Relationship Dating

Principle #1 Seek Friendships with others first, then "Relationship Date."

By Ron Jones ©Titus Institute 2009

Seek to build friendships with others first before you focus on dating someone you are attracted to. This meets your human need for companionship and provides a solid foundation for any relationship with the opposite sex that might lead to marriage.

You should "spend time together" with a variety of friends, both male and female, although friendships with the opposite sex may be more casual. Enjoy the companionship and company of friends. Seek to do a variety of activities and experiences. Find activities that you enjoy doing together with other people. Make sure that you have some solid friendships with those of the same sex with which you can share your concerns, struggles, failures, successes and victories.

It is important that you develop a network of at least a few good friends of the same sex and some casual friends of the opposite sex so you are not lonely and seeking "dating" as the primary way of meeting your need for companionship.

If you are attracted to someone of the opposite sex, get to know him or her in a group setting and see if you develop a casual friendship. Observe the kind of person he or she is and his or her commitment to Christ and commitment to living a righteous life. Also, look below the surface to see how he or she responds to people and events. Look for "relational flaws" (rigidity, inflexibility, selfishness, dishonesty, anger, and the like) that might show up or qualities that are "relational strengths" (flexibility, honesty, sensitivity to others concerns, and the like). Ask others what they think of that person.

Now is the time not to get involved with someone who is not committed to Christ or who has relational flaws that will not produce a healthy and loving relationship down the road.

If you are attracted to someone and he or she is committed to Christ, and has good relational strengths, and you do not see any strong relational flaws, then ask that person to spend time with you over a cup of coffee or some other friendship-type activity. If that person responds, great. Spend time together and see if you develop a friendship-type relationship. If that person is not interested, accept that response as a natural part of life, rather than a sign that you are unworthy of having a relationship with that person.

Try to get to know each other through a variety of experiences. You need to let your feelings be based on knowledge of the person, not attraction alone. Take your time, don't rush things. A foundation of friendship well laid will be there the rest of your lives.

"Relationship dating" is two people of the opposite sex spending time together with the focus of getting to know each other and enjoying each other’s companionship (without focusing on building romantic intimacy).

Dating is not in the Scriptures because dating is not a relationship. It is a method of getting to know each other, that was not employed in Bible times. If you have "romantic feelings" for someone, you don't have to deny them, just don't let them "drive" your life. Make sure you are spending time with other friends as well. Do not make this friendship the only one you have; that only fuels romantic feelings.

This is where you are laying a foundation for the future. A happy marriage that lasts a lifetime is based upon a genuine care and concern for each other regardless of the kind of romantic feelings you have at any given moment. Issues of life compatibility should be tested in this relationship as much as possible.

Do not eliminate your casual friendships with others of the opposite sex and focus all your attention on that one person when you are initially experiencing a strong attraction to someone or when you are the initial stages of a dating relationship.

Principle #2 Focus on growing spiritually and seeking a Christian who is growing spiritually.

2 Pet.3:18 says "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." Make sure that you are growing in your relationship with Christ. Seek another Christian who is also growing in his or her relationship with Christ. Growing Christians become mature Christians and mature Christians are capable of developing healthy relationships with the opposite sex.

Prov.3:5-6 says "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight." Focus on trusting the Lord and following Him on a daily basis. Seek someone who trusts the Lord and follows Him in his or her life on a daily basis.

Also, develop maturity in all aspects of your life. Be a responsible, mature adult. Seek someone who is also mature and responsible. Many want to get married, but how many want to pay the price of becoming someone others are blessed and encouraged by knowing? If you become that kind of person you won't have any trouble finding other Christians who will want to be with you.

Don't use that person as a substitute for Christ or to fill in missing parental love or to fill a void, a deep need to be loved in your life. Let the Lord fill those needs. Do not depend on this person to make you happy. If you are happy only when you are with this person, then you are not emotionally mature enough to be married. He or she should make you happier, not happy.

This also means that you should turn away from any attraction or romantic feelings for someone who is not a Christian or not a Christian who is spiritually maturing. According to 2 Cor.6:14-16, believers are forbidden to marry non-believers.

