Preparing to Date
Young people all over the world share at least one thing in common, regardless of culture: the challenge of growing up into successful adults. In this regard, every society has its own customs, certain rites of passage through which its young people have to navigate successfully in order to be recognized as mature, responsible men and women. One of the most well-known and socially huge of those traditions in Western nations is dating. “Dating” originates from “marking the calendar,” where two individuals (or more, if on a gathering date) consent to meet up for amusement and partnership at a given time and spot. In our culture, dating is an important vehicle for giving young men and women the opportunity to get to know each other in a socially acceptable way. Although dating is not a Scriptural concept as we know it today, it has nevertheless become thoroughly embedded as a social norm. Dating patterns and practices demonstrate in general cultural wellbeing from a sociological perspective in light of the fact that the manner in which individuals act while dating, as a rule, uncovers how they will act when they are hitched. In general, the habits and attitudes established during the dating years carry over into marriage.
However, questions remain as critical as dating is in our culture, in the minds of both parents and young people alike. What is the deep meaning of sex? What purpose is it? Is it approved by God to date? What are the appropriate guidelines for a dating relationship? These are important questions that are worthy of solid answers. Understanding dating is necessary not just for adolescents and their parents but also for older, newly-single people who are re-entering the dating scene due to divorce or widowhood.
One of the most frequently asked questions by parents and their teenage children is, “How old should an individual be before dating?” The appropriate response isn’t as straightforward as some endeavor to make it. In actuality, the topic of when a youngster is prepared to do so is abstract, contingent upon the mentalities of the guardians and the kid’s degree of improvement. There is more to it than simply assigning a numerical era. Adolescents mature at different levels, and girls typically mature more quickly and faster than boys do. Some kids at age 13 may be able to marry, while others may be eighteen until they are eligible. To date, the readiness of an individual is ultimately a matter of maturity and setting. Knowledge is a part of maturity, and there are four principles or prerequisites that each person should meet before they start dating. Having the knowledge and applying these principles will help ensure successful dating irrespective of a person’s status: younger, older, unmarried, or newly married again.
THREE PRINCIPLES OF DATING READINESS
First of all, once you are completely aware of both the advantages and the risks of dating, you are not ready so far. When you grasp not just the benefits but also the disadvantages of dating, you’re mature enough to start opening up to more serious ties. The primary benefit of dating is the ability to get to know someone new, develop a new relationship with an opposite-sex. This is important to develop the skills of self-confidence and social interaction, as well as to learn respect for each other as persons of value, dignity, and value. At the top of the list of possible dating, pitfalls are the danger of getting too easily involved physically and emotionally at too deep a point, leading to inappropriate behavior. Human beings are social creatures, and on three levels, we relate to one another: spirit, mind, and body. To put it another way, in the spiritual, social, and physical dimensions, we interact with each other. This is a very necessary progression. Healthy relationships should always start at the level of spiritual and intellectual intent, motivation, desires, dreams, and personality. The least significant of the three is the physical dimension, but that is where we normally start. Our western society has reversed the cycle entirely. In every corner of society, we turn — the media, the entertainment industry, the educational system, and even, many times, the church — focus on physical attraction in relationships first.
Young people face great temptations today and are under tremendous pressure from every quarter to jump to the physical in a relationship. Physical attraction easily leads to deep emotional commitment, and both partners haven’t even had a chance to find out whether they have similar desires, dreams, or life views. When those traits come out, and they start to learn that they are not morally or intellectually on similar levels, it is too late because they are already emotionally entangled, making it exceedingly difficult to sever the relationship. Too often, they just dive ahead with their emotional bond, leading to disappointed and unfulfilled dreams of life. Ask yourself before you began dating anyone, “Do I know of the benefits and the dangers of dating this person?”
The second prerequisite for ready dating is a good understanding of God’s relationship standards. The Bible teaches in 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” You have to learn or work out a clear set of behavior guidelines based on the Word of God. This requires a degree of spiritual maturity. It’s too late to wait until you’re hook in dating before you determine what’s right or wrong, or what you want or won’t do. If you resolve these matters in your heart and mind in advance, you’ll have no fear of being tempted. There are only two choices: either by deliberate choice, you will follow the standards of God, or by default, you will be following the standards of the world. If you don’t plan ahead to stay pure on a date, you probably would not.
The modern society has come up with some weird dating criteria. Some say that on entering puberty, a person is ready to date, or on becoming a teenager. For a believer and follower of Christ, the only criterion is to find and follow the standards of God. If you do not have a knowledge of what those expectations are, or what the attributes of God are to a good spiritual individual, you ‘re not ready to date. Dating is neither a place for trial nor error. You shouldn’t even start building a serious relationship with someone until you understand what God is expecting and asking. If you’re not certain, find out first.
The third idea to plan for this date fits closely on the second’s heels. Once you have determined from the Scripture what the standards of God are, resolve in your spirit that for whatever reason, you will not lower or compromise those standards, even if it means losing dates. Many people are willing to sacrifice moral or godly values to get a date than losing a date with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Standing strong on what you believe in (both morally and emotionally) is a sign of maturity. There are no second class realms of life to God. He’s up against your best. He wants you to obey Him, to follow His Word, and to stand firmly to His standards. Anything less of that – you can’t expect His best to come. Careful adherence to these three criteria will help ensure that dating is a positive and enjoyable activity for Christians hoping to get into marriage.
