This really isn’t a question asked by many, but it is definitely a question that should be asked, meditated on, and intently explored. I am going to start with the most appropriate response, you are ready to date when you are not willing to settle for less than the best God has for you. For some this may seem a very broad answer and yet it’s actually a very narrow answer. The question is do we know what the best is that God has for us? Before we journey down what the best is let’s first make it plain up front the worst time to consider dating:
You should never consider dating when you’re on a rebound. The person who gets dumped is usually the one who has the most difficult time dealing with the break up. A focus takes place where the one left behind begins wondering what they did that made the other person leave them. They start wondering whether or not they’re attractive enough, loveable enough, intelligent enough, passionate enough, pliable, the list can go on, bottom line you are trying to figure out how to make yourself more desirable for the next person. Your confidence is low and you need a self-esteem boost, you need a quick pick me up, no pun intended, so you’re apt to be less selective. This is the absolute worst thing you can do. It’s enough you’re already dealing with the loss of one relationship only to find yourself jumping out of the frying pan then subsequently landing into the proverbial skillet, no better off than before, sometimes worse off than before. Let me say ensure that you are healed from the last encounter and completely come to grips with the valuable person you are!!
Let’s explore the principles of dating. Dating is generally the observation stage. It is a time to observe the individuals you are spending time with. You are observing how they treat you, their friends, their children, if applicable, their co-workers, their family, and their finances. You’re having conversations about things important to you and gleaning information about things important to them. You are observing their lifestyle; if they say they’re Christian their life should reflect it by action and not simply by word. This is not, I repeat not the exclusive relationship, this is simply what I said, the observation stage. I know it can seem controversial by stating not exclusive, too many times as women we latch on to one man, go exclusive, getting to know him and before we know it we’ve seen months, even years of our lives wasted on a relationship that had no teeth from the beginning. This does not mean that you have a slew of men or women in your life you simple don’t count out any potentially suitable mate during the observation, dating period. Sex does not enter the equation!! Let me digress: When sex enters the equation that rational part of brain that was able to see clearly and make sound judgments goes right out the door. We have a tendency to become death, dumb, and blind. We have a tendency to refuse to accept the flaws staring right in front of us. We become the fix it queen or king. Surely we can mold what’s lacking. We can dress him or her, clean them up, teach them how to walk, talk, eat, the list goes on. Sex is the great destroyer to sound thinking. Let me also say this, are you listening? Good because this is a very crucial and important point – God is not trying to stop you from having great sex. He knows we are sexual and relational beings. He has set boundaries to protect us. God knows that once sex has been introduced into a relationship all hell breaks loose in the atmosphere and in the rational mind of primarily the female. He understands its dangers and the destruction sex brings into the lives of all parties, that is, sex, outside of marriage. If you are not willing to make the ultimate commitment, marriage, how dare we play at marriage, wanting all that comes with the marriage covenant; sex, money, children, a future. The old adage why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free, is still alive and well.
Back on point once you’ve observed you and your potential future mate will collectively agree that you want to be exclusive. Once that commitment is made you will have entered into the courting stage. Here you get the opportunity to probe deeper into what you learned during the observation/dating stage. You truly should get the opportunity to ensure that you both are evenly yoked. Evenly yoked is not limited to your faith. You should be as evenly yoked in all important areas such as finance, child rearing, health, family, friendships, careers, short and long term goals. So many times we get involved with someone and generally it’s all about the external persona of a person and we fail to dig through the layers of the people we think we want to get involved with. You want to see how this person handles anger, disappointments, and difficulties. This is important because if he or she is a hot head you know you’re travelling down a slippery slope of potential violence and unhealthy reactions that can not only harm you but also your children if not now in the future. Is their behavior healthy or unhealthy? Jealousy, controlling, irrational, manipulative, domineering?
So now we’ve identified the dating and the courting stages let’s take a magnifying glass and probe deeper into the character. If it is true that we are only ready to date when we’re not willing to accept anything less than the best that God has, then what exactly is the best?
Five Character traits to look for:
1. Must have a demonstrated, active relationship with Christ.
2. Must have a servant’s heart. Here you will see if the individual will lay down their rights and consider your wants and desires some of the time. (Can’t be greedy and want someone who will lay down their rights all the time, that’s effectively a doormat.)
3. Knows the word of God, if a man, can he lead you and the family in devotion, and provide spiritual leadership in your relationship. If a woman does she know the word and understand how to be that example to your children, if applicable, and possess an inner spirit that is absolutely irresistible.
4. Must be a provider, if a male. He is committed to by whatever means necessary (legally) to ensure that his family has adequate provisions? Now don’t get this wrong I am not insinuating that he should be paying your way while courting, you want to observe how he pays his bills, handles his finances, accepts the responsibilities of meeting all his household needs. If he has children from previous relationships does he provide for the children financially and emotionally? If a woman she must possess traits of restraint where finances are concerned. She should be equipped and prepared to ensure that the money that enters the home is spread around to pay all bills. She should be frugal steadily looking for ways to cut back and save for rainy days. How does she ensure that she meets her finances adequately?
5. Must accept and love you for who you are; no changes. This is not to say that there isn’t room for growth, it just shouldn’t be the condition for a future together. Neither should be trying to change, redefine, mold, or reprogram another to create the other into what you believe the ideal mate is. You must be prepared to stay the course, meaning if marriage comes about, then you marry this person with the realization that nothing may change and the question must be asked can you honestly live with this person just the way they are for the rest of your natural life, because that’s what marriage is until death do you part!
Now clearly you may have some things you want to add to your list sense of humor, athletic, etc. Just ensure that the basics are in place, the five above. The five will last you through your natural life the other traits added may subside with age.
So once again when are you ready to date? You got it—when you are not willing to settle for less than the very best that God has for you!!