Rusty At Romance
Advice on Dating for the Mature Christian. by Peter & Eve Engelbrite
There are some people who don't have any need or desire to get married. This is perfectly OK, and they shouldn't feel that there is any reason that they HAVE to. The Bible talks about those who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of God. But if you wonder whether you are called to be a eunuch, because you aren't married yet, and yet you find yourself being lonely for a mate, then the answer is probably NO! God gives a special grace to these people and a specific word to them regarding this. Some people think that they are in this catagory, when in reality they have just given up!
This is an issue that I faced just before I met my wife. The obvious answer is "Of course, I will!" It's easy to say that if you have the underlying thought of: "...assuming that He makes me happy without one". I came to the realization that I could never be really happy without a wife. But God also brought me to the point of saying, "I will still serve you, even if I'm not happy." This does not imply that God wants you to be miserable, God wants the best for you! However, God is wanting you to develop the same unconditional love towards Him that He has toward you.
Sometimes the reason that you are still single, is sin or deep hurts that need to be healed! If you are into pornography, stop it! If you visit prostitutes, stop it! If you find yourself hating those of the opposite sex, get counsel (lots)! If you are alcoholic, get help! Do you find yourself destroying relationships before they have a chance, get counsel! Don't think that you have to be perfect to get married, but there may be specific blocks to a healthy relationship.
Don't! If you sleep together, you will severely damage your future marriage. The woman will loose respect for the man as a leader and for herself as well. He will have proven to her that he cannot control his urges and that he cannot be trusted in any sort of leadership! They would both wonder "who else have they/will they sleep with?" Another thing that it does, is to prematurely bond you together. What this means is that you might become emotionally tied to that person, unable to escape, outside of your own will! You may decide to "call it off", and find yourself unable to. There is also the issue of "How far can we go?" Rather than give you specific, physical guidelines, I will recommend that you ask yourself this question: "Is this activity an expression of affection, or is it fore-play with no follow-through?"
This is a question that has plagued Christians for years. If you asked 10 different people what a date is, you would probably get 10 different answers - usually very emotionally packed ones. In order to establish some common ground, I am somewhat arbitrarily defining what I feel that a date is: A date is a pre-arranged meeting with someone of the opposite sex in order to GET TO KNOW THEM and to find out whether or not a romantic relationship might develop. This does not mean that a date shouldn't be fun, or that you have to make any decision on the first date. It does mean, however, that there are NO commitments! Going out on a date should not mean that you are in love with them! Going out on the second date should not mean that you are in love with them! Going out on the third date should not mean that you are in love with them! ... You get the idea. A date also means that you are still open to a possible relationship with them. If you have decided "No", you should not go out "just for fun" without telling them where you are at. Yes, there are people who get married without ever going out on a "date", but typically they were in situations where they had a chance to get alone together to talk. This is crucial to the relationship. Group dates do not count! They are good as preliminaries, but eventually you will have to be alone together, with all the attendant risks of sin!
One mistake people sometimes make is the idea (sometimes unconscious idea) that they can jump from total stranger to walking down the aisle in one strike of lightning. This is bad news. Relationships must go through stages of commitment. The issue is not so much how fast you go through these stages, but that you go through them. The first stage is the initial date: at this point there is no commitment whatsoever, you are just getting to know each other. The second stage is dating: there is still no actual commitment, but there is some obvious interest. The third stage is what we used to call "going steady": here there is an agreement to continue seeing each other and to not see anyone else romantically. The fourth stage is engagement: at this point you have decided to actively pursue marriage. The fifth stage is the wedding: this is the "Point of No Return". Note that at any time before the wedding, it is perfectly legitimate to back off, either part way or all the way. Of course, the closer you get, the more people will get upset. It is important to know that you have that option, and that you don't need an excuse! I'm sure many couples courtships won't match these stages exactly, but it is important that you give each other stages of commitment. It is also important for you to respect the speed of advancement that the other person desires (if they are "slower" than you).
