Does he/she like me? Could he/she be the one for me? Will this be a romance to last a lifetime?” Sometimes dating is all you think about! We call it ‘falling in love because it is like falling: you loose your balance, look really silly, and sometimes get hurt. When you are single, you have so many choices to make, it can be overwhelming. This resource is about the principles God gives us to weigh our choices in dating and choosing a spouse.
Seek a relationship with God first!
God offers you eternal life in his Kingdom. While marriage offers many benefits, it also brings the chance for serious trials. God’s promises are more important, more special, and less worrisome than earthly cares. Besides, if you have a relationship with God, your relationships with people will be much better. Keep your priorities straight –- seek God first.
Delay physical affection!
We know kissing is fun, but physical affection can be a distraction that clouds your judgment. There is no harm in putting it off until later. When you are looking for a lifelong relationship, you need to build it on something more than the physical aspects of love. You need to get to know this potential special someone. Physical affection can get in the way because it entails all sorts of pressures and worries that you shouldn’t have to deal with while you are getting to know somebody. If you find a lifelong love, isn’t there plenty of time afterwards for being physically affectionate? Sharing your values, feelings, hopes and dreams is more important for the beginning stages of such a special friendship.
Talk to people who have good relationships!
When making an important decision, you need lots of information. Take the time to talk to people whom you respect. The nice thing is that most people love to talk about love, so you should have an easy time getting people to tell their stories. Find a couple whom you think seems to have a sound relationship, and ask them about how they met each other, how they make their relationship work, and what they think is the most important part of a marriage. I have been married for years, and I still do this for fun, and — not surprisingly — I’m always learning new things about marriage. You will always be learning something new about relationships, no matter how old you get.
Give yourself a break!
Dating and marriage are nice, but they are not required; you don’t have to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend in order to be a happy, healthy person. Many people choose to stay single. If you decide that you would like to be married, lighten up and have fun with the search. Don’t pressure yourself; don’t get down on yourself if a relationship doesn’t turn out the way that you expected. If you are suffering though some dating mistakes, go easy on yourself, pray about it, and don’t lose hope; it will get better. Remember that every dating relationship, even those that do not lead to marriage, will be worthwhile if you follow godly principles.
As with any of the big decisions that we make in life, approach your dating and courtship activities with prayer and thanksgiving to God. He has a plan in mind for you that includes eternal fellowship with like-minded people. Remember that all of our earthly cares and ouragonizing decisions, which seem so important to us now, will one day be forgotten. Keep this in mind and it will help you keep a spiritual perspective on your daily priorities.
Do I have to get married?
Of course not! Getting married is your choice and marriage is not for everyone. The apostle Paul praised the single life:
1 Corinthians 7:7-8 Yet I would that all men were even as I myself. Howbeit each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that. But I say to the unmarried and to widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. (ASV).
1Cor 7:28 But shouldest thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Yet such shall have tribulation in the flesh: and I would spare you. (ASV)
Is he/she ‘”THE ONE”?
There are lots of people with whom you could have a wonderful relationship. How do you know when someone is good for you? You look forward to their company and you find yourself doing things with them that you want to be doing. If you find yourself doing things that you don’t want to do (e.g., you are bored, or worse, disappointed or ashamed afterwards) and going places that you don’t want to go, keep looking. Also, remember that nobody is perfect. This means that you should have realistic expectations about your “perfect match.”
What should I look for in a spouse?
Look for someone who lives in a way that you admire and who admires your life, preferably someone who thinks like you (and God!) do about life’s choices. Find someone who adores you (and God!) and who wants to take care of you. Find someone you adore and want to take care of forever. Find someone who knows how to control himself/herself and his/her anger. Stop looking for someone that other people like and find someone you like to be with. Stop looking at only outward appearances and find someone with whom you like to spend time. God doesn’t look on the outward appearance (1 Sam. 16:7).
What if I never find anyone who wants to marry me?
This is a serious worry and sometimes it happens to people who would like to be married. But remember, you do not need a spouse to somehow achieve “completeness.” You are a child of God, and He will make you into the person He wants you to be, with or without a companion. If you never get married, you will enjoy many things that married people never experience and you will avoid many hardships that married people endure, sometimes daily. God truly knows best. If it is the case that you will be spiritually bettered by being married, God will cause it to happen. However, God works on His timeframe, not your timeframe. Moreover, you may not yet be spiritually ready to meet the person that God intends you to spend the rest of your natural life with. Therefore, it is wise for you to pray that God will prepare you now to be the husband/wife that you need to be for your future spouse.