Don't try to convince yourself that someone is a believer because he/she says so, but does not live like it just because you have feelings for that person. Jesus said that you can tell a good tree (a Christian) by its fruit (an obvious commitment to Christ and following him) in Matt.7: 13-20. Beware! Christians are not perfect, we still sin. But our commitment to following Christ should be obvious to all. If it is not, you need to consider that even if that person is a Christian, they are not ready for a spiritual marriage if they are not committed to the Lord in an obvious way.

Many Christians have allowed themselves to marry people who said they were Christians but had no genuine spiritual interest in Christ and His word or being involved with other believers. They later found themselves in the miserable situation of being married to an unbeliever or an uncommitted Christian.

Principle #3 Focus on building up the other person in Christ and helping him or her mature.

Seek first to build the other person up as a fellow brother or sister in Christ. 1 Thess. 5:11 says "Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up..." Heb. 10:24 says "Spur one another on toward love and good deeds." You are in the same spiritual family and you have the same spiritual Father who sees all and knows all.

You are accountable to Him for your actions with that person. Treat the other person as a child of God. This focus will keep your relationship and your motives pure (1 Jn. 3:1-3).

You do not own your body. God does. It is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, keep your body pure and help the other person keep his or her body pure. 1 Cor.6:18 says "Flee sexual immorality." V.19-20 says "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body."

Principle #4 Drive your relationship by your growing care and concern for that person based on your developing knowledge of that person, not by your growing romantic feelings toward that person.

Do not let your "romantic feelings" drive your relationship. You're still in the foundation-building stage. You should be growing in your knowledge of that person’s personality-type, his or her strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, etc. I believe it is wise to keep “your romantic affection/attraction" in your heart in check. Your growing commitment to that person to sacrifice for, care for, be concerned about him or her should be what is driving your friendship.

What Do I Do With My Feelings?

You don't have to deny them to yourself as if they don't exist. Give them to the Lord in prayer. Lay the relationship in His hands and trust that He will work things out if you trust and obey Him. In Rom.8:28, Paul tells us that the Lord works all things out for the good of both of you as His children. Trust Him to do this and let Him do it no matter where that may lead. Trust the Lord that if it doesn't work out, it is the best for you and the Lord will help your feelings subside. Do not focus on your feelings. Don't put those feelings in the driver's seat by spending all your time thinking about that person.

Do not assume "romantic feelings" are from the Lord. Romantic attraction and affection are a part of our nature as human beings. Commitment to love someone by committing ourselves to fulfill our responsibilities in marriage is what the Lord builds into our lives.

Do not be upset if someone else has feelings for her/him as well. Your feelings have no legitimacy for exclusivity until at least you both have moved to consider marriage to each other as a strong and real possibility. Give yourself time to allow your feelings to even out so you can discern if they are based on knowledge of the person or just attraction. They need to go beyond the "swooning/overwhelming" state.

Stay busy. Have a life apart from your friendship with that person. Get involved in ministry. Have other friendships. A person you care about should be an important part of your life, not your life.

Principle #5 It is wise not to verbalize your “romantic feelings” to the other person too early in your relationship or when you are not ready to marry.

Prov.29:20 "Do you see a man who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for him." Quickly revealing your feelings for someone is speaking hastily. It is not unusual for people to tell others how they feel before they really know them. Then when they do, their feelings subside and they are now in a real quandary, having to tell them they have now changed their feelings. You probably have been in this situation before. It is very common, but wisely avoided if possible.

It is wise not to verbalize your feelings when either of you is not ready to marry. You may be in a life situation where marriage is not desirable or possible or you are not ready for the responsibility and commitment to marriage. You may not be ready to take on the financial commitment of marriage because of age or school or a lack of a steady job.

You may not be ready to make the commitment. You may feel that you have an emotional issue from the past or other issues that need to be resolved before you make a life commitment to someone. You may not want to give up your time and independence. You may not want to give up the time you spend with friends or in your career. You may not be sure that you are ready to love that person for a lifetime. This may also apply to the other person as well. You may see that they are not ready to marry.