This is a very bad idea. It is also not love! "But wait a second here, I have very deep feelings for this person and you are telling me that I'm not in love?" No, I am telling you that it is not love. It IS "Falling in Love". Falling in Love is a physiological, glandular state (I'm not just making this up: there are certain hormonal, chemical changes that occur when you are in love), it is not a relationship. Also, if you don't know them well, the person you think that you are in love with is a fantasy person in your mind, not the actual human being. I think many people take their own emotions much too seriously in terms of decision making. If you have fallen in love with someone that you really don't have a relationship with, it is a one-sided infatuation that has nothing to do with finding a mate. Does this sound cynical? This isn't cynical: this is reality! "Falling in Love" has nothing to do with compatibility, God's will, or any hope of future happiness. It is just an emotional state. Does it have a place in romantic relationships? Of course it does, but that's the point, it has a place in romantic RELATIONSHIPS. So, why does this happen, and what can you do? It usually happens through lack of discipline in the thought life. "Falling in Love" is directly connected to your fantasy life. If you want to fall in love with a someone, keep thinking about them (especially sexually, but just imagining them on a date or as your spouse does this as well). If you don't want to be in love, discipline yourself not to think about them. If you have already fallen in love, the best thing you could do is just forget about the whole thing, because on a date you will probably be out of control. Even if you behave yourself, you are most likely to be so self-absorbed with your emotions that you will be unable to relate to that person and who he/she really is.
This is an important but sometimes subtle aspect of the relationship. Going into a relationship with the attitude of getting your own needs met just doesn't cut it. People are very sensitive to this issue. They want you to be responsive to their needs, not just out on your own agenda. You can get caught in a vicious cycle: you get rejected, this amplifies your need, in the next relationship your need keeps you from relating well and you get rejected again, and it goes on and on. It takes a lot of prayer and inner strength to break this cycle. It takes a commitment to them as a person, even if nothing romantic happens. Are you willing to be a faithful friend? It takes getting your eyes off of yourself for a while. There is a difficult point here. As you face your own needs and fears, you must come to terms with them before God. You must believe that God will see you through, regardless of whether this person rejects you. You must realise that GOD will meet your needs through a human channel, but that channel may not be this particular person.
This applies to your dating experience, and for that matter, to your wife eventually. What this means in dating is that you have the date planned (don't ever get into "I dunno, what'd you wanna do?"). You should choose something that you would both like to do. This might entail some actual communication before the date begins. You come up with ideas and have alternatives ready, if she is not interested in your first choice. Do not be offended if she makes a suggestion of something that you could do together. The key is: Have your act together, but be flexible and considerate of her desires.
Jesus is the Head of the church; man is the head of the family. Assuming you've worked through any past hurts of trusting men, begin to ask yourself while dating if you could trust this man to lead you and your family in godly paths. Does he treat you as an equal and value your opinions and feelings? Do you submit your ideas to him with fear of rejection, or can you comfortably come to decisions together during the course of discussion?
After you have started dating, and a relationship seems to be happening, the question inevitably comes up: Is this the one? This is a difficult decision, and there is some controversy about it! Some feel that there is just one mate for them in the entire world, and that they must search for that one. Others are waiting for God to COMMAND them to marry someone. Many think that their deep emotions are a sure sign that this relationship is "God's Will". Still others will take the first one that comes along. I don't believe that any of these ideas are right! I feel that you should seek God for guidance in choosing a mate and seek advice from friends and counselors. Ultimately the decision is yours (and the other person's too, of course). You must feel that you are making this decision of your own free will, or else later on in the marriage during a difficult time, you will blame God for your troubles and want to "bail out". You must take responsibility for your own commitments. Before the point that you say "I do", you have the whole world of possibilities before you. After that point, there was only one person for you from the foundations of the Earth. Something of a paradox isn't it? The time before the wedding is the last time that you can be selfish (and not sin), and it is right to ask yourself "Is this in my own best interests?" You should make this decision based on what is right for you, without consideration of what is best for him/her (I told you it was selfish). You are going to have to live with this decision for the rest of your life! It's a tough choice, but YOU have to make it.
