In continuation of the ideas behind my last post on dating, let’s address the question many of you are asking.
How do I know when I am ready to date?
It is important that we realize there is no surefire set number of days. We are always a work in progress and some of us advance more quickly than others. For some of us, there are hurts that go far deeper than pornography. We need to heal from pornography and then heal those hurts as well.
Ideally, dating should be with the intent to marry. For that reason, if you are fourteen, struggling with pornography and asking whether or not you are ready to date, my answer is no. Of course, I would say you weren’t ready even if you were fourteen and not struggling with pornography.
If dating is with intent to marry, then that changes our question a bit. Are you ready to get married?
That’s a little more daunting, and may be a little more sobering for most of us. The idea of marriage can frighten us. It means we have to be vulnerable. It means we have to be intimate (emotionally as well as physically). It means we have to be selfless. It means we have to be compassionate. It means we have to be everything that lust has trained us not to be.
Here are some thoughts on that subject.
Know who you are in Christ. Your husband/boyfriend is not meant to ‘complete’ you, and he cannot fix you. Your love is to be a picture of Christ, not a replacement for Him. Expecting your husband to be Jesus will only stress him out.
Build your boundaries around your weaknesses. You know your weaknesses. If you struggle with fantasy, then it would be a good idea to have an accountability partner for your relationship. Find a trusted woman who isn’t afraid to help you focus on truth. If you feel physical tempation might be a struggle, then it would be unwise to ‘date’ by going out to the movie theater alone with your man at night.
Be smart, and put those guidelines in place before Mr. Tall Dark and Handsome melts your little heart.
Speaking of hearts, guard yours. Yes, your relationship needs to be bulit on honesty, so don’t lie. Just do not practice vulnerability before he has indicated that he is ready to protect that. You can answer more general questions and save specific details for later. Do you need to have that conversation? Yes, but it can wait for engagement or close to it. Don’t wait until you’re married, because experience has shown me that it gets harder once you say, “I do.”
But here’s probably the point most of you are hunting for:
You do not need to be perfect, but you need to be closer to healed than healing. None of us are perfect, and no matter how much preparation you do of yourself, marriage is going to take work. It is two imperfect people trying to mirror a perfect union. That isn’t going to happen easily. It definitely isn’t going to happen if you drag all of your baggage and the kitchen sink with you into your marriage.
A friend of mine shares a similar background as I. She was never involved in sexual sin but suffered a lot of abuse and trauma as a little girl. We identified with each other’s brokenness. She got married and about a year in found herself pulling away from her husband. It took her a few months to realize that she still had not healed and was trying to do that while balancing the demands of a home. It’s hard enough to heal, period, much less while trying to be a support system for a husband.