Modern dating culture can be tricky and incredibly awkward when “courting” someone in the church. Unfortunately, a church relationship can be scrutinized to the degree that other relationships aren’t.
Your prayers have been answered if you’re looking for ideas on navigating how to successfully begin dating in church. Here are some tips for enjoying a healthy dating relationship within the church.
Whether you’re new to dating someone in the church or simply looking for advice on maintaining your current relationship, here are the do’s and don’ts for making the most of your dating experience.
Do Be Honest with Your Beliefs
Everyone wants to impress someone on a date, but just because you have different beliefs doesn’t mean you need to hide them. Be upfront when meeting potential partners. You should never be ashamed of who you are.
On a first date (or even your first few), let your date know your beliefs and how they affect your date. For example, if you don’t drink because of your religion, don’t feel uncomfortable letting them know. You’re shoving your beliefs down their throat. You’re simply telling them why you do or don’t partake in certain activities.
If they look at you strangely when you pray over your food, be patient and explain to them why you do it. Most times, they’re not being judgmental. However, it may be something your date doesn’t usually see, so they may have questions.
Don’t Pretend to be Someone Else
Some religious people hide their faith rather than make their date uncomfortable. This is a mistake. Be who you are, regardless of your faith.
You don’t have to step onto your soapbox and preach about your faith, but don’t downplay it, either. Your convictions should never take a backseat to your desire to date. Speak up whenever you feel uneasy so you feel safe with your date.
Don’t Disregard Your Inner Convictions to Please Anyone Else
Even if you are dating another believer, you may be on a different level spiritually. Your date could be new to the faith and need additional spiritual growth.
Have your convictions well thought out and settled before your date. For example, would you have an issue if your date drank alcohol? If you’re dating someone of the same faith but on a different spiritual level, would they object to you drinking a glass of wine?
Additionally, would it be an issue if you attended an R-rated movie or listened to secular music on the way to the theater? You want to feel completely comfortable, so if you don’t, instead of keeping quiet, voice your concerns in a non-judgmental way.
Don’t Get Caught Up in Romance
As a young person dealing with dating in the church, romance, emotions, and infatuation are always readily available, especially at the beginning of a relationship. It can be challenging to navigate through these circumstances because you can lose direction and focus. Or, you may feel pressured to do something you are morally against.
When this happens, know that it’s OK. Recognize your desires and weaknesses and be willing to avoid them. We all make mistakes. The best thing to do is to pick yourself up and continue in your faith. Faltering doesn’t make you wrong. It makes you human, so don’t beat yourself up over it.
Do Consider Group Dates
Dating one-on-one can be stressful for young singles in the church, so why not date in groups? Invite two or three like-minded couples to go out with you. It can be a simple date, like dinner and a movie, or invite a group over for an evening of movies and pizza. This keeps the pressure off you and your date and allows the group to partake in fun, wholesome activities.
If a group date is out of the question, go somewhere where there will surely be plenty of people. For example, consider going on a date to a roller rink, where there is a lesser chance of physical contact. Or, make it even more casual and invite your best friend. Then, all three of you can have an awesome time.
Do Take Advice from Others
It’s always wise to seek the advice of those with the same experience. It’s not like you need permission to date. It’s more like getting helpful insight because holding onto secrets about your dating experiences may complicate your situation.
Outside advice may suggest the best place to look for singles of your faith and how to stay strong in your beliefs when temptation arises. Specifically, older people who have been in this position before, so they understand better and can offer more guidance.
Don’t Get Emotionally Dependent
In any relationship, including spiritual ones, it’s essential to establish healthy boundaries. In church relationships, people tend to have less experience than in other relationships, so they become more emotionally vested in the other person.
They stop functioning like individuals; instead, everything revolves around you as a couple. You become so emotionally connected that you spend hours talking and texting, divulging your deepest secrets. And if and when the relationship goes south, it may result in a messy situation.