What if I make the wrong choice?
As long as you choose God’s ways first, you won’t be making wrong choices. If things turn out unexpectedly, rely on God.
How can I find a Christadelphian spouse with so few to choose from?
This can seem impossible, but it isn’t. Often you have to date someone from far away. Long distance relationships have their good points (you write a lot) and their bad points (you miss them; and travel costs a lot). Go to as many gatherings and Bible Schools as you can. The benefits of having a spouse who shares your beliefs are worth the extra efforts.
What if I am really shy?
Meeting people is painful for shy people. If this applies to you (it does to me!), make meeting people as comfortable for yourself as you can, but challenge yourself too. (It will get easier as you get older.)
I have found that the key to meeting people is sharing. You share a smile or a passing comment about nothing in particular. You lend a hand to someone in need. You share your thoughts. When you can’t think of anything to say, you say something about yourself that is neither here nor there, then they share something about themselves, and pretty soon, you are having a conversation. Take the risk!
Dating and Courtship: What’s the difference?
Many people use the term “’dating’” to refer to any time that a couple spends together, but some distinction between “dating” and “courtship” is useful for this discussion. Dating involves the goal of forming lasting relationships of varying levels of involvement – basically, dating is making friends and sharing their company. Dating is for having fun with friends. “We’re just friends,” is the usual line we use to describe someone who we are choosing to spend time with, i.e., dating, but whom we have no immediate plans of marrying. This kind of relationship is pursued for fun, with break-ups and make-ups occurring at a whim. Perhaps we could call it “casual dating” as opposed to “serious dating.”
Serious dating involves another important goal: finding someone to eventually marry. Once you find someone you think that you would like to marry, then your dating becomes courtship. Courtship is very serious because it has marriage as its ultimate goal; it involves creating a unique and exclusive lifelong commitment with someone.
You can’t talk about dating and courtship without talking about marriage. Even if you are a long way from being ready to get married, you are not too young to think about the principles that form good marriages. These principles become important the minute you start dating, even if marriage is years in your future. It is even important if you plan on staying single because you have to account for the feelings and plans of your friends.
Dating is a step into adulthood. It entails making adult decisions, so if you are still a teenager, you need as much help as you can get (as much as you can stand, anyway). You need to use your head because, although it is mostly fun, dating brings the potential for heartache, disappointment, embarrassment, and regret.
Don’t take your dating decisions lightly: spending time alone with people can be a risk. I’m talking about seriously sad things; many, maybe most, of the bad things that happen to teenagers happen on dates. Date rape is common: one in three women have experienced sexual assault. I’m not trying to make you afraid of dating: I just want you to think ahead and make good choices. Be smart about it, be cautious, be watchful, and be prepared. How?
Make a Plan
- Plan your dating so that you avoid potentially uncomfortable situations: double date with other friends and/or stay in public places.
- Plan your schedule and stick to it so you don’t worry and your parents don’t worry. Dating is not supposed to be worrisome.
- Agree on boundaries and rules with your date and your parents before the date. Potential boundaries include the places that you are comfortable going, whether on not you will be alone, and the people you will be hanging out with. Be honest about what you are comfortable doing. This includes physical boundaries and how much affection you think is appropriate. (See below for further discussion of physical boundaries.) If your date is not agreeable, or becomes disrespectful, call it off.
- Think about how you want to be treated. For instance, disrespect is not acceptable. Disrespectful people do not make good dates or spouses. Surprisingly, many people stay in disrespectful relationships because they don’t know any better. Leave if your date teases or ridicules you, is overly controlling, or otherwise makes you feel bad.
Dating can create opportunities for people to be emotionally injured. You must take other peoples feelings seriously. Playing games with other people’s feelings is not allowed. You can really hurt someone or get hurt yourself. Always treat others the same way that you want to be treated. Even if someone else treats you poorly, you should not return evil for evil.
