This is going to be a long post, so if you’re interested in this topic, please stick around! But if you’d rather not read over 2000 words about singleness, dating, and marriage, feel free to move on – I understand!
I’ve written several posts in which I talk about what I’m learning from marriage and my experiences with it so far, but a friend requested that I write this as a recently-married twenty-something who is still close to the stages of singleness and dating. Now, I don’t know everything and I don’t know everyone’s situation, but I can give you my point of view and the issues as I see them.
Hindsight is 20/20. And that’s not always a bad thing! Many of the things I’m going to say are based on my experiences or things I wish had been explained to me more. So, because of my point of view, I’m mainly going to speak to girls – although some of the points might be helpful for guys, too. I don’t know everything, and I’m still joyfully learning – but here’s what I’ve found so far.
Singleness & Dating
I strongly believe that the purpose of dating is to find the person or type of person you may want to marry. Dating is fun. It’s exciting and it feels good to be doted on and cared about. But sometimes it’s too easy for girls to rush into dating and forget the purpose or forget to be intentional about what they’re doing. They can get swept away in the emotions of it all and the joy that comes from being noticed, making it difficult to truly treat the guy right. People have varying opinions on dating, but after high school I began to view it as an opportunity to learn and grow while I found someone to marry. So, I didn’t get into the whole “dating for fun” scene. While nothing’s really wrong with that, I just knew it would be harder for me to be serious about it and keep my mind focused on my idea of the purpose of dating.
That being said, the single/dating phase can be rough. It certainly wasn’t easy for me. There’s low self-esteem (I actually wrote about self-esteem here) and there’s the obsession over the impression you’ll make, rushing into dating or dating for the wrong reasons, being honest with yourself and the guy about how you feel – all kinds of things.
I’ve found that all of of these are highly spiritual issues – a thought that I wish I’d had long time ago, but as I’ve grown I’ve realized that it’s not a me issue; it’s an issue of faith and strength in God, and in turn confidence in yourself as a person.
Trust in God first.
Being single and dating sometimes blur together a bit. Some people say you’re single if you’re not married and some say it’s when you’re not dating – my generation has always used the latter. Either way, being single & dating (together as a phase in your life) is a period when you should be preparing yourself to be the person you need to be.
You should take this time to prepare yourself to be the person you need to be as a Christian, as a friend, as a daughter, and as a person. I realized that when I started bettering myself and stopped completely obsessing over having someone to date, things started falling into place, including my spiritual strength.
When you’re single/dating is really the perfect time to work on this because you’re more vulnerable to heartbreak and roller-coaster emotions. You’ll have those awkward, in-between phases when you’re hoping for the next possible relationship to pop up, and you should think of these times as good rather than lonely. Use them to your advantage, and examine yourself as a person and a Christian. How can you improve yourself? What do you need to do to grow closer to God before you find a boyfriend or a husband? When you’re grounded and solid in yourself and God, you’ll be more likely to find a grounded and solid guy to date or even marry down the road. This carries over to the impression you’ll make on a guy. Being grounded and solid in yourself and God will lead you to confidence in the dating world. Then, if the relationship doesn’t turn out how you’d hoped, it won’t seem like the end of the world, plus you’ll put faith in God and His will for you.
Date at the right time and for the right reasons.
There are a variety of reasons for rushing into dating or dating for the wrong reasons. But nine times out of ten, it’s because of the low amounts of “godly-esteem” you (as a general term) have shown in that area. This lack of a godly view of yourself will lead to the lack of a godly view of dating and relationships. Don’t think that having a boyfriend will change your current situation, be a quick fix for self-esteem, make you popular, make you feel better…whatever it is. It could be a distraction for a second, but in the long run that’s hurtful to you and your significant other. Throw out personal gain.
Use wisdom when you choose who to date, when to date, and why you date because dating isn’t trivial. My advice is to take a step back and ask yourself why you’re dating. If the answer is something that’s going to harm the relationship, you’ll need to re-evaluate yourself and your motives.
Although it’s probably an innocent motive, it might not be healthy – that’s when you need to consider spending some time to grow. I wish I had done more of this before I got serious about dating – especially because I tend to have a wide range of strong emotions that can be difficult to reel in if I’m not careful.
Be completely and totally honest.
I know. We all talk ourselves out of our feelings and sometimes our wisdom because it’s just too hard to face them.
It’s so hard to be honest with yourself about how you feel. It’s hard to be honest about the right thing when the right thing doesn’t feel good. It’s hard to be honest about something when you know it might end badly. Sometimes it’s hard to be honest even when you know it might end well. And it’s hard to be honest with your guy about all of the above. I’m intentionally not being specific here, but I just want to make it known that honesty is best every time because it falls under the category of godly communication.
This is something I really wish I had been able to handle easier when I was dating (and still work on now). Be honest up front and continue to be open about your thoughts and feelings – we need more of this in relationships. When you hold your thoughts and feelings in (because you think it could be harmful or painful or even just because you’re confused or embarrassed) they will continue to build up until one day they explode, and things are worse than if you’d opened up. If you start practicing this while you’re dating, marriage will be that much easier.
Forget about society’s views.
Our society places a huge emphasis on the “glamour” of dating or being in a relationship, and most of the time the way it defines that relationship is through the romantic or even sexual aspects of it. It ignores the fact that the only place sex has is in marriage, but it also forgets that love is more than a romantic gesture of flowers or a meal or a love letter. Love is more than mushy feelings when you’re at your best. Society defines a simple dating relationship based on what’s being done instead of character and its Creator’s intentions.
