I wish there was a clear cut manual on how we should date. You meet someone and you wish it could be as straightforward, walking you from point A to B. But it never is. We are plagued with thousands of questions even before it starts:
Who should I date? Where do I meet the best men? Is it too soon to text/call her? What should I reply? Why hasn’t he called me yet? What does her reply mean? Does he like me? Where is this relationship going? Is he the one for me? Should I introduce her to my parents? How should I turn him down? Should we break up?
It doesn’t help that the bible is silent on dating. It has no mention of it. Dating is a modern concept. Men used to meet women and decide to marry her. Now, with the rise of technologies, graduate degrees and supermarket choices, what used to be a simple process of meeting someone, saying ‘I Do’ and sticking with it, we have moved to hashtag ‘It’s complicated’.
If you’re the lucky few who met their beau in high school, then good for you. But for most of us, there’s no promise that we’ll leave the dating scene unscathed. I myself wanted to avoid the tortuous murky waters of dating. So I guarded my heart and waited on courtship. But waiting and waiting, and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. So I turned that page and jumped into the water.
What no one tells you about dating
1. You will be confused.
There’s a ton of advice you’ll hear on dating. Some are practical (eg. Meet at a public place and go there separately for safety reasons.) Others are strategic (eg. Only accept dates three days in advance. Don’t reply so soon or you might seem too eager.) While others reflect our faith (eg. Don’t date unbelievers.)
I poured over books and articles on dating, relationships and marriage, hoping to escape the nasty burns of confusion. But it doesn’t get any easier or clearer. I’ve violated each one of the advice I’ve mentioned above. Each situation is different. There are principles that we can glean from the bible, ones that espouse the values of respect and loving our neighbors. But the specifics are what gets us (ie. who, what, when, how). And because it involves another human being who is likely as confused as we are, we get a hodge podge of emotions leaving us undone.
2. You will get hurt.
And thus we’re told by biblical wisdom, Guard your heart. Don’t immediately give your heart to someone you hardly know or who won’t hold up in water. You have to test his character and see if he is the real deal. Can she be trusted enough to let your guard down?
Sounds simple enough? How I wish. But when you feel that tug of infatuation, all those emotions threaten to leave us up in the cloud. As much as we wish to be guarded, there are portions of ourselves that we need to intentionally (or unintentionally) expose to the other person, for them to see us for who we are and decide whether they can accept us or not. C. S. Lewis puts it poignantly:
To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
We will reach a point in our dating relationship when we have to be vulnerable. That is the risk.
3. You will feel discouraged.
Perhaps months or years have gone by with no new date or prospect. Or maybe you’ve gone on many dates and still no sight of the right one for you. Or maybe you’re in a relationship, but you’re not sure if both of you are going in the same direction. It can get discouraging. Or you may feel tired of it all, losing faith in the process.
Give yourself time to grieve, yes. But also find people who will walk with you in this time. You may find yourself withdrawing from community, but don’t stay too long in the shadows. There is hope.
Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed.. (Romans 4:18)
Hope in the One who gave you the promise. Nothing is lost in the realm of God’s will. It’s in the uncertainty that our faith expands. You learn to trust in the confusion, witness healing in the pain, and step out with renewed hope. So go forth; date bravely.