much better at it than we are.
On the other hand, when both people are madly and passionately in love with God, they can spur each other on and grow closer to the Lord together. I personally love picturing my future boyfriend and I have date nights with Jesus studying his word. That may make me a complete nerd but I don’t care. I literally delight in God’s word, and I can not wait to share that with my future man.
If you have not already done so, go back to step 3 & 6 in part 1 of this series and write out what your boundaries are based on what is written in the bible and what your own needs are based on who you are, and what you are looking for in life. Pray about it and seek the Lord’s guidance. Boundaries in Dating is a great book that talks more about this topic.
2 Corinthians 6:14 Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?
Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.
3. DON’T HAVE SEX BEFORE YOU SAY “I DO”
You already have heard this one a million times and it goes against the grain of culture. I want to share with you why this is so important. No, God is not trying to withhold fun from you. By asking you to wait, he’s trying to give you more fun in all the ways that won’t short-change your life or your future spouse’s.
A few things are probably crossing your mind right now. I’ve already had sex why does it matter now. I love my boyfriend/girlfriend, and we are getting married anyway. Don’t you want to test drive the car before you buy it? The list goes on and on.
Culture, ie. the enemy, has made sex simply an extra-curricular activity. It a merely physical activity, devoid of emotions or commitments. Let me give it to you straight, the more people you have sex with, the more emotionally wrecked you will be, the more wrecked your life will be, the harder it will be for you to commit to the “right person,” and the more baggage you will bring into that relationship.
Now, I am not saying that God can not redeem you. He can because well He’s incredible and He wants to bring restoration. He promises he can work all things together for good, for those who LOVE HIM. But, you will have scars, DEEP scars, that will require much healing. God wants to spare you from all that unnecessary pain.
I want you to picture this. It is your wedding night, you’ve saved yourself for your partner. They are the most beautiful/ handsome person you’ve ever seen. You are overjoyed, in love, and you physically want to experience the most intimate and beautiful thing with them. You say “I do” and want to enjoy one another fully, worshiping God, and loving each other. If you do not wait to have sex before marriage those thoughts of your past partners could creep into the bedroom of your new spouse and you. That previous partner isn’t worth taking that perfect moment from you.
When you sleep with someone you become one with them, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. You become so vulnerable to that person because you quite literally are naked and alone with them. Do you really want to do that with someone that hasn’t agreed to sacrifice themselves for you on a daily basis?
Let’s go back to the scripture of submission. Wives submit to your husbands and the church submits to Christ. Husbands lay down your lives as Christ has laid down his life for the church. Biblical submission is mutual. Relationships take so much commitment. A commitment that needs trust and honor. I’ll talk more about sacrificial relationships and what they look like in part 3 of this series.
Ultimately, I pray you get the point. Sex before marriage has the potential to cause enormous pain and problems in your future marriage. Your future spouse is the one worth trusting, and waiting for. Give your best and most intimate self to him or her only.
Ephesians 5:22-28 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
4. COMMUNICATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
I highly recommend finding out what your love language is and reading the book by Gary Chapman. Once you know your love language, it’s easier to determine what expectations might have. If your love language is words of affirmation, you can tell your partner to always communicate how they feel about you. If your love language is quality time, you can tell them you just want to spend time together regularly.
It’s important to know your needs and yourself in order to know what your expectations are. If you know you need a little extra attention, and expect to talk every day you need to make that clear to your potential partner. If you know you need extra space throughout the week because you have an intense job, you need to make that clear too. How much time do you want to spend with your partner?
It’s okay to take things slow, you don’t have to spend every waking moment talking to that person unless they’ve made a commitment to you. I am almost jealous of how our previous generation was. When my parents dated in the ’80s, my dad would call my mom every Thursday night at the exact same time, and my mom would wait for him. Today, you don’t have to wait around, you can text, snap, and use just about any app on your phone to communicate, which makes it really hard to set boundaries with your time.
