I recently asked out a friend of mine that I greatly admire. She said no, but I wasn’t hurt or upset. I think she made the best decision for herself, and I continue to admire her and wish her the best.
Prompted in part by that experience, I felt it was important to clarify in my mind (and perhaps in others) what I believe about dating and relationships. This is my dating manifesto.
I believe we’re all looking for the same thing. On a fundamental level, we all want to love and be loved, and to be appreciated, accepted, and respected by our loved ones.
I believe there are a lot of guys who think they’ll find this love and acceptance by having sex with the most physically attractive women they can find. I also believe there are many women who think they won’t be able to keep a man unless they give him sex. I believe this is a terrible tragedy, and that dating serves a higher purpose.
I believe dating is the search for one’s future spouse. The end product of the dating activity should be the discovery of one’s soul mate. As such, I believe dating is a noble and honorable pursuit.
With the above as givens, I believe the following algorithm is the best to achieve the happiest results for all involved. I think both men and women should follow the steps below, but I have written them from the perspective of a man:
- Find someone to be attractive.
- Make your attraction known, and if the attraction is mutual, move to step three.
- Date; spend time with each other alone and with other friends. Don’t have sex or any other intimate physical relationship; this is about getting to know a person, not a body. Keep Christ at the center of your relationship.
- As soon as you realize that the relationship isn’t leading to marriage (if there isn’t enough attraction, there are fundamental differences in belief, habit, or manners, or you’re just not right for each other,) it is your right and responsibility to make it known ASAP. No lingering around and no waiting in an attempt to let her down easy. It serves neither party to remain in a dead-end relationship, especially when one party is disproportionately attracted to the other. If you know it ain’t right, stop it! Proceed to step one.
- As time passes without step four happening, you’ll determine that marriage is right for you both. At this point, you should know the other person really well and have discussed marriage and family desires at length. At this point, propose!
- Marriage: beyond the scope of this document. (This is where the real fun (and work!) begins :-D)
Step one is important and requires a fair amount of self knowledge. You need to be honest with yourself about what you find attractive in a potential mate, and only pursue relationships with those you find truly attractive. There’s a lot to attraction; it may be deserving of its own post another day. I’ll simply note that attraction must be mutual; in this regard, it is imperative to become as attractive as you possibly can by reaching your fullest potential physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.
It is important to segue into step two as soon as possible after completing step one. The longer you spend secretly attracted to someone, the more chances there are for things to go wrong (a la any Romantic Comedy you’ve ever seen.) Proverbs 27:5 says “Better is an open rebuke than a love that remains hidden.”
Step three describes the development of a relationship. This is the fun part! Make your relationship healthy and fun for both of you. Get to know each other in a lot of different contexts: at church, at work/school, alone. Go deep, laugh a lot, have adventures! Meet each other’s friends and families. Pray together!
Step four is probably the hardest step. It entails taking stock of a relationship, honestly assessing your own happiness, and making a hard decision. The important part is realizing that if a relationship is fundamentally flawed, it serves no greater good to continue it. If you know the relationship won’t lead to marriage but continue anyway, you are wasting your time and hers. I believe that no one wants to be with someone who doesn’t want them back. This is an important step to me since I’ve been on both sides of the equation before. I believe it is hard, but necessary to approach this situation with speed and compassion.
Step five is the end of the search! This is where you and your significant other agree that God is calling you both to a marriage relationship. How exciting! It may take getting to know a lot of people before arriving at this point, but since you’ve been an honorable gentleman, you now have a lot of actual friends as a result! Because you respected boundaries while dating, you have nothing to be ashamed about, and have protected your heart to give completely to your future wife!
I view dating as an activity that is very hard to get right, but very simple at its core. I think it’s terribly important for a couple to agree on what dating is about, and be honest with themselves about their goals in dating. Dating isn’t for sex; it’s not for personal pleasure, and it’s not required just because you’re single!
I recently felt that I found a clarity of purpose; I believe I am called to marriage. I have an exciting idea of what I want my future family (and spouse) to be like; I have a dream that I’d love to fulfill. I’ll be following the steps above and praying that God inform my conscience and improve my self knowledge so that I arrive at the one He has for me. I can’t wait!