Dating is hard for everybody, no matter what stage of life you’re in. Particularly for Christians, there can be external, extra pressure put on dating to culminate into holy matrimony as soon as possible. That’s neither healthy nor wise. Dating should be an enjoyable, no-pressure way to get to know another person. Here are five tips to help you navigate the dating world as a Christian:
1) Know what a date is.
Dating is not the same as a relationship. A date is just a date. As a relationship coach, I have to remind singles to not plan a wedding with their date after their first date; not even after the first five dates. Exclusivity can never be assumed, no matter how great the date was or emotional connection is. Assuming that it is can cause people to get hurt. Relationships are decided as a couple, not assumed by one party. Much like in a job hunting situation, dating is just the interview to see if there could be more.
2) Know the purpose of the date.
A date is suppose to be a fun, healthy, informative exchange. Often, Christians are opposed to dating because they think dating and sex are the same. It is possible to date without sex, as long as healthy boundaries are set. These boundaries allow for great experiences, while helping each party pace themselves mentally and emotionally.
This is why sex should not be in the picture until marriage. Many singles have found themselves in unhealthy dating scenarios because they could not let go of the emotions they attach to dating a person because of sex or obsessive daydreaming and fantasizing. Often, singles are having emotional and mental experiences that have never taken place in reality, concerning who they are dating, which creates a pressure and expectation in the dating phase that should not be. The entire dating phase does not have to be about maintaining a feeling of euphoria. Remember, it’s an interview. You’re supposed to be able to think clearly. Ask questions. Observe. Discover who they really are to determine if this is someone you want to continue dating.
3) Set reasonable expectations for dating.
Each party needs to have a candid conversation about what their expectations are. Are you mutually agreeing to just date each other? This has to discussed and decided, not assumed, so that each party can know what to expect. You can never assume a person believes what you believe when it comes to dating, including a fellow Christian. There are some who believe in dating multiple people at one time, until they make a decision to enter into a courtship with one. There are others who are offended that the person they are dating is dating someone else. Again, communication is key.
4) Have a variety of dating experiences.
When trying to maintain healthy boundaries in the dating phase while really getting to know a person, make sure you’re seeing that person in a variety of elements. Dates don’t have to be limited to restaurants and movies. Go to a game, bowling alley, museum, gallery, or festival. Try activities like ziplining, go-carting, snorkeling, or painting. Having fun things to do will help you to see if this is someone you are compatible with, without the interference of overwhelming romantic emotions that neither of you can be sure of, because you’re still in the dating phase.
5) Know when to let go.
While no one should give ultimatums, everyone should have a standard. If you have been dating someone for a period of time and you believe a courtship would be ideal while the other party is unsure or not interested, set a limit for how long you are willing to stay in the dating phase with them. This does not mean you have to exit your dating experience with this person angry, but if what you want does not agree with what they want, it’s time to move on. While no one should be rushed into a serious decision, no one should be led on either. After a set period of time, each party should have clarity on remaining in the dating phase longer, choosing to begin a courtship, or choosing to move on.