Lately, it’s been on my heart to talk about relationships. In fact, I accidentally started a series about what real love is and how I discovered what that phrase means through the people I’ve dated in the past. To know me in real life means that you know I’m a hopeless romantic. I love love and I love seeing two people head over heels in love. But what does it take to get there? Most people would say it takes sacrifice, commitment and love, which are important but if the foundation for those things are not properly set these can be deal breakers and relationship killers. The biggest relationship killer is not allowing God to be in the center of your relationship. I had been dating based on societal standards and norms and they all failed. So:
How can I put God at the center of a romantic relationship?
I asked God this question after I rededicated my life to Christ and was interested in learning about dating God’s way. Before we get too far let’s get on the same page about what I mean by dating because in this age of romantic progressiveness there seems to be a lack of communication and understanding between the stages leading up to marriage.
|Dating- Spending time with multiple people (or one person) to decide if this is someone you could be committed to long-term.|
|Courtship- Two people have decided to be in an exclusive, committed relationship with each other with the intention to get married.|
|Marriage- Two people went before the Lord and made vows to Him and each other to spend their lives together as one.|
I began reading my Bible and ended up in the ‘love book’ aka 1 Corinthians. You may not know this book of the Bible but if you’ve been to any wedding in the last couple thousand years you’ve probably heard the verses that tell us “love is kind, love is not boastful, love does not envy”. In chapter 7 was were my journey began. In this chapter, Apostle Paul was talking to a group of people. People were asking Paul questions about marriage and love. To give you some background, Paul is an unmarried and celibate and planned to sty that way for the rest of his life. My first thought was, why would they ask questions about marriage, sex, & relationships to a guy who wanted none of these things?
Truth is, I’m not sure. I think they knew Paul had a lot of wisdom and they wanted to test/trick him to see if he was really about what he was preaching (that’s a word for a different day). Paul’s response surprised me. He basically told them that God is cool with marriage and sex as long as they are both done with a promise (covenant) to Him. Paul then tells them his own opinion by saying although marriage is cool, he thinks it’s easier to be single because you don’t have to worry about anybody but yourself and God. He tells the crowd that it doesn’t matter which route you take (marriage or singleness) both have their distractions that can take your eyes off the will of God and for each person they must decide which one is easiest for them to do. For Paul, it was easier to please God while single because having a wife meant he would have to tend to her physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as well as his own AND please God at the same time. He simply didn’t want all that work.
I know, all this is relevant news for those who are close to marriage or are already dating but what about those of us who aren’t there yet? The ones who don’t even have a potential suitor for dating or courting?
|Step 1: Meet People|
|Be open to meeting online (apps or social media), church, mutual friends, or recommendations|
|Make sure all avenues to meet are positive.|
We meet people everyday and although it is becoming less common to meet romantically in a coffee shop or on your way to work, it is not impossible. You have a better chance of meeting someone with good intentions in positive places like christian mingle, festivals, fairs, bowling, etc. Just because you are actively looking for a potential partner does not mean you should be open to ALL avenues of meeting people. If you look primarily on hookup/sex apps and websites like grindr, tumblr, or tinder, you are opening yourself up to a greater possibility of meeting someone who just wants to hook up. All the people looking for a hookup are not always forefront and honest about their intentions, so why even give yourself that possibility? If you do, you’re basically poking a bee hive hoping only the nice bees will come out and say hi. Stay away from the beehive and the places they reside and you will find more butterflies.
|Step 2: Safety|
|Men & women need to take precautions when meeting someone new for a date or hang out.|
|Creeps prey everywhere, including church!|
Make sure someone you trust knows where you are and how long you intend to be. Send a picture of your date from their social media or their contact photo to your emergency contact. Make sure the first couple of meetings/dates are in a well lit, public place. I personally have a rule that my first dates are never when the sun is down. It is hard for any witnesses to get an accurate description at night. Men don’t usually think they need precautions but you do. A friend of mine, picked up a young lady in his car for their first date and later found out she stole some money and important things out of his car when he went to pump gas. You do not know these people and unfortunately some people do not have the best intentions for you.
