That might be a scarier thought than marriage for many of us. Yes, we want marriage for various reasons- sex, companionship, acceptance. It’s the whole intimacy, vulnerability, fear of rejection that cripples us at times. Dating means risk. There’s the risk of being rejected, but for most of us, dating cranks up the fire of temptation.
He’s a man (enter: sexual tension/fear of compromise). A man who likes me (enter: attraction/fear of being hurt). Who wants to get to know me (enter: acceptance/fear of intimacy). Ultimately, he could be the man I end up sharing my bed with for the rest of my life. (Yeah, guys aren’t the only people who think that way).
As much as we want marriage, we just don’t want to do the dating thing. If we’re honest, most of us would say, “I’ll take the sex; I don’t want the intimacy.”
I used to joke that God needed to send my man with a little bow that said, “To: Jessica. From: God.” I needed to know 100% that a relationship was worth investing myself into.
I get e-mails often asking about dating, and how women can know they are ready and how to handle lust in a relationship. I wish I had a perfect answer.
There are all sorts of expert opinions out there. I have friends who courted first, friends who dated first, friends who met their spouses online, and even friends who had an arranged marriage (I kid you not). Everyone has an opinion, and as I have gotten older and remained single, I keep hearing more of them. It’s hard to know what exactly to do!
My journey into the world of dating has been relatively recent. I never had a boyfriend in high school, unless you count TJ, but we weren’t technically dating. In college, I made a point to make friends with guys who had girlfriends. That was really important to me, because I did not have any understanding of boundaries. I talked about that recently.
After college, I attended a church with no one my age. No one. I was there for five years. I just recently, for various reasons, joined in membership with a church of 4,000 members and a singles ministry well over 500 strong. Needless to say, not all of my male acquaintances have girlfriends, so naturally there has been some exploration of interest.
I went from never being on a date in my life, to going on three in four months (with two different men of God). So, I’ve had a chance to put all of my theories on dating into practice. It’s been a challenge.
It is really hard to keep lust in check, when you are, essentially pursuing a mate.
But you can still fight it. Here are some thoughts:
1. Know why you’re dating.
I have recently determined that I am not of the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” crowd. I have nothing against the author of that book, which is good since he’s my pastor, but as I have gotten older the ability to develop friendships in a group setting first has greatly diminished. Still, I believe in intentionality in dating.
It is not OK to date just for the fun of it all. If you’re dating just to be able to say you’re dating or just so you can have some arm candy and some free food, hear my love when I tell you this: you need to grow up, and I don’t care how old you are.
2. It’s not about sex.
Just because he is a man and you are a woman does not mean that your date has to be about sex. In fact, no date should ever be about sex. (So, make sure you aren’t dressing, acting, and talking like you want it to be.) Remember, your marriage won’t be about two people having sex. Your marriage will be about two people living together, working together, and serving together. Your first concern needs to be finding out if this is, indeed, a man you can live with, work with, and serve with, not sleep with.
3. Know your own boundaries.
What are your boundaries for maintaining purity? Don’t have any? Build some. Where do you draw the line at date ideas? What about physical contact? What about alone time? What about conversation, even? How far is too far? If this relationship doesn’t amount to anything, then your reputation will still be whole and your heart will still be intact. If it does become something more, then you already have an idea of where your boundaries are in order to maintain purity, because I hear it only gets harder.
4. Keep your heart in check.
Here’s what we do, ladies. Man asks us out on date 1, we think it might work, so we casually accept the offer. Then we go home, look up wedding magazines, Facebook stalk him and all of his immediate family, tell our close circle of friends and then change our Facebook relationship status to: “It’s complicated.”
Actually, it’s not complicated. You are complicating it. He said, “Hey! You want to get coffee?” and you heard, “Hey! Want to get married?” So now you’re panicking trying to figure out what, exactly he is asking for, and you’re freaking out about ‘leading him on’ if you say ‘yes.’ Reel that wayward heart in, sister, and take it one step at a time.
Our culture has taught us to connect dating with marriage, when the truth is there is a lot more along that road. I have a friend who wrote up a great “Romantic Relationship Diagram of Awesomeness.” It has been very helpful over the last few months.
If you can find a way to slow your heart down and get it focused back on truth, you will go leaps and bounds in protecting yourself against lust. Which brings me to my last tip.
5. Eyes on Christ, ladies.
Hit your knees before and after each date. Fervently seek God’s guidance and wisdom. It is fine to talk to friends who know you well. It is fantastic to seek counsel from Godly mentors, but please, above all else, put God first. Pray that He would give you wisdom and insight; pray that He would give him wisdom and insight.
I have found it hard to lust in a situation that I have truly given over to God.