The word “dating” has become one of the most ambiguous terms of our generation, perhaps even more so in the Christian world. Does “dating” mean the casual getting to know someone on dates before becoming official, or does “dating” commence once we commit to the relationship? I was more caught up on defining what dating was rather than actually thinking about what to do once I was in a relationship.
I’ve thought about dating a lot. I knew that it was serious, and I knew what I wanted (and what I didn’t). I have been on a few dates and coffee catchups with great guys to try and see if I could seriously date them. With such focus on what I did and didn’t want, I was blindsided by the overwhelming amount of questions and insecurities that arose in me once I finally did start dating someone.
About 6 months ago, I entered my very first relationship with a pretty great guy (shout out to Kyle, you’re actually the best) and prior to this, all the information I was receiving as a young, single Christian was focused on being content in the season I was in. This information, though insightful when I was single, was not that useful once I found myself dating Kyle. Being quite optimistic, I was not expecting the rollercoaster of emotions that I would ride in the first few months of our relationship.
I thought I was pretty whole and emotionally healthy when I was single, but that was because I had never let anyone in close enough to truly see all of my flaws and insecurities. To feel insecure really means that you don’t feel stable or secure in your thoughts, actions or in someone else; and often these insecure thoughts aren’t very logical. My biggest insecurity when I first started dating Kyle was that I was more invested in the relationship than he was. I know for a fact, anyone who knows Kyle and I’s relationship is laughing at that statement because that was not the truth AT ALL. Why? Because for a year Kyle pursued me and I rejected him again and again. I put him firmly in the friendzone. Until one day I woke up to myself and realised I actually did like him! That didn’t stop me from thinking he was going to leave and reject me.
Fear! Fear! Fear! It will steal your joy and it will steal your peace. And that is exactly where I found myself almost immediately after saying yes to dating Kyle.
So, what was I afraid of? The evidence was clear, Kyle was invested and committed and had been longer than me, but the feeling was fear. It was a familiar fear I had felt before. I remember a thought popping into my head; “the issue isn’t really the issue.” Often what the Holy Spirit whispers is so simple that you can miss it. The issue of fearing Kyle ending our relationship wasn’t the real issue.
The real issue was all the times I had been rejected in the past that I had yet to heal from.
Not being wanted by my parents when I was conceived (Read more: I almost died before I was born), being rejected by friends in primary school, always coming up second best to the prettier girls in high school and years of undealt hurt and rejection were all creeping into my new relationship. This fear of rejection could only be healed by the loving embrace of God because the core issue was in my identity. My insecurity was that I didn’t believe God when He said He loved me, wanted me and first pursued me because up until now the people in my life affirmed these fears. Insecurities are built on lies, but security is based on truth.
To be able to let go of this fear of rejection in my relationship, I had to go to the real issue and bring it to the true healer.
It was at the feet of Jesus where He told me that I am pursued, I am wanted, I am loved and I am secure. He spoke to the core of who I am and who I feared to be. Only the creator can define you, not a guy or a job or a dream. Only God.
My friend, I pray as you read my words that God would bring healing, revelation and peace to your heart. He is a good and kind God; He has never left you and He has never forsaken you (Deuteronomy 31:8) and He loves you dearly.
If you’ve been around me the last 6 months you’ve probably heard me scream: “No one prepares you for dating!!!!”
If you have been a part of any of my rants which included this statement, I apologize. I am in no way an expert in relationships, so my insight has been through trial and error and through the guidance of mentors, friends and online resources (I’ll link some of these resources below). However, there are 3 things I have found that have helped me keep going despite my insecurities and fears. Community, communication and counsel. These 3 have been my saving graces.
I must preface that these 3 things without the voice of the Holy Spirit will be of no use to you or me.
Only by the grace of God have I been able to recognise that these 3 things are vital and with the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit have been able to humble myself and recognise my flaws, brokenness and need for a Savior.
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was (Matthew 22:34) He stated that the first is to love God with everything that you are and the second is to love others. This is how we should do life; in relationship with God and in relationship with others. Dating someone is no different. I’ll admit, when we first started dating all I wanted to do was just hang out with Kyle. Go on fun dates, alone. Talk for hours, alone. Get to know each other, alone. What I didn’t realise was what I was missing out on when we weren’t in the company of others. Although Kyle and I share mutual friends, there are many other friendships we don’t share. Seeing every aspect of the other person’s lives gives us a further insight into who they are, how they act around people and how they treat you in different environments.
People are complex and if you’re only hanging out with someone one-on-one, you’re not going to get a complete view of who they are.
For example, Kyle has an incredible pastoral gift. If you’ve ever chatted with him, even for 5 minutes, you would know. Recently he and I were hanging out and he asked if I could message a friend of mine to see if they were free to catch up. A spontaneous catch up ended with a beautiful moment where I got to witness Kyle being led by the Holy Spirit to bring kindness and care to one of my dear friends who was hurting at the time. If I never brought Kyle into my community I (and my friend) would have missed out. On the flip side, some of our funniest moments have been in group settings, watching him get competitive at mini golf or rollerblading with friends. I wouldn’t be able to see these different sides to him if we exclusively hung out on our own.