Now, I enjoy a good Nicholas Sparks movie or romantic comedy – but it’s just not realistic. Love isn’t simply gifts or showing off the nice things you have and can do. It’s an active appreciation and care for someone – a huge part of the relationship you actually have to work at.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. –1 Corinthians 13:4-8a
He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. -1 John 4:8
You have to know what love really is before you can truly be successful in a relationship. Christians, especially, need to stand up for this and teach their children what love is because real, godly love is being, and always has been, attacked. People need to see godly love.
So, really, it’s all a spiritual issue. Each of these aspects are important to being single & dating because they’re important to God. They’re things you need to learn while you’re in this stage of life because it will be that much easier and your dating period will be that much less of a roller coaster if you continue to focus that time on God. If you’re right and strong in God then your waiting game will all be worth it (Romans 8:28).
So, you’ve been preparing yourself through singleness and dating, and you’re ready to think about marriage.
First, I want to say: marriage is truly a wonderful gift, but it might not be for everyone. And that’s OK! The apostle Paul wasn’t married (that we know of), and look what he did for the kingdom of God. You don’t have to be married to make an impact in the kingdom and on this world. You just have to be focused. But since I am married, and I believe my husband and I can do a lot of good as a team, you’ll get that perspective.
To those people who grew up (or are growing up) in the church, I know this is a topic you hear a lot – how serious marriage is. But they aren’t kidding. And I’m not kidding. Take it seriously, and try not to get tired of hearing about it. Accept the advice willingly because it will make your life easier. Believe me, you can always learn something new.
In a biblical marriage, the husband is the head and should love his wife just like Christ loves the church, and the wife should submit to and respect her husband – really the same way she would Christ (Ephesians 5:22-33). This doesn’t mean that the husband is better than the wife or that the wife is a weakling; it just means she’s valuable in her own way. The wife was made to be a helper for the husband because man didn’t need to be alone (Genesis 2:18-24). Men and women are vastly different, and because of that, they were given vastly different and equally important jobs in their lives and in the church.
Just like the church, both parties have a different role in the marriage, and both are of equal importance for the marriage to be both godly and successful. And it’s designed to represent the relationship between Christ and His church, so it’s really not something to be tampered with. All of this is incredibly important to understand before you marry and remember throughout your marriage.
So if I haven’t stressed it enough in the paragraphs above, marriage is a big deal. Anyone who’s getting ready to be married needs to be serious about the marriage and the guy and know what you’re getting into. You need to possess a certain level of maturity and understanding before you get married, but keep in mind that you will always grow and you can always continue to let God mold you into a godly woman – growth, not perfection.
Have a solid understanding of marriage.
For a while before I was married, especially during the figuring-it-out phases of dating, I thought that marriage was going to be something in which I would magically change into a perfectly put-together, confident woman who never had to deal with another personal problem. Obviously that’s not true, and thankfully I formed a more solid view of marriage as I was preparing to be married.
Even though I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought all of that, I think a lot of girls believe it to be true because of the way it’s portrayed in society.
You’re not Cinderella. You won’t change overnight. There won’t be a magical transition into adulthood in which you suddenly know everything about everything – you’ll simply keep learning. And these are all good things! It would be lame if the husband and wife both suddenly changed and didn’t know each other anymore the minute they got married. But people tend to think and teach that if you have your dream guy by your side then you can conquer the world (YAY!!!!).
Ladies, only God can do that for you. Husbands are amazing and encouraging and helpful, but they aren’t God.
While that huge, magical shift to perfection would be nice, marriage is simply a bigger step forward in life (an awesome one!), and you still have to work on your priorities and mindset and everything just as much, if not more, than you were before.
There are huge differences.
You’re working as a team now. You should be heirs of the grace of life together (1 Peter 3:7).
Be aware that when you get married, you have to alter your mindset to think about two people instead of just yourself. And this applies in every single situation. Every action you take and word that you say will affect your spouse somehow. Because of that you have to make an extra effort not to be selfish, whether or not what you’re doing would be considered selfish in the first place. Even if something you’re doing doesn’t violate God’s commands or your conscience, it may be an annoyance or even a hindrance to your spouse.
Your husband is still a person, and he’s still a child of God – not an emotional target. This means it’s necessary to remember to treat him as you would any other soul, with love, respect (in all situations), and understanding.
As a woman, it’s all too easy to forget that I think and operate differently than my husband. And I always have! I just didn’t realize it as much before we got married because we didn’t live together and see each other every single day. I have work to control my emotions and think logically based on what’s best for him and our marriage, while he has to work to understand my emotional needs for the same reasons. No one’s challenges will be the same, but most of the time, there will be significant personality differences in the husband and wife. Because of these differences, you’ll have to be even more in tune with each other and what works within your marriage so that you can constantly grow. Pay attention to your husband so that you know what to expect and how to be considerate.
Don’t lose sight of your before-marriage relationship.
You’ll still have fun together, and you won’t lose all of your friends. You still get to go on dates and hang out together. Although there will be big changes, you’ll usually be making decisions about them as a team, and if you’ve stayed focused on God and each other, you won’t lose sight of what you already had. 🙂
Marriage is absolutely beautiful and wonderful and one of my favorite gifts from God – but just like all the other gifts from God, it needs to be taken seriously. The best part is that, even though you might not change overnight, you get to change together and grow together “’til death do you part.”
What’s most important is simply to be intentional and thoughtful and always put God first. That’s the biggest and best thing you can do for any relationship on this earth – because if you do that, everything else will fall into place.
// So, there it is. Over 2000 words on what I think about singleness, dating, and marriage. What about you? Do you have any advice or lessons learned to share?