The A to Z of Christian Dating
Less of I – More of U.
More than any other time in history, we live in a world that is dominated by ‘I’ being at the centre of my own universe. We are more conscious of our rights and expect them to be met. Perhaps as a result, we are a more selfish generation than ever before.
This trait is found in equal measure in dating too. Magazine columns and dating advice are all about looking and finding what will best suit YOUR own needs. You are taught and advised to identify what you want, and to find out what you need to get to ensure your needs are met. And then what to do if your needs are not met! It’s all about me, me, me.
But this isn’t the best way and it certainly isn’t the best way to approach dating either. Certainly, as Christians it is not the way we are instructed to behave if Romans 12:10 is anything to go on. The verse reads: ‘Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves’.
With that verse in mind then, let us look at two different stages of dating: – the early days of setting out, searching for and meeting people; and then the period of being in a relationship prior to and including marriage.
The early stages of dating
In the early stages of dating, many people make the mistake of ‘banging on’ about themselves far too much and for far too long. Whether it is because of nerves, or a lack of conversational skill or another reason, it just is not a good thing to do – and is certainly a ‘turn off’. We all want people to be interested in us. Therefore, talking about yourself more than finding out about the other person does not do you any favours.
Without wanting to generalise, men seem to suffer from this trait more than women, so men please pay close attention here.
Having said that you need to focus on the other person, you can’t entirely focus on them without saying anything about yourself. That comes across as hiding yourself. In this context, and given we are talking about the early stages of dating, some ‘I’ is important.
For example, getting your profile ‘right’ (if you are on a dating site or using an introduction service Friends1st) is important. ‘Right’ here means the best and most interesting representation of you as can be attained and one which will attract other people to contact you. Time invested here will be time well spent. Focus on what aspects of you will attract others. What aspects of your character and personality will be attractive and beneficial to others. Even here though, when thinking of yourself consider more of what you can offer others than of what you are looking for in others. Think more of them than yourself.
If you are someone who is nervous in those initial face to face or phone conversations with others (or even those initial texts, emails or letters) and who therefore has a tendency to talk about an easy subject – one that you know lots about (ie your I, yourself), then consciously go into every initial interaction planning to see how much information you can find out about the other person and their life (without appearing to be prying or nosy!) Set this as your goal and focus on it. Test yourself and reflect on your success after the initial meeting/conversation is over. Remember it is a process and a skill you can work on and improve over time.
Similarly, if you are arranging a first/second, or even third date, think more of what would suit the other person than what you would like to do. This isn’t too hard to do if you have spent some time and effort finding out about them, finding what their interests are and how they like to spend their time
So often I hear people say – “Well I’m not interested in her/him because she/he says he’s really into x and I have no interest in that”. See how the ‘I’ rears its ugly head once again – and if listened to will lead to you missing out.
It is so often the case that we are not interested in something because we have little knowledge of it – or the little knowledge we have is hearsay or just that – limited knowledge. Few people when they truly learn about something – whether it is cricket, football, fishing, gardening, architecture, history, music or languages or anything else – then continue to say they are uninterested in it. No most often knowledge leads to interest.
So be prepared to learn. Supposing someone says in their profile or tells you that that they love bird watching. But you don’t’. So, indulge them on a date. Take them to a wildlife reserve and spend time finding out why they love birds and see if your opinion changes. You may well be pleasantly surprised if you are sufficiently interested in their view (and not your own) to find out.
Prayer is so important in these early stages too. Pray for the partner God has in store for you. Pray for what God is currently doing in their life to prepare them to meet you. Pray for their family and friends. Pray for their circumstances, their faith, their journey and relationship with God. Don’t just prayer for your needs to be met! That again is all about your ‘I’.
In a relationship / being married
Much of the above also relates to when we are in a committed relationship and/or marriage. When Paul talks in Romans 12:10 about being devoted to one another in love and honouring one another above yourselves he was talking to the Roman community of Christians. But his words equally apply to two people in a relationship. To truly love someone is to look out for their needs above your own, to put their needs first, to think of them before you think of yourself.
There is much less room for ‘I’ when you are a couple. Particularly when married you are now ONE – you look out for each other putting each others needs first. When you both look out for each others needs first, and therefore meet each others needs, you get your needs met.
None of this is particularly easy. We live in a fallen world. We are selfish beings. But here again our Christian faith can be lent upon. God gives us the help and grace to put others first, to act unselfishly, to love (even when it is hard) and we can call upon him at all times and in all situations for his guidance and for his help in diminishing the ‘I’ and putting others in front of ourselves.