I always say dating is meant to be fun, but we need to remember no one is always happy and easy to be around, and no one is perfect. So what does dating look like in the day to day and mundane bits of the relationship? It means deciding to love when it’s hard, and deciding to stick together when every change you want doesn’t happen. This is hard to remember after the ‘romantic rush’ dies down.
‘You need to realise that you can’t force a change in the person you’re with. If your relationship is based on a hope that they will change this “flaw” and that “imperfection” and that “thing I don’t like”, it just won’t work’.
This is what a friend said was one of the best bits of advice she got while dating. She mentioned it to me while I was thinking about this post. It reminded me that being compatible is as much to do with what you can ‘put up with’ in someone, as well as what you admire in them and are drawn to.
Yes, the aim is to be more loving over time, to be more sacrificial, and to serve each other more. But that doesn’t mean we will ever be perfect. That everything will change, or lots of things will change instantly.
That is why love needs to come alongside many decisions to stick with each other as you grow.
(The following extract is taken from page 131-132 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)
Love in Action
Compatibility matters, but on its own it’s not enough. It needs to be twinned with a clear-headed decision to grow in love with each other.
Deciding to be together, not sliding into something
You might think it sounds a bit odd to put the words ‘decision’ and ‘love’ in the same sentence. But the truth is that loving someone takes commitment and energy. It doesn’t just happen.
The relationships we aspire to tend to be defined by people deciding to be together, not sliding into something they hope will work out OK.
Steph And Charles
Steph was slightly bemused when Charles started showing an interest in her. They couldn’t have been more different. Right from the start of their relationship, they realised that this wasn’t going to be plain sailing, so they had to decide early on what they were going to consider essential in the compatibility stakes, and what they were going to let go of.
They found that their determination to understand and appreciate their differences deepened their love for each other.
Love is defined by God himself as this kind of self-giving gift (1 John 4:8–12). His whole being is a complete picture of true love. It’s who he is and what he does. God acts powerfully out of this love: he gave his Son because he loved the world so much (John 3:16).
In many ways, God and human beings are pretty incompatible!
God’s love is always enough. It’s our love that often falls short
We are sinners, self-interested mortals, whereas he is the holy, immortal giver of life. But he created us in his image to be in perfect relationship with him. So because of his great love for us, he crossed the divide caused by our rejection of him and brought us home to him.
God’s love is always enough. It’s our love that often falls short, which is why Peter encourages believers to commit themselves to seeing one another clearly with God’s eyes of love:
‘You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart (1 Peter 1:22 NLT).
Love Grows In A Healthy Relationship
If our relationship isn’t healthy, we shouldn’t hold on regardless
Our attitude to loving whoever we date should be defined by God’s love. None of us is a perfect ‘lover’! But God teaches us to love unconditionally – even when it might not feel good.
We need to handle this wisely because if our relationship isn’t healthy, we shouldn’t hold on regardless. Love isn’t blind!
But if we’re thinking of ending a relationship because we don’t feel as romantic as we once did, we need to check ourselves. Love isn’t a feeling. First and foremost it’s a decision. Imagine seeing the person you date as someone you could grow to love in this way.
It’s a love that is gentle, self-controlled, patient and faithful (1 Corinthians 13). It has to grow steadily over time, as you get to know each other. You don’t love-ambush someone on the first date!
And when choosing who to date, you’re still going to be looking for someone you are compatible with. That’s good sense. But you’re also going to be asking God to teach you how to grow in love.
Finding Vs Growing
Finding love is one thing. Growing in love is another. We need to decide to love and show patience and understanding every step of the way. It isn’t about making one decision at the start. We will all change because of the relationship, but trying to control it or demand it isn’t loving. (Read If A Relationship Doesn’t Change Me, It’s Not A Relationship)
Having said that, it must be stressed that both people in the relationship need to be gentle, patient, respectful, if only one person is then it isn’t healthy and it isn’t a relationship we should stay in. Staying in a toxic relationship is unwise, but trying to change every little thing about someone is unwise as well.
Grow together instead of demanding changes
Imagine if we reminded ourselves that no one is perfect, and no relationship is either. So we allowed ourselves to grow together instead of demanding changes; we decided to love every day and we decided to put each other first. (Read What I Wish I Had Been Taught About Love)
Does deciding to love in the little decisions get easier or harder over time, why? Comments welcomed below.