Entering into a relationship with someone else requires you to be honest with him or her and to be honest with yourself. Think about what you want to get from a relationship. If your dating partner is not meeting those goals, you should not pretend. What often happens is that time stretches into years of dating with one person devoted to the other while the other person is looking around for someone else. This is unfair to the devoted party in the relationship because they need to know that their time and efforts to create a lasting relationship are going nowhere. Leading someone on like this is irresponsible and unkind. Essentially, we cannot use people for our own entertainment or security. Instead, be honest about your goals in a relationship.
Be wary of forcing yourself into a relationship that you do not really value just because you haven’t found another prospect yet. Many people get into this position because they think that they MUST have a date and that they are somehow not “complete” without a dating partner. This is silly. There’s nothing wrong with being single. We are “complete” people regardless of whether we have a boyfriend/girlfriend.
Keep a long-term view of your life. Just because all of your friends are currently getting married does not mean that you need to get married to the person you are currently with but who is not right for you. Being single when all of your friends are married can be depressing, but it is better to feel like a third wheel for a little bit while you consider your search than to have to spend the rest of your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, etc. with the wrong person.
Also, people sometimes try to force another person into the mold of their ideal partner. They either imagine that the person is some way that they are not, or they try to change the person to fit their desires. Such games don’t feel good to the person being jammed into your preconceptions, and it just distracts you from your search. Get to know someone, and if they have attributes of character that you cannot live with, you don’t have to be insulting about it, but you should stop dating them.
Another aspect to “honesty” is restraint. You do not have to tell your date everything you have ever done. Your date does not need to know that you cheated on your fourth grade test on the history of the Vikings or everything about your previous boyfriend or girlfriend. As your relationship progresses, you should tell your partner regrettable aspects of your past only to the extent that they influence who you are or who you will become.
Getting to know people requires respecting who they are and who they want to be. In your dating interactions with people, you are bound to meet some people with whom you are sure that you could never live , and may never want to hang out with again. That’s acceptable, but it isn’t nice to tell them this in front of their friends! Furthermore, people change and grow over time: that annoying brat that you knew in junior high school may mature into the nicest person you know in your adulthood. Give everyone the respect they deserve. The Scriptures say, (Rom 12:17)Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men.(ASV)
Dating people with different beliefs and different world-views can be extremely difficult. If you are “’just friends’,”you really should be sensitive to the feelings of your date. What if they think you might be a potential marriage partner? You would be leading them on unfairly. As long as you make it clear to your date that you have no intentions of creating a long-term commitment with someone who doesn’t share your beliefs, then you are being honest. If they don’t want to date you after you are honest about this, then accept it; everybody’s being honest.
On a side note about this issue, my personal opinion is that you are just fooling yourself if you think that you can date without at least the possibility for romance. Since the chances are that you have little in common with a non-believer, why bother dating them? You might say, “”Well, I could share my faith with them!””That is true (and that’s very noble), but couldn’t you share your faithwithout dating them?
My personal story: The first person I ever decided to kiss turned out to be the person I eventually married. I never dated anyone whom I didn’t think I might consider marrying someday. It just felt more honest and straightforward that way. I didn’t want to marry someone who did not share my beliefs because God’s Word says, (2Cor 6:14) Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? I wanted a spouse who shared my convictions and would help me live a life that glorifies God.
Think about Love
According to R. Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love, love has many components: passion, intimacy, and commitment. Passion is a physical and emotional drive to be a part of another person’s life. It is a strong desire and motivation to have someone as a part of your life. It often involves physical lust, but not necessarily, because you can also be passionate about someone’s sense of humor, their artistic talent, or some other creative skill. You might even be passionate about their honesty, their generosity, or their humility. Passion is a desire to be with someone and to give yourself to him or her even if it means sacrificing some of your own wants and needs. Love without passion can still be nice, but it is more like the love you have for a sibling.
Intimacy, in the sense we are using it here, is sharing between people, specifically sharing personal things that one would not usually tell casual friends. Intimacy involves a lot of trust and requires being open about even the most potentially embarrassing parts of life. Intimate partners share secrets with one another. They show sides of themselves to each other that no one else in the world ever sees. Intimacy is a continuing, exclusively private conversation. This particular part of love is often neglected by insecure people (often men) who are bad at sharing their inner thoughts with someone else. It is often the part of a relationship that women crave the most. It’s a very enjoyable part of love. Love without intimacy is odd and more like a business partnership.