Figure out what is a healthy amount of communication in your circumstances. We all have ebb-and-flow seasons in our lives. You may have the right person, but if they are in an extremely busy season of life ie. multiple jobs, studying for finals, caring for ill family members, etc. If you or your potential partner do not have much time for a new relationship because you are in a busy season, then perhaps crossing things off your to-do list together will help. If this is something you aren’t open to, then maybe the timing is off or it’s not the right relationship for you, and that is okay too.
5. MAKE YOUR INTENTIONS CLEAR
If you only want to be friends or are looking for something casual. You need to make that very clear from the beginning. In my opinion, you shouldn’t date unless you are dating to marry, because if you are dating to pass time, seek attention, or boost your self-esteem, you are going to hurt someone or yourself. Part of me wonders if the bible doesn’t talk about dating much because we simply were never meant to date around. God intended relationships to be one man and one woman under Him. He intended the couple to walk and grow with God together, like Adam and Eve before the fall.
I’m not saying go out on one date with someone then get married. I am saying get to know the person first as friends, and only “date” someone who is potential marriage material. You have to know them quite well before you decide on marriage. If you both don’t click that’s fine, but you need to be open and honest in communication with one another. See if that person checks all your boxes, and makes you weak in the knees. Are they someone you could see yourself marrying? If not, break it off, that person could be growing feelings for you and to let the relationship linger on will only hurt that person worse when you decide to break it off later.
6. NOT ALL DATING APPS ARE BAD.
Dating apps can be a great way to meet people, but you do need to be careful of them, as a lot of apps out there are geared towards the worldly way of dating and or just for hooking up. Start by asking God if it is something you should do or not. Personally, I’ve tried a few of them and I’ve felt the Lord clearly say I should not go on the apps anymore. I feel clarity from God that I will not meet my partner there, but that is not the case for everyone. So seek the Lord and be obedient to Him.
A few things I learned on the apps that I think might be helpful. In the past, I have tried Tinder and Hinge. From my experience, do not go on Tinder, most people on there are looking to hookup. I preferred Hinge. They advertise that they are “An App To Be Deleted”. On Hinge, you can be very specific on your searches. Make sure you input everything you want in a partner, especially your non-negotiables. Then on your profile, put things on there like, Must Love Jesus, and list some other things that you would like to do with your partner. For example, I have a dog and one of my non-negotiables is, Emma, my dog must love you. She has a great sense of character.
Apply the Jesus filter. Ultimately, don’t be afraid to talk about Jesus when you start chatting on the app or on your first date. Because honestly, if they feel uncomfortable talking about Jesus, they don’t have a very good relationship with him, and you could end up in an unequally yoked relationship. Take it as a sign that they are not the right fit for you.
7. COURTSHIP IS KEY
Ladies and Gentlemen, I know culture says courtship is dead, but I pray that isn’t true!! Men, if you’ve found a woman you like, look to the Lord to lead you to lead her. The Holy Spirit can be our “cupid.” If Jesus says “no” or “wait” you need to trust Him. If he says “start to pursue her”, ask him for guidance, then do it! Start communicating with her, ask her questions. What does she like, what are her dreams, and ambitions? Do they align with yours? Start to pursue her more, with the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
Ask her out on a date and be a Gentlemen. Things you should do on the date. Buy her flowers. Pick her up. Go right to her door. Open all the doors for her, including your car door. Pay for dinner or whatever the date is. Make it special specifically for her. Have some questions ready, here her story, and be ready to share yours. Listen well. Ask what her favorite food is or her favorite hobbies, and plan the date accordingly. Ask her what her love language is and show her affection that way.
Ladies, is a man pursuing you? Give him a chance, or be honest with him and tell him you aren’t interested. If you are, go on a date with him, get to know him, encourage him, ask him questions, and HEAR HIS STORY. A great girlfriend/ wife is an encourager, not a critic.
If you both click, communicate how you’re feeling, and don’t feel like you have to wait to make things exclusive. Pray for one another and do a bible study together. Look to the Lord to guide both of you. Grow with God together! Think with a we mindset, not a me mindset.
Once you are at the exclusive dating status, you need to love each other in a sacrificial way Part 3 in this relationship series on Sacrificial Relationships dives deeper into what it looks like to have a Godly relationship and explains Ephesians 5:22-28. Follow us on social media and keep an eye out for the posting.