There are a lot of people who have a long "Shopping List" of features that they want in a spouse and will not accept anyone who does not meet these requirements. This is grossly unfair: PEOPLE ARE NOT CONSUMER ITEMS! Each person is a unique individual with their own personality, needs, strengths and weaknesses. Coming up with a list of requirements and expecting God to meet them is not faith, it is presumption! As you get to know a person, don't ask whether they are on your list, but whether you feel the relationship would work. I don't mean that you should close your eyes to their faults, and just marry anyone, but start off with an open mind, and make your decision after you understand them a little bit. God knows your needs better than you do, and you may find that there is someone who meets your needs perfectly that doesn't fill a single one of your requirements. I should point out here that there are some minimal requirements: Human, Opposite sex, Single, and Christian. Never, never become romantically involved with a non-Christian.
There is also one other thing that you might keep on your list. The book of Proverbs talks about the pain of living with a contentious woman, I would recommend that you take this to heart.
To be contentious is to be argumentative, authoritative, and bossy. Do you have to prove your point? Are you so self-governing and independent and "spiritual" that no man could ever dream of "washing you with the water of the Word"?
You may have often heard the advice: "Get to know her as a sister in the Lord, and see what happens". This is good advice in the sense that you MUST respect them as a person, regardless of any romantic possibilities. What it does not mean is that you develop a kind of "just one of the boys/girls", buddy-buddy kind of relationship. I've known men who have had these relationships with women while complaining of how lonely they are and how much they want a wife. I asked, "What about your friend? You get along great together, she's good looking, why not?" But he just couldn't see himself in a romantic relationship with her. I think that the reason for this is that we have instincts to keep us from incest with our siblings, and if we develop a strong brother-sister relationship it turns off our romantic interests. Note that I am not saying that these relationships are wrong, just don't expect them to grow into a romance. On the other hand, if you have such a relationship, you might consider re-evaluating it in terms of romance.
Aside from the basic principles of being neat, clean, and well groomed, I feel there has been an over emphasis on "looks". I have heard men say that they are looking for a really pretty woman, I have heard women say that they want a handsome man. I think that most people who say this aren't really prepared to make a commitment. Ask yourself this: "Does physical beauty have anything to do with a happy household or good sex?" In our culture, however, it still makes a difference. It doesn't make you more likely to get married; it just widens your field somewhat (fat, ugly people get married too). The point here is whether you are willing to accept someone in your "range" of looks. People often end up hating their own defects (weight, skin...) so much that they cannot accept anyone else with the same defects. Learn to accept yourself! Learn to accept others! Don't look to the world's standards to measure your outward appearance. Ask God what you should do, if anything, to change or enhance your appearance, and be obedient and at peace.
Dutch treat? You should always be willing to pay for the date entirely, but a woman may feel uncomfortable about it. She may feel that if you pay for the date, then she will be obligated to you. You should respect her feelings about this issue. What about the financial cost? You don't have to be rich to date! There is a myth that women will only go out with men with money. This is statistically not true! I think that some worldly women who want to use you are interested in money, but you probably don't want to marry them anyway! A good guideline (I think) is that the date should be affordable (for you), but also a little bit of a sacrifice (for you). Remember that the money you spend on a date is a gift that you have given her, with no strings attached; not an investment for your own gratification.
Unless your date tells you he's splurging or scrimping, be moderate in your requests of his finances (ie. ordering an average priced meal at a restaurant). If you know he has little money, let him know you are willing to accompany him on inexpensive dating alternatives (i.e. going to a museum, a walk in a park or a picnic lunch).