Commitment is the most often neglected aspect of love in the world’s definition of love. It is a decision and a promise to be self-sacrificing for someone, even when you don’t feel like it. When you are dating, your commitments are just temporary. Real commitment progresses and is established before God in marriage. Love without commitment is selfish.
(1Cor 13:4) Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; 6 rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; 7 beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Lust, Limerance, and Liking
Lust is not love. Lust is pure physical desire, and all of us have it. Our society often presents lust as love, but this is a mistake. Falling in lust with someone is just physical. Falling in love is emotional and spiritual. Love is a careful, purposeful decision made by your heart and mind, not by your hormones.
Scientists named that feeling of having a crush on someone “limerance.” Limerance is not love, but it can be the beginning of it. When you feel limerance, you daydream about the other person constantly, doodle their name in your notebook, and can’t wait to see them again even if you just said goodbye. Everything they say seems witty and interesting; everything they do is delightful. Basically, limerance is a physiological response to a potential partner and is much more like lust than love. It can be the beginnings of a lifelong love, but this is not inevitable. Limerance is extremely powerful and loads of fun. The problem is, your body can’t sustain that kind of emotional arousal forever, or you would bust. Like many good things, limerance fades. How long it lasts depends on a lot of things, but it will fade eventually (trust me). Jumping into a committedrelationship during limerance is a bad idea because limerance clouds your judgment. You are much wiser if you select a spouse based on more than just that first rush of emotion. You should also not become a limerance addict” and dump people the minute the limerance wears off so you are free to go hunting for more limerance. Doing that won’t give you the chance to enjoy the later stages of a relationship, which are also great, just in a different way.
Liking is very much like love and is a big part of limerance, but it doesn’t have the passionate desires that lust and limerance contain. The great thing about liking someone is that it is the mostreasonable of the feelings that surround love. Liking entails a general sense of enjoyment and well-being when in the company of another person. You may think that this goes without saying and that you know what it means “to like” somebody – but here’s something you probably don’t know: feelings of ‘liking’ your spouse are a better predictor of successful marriages than descriptions of love! People who describe their love for their spouse with some apathy often still have a great relationship if they report that they like their spouse.
Consider the implications of this for your search. You need to make sure you like your spouse and can work well together in service to God. Don’t jump into a lifelong commitment just because of limerance. Rushing into marriage is a bad idea. The activities of your married life will consist of working, keeping a house, raising children, and being involved in spiritually focused events. Make sure you witness your intended performing some daily life activities. The day-to-day things typically make a relationship difficult or easy. You may think it would be wonderful to marry a fantastic athlete, but can an amazing jump serve make up for someone who refuses to help with house chores? So, don’t just spend time doing fun things together. Try to experience a little real life together. One way to do this is to volunteer to help the elderly or over-worked parents of young children in your ecclesia for one of your dates. Not only does this give you a wonderful chance to check out your date’s habits, it is also an act of generous charity.
Communication and Intimacy
Relationships are built by sharing thoughts, experiences, and resources. One of the goals of dating is to get to know people, partly because it is enjoyable and partly because you are assessing potential marriage partners. With both goals, dating begins an exchange that encompasses anything and everything that is important or even mildly interesting to you. Intimate communication requires self-disclosure, or in other words, some open, frank sharing of your inner thoughts. Some people have a hard time doing this, and it can stall their relationships. In order to grow close to someone, you must share something. Communication does not have to be spoken all the time either. It can be written, musical, unspoken gestures, and sharing of resources (like time, money, or food). Usually dating couples share their likes and dislikes, stories, worldviews, goals, hopes and dreams. People who are good communicators rarely run out of things to talk about, but this does not mean that good relationships require a couple to talk all the time. Some sharing occurs in mutual activities, like working side by side. The level of communication necessary to stay content in a relationship requires a constant negotiation between two people. Very frequently, a relationship will end because the intimacy faltered. Better to discover a disparity in communication preferences while dating rather than hope that someone will become more open after marriage. This is all too common, especially in the minds of young women. They think, “He doesn’t talk much now, but I’ll draw him out after we are married”.” This is very optimistic, but in reality, guys who are poor intimate communicators seldom transform, despite their wives’ noble efforts.