Ways to Be Emotionally Independent While in a Relationship
Individuals can maintain their independence in healthy relationships. While they bond together, they should also grow individually. It’s OK to feel like you can depend on one another but also maintain a sense of freedom.
If you feel like you’re losing yourself in a romantic relationship, here are ways to keep your independence while continuing to grow together.
Make time to do solo activities – Sure, sharing experiences as a couple is fun, but you also want to have your own experiences as an individual. So create a regular activity at least once a week, like yoga, a book club, or a cooking class.
If you had hobbies or interests before the relationship, pick up those interests again or choose something new that you’ve always wanted to do.
Hang out with friends – This doesn’t mean hanging out as a couple. Instead, hang out with your friends alone. Before you got together with your partner, you had a social life. So, continue to have one. You don’t have to go out with your friends as much as you used to as a single person, but carve out at least once every month to do the activities you used to do before your significant other came into the picture. Think about how excited you’ll be when you connect with your partner again.
Love Yourself – You’re not only in a relationship with another person; you’re in one with yourself. It’s OK to want to take care of your partner, but you should take care of your needs, too. You should love the person you are in order to love someone else. Self-care includes:
- working out
- any activity that you enjoy
Don’t put pressure on your relationships – You aren’t perfect, so why would you expect your relationship to be? Unfortunately, social media makes it easy to think that perfect relationships exist. That’s absolutely false. Every couple has its ups and downs, so don’t feel bad when you argue. Placing unrealistic expectations on your union only places more pressure on you.
Keep up with your passions – You loved to play the piano when you were single, so make sure to continue to do it even after you become half of a couple. However, feel free to share your passion with your partner.
Remember your core values – You aren’t perfect, so why would you expect your relationship to be? Unfortunately, social media makes it easy to think that perfect relationships exist. That’s absolutely false. Every couple has its ups and downs, so don’t feel bad when you argue. Placing unrealistic expectations on your union only places more pressure on you.
Don’t Believe You’re Incomplete if You’re Not in a Relationship
No matter how perfect you think someone is, the fact is, they will not keep you happy all the time. And guess what? It’s not their job to. That’s your job. Learn to love yourself long before you become part of a couple.
Being in a relationship doesn’t make you happy. Instead, you’re already happy when you get into a relationship. Your partner is only there to share in the joy you’ve already obtained.
Likewise, you can be just as content being single as you can be in a relationship. In fact, if you go into it for the wrong reasons, you may even be unhappier than when you were single. Do you get the common denominator here? Only you create satisfaction in your life and no one else.
Do Refrain From Dating Someone Who Doesn’t Share Your Core Beliefs
Your partner can be on a different spiritual level than you, but they should, at the very least, hold the same core beliefs. For example, dating an atheist would be tough if you’re a Christian. In other words, your partner should share the same core values you do.
Unfortunately, sometimes people tend to overlook certain core beliefs when their point of attraction is good-looking, or you’ve had a crush on them for a while.
They decide to date them anyway, and down the line, you realize the differences are too drastic for you to continue with the relationship. It’s OK to want to give someone a try, but you know what you will and won’t compromise on early in the relationship.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
I’ve mentioned this one several times in each category, but this deserves its own topic. I can’t stress this enough when I say no one is perfect. We all make mistakes, including you, so when that happens, forgive yourself and move on.
Relationships can be messy, and you may find yourself stumbling through, but you’re OK, and you will always be OK. When you cross the line or when you fall down, don’t stay down. Get back up and continue. Bad choices and mistakes don’t define who you are. You deserve to find love like everyone else, so stop thinking otherwise.
Unfortunately, certain sets of rules and standards are in place regarding religion, and you will sometimes fall short. When that happens, understand where you faltered to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Then, use the shortcoming as a life lesson.
Take your time, and don’t rush it. Fight the impulse to dive into a relationship because of outside pressure. Eventually, you’ll find the right person to lead you to one of the most significant decisions you will ever make, and that’s to join together in holy matrimony.