|Step 3: Have a Plan|
|Before you find someone you want to commit to, have standards and expectations you can communicate to your potential partner|
|A plan is a covenant/promise.|
Proverbs 15:22 says, “Without counsel, plans go awry…”
A lot of people enter into the next phase of courting without having an honest conversation of the expectations and boundaries of the relationships. This does not have to be a heavy conversation that dives deeply into all the reasons you are the way that you are. For example, as you all know, I am celibate. I do not let my potential partners go past the third date without knowing this fact. It’s fair to both of us. Once I tell him, he can tell me whether that’s something he’s interested on or not. Well, what if he doesn’t want to see you anymore Janae? GOOD! If I am dating God’s way, I do not want to make a commitment to someone who does not have their own type of commitment to God and is not willing to respect the standard I have set for myself. That’s why I have a physical list of things that are a deal breaker and I express them at various times during the dating process. The list is not long or about physical features (that’s a separate list). My list has 4 items. Secondly, do not assume anything! After I tell a man that i am celibate, I open myself up for questions. I allow him to ask me why I chose this route, what it means to me, and what that includes. Some people think being celibate is just intercourse and not oral or masterbation. I make sure he knows I’m not down for any of that and that it’s okay if he does those things but I will not be participating. Then, depending on his response I determine whether I would like to continue dating him or move on.
|Step 4: Be Flexible|
|What you think will happen is going to fail|
|Be open to change based on your partner’s ever changing needs|
The Bible says that we are an unfinished work. This means that we as followers are going to always be changing and leveling up in God. When you change, your needs and wants change too. Be aware that once you begin to court someone they will go through life experiences that will influence their needs. You have to be willing to accommodate and embrace those changes. There are also physical changes that you will have to be okay with. Women like to change their hair or style. Men lose hair or gain weight. Be flexible but do not break. If you have an unspoken expectation of your partner to maintain the weight they are when you meet make sure you communicate that in a way that protects their feelings. One of the things on my list is to have a partner that works out consistently. In fact, come work out with me! Instead of just telling them when they’ve put on some weight, start a fitness journey prior to any major weight gain, challenge each other, go grocery shopping together.
|Step 5: Failure is Coming|
|You will fail, argue, & disappoint each other. Learn to apologize.|
|If the relationship is over do not try to patch it up with duct tape|
Humans are imperfect. Throughout your dating, courting, or married relationship, your partner will do or day things that annoy or upset you. It takes a certain level of self awareness and maturity to argue against the problem and not against your partner. When there is a disagreement, learn to step back and communicate without emotions like anger or manipulation attached. The goal for the both of you should be to solve the problem NOT win the argument. No one wins when the problem has a patch over it and it has yet to be fixed. Sometimes through arguments and conversations you may realize that this person is not the best candidate for long term partnership, don’t let the time you’ve spent with this person be the main reason you stay in the relationship. Be honest and end the relationship quickly and without ill feelings (if you can). When you end a relationship, its easy to think you wasted your time but God is the restorer of time and when you find the right person, he will give you back all the time you feel you lost.
The last step is for those of you who are dating with kids or are dating someone with kids. I am a product of divorce and my mom dated while she raised my sister and I. These are some tips to help ease the kid(s) in and out of the romantic relationships you are apart of.
|Step 6: Dating With Kids|
|The less people you bring around, the better.|
|Ask genuinely and constantly for your child’s feelings on you dating and their opinion on who you date (once they do meet). Listen and ask why they have those feelings|
|Don’t set up a play date with your partners kids as a date for you. Take gradual progression before introducing both sets of children.|
|Do not leave your kids alone with your partner for a long period of time. Your partner is not your first choice babysitter. Also if your kids express discomfort with it, its for a reason (pedophiles are real!)|
|If the relationship ends, include the kid(s) If possible both you and your partner should have a conversation that explains in a way that makes sense to them that you will not continue to pursue a romantic relationship.|
|Children form attachments and bringing someone in or out of their life can be damaging. Take your time and make the decision that is in your gut. Seek God for guidance.|
Dating can be hard and difficult to manage but when you pray honestly about where you are in your romantic life, God listens and intervenes. It is also a good practice to seek other avenues of guidance to gain more knowledge in this area. I compiled a small list of resources that have helped me.
- Pastor Mike Todd’s Relationship Goals Sermon Series
- Jamie Grace’s Wait It Out Podcast
- The Ellises Couch Conversations
- Black Love Doc
- Pastor Jeffery Smith (My actual pastor)
- Whoever your pastor is.
Your spiritual leader is a good source for relationship help. In fact, in a mildly serious conversation I told my pastor that I would let him meet my next boyfriend. His response was “Sure, I’d love to.” It took me by surprise but it makes sense. not only does my pastor have over 25 years of marriage experience, he also has spiritual knowledge and can read the intentions and nature of people. Plus you have someone else praying for your relationship. I hope this helps friends.
k, good talk