Coping with Strong Emotions
Because dating usually leads to intimate communication, it also inherently contains some possibility for strong emotions, both happy and sad. Heartaches come with the territory. If you are dating, there is a good chance that you will eventually have to turn someone’s proposal down or be turned down yourself. Think about how you will face this event before it happens. I recommend being friendly and generous in either event. Don’t tell someone why you are putting the breaks on your relationship if the reason may hurt their feelings. Don’t withhold the respect that all God’s children deserve. If you are the one being turned away, be thankful that the person is being honest with you and not leading you on. You should be happy that the person is not letting you waste your time and energies on chasing them nowhere. It’s okay to be disappointed, but don’t turn disappointment into anger. Burning bridges is seldom wise.
Dating offers plenty of chances to explore physical affection in all of its many forms (holding hands, sitting together closely, walking arm in arm, touching each other’s face and hair, kissing). Physical affection is a form of communication that speaks of warmth, gentleness, excitement, acceptance, openness, trust, honesty, humility, kindness, care, joy, desire, passion, and many other things. It is very powerful, and because it is so powerful, it shouldn’t surprise you that being physical requires a great amount of responsibility! Boundaries and limits become very important.
Why put limits on physical affection?
God has given us ideals for all of our behaviors. The first and greatest commandment is to love Him and the second is to love our neighbor as our self. These two commandments require us to set limits on our bodies. God has harsh words for fornicators, so any sex outside of marriage is unlawful. We need to preserve intimate physical affection for marriage. Why? The short answer is because God said so. The more reflective answer is that marriage was created by God to be a holy(separate) union and distinct from other relationships. Marriage needs to be distinct to fulfill the purposes that God has planned for marriage, like developing our love and our attitude of selfless service.
The main distinction that God has devised to keep marriage distinct from other relationships is thepurity of the union between a man and a woman. To remain pure, you must remain exclusive. When you are dating, the possibility exists that you may not get married to your dating partner. Since the long-term commitment is not in place, you should not treat each other’s bodies as if you are in a committed relationship. Honoring the institution of marriage, and honoring God, requires us to keep marriage relationships pure. We must protect the distinctiveness of marriage. We honor the purity and exclusivity of marriage because we love God, i.e., the first and greatest commandment, (Mat 22:37) And he said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.
Another reason for protecting the sanctity of marriage by maintaining our purity is because of the second commandment, (Mat 22:39) And a second like unto it is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Your dating partner may not end up marrying you, so he/she may someday be married to your “neighbor.”You don’t want to be stealing and ruining the purity of your neighbor’s future marriage. Therefore, the love of God and the love of our neighbor compel us to honor the marriage relationship and keep it pure. Let’s consider what this entails.
What is “”purity”? What actions constitute “fornication”? Our society allows (even expects) many different kinds of sexual expression during dating relationships, from kissing to intercourse. To remain pure, you should never get so physical with someone that you have created an intimate moment worthy of a marriage. This principle prohibits intercourse, oral sex, and mutual masturbation from dating relationships. Hugging, kissing, and closeness are not likely to offend a future spouse’s sensitivities or the holiness of marriage. However, many people choose to limit their dating to even less physical interactions than hugging and kissing (I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris, 2003, Multnomah Publishers, Inc.). They decide to postpone all of the physical aspects of an affectionate relationship until after they are married. They don’t even kiss until their wedding. This is a noble and thoughtful approach to purity that gives glory to God. Not everyone likes this approach, but it does make for very enjoyable, relaxed, and mature dating experiences. Think about it; it may be your preference, too.
Be realistic about what level of physical affection you are comfortable with. If you decide that you do want the intimacy of kissing, consider how long it will be before you can marry this attractive person. If marriage is only possible in the distant future, will you be tempting yourself too strongly with physical closeness? Perhaps you should delay kissing until you are closer to marriage. Are there circumstances in your life (like living in your own place) that make breaking your preferred physical boundaries easy to do? Perhaps you should make specific decisions about your boundaries to prevent temptations.
