One of the reasons definitional dating is prevalent these days is that recreational dating doesn’t deliver what it promises. And you know what they say about the definition of madness – is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. How about trying a different approach to dating?
I’m going to teach you the same process that Natalie and I have taught other couples who have been burned out by relationships in the past and want to try an approach that leads to finding their mates without breaking their hearts in the process. In a time when relationships become “Facebook official” overnight, you need to take the time – without anyone else pressuring or giving opinions – to see if you’re really into the relationship. other person, if your values align and if you can. help each other become who you are meant to be.
Wouldn’t you like a clear path to a healthy relationship?
Take 90 days to get to know yourself without pressure. Gasp! “90 days?!” Hey, that’s just three months, less than the length of a football season. It’s not that long to spend forming an intentional friendship, which could lead to intentional dating, which could lead to marriage, is it?
If you can, go through this process with counselors in the form of a trusted married couple who are wise in the ways of the Lord. The first time you meet them is like an on-ramp to a relationship. The last time you meet them, after 90 days, is like an exit ramp to easily get out of the relationship if it didn’t work out. Or it’s like a green light to continue the journey and see where it goes.
Discuss your relationship fears
Write down your three biggest fears of being in a relationship and share them among yourselves. Maybe they include “forcing myself to be more physical than I want”. Or “tell my deep secrets and share them with your friends”. Or “not being treated like I’m important”. Or “to have my hopes built, only to have them ruined.”
By doing this, you each know something about your expectations. You have the chance to protect each other’s heart. And this vulnerability provides liability later. For example, if she says she still wants to be a virgin when she gets married and he pushes to have sex, it shows that he doesn’t care about her values.
No matter your age or experience, if you want to have a pure relationship and not form too strong a physical bond before marriage, then you have to agree from the start on what you will or will not do. You may be thinking, I don’t need limits. I grew up. Well, so does your pain, your disappointments, and your frustrations. Limits aren’t bad; they are actually a blessing.
Here are some rules for the road so as not to have an accident during the trip.
- Set a curfew. Each date needs an end time. Decide that one of you will always go home at midnight or at any other agreed time.
- What is a no go for touch? Maybe it’s hugs that last longer than thirty seconds. Or French kisses. Or whatever. Know the triggers that could lead you to sex.
- What else would help? Maybe you will agree not to watch movies that contain sex scenes. Or not send each other overly suggestive notes or texts. Many couples agree never to chill in a horizontal position (lying on a sofa or a bed), only in an upright position.
These types of limits may seem petty, and they’re not meant to be legalistic, but they do have a way of helping people not succumb to natural temptations. They create a safe place where you can get to know each other. They encourage touching less and talking more.
Have focused conversations
It can be difficult to make conversation when you don’t know each other well. So read a book about relationships and discuss it. This will help you get to know each other and start to feel if you are right for each other.
For example, I encourage couples to read Gary Chapman’s book The five languages of love. This will give you insight into how the other person works and help you frame the relationship. For example, if one likes gifts, the other had better be prepared to open their wallet from time to time. It can also help you avoid mistakes. If one likes quality time and the other likes physical touch, you better set strong physical boundaries because one will want to sit on the couch all the time and the other will want to be touched – and that’s a recipe for a baby.
After ninety days, have a conversation to see where you are at. Are you attracted to each other? Green light or red flag?
I always encourage people to pay attention to patterns, not potential. We all have the potential to do better in our weak areas, but can we live with other people’s patterns? For example, she may seem flirtatious to you, but she says that’s just her personality – she’s bubbly and loves talking to everyone. Can you live with that? Transformation in this area may eventually come, but even if it does, there is no timetable for it.
You may want to continue dating, which will hopefully lead to an engagement and marriage, or you may decide to stop. If you decide to end it here, I hope the breakup happens without all the painful heartbreaks that can happen when a couple in love is bonded too closely. Instead of feeling like you’ve lost, you can feel like you’ve won – you had fun, got to know someone else, and picked up relationship tools that you can use next time.
Your relationship goal of marriage is still alive and healthy.