It is wise not to verbalize your feelings when your relationship has not progressed far enough where you can responsibly begin the process of seriously considering marrying that person.

You should not verbalize your feelings if you are not confident that your growing care and concern and commitment to that person is based on the kind of person that you have come to know rather than just romantic and sexual attraction/affection feelings. You need to develop a relationship where you have allowed enough time to know that person and make sure your consideration of marriage to that person is based on knowledge of that person not just on your feelings. The only verbalizing of feelings that should take place is one of caring, "I really care about you." "Caring" focuses on your unconditional care and concern for that person which is the foundation for any relationship.

You may ask, "It seems you are skipping a step. Shouldn't you verbalize your feelings and see where they lead before you have any thought about marriage? You can't know if they might lead to marriage or not? Be open and see what happens."

This is where the trouble lies. Feelings are not God's indicator that you should marry this person. Feelings are not the guide, commitment to sacrifice, caring, and concern for a lifetime is. That is how God defines "love" in the Scriptures.

Verbalizing your feelings changes the nature of your relationship and creates an emotional bond between the two of you that can be broken at anytime because there really is no bond at all.

"Love" between a man and woman as defined by God in the Scriptures exists only in conjunction with the commitment of marriage. Therefore, powerful romantic feelings may exist for someone, but God does not define those feelings "as love" when they exist apart from the commitment of marriage.

If you are not ready for marriage, and/or you are not serious about considering this person for marriage, then those feelings have no legitimacy in driving the relationship further. They are part of the path that leads to marriage where they can be fully expressed. Beyond that there exists no reason to verbalize any romantic feelings. Marriage is the safeguard for your heart so you can express those feelings in safety. Verbalizing your feelings toward the person you are relationship dating will be covered more thoroughly in the next chapter.

It is wise not to verbalize your feelings when either of you are not committed to growing in your relationship with Christ. If either of you are not committed to Jesus Christ, to grow in Him and to trust and obey him daily, there is no solid basis for growing in your relationship together as God desires.

Principle #6 It is wise to give your relationship time to develop and grow before you consider the possibility of marriage.

One of the biggest mistakes that a man and woman make when they are dating is that they jump too quickly into considering marriage before they have gotten to know the each other sufficiently. They spend massive amounts of time together in a short period and share many of their deepest concerns and thoughts which creates emotional intimacy before they have had enough time to get to know each other. They feel close to each other after a few weeks because "we have spent so much quality time together and shared our deepest thoughts with each other."

A healthy relationship based on substantial knowledge of each other requires time. Time allows each person to be seen in a variety of life situations, both individually and together. Time allows people to go through the emotional highs and lows of life and of a relationship. Time allows a person to be observed to see if they have the maturity to take on the responsibility of being a husband or wife. Time allows true commitment to develop based on a solid foundation rather than mere feelings.

In Song of Songs 2:7, Solomon's bride says "Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires." This is an exhortation not to allow love (expressed in romantic and sexual intimacy) to arise in one's heart before the proper time and person has arrived.

Relationships must be paced so that a man and woman do not spend too much time together too quickly. Men and women today often meet and then spend everyday together sharing their deepest thoughts and dreams. After a month, they feel that they know each other so well when in reality they only know each other’s thoughts and dreams.

It is easy to feel emotionally intimate and that no one else will ever understand you as well as this person. However, that is not the same as knowing a person's attitudes and actions demonstrated in his or her life. That is not the same as knowing whether a person is dependable or reliable and mature enough to fulfill one's responsibilities in marriage.

Anyone in the heat of new passion and enthusiasm appears almost perfect, sensitive, caring, interested. But what will he or she be like when he or she is tired, cranky, bored, upset, depressed, discouraged, or stressed? It is important to see what a person is like over a long period of time to see if he or she is genuinely what or she appears to be. Many look normal and wholesome when they are highly motivated to put their best foot forward.

You need time to let the relationship be based on real knowledge of who he or she is and how you relate to each other. Marriage is for a lifetime and that is a long time, a very long time. You will see and experience a person's deepest weaknesses and strengths. Caution and care should be exercised or you will pay a dear price later.

Prov.19:2 says "It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way."