Also consider the long-term implications of breaking your preferred boundaries. If you eventually get married to the person with whom you broke your boundaries, will the failure affect your marriage in the future? It could alter how you view his/her behavior and how you trust him/her with other people. If you do not marry them, will they remain in your life, and if so, what will it be like to interact with them after you have broken your boundaries with them? That person could end up marrying one of your friends and then become a constantly uncomfortable part of your future life.
About half of the respondents to the CYC Survey admitted to having difficulties setting boundaries at least some of the time. Almost half admitted that they have difficulties sticking to their boundaries once they set them. About the same proportion of respondents said that they “go too far physically” when they date. Whatever the reasons, young people need to be ready to respect boundaries and clearly communicate them when they date.
Men and women tend to perceive the messages of physical affection differently. Girls often attach a great deal of emotional significance to physical affection that is not necessarily shared by boys. A girl may think, “”He wants to touch me because he loves me so much and because what we have is so special. When he is affectionate, it means that he will never leave me.”The boy, however, may be purely driven by lust and only thinking about himself and his reputation. Of course, it can be the other way around, with the boy ascribing deep emotional significance to some physical interaction while his girlfriend is just out for a fun date and not thinking of commitments at all. Both boys and girls should understand this potential difference and guard against it when dating. Huge misunderstandings and horribly hurt feelings are possible (maybe unavoidable) when people ascribe different expectations to their physical affection and other intimate interactions. You must talk about these things before getting physical with one another! Don’t worry, talking doesn’t “’ruin the moment’” at all, despite what Hollywood may portray. In reality, open, clear communication is far more romantic and loving than ignorant assumptions and unfounded expectations.
Respecting Your Date’s Boundaries
Boundaries must be respected at the comfort level of the least comfortable person on the date. Judging from the reports made on the CYC Survey, women are the least satisfied with the current status of their physical boundaries. Women reported “going too far physically” at higher rates than men across the age groups. Setting and keeping to physical boundaries seems more difficult for women than it is for men. The reasons for this are open for discussion; perhaps honoring their date’s boundaries is more difficult for men than for women; possibly, men have a broader comfort level with physical interactions than women; perhaps men are more aggressive, in general, and women less assertive. Whatever the case is, the averages don’t have to apply to you. Men should be honorable, respectful, and protective of their date’s comfort level. Women should not be intimidated by their date or embarrassed to set limits on their physical interactions. Everyone should be honest, up-front, and explicit about his or her boundaries because compromising them often leads to heartache and regret.
Think about the limits on physical affection that you want in your dating and courtship before you go on a date. Once a relationship progresses to the point of opening some of the natural boundaries between people, you should already have a clear idea of how you want to be touched by someone else and how you are willing to touch them. If you are not too shy about it, talk about your limits with trusted adults and ask them what limits they set and how went about setting them. If you are too shy to discuss the subject, you may have some awkward moments on a date.
Communicating Your Physical Boundaries
Many people have difficulties showing the boundaries that they want on a date. People have different levels of comfort with physical affection. Do you expect a kiss on a first date? What would you say if your date placed their hand on your thigh? What if they put their hand into the back pocket of your jeans? Think about how you want to respond to events like these ahead of time because it can be hard to think of something to say when you are shocked by unwanted affection. The friendliest way to ward off affection is to be polite, but clear (Try saying one of these lines: “”No thank you.”” “Not at the present time.”” “”Check back later.”” “”Think again.”” “”My father has a shotgun.””) If your polite boundaries are ignored, you should get more forceful, and outright anger may be appropriate (“That’s not allowed!”” “”You are off limits!”” “”That’s not yours!”” “”Hands off!”” “”I expected better from you!”” “”I’m disappointed with you!”” “”You are a jerk!”).
For wanted physical affection, open the door with an invitation (“I could use a hug.”” “”I could kiss you right now.”” “”Would you hold my hand?”” “”I am quite fond of you, you know.””). If your affectionate invitation is met with dismay or a rebuke (Ouch!), try not to be offended, and be quick to apologize (“I’m sorry; my mistake!”” “”Please forgive me.”). Mature people accept each other and can be friends with people who are not physically intimate with them. Immature people may get angry at not being allowed to touch someone else, but why would you want to be like that or be friends with such a selfish, immature person?
