Dating. Giddy excitement, awkward first moments, sweet good times and sometimes devastating heartbreak–it’s all par for the course in this little thing called finding true love.
I’ve had quite a relationship with dating. There were times I enjoyed it, times I based my self-worth upon it and times I even intentionally kissed it goodbye (but just for a few weeks while reading a book about it in college). I’ve learned to appreciate all that it’s taught me about who I am, what I desire and how to be vulnerable with another human being. A few things I’ve learned:
1. Be yourself. I heard this again and again as a rule for dating, but it took me years to truly value this advice. Don’t do what I did; hear me now. Sure, you’re still figuring out who your “self” is. But your gut will often tell you who your “self” is NOT. Trust it. When you get that little ache in your throat or your stomach turns when making a choice, listen to it. It’s probably God reminding you that you don’t have to laugh at the joke you don’t find funny or wear your hair a certain way just because someone else likes it. Know who you are and what you value. The guy who wants to know you for you is the only one worth your energy. So be wonderfully you.
2. Thirst for water, not your boyfriend. Jon Foreman of Switchfoot says it best when talking about love songs: “In our barcode media, love is often portrayed as consumption…‘I can’t live without you,’ ‘I would die if you ever left me’–these are not the songs of love; these are the songs of consumption.” Food and water quench our thirst and hunger. God within us fulfills our emptiness. You do not need anyone else to make you happy, whole or complete.
3. Let him make the second move. I am in no way old school about the first move, nor do I subscribe to hard-and-fast rules when it comes to gender. So I actually believe a girl can express interest, flirt a little and practice putting herself out there before a guy. It’s all a life lesson in vulnerability, really.
That being said, if you do make the first move, you don’t need to make a move again. Wait for him. If a guy is interested, he’s going to make every move from that point forward. No stalking, no chasing, no texting and no begging necessary.
4. Say what you need to say. Do not be afraid of your voice. Establish what you believe about physical, emotional and time investment boundaries. Then don’t be afraid to let him know what those boundaries are.
5. Have grace. In life, everything except death is nail polish. It’s reversible, redeemable, able to be wiped clean. We don’t hear that enough–permission to get this dating thing “wrong.” Say the wrong thing, get your heart broken, send an unfortunately needy text, accidentally break a heart. Don’t try to stick so hard to my rules, or anyone’s rules. Make mistakes. Learn from those mistakes. Make better mistakes next time. Pray, discern and listen. Yes, be intentional with your actions so that any relationship decisions you make won’t potentially lead to death (abusive partner, unprotected sex, illicit drug use, etc.). And know that as long as you’re still breathing you can try again.
I’ve been a casualty in dating. Once I found myself literally sprawled on the floor, crying and unable to move because of heartbreak. But I did move eventually and put myself out there again because it’s absolutely worth it to share your heart with someone, knowing that we risk loss. If we love well, we see ourselves more deeply, we experience God and we shine light into someone else’s life.