One of the things that I believe has hindered many people from finding their mates is the idea that if they just serve God, marriage will "just happen". This is not biblical. Oh yes, I know of the scripture: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you." This is, of course, completely true; but remember that it applies just as much to our entire lives, not just finding a mate. Consider the "thing" of being employed: You would not just sit at home by the telephone waiting for some employer to happen to pick your name out of the phonebook. No, you ask God for help and direction, send out your resumes, and go to interviews. I am reminded of the story of the man who was in a flood and prayed to God to deliver him from drowning. Later a man in a rowboat came by and said, "Get in," but he replied, "No thanks, God is going to save me." After a while (the waters had risen even higher) another man in a rowboat came by and said, "Get in the boat before you drown!" But he replied, "No thanks, God is going to save me." Soon the water was up to his chin when a helicopter came by to rescue him. He still replied, "No thanks, God is going to save me." Well it wasn't long before the man died and went to heaven. When he got there, he asked God, "Why didn't you save me? I believed that you would!" God replied, "I sent you two rowboats and a helicopter!" The moral is that sometimes we over spiritualize life and expect God to perform signs and wonders for us when he wishes to meet our needs through "normal" means. The reason that we tend to do this in dating, is fear; the fear of being hurt again by a relationship that "didn't make it". (If your fears are based upon wounds of date-rape, obscene phone calls or other abuse, seek help and healing.) So, we throw out fleeces and try to make God jump through hoops so that we can be sure that this is "the real thing". Sometimes we are just believing what we were told by our youth pastors when we were in our teens. When you were a teenager, "Don't worry about it" and "Just wait" were good advice. You had plenty of time, but as you grow older, you find that concept wearing a little thin. So what IS the answer? In biblical times, most marriages were arranged by the parents. We don't usually have this system in the United States, so I believe the answer is: be normal for this culture, and that means dating. And to men, that means asking women out on dates. Remember that the Israelites were given the Promised Land by God, but they still had to go out and fight and possess the land with God's help.
Jesus does supply all my needs! These needs include physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. We readily believe that God will supply our physical and spiritual needs, but sometimes we pretend that we don't really have emotional and sexual needs rather than believing that God will meet them. Sometimes we are confused as to what is a need and what is a desire. After all, I can survive without a mate. Loneliness probably won't kill me. But think about this: You would consider proper nutrition as a legitimate need. Insufficient vitamin C wouldn't kill you, but you would eventually develop scurvy. If your emotional needs remain unmet for too long, you can develop the emotional equivalent of scurvy. You can become a bitter, sour, dried-up Christian with very little joy in your life. Another mistake you might make is to think that God will meet your need for a spouse without a spouse; that He will just make the need disappear. Sometimes He might do this, but it is not the norm. God meets your need for food by giving you food, He meets your need for rest by giving you sleep, and He meets your need for a mate by giving you a mate! There is a real danger of denying your need for a mate: it opens the door to sin! It opens it very wide! What happens is that you keep stuffing down that need and ignoring it, but it is still there; and it is growing, and it will eventually get out of your control! The answer is to take your need to God in prayer, and perhaps to get counseling, and to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
Too often, we sit at home, lonely, complaining to our room-mates, but unwilling to take the risk of asking someone out. Take inventory of your life. If you are serious about getting married, you should be asking someone out every week, at the very least, once a month! There are some practical aspects of this. You need to be in fellowship enough so that you get to know women before you ask them out. If you are not in group fellowship, get into it! There is a very important point here: The group fellowship is just the beginning, but it is not enough! You have to ask women out!
Be honest with the men and tell them the real reason you don't want to go out with them (i.e. you have bad breath, you seem a bit arrogant, you're too boisterous, you hide your relationship with God, etc.). If you "don't have the time" is that because of fear or because you've lost hope and are filling your time in order to try to ignore your needs? And if you don't have a real reason, try making a new friend. If you've been waiting for years to be asked out, try making cookies or initiating conversation as an open gesture of interest.