Don’t expect these interactions to be easy or straightforward. Initiating physical affection and setting boundaries when two people have different comfort levels can be emotional agony. You may like your date a lot and may think that you could be affectionate with them in the future, but that they are going too fast for your comfort. Because you like them, you may feel a very strong pull to give in to their advances in order to be accepted or liked. Expect to feel conflicted sometimes. Keep in mind that honesty about your comfort level with affection is extremely important. It is a large part of your personality. If you don’t show your true preferences, it is like lying. Your date should want you to be comfortable more than they want to be affectionate. Furthermore, if your date is not interested in your boundaries or tries to coerce you into behaving in a way that you might regret later, are they the kind of person you want to be with anyway? Find someone who respects you and likes your personality, not just your body.
Some people won’t clearly communicate their boundaries. You may feel embarrassed asking about it. The safest rule is just to wait for an invitation to escalate your affectionate interactions. It is too aggressive to “’see how far you can get’” with someone, despite Hollywood portrayals of (supposedly) romantic heroes. Pushing into someone’s personal space until they feel uncomfortable is unacceptable behavior. Any coercion, shaming, teasing or otherwise pressuring someone to be intimate is abusive and criminal behavior. Never coerce or cajole someone into being physically intimate. Get away from abusers any way that you can, as fast as you can.
Be honest and respectful! - Treat people the way that you want to be treated. If hurtful words come to your mouth, bite your tongue. Don’t pretend that someone is a way that they are not, and don’t pretend to be someone who you are not.
Teach people how you want to be treated - Think about your preferred boundaries for physical (and other) interactions before you go on a date. Consider how to communicate your wishes clearly and maturely.
Demand good behavior! Never accept abuse! – If you feel uncomfortable on a date or coerced in any way, say so and leave. No means no. Mental, verbal, or physical pressures to engage in activities that you do not like are abusive. Get away from abusers any way that you can.
Think! – You have to consider lots of factors when choosing relationships. The trick is to keep emotions from clouding your sight. You must make decisions based on who your potential partner *really* is, and not how you want them to be or how you think they might be someday after you have changed them. This is not easy because the emotions of falling in love are so over-powering. You can lose your objectivity. You can actually fool yourself into thinking that a really cute person is also really nice, when in reality, he/she is disrespectful. Beauty and charm can distract you from other facets of a person’s character. When considering a future spouse, don’t think with only your heart. Use your head, too. Marriage is an adventure with many potential hazards, so choose someone you can work with and count on.
Don’t confuse limerance and love – Once you are around someone for a while, you inevitably become used to their desirable features and *then* you will notice their undesirable features. Is it any surprise that everyone has some undesirable qualities? Even the most wonderful people will get on your nerves sometimes. Why? Because nobody is perfect, of course! When we pick a spouse, we decide to live with all of their qualities, both good and bad. Limerance, or having a crush on someone, is an intense feeling. Love is a thoughtful decision to put someone else first. Limerance is pleasant, but temporary; love is permanent, fulfilling, and an attribute of God. They really cannot be compared.
Don’t rush it – Never rush into a committed relationship. Your best bet is to avoid the rush of feelings that come with whirlwind courtships and opt for choosing a mate from your friends. If you marry your best friend, you avoid some of the problems that marriages can encounter after the honeymoon is over.
Honor God and your date’s future spouse – Keep marriage relationships holy and distinct from dating relationships. Avoid physical interactions that mimic marriage in a way that could potentially hurt the feelings of future spouses. Delay physical affection in order to honor God and keep marriage special.
Consider these attributes of love and notice how selfless love really is.
- 1Corinthians 13:4 Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; 6 rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; 7 beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Boundaries for Dating and Marriage
God has put some limits on sex outside of a marriage and on marriages between unbelievers and believers.
- 1Corinthians. 6:18 Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. 19 Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; 20 for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body.
- Hebrews 13:4 Let marriage be had in honor among all, and let the bed be undefiled: for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
- 2Corinthians 6:14 Be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness?
Praise of Staying Single
Don’t pressure yourself to date and if you are worn out by the dating scene, or some dating mistakes, give yourself a break.
- 1 Corinthians 7:7-8 Yet I would that all men were even as I myself. Howbeit each man hath his own gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.
- 1Corinthians 7:28 But shouldest thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Yet such shall have tribulation in the flesh: and I would spare you.