YOU ARE READY TO DATE WHEN NEED YOU DO NOT BE
A fourth dating principle that arises from the other three and is the most important of all is simply this: when do you need a date or not?. If you feel you “want” a date to be complete or personally fulfilled, you are not ready for dating. “Want” involves demand and implies something is missing in life. The opposite of “want” is choice, which allows a decision to be made. A genuine need does away with options. For starters, if we need to eat a meal to keep away from hunger, there’s little left to decide; we’re sitting down and eating. Once we have met all of our needs, we are then free to choose based on personal preference or desire. The quest to satisfy our perceived needs consciously or subconsciously drives our lives and influences all our decisions. With relationships, that’s just as true as with anything else. As long as you interpret insufficiency or incompleteness within yourself, any relationship you join will be, to one degree or another, an effort for supplying the insufficiency or for a sense of completeness. You will build your whole relationship on that decision if you feel deficient, as you will look to the other person to give what you don’t have. Most people relate with a sense of incompleteness or inadequacy. What they usually end up with is a weak relation between 50 and 50. None of them can give 100%, because they both focus on what they don’t have, which they hope to find in the other. Individuals in this kind of relationship live in uncertainty every day, as they are supposed to provide each other with the shortage, and neither knows how long they will continue to do so. The partnership would just last as long as one of them thinks it is satisfying their desires or compensating for their weaknesses. You’re only ready to date to the extent that, apart from any other person (except God), you feel whole and complete within yourself. You are happy when you see dating as being a matter of preference rather than need. It’s a question of your ability to be happy and content, whether or not you are with someone else.
Consider Adam as an example, the first man. The second chapter of Genesis shows us a whole, complete, and content human being within himself and his companionship with God: (Genesis 2:7-9,15,18-22)
Adam was alone before Eve came along, but he was not alone. Loneliness is a social disorder. Adam was alone because he was the only one of his kind, but as a person, he was fully fulfilled. He has had meaningful work to do in tending the garden. He exercised his God-given sovereignty over the created world, through his supremacy over the other living creatures. He enjoyed complete and open communion with his Creator. Adam was so satisfied inside himself that he was so occupied in tending the nursery and naming and thinking about the winged creatures and creatures that he never felt the need or want for a partner. He was so concerned about doing what he had been told by God to do that he felt no need for a mate. The thought apparently never went into his brain. It was God’s idea to provide a mate for Adam. Adam was fully self-fulfilled; when he was not in need of one, he was ready for a mate. It’s just the same with sex. The period you’re most prepared for dating is when you don’t need someone to complete, impress, or instill a sense of worth or purpose in you. When you first learned how to be single, you’re ready to date.
A Christian should start getting married when they are “ready.”
For when Christians should be married, the Bible does not give a certain age, so it definitely does not say what age people should start dating. While I’d like to say a teen is just not ready to get married, that’s not what the Bible says, so I’m not going to say that. Since the Bible doesn’t give a specific age, I am not going to either. So we will have to come at this from another biblical angle to get this answer about the timing of the dating.
Who is more important, and how you date than when you date. The Bible does not give us a formula for how marriages should come about. Nevertheless, what the Bible does make clear is that God requires there to be happy marriages between two Christians (1 Corinthians 7:2, Proverbs 18:22). That’s why I believe the main guiding principle for all dating relationships is that they should have a goal of figuring out whether or not marriage between two people is going to happen.
Therefore I believe that Christians should start dating only when they are ready to marry. I say “ready” not in the sense of being the perfect spouse, but ready to fulfill your biblical obligations as a husband or wife. If you’re a male, are you ready to provide for your wife, protect her, and lead her? If you’re a female, are you willing to manage your household, raise kids if you get pregnant, and respect your husband’s leadership?
Somebody’s age can’t answer those questions. A mature 18-year-old youth may be ready to be a godly husband with a quick temper more than a 35-year-old guy who is still unemployed. This is not about age. It is about ripeness.
There is, however, some correlation between age and maturity most of the time. Most aged 25 to 30 will be more mature than most aged 18 to 25. That is a generalization and is not applicable to everyone. So you’re not going to know if you’re ready to get married by your age, how far you’re in school or how much money you’re making at your job. Christians will begin dating when they are ready to follow God’s word and fulfill their marriage roles without relying on their parents.
I’m not saying you’ve got to be able to afford a mortgage, have children right away, graduate, and be the dream spouse. But are you prepared to accomplish what the Bible says a Christian husband and wife should do for one another? If the answer is positive, then I think you’re ready.
In my opinion, dating without seeing whether marriage is right for you and the person you are dating is definitely unwise and possibly unbiblical. Why am I just saying this? Because intimacy and commitment in the Bible are always in pairs.
You needn’t be ready to commit to the person you want to date forever. That is the whole dating point. The relationship is a bigger investment, so that you can still share a greater intimacy with the relationship. But this is less commitment than marriage.
However, problems arise when Christians want more intimacy while dating before marriage. If you just want to date around and enjoy deep intimacy while offering minimal commitment, you’re not willing to start dating because you’re not ready to find a spouse.
A Christian will start dating when he or she wants to find someone in marriage to commit to, not just in dating. Dating is not to be an end in itself. Dating should serve as a means to an end. Dating should end by breaking up when you realize that this person is not your future spouse or if you realize that this person is your future spouse. Dating will only last until you decide whether or not anyone will be your future spouse.