Nobody likes pain, but all relationships (not just male-female relationships) involve the risk of pain. However, the dating relationships involve a very high risk of pain. If you want a wife, you must be willing to accept this fact and take the risk. After being dumped, go through your grieving process, pick yourself up, and go on with life. Here are some pointers about being rejected: (1) If you ask 4 women out on a date, and only 1 goes out with you, you are doing pretty good. If one out of 10 relationships work out, you are also doing pretty good (of course then you don't care any more, because you're married) (2) If a woman has an excuse for not going on a date with you (I have to wash my cat...), but does not make a specific offer to go out another time (next week, the 3rd of July: "sometime" doesn’t count), then assume that she is not interested. Women often feel intimidated by a man, and have a hard time telling him that she is not interested. (3) Give her some time to decide, she may have never thought about whether she likes you or not. (4) Forgive her! Not only is unforgiveness disastrous to your spiritual life, but if it gets around that you are holding grudges, you will probably never get a date with anyone else. (5) Keep on going. Don't mope around complaining about what you can't have, seek God for what He has for you. (6) Respect a woman's right to say "No" (and also to change her mind later).
Although there are stories of people getting married without ever dating, it's definitely not the norm, and we don't know how many ended "happily ever after". Pre-determine to pursue friendship when you date. Truly wanting the best spouse for the other person will help ease the pain if you thought it was you, but he decided it wasn't.
As you go through the process of finding your mate these are good things to keep in mind. Faith, because it is the driving power behind your life. Not a passive faith that God will someday toss a mate in your lap, but an active, powerful faith that God is with you as you walk forward in your life. Hope, because you need the daily anticipation that God is working with you in all things for your good. Hope is your guard against sin, because without hope of goodness you will be willing to take garbage. Love, because without the Agape Love of God you will not be able to take your eyes off of your own need long enough to form a relationship.
Here are some
scripture references relating to dating and finding a mate.
Prov 18:22 - He Who Findeth a Wife (You Have to Find)
Prov 21:19, 27:15 - Contentious Woman
Matt 19:9-12 - Eunuchs
1Cor 7:9 - Cure for Lust
1Cor 7:25-26 - Present Distress (Reason for Singleness)
Gen 2:24 - Living With Your Parents
Gen 29:17,29:31,31:19 - Physical Beauty VS Godly Heart
1Tim 5:9,11 - Too Old?
Titus 2:3-5 - Seek older women's advice on marriage
"I cried to God for a wife to love and to cherish, and today He has answered my cry."
is an act of God's will, together with an act of your will.
Cherish: you need a "giving" love, not a "taking" love.
"I will love you as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."
This is the
basis for your authority in the home, not your ability to get her to submit.
"I will keep my heart open to the needs of your heart."
is your problem.
"I accept you, and I will encourage your growth."
her as she is, but don't try to keep her there. Expectations and conditions are
incompatible with acceptance.
"I will be a protector and lover to you."
It's your job
to take the brunt of the world.
1 Pet. 3:7 Don't neglect HER sexual needs.
I Cor. 7:3-4
"I will never leave you nor forsake you."
Love is a commitment. Mark 10:6-9
"I desired a godly husband, and God has given me you."
thank God for the GIFT He has given you in your spouse.
"I trust you, and I will honor you and submit myself to you."
is God's way for you to be fulfilled in marriage.
Proverbs 3:5-8, I Peter 3:1-6, Eph. 5:22-24
"I will keep my heart open to you and seek your good."
walls, build bridges; your delay could bring great harm.
"I accept you, and I will encourage your growth."
continually yells at us, "You are unacceptable," so counter it by
constantly affirming your love and acceptance of your mate.
Eph. 4:29 Heb. 3:13
"I will be a helper and lover to you."
Choose to be
a part of your husband's work - ask God to help you "talk shop" with
Life-long lovers need to have a "you, and no other" mind-set.
"I will support you and stand with you always."
right or wrong, decide to stick it out TOGETHER.
I Peter 3:1-6
Copyright (C) 1989 Peter & Eve Engelbrite. All rights reserved. This text is not public domain. However, we encourage you to share it with a friend. Permission is granted for you to copy this text as long as you do not alter it in any way.