There is a time for everything, but we were built for community, not isolation.
Communication is the key to every good relationship, but what does healthy communication actually look like? I grew up in a pretty dysfunctional household, so my exposure to healthy communication within relationships was limited; this has been a learning curve in more ways than one.
I think communication comes down to a few things; honesty, humility and vulnerability.
When something has hurt me and I need to bring it to Kyle, often it’s easier to rationalise why I shouldn’t be feeling upset, or I can be afraid to show how I really feel but I have to be committed to telling the truth, even when it feels lame. Trust has to be built. How do we build it? By being honest with how you’re feeling and allowing your partner the opportunity to be trusted with your feelings. It’s a huge part of real vulnerability. You build by one small brick of honesty at a time.
Kyle and I are opposite in a lot of ways. We tend to miss each other, a lot. Without communication and a commitment to work things out, our relationship would not have lasted this long. When we first started dating, I took Kyle with me to get lunch with a friend, she was going through a tough season, and I was there to support her. By the end of the lunch she was feeling better and I was full of life. I went home full of joy, Kyle did not. The next day Kyle came by my house to talk. He looked serious, I was confused. I asked him what was wrong, he took a long pause, working up the courage to be vulnerable. “You shushed me” “I shushed you?” “and rolled your eyes”. Apparently, in my eagerness to comfort my friend I’d dismissed Kyle’s efforts to help. He didn’t want to tell me, but we’d made a commitment to share our feelings, no matter how dumb, embarrassing or small they seemed. What seemed like nothing to me can be a big deal to him and vice versa.
Each dumb, painful, embarassingly vulnerable conversation builds trust for the next bigger, dumber and more embarrassing conversation.
Whatever stage of life you find yourself in, having wise counsel and accountability is key. In Proverbs 11:14 it says, “Without wise guidance, a nation falls; But there is safety in having wise counsel.” Who are you allowing to speak into your life? Who are you going to for advice? It looks different for each person.
Before I was in a relationship I had established 2 kinds of wise counsel in my life. First, from older, married women and second, from friends in similar seasons.
They have been with me through all the different journeys over the past few years and have been at every turn, curve and mountain to help me navigate, process and pray through great and hard times. You can’t succeed in life alone.
Don’t be disheartened if you struggle to find counsel. This is where vulnerability comes back in. Put yourself out there and send a text to a leader and ask for advice, reach out to that friend and ask for help and fight the pride within you that says you know best or you can do it on your own because you can’t.
You need God and you need others; always.
Another word for counsel is accountability. Who is yours? My wise counsel I just mentioned is my accountability. But why do I need it? It’s because I have a vision for my life and my relationship and I need help to get there. I want to save having sex until I’m married and to do that I need married mentors to keep me focused and remind me it’s worth the wait and it helps to have friends in similar seasons to be able to talk through the mutual struggle. (If you want more why behind the what, Sabrina has written an incredible article here, Why I Waited for the Wedding Night).
Sometimes I need accountability in my wholeness journey, too. If I’m upset because Kyle didn’t do something I wanted him to do, I don’t want people who will say, “he’s the worst! Why can’t he be better?” I want people who will keep my thoughts accountable and say “hey, don’t you think your uncommunicated expectations are unfair? Do you think the issue here isn’t really the issue?” My vision is to be a strong, humble, kind, forgiving, gracious and loving woman of God. Without allowing accountability to speak truth in love, I will never get to where I want to go. Find a vision for your relationship and your life and find counsel to keep you accountable.
The Bible doesn’t tell you how to date, but it does tell you who you’re meant to be and how you’re meant to treat others.
God, through scripture, guides us to treat people with kindness, love, generosity, graciousness and more! Want to know how to love your partner well? Treat them how you desire to be treated (Matthew 7:12). Forgive regularly, forget faults, be gracious and kind, be encouraging and faith filled. Have a soft heart, be open and remember you’re both incredibly human. You need God at the centre the entire way. You will stumble often and at times might even fall, but every time God will be there to help you back up (Proverbs 24:16 TPT).
What I’ve learnt the most over the past 6 months is how much God actually loves me. I am pursued, I am wanted and I am secure purely because God first loved me. No guy, career, family or goal could ever make me more secure than the love of God. Being in a great relationship isn’t the end goal; a relationship with God is.
However, the better you know God, the better the rest of your relationships and friendships will be.
So, whether you find yourself single, newly in a relationship or years into dating, I pray my journey and the ways God has helped me navigate this season has helped you, even if in a small way.
Teneil Anderson is a 24-year-old Law and Philosophy student from Perth, WA. Sabrina Peters is a Christian writer, an avid Sex & Relationships blogger and part of the team at Kingdomcity. She is married to Ben and mother to Liberty & Lincoln. www.sabrinapeters.com.