Throughout this series on dating with dignity, we’ve been exploring what to look for in a potential partner and how to date in a way that honors God.
Full disclosure: I am not a therapist or relationship expert. Rather, I am a single person with a bit of experience on the subject, follower of Christ, and an avid observer of human interaction.
True confession: old me used to treat dating like an application/interview process. I had a list of questions. If the prospect answered the questions correctly, they moved on to the next step. Are you a Christian? Check. Do you or would you go to church? Check. Would you consider yourself to be a decent human? Check.
But checking off a list only created the opportunity to be deceived. A guy would have to have been daft to answer those questions incorrectly. This method is clearly flawed. But it’s used more often than we all want to admit. Internet dating has made it even worse. We rush past the actual getting to know someone phase and substitute a checklist. Then we’re somehow surprised that our partner lied on the “application” in order to get the “interview.”
The better and more effective approach to dating is to simply focus on spiritual growth and self-improvement until a qualified individual presents themselves. Yes, this method requires patience. Especially in the female’s role. But the reward is so much greater.
So once a potential partner shows up and you’ve determined they are of good character and worth getting to know further, then what? What are you looking for within the dating relationship? How do you know it’s God’s best?
And that’s the point, right? I don’t know about you, but I want to know that any romantic relationship I enter into is part of God’s best plan for both of us. I want to walk out a relationship in a way that gives honor and glory to God while being dignified and exhibiting good character. The ultimate goal is to have a marriage that reflects how Christ loves the Church as described in Ephesians 5. So honoring God through our relationships starts long before we say, “I do.”
Here are a few litmus tests (watching for actions, not just a Q&A) that I currently use in my dating life:
- They should add value and enrich your life. This should be a no-brainer. What’s the point of being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t bring positivity, value, and enrichment to your life? The opposite of that would be someone who is negative, draining, and energy depleting. That sounds like torture! Conversely, examine if you bring good stuff to your partner’s life. It’s a two way street, kids!
- Push you closer to God. In a Christian relationship, this is a huge priority. We should be inspired to grow closer to God and strive to be better humans through our relationship. This should also include the freedom of loving correction once that person has earned a position to speak into your life. “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” -Proverbs 27:17 [NLT]
- Encourage you as you encourage/support them. Your spouse should be a source of encouragement. That practice starts way before a covenant is entered into. Emotional and spiritual encouragement is just as important in a dating relationship!
- Pray together. This one should really be at the top of the list. Ironically, it has also been the most rare in my personal experience. Keeping Christ at the center of your relationship is paramount. And that’s walked out by not only praying for each other privately, but taking the time to pray together as a couple. So many people miss out on the benefits of inviting God into the center of the relationship. “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12
- Seek God’s purpose for you jointly. This is something I hadn’t previously considered, to be honest. I’ve always known that God has a plan and purpose for each individual. And from a young age, I was told to pray for my future spouse. However, until recently, I hadn’t considered that God could have a purpose to accomplish through a couple. Perhaps there is a ministry or calling that God has in store for you to collaboratively carry out. Or maybe you are to learn something from each other. Pray together and individually for God to give you wisdom and knowledge of His plan for your relationship.
Notice that none of the above can be reduced to a simple Q&A. These are actions and habits created by two people earnestly seeking God at the center of their lives and relationship. If you feel like you have to pressure or coax your dating partner into any or all of the above, you may need to prayerfully reevaluate the quality of the relationship. These may not be deal breakers for everyone, but they do give good insight as to whether or not you’re on the same page in regard to intentions and priorities.
Furthermore, the above list cannot be faked. Consistent pursuit of Christ in all areas of life (especially in dating) requires commitment and fortitude. If a man has less than honorable intentions, he’s probably not going to ask you to pray with him at the end of your phone calls consistently over time. Rather than checking off a list, watch for actions that back up his words.
“A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” -Luke 6:45 [CSB]