No one can outline a simple, one size fits all approach to dating. We all have different dating histories, hopes, personalities, baggage and unique stories. I always try to give principles over rules that we can then apply to our own contexts. I was recently confronted with a story that reminded me why this is so important. 

So there I was, lights in my eyes, sitting on stage, bracing myself for the questions, wondering why I had agreed to be on a Q&A panel.

It’s not that I don’t like them per se. I really do think it’s important people get to ask questions and learn by chatting together, rather than just being preached at. But you just never know what the others on the panel are going to say, and vice versa.

Often people have such different points of view, that trying to delve deep into a subject with a 30-second answer, then getting someone else saying something that sounds totally contradictory, can leave everyone more confused.

I’m always a bit wary and worried about what may happen.

Surprising Question  

Nevertheless, my fellow panelist and I were getting into the swing of it. I had answered a few questions so thought it’s best to sit the next one out. I don’t think people just want to hear from one person, and it’s important to respect other members of the panel and let everyone answer.

Why would you start a relationship by not spending time together?

The next question came in: ‘After you agree to start dating someone, should you not see each other for a week or so in the beginning?’

Now, this really confused me. Why would you start a relationship by not spending time together? I found the question quite odd and it seemed counterintuitive.

Surprising Answer

Yet my fellow panelist proceeded to say that this is what he did. He and his then girlfriend, now his wife, spent two weeks apart at the start of their relationship.

I thought, ‘What?!’

He made it clear that they became a couple and then didn’t really talk for two weeks. Instead, they went away, thought about it, prayed about it, clarified their intentions and expectations.

To me this sounded odd, and very different to what I would suggest. If you’re at the point where you want to start a relationship, then start that relationship. It seems strange to put it on hold.  However, having thought about it, I realised that really, it’s a principle I always talk about that’s just being applied a bit differently.

Not one model

I always say being active is important. We can’t just drift. (Read Stories From The Dating Scene: An Exciting Start, Then We Drifted.) We need to be intentional and think about the relationship decision we’re making.

I say that being intentional, thinking it through and praying, is all part of being active. And all of this should come before you go out, then you make the active decision to commit to each other and to the relationship. However, my fellow panelist and his girlfriend simply did it in a different order.

They applied the principle in a way that worked for their situation

They said they liked each other and started going out, then decided to go and pray individually, think it through, get some perspective, etc. He didn’t go into why he did it this way round, but different doesn’t mean wrong, because there is no one-size-fits-all model.

What clearly came across is that in his mind, he didn’t want to hurt her. He wanted her to be as sure as she could about the relationship, and he wanted to seriously think about how he was going to approach it. How he was going to make it Christ-centered

They applied the principle in a way that worked for their situation.

Different Reasons

Because of how we’ve been hurt in the past, because of our personalities and imperfection, a principle applied in a certain way by one person, will look different for another person.

Application in our individual contexts will vary. Perfect seven step plans do not work.

It reminded me again, why having the conversation is so important. Having a rigid system, that everyone needs to follow, doesn’t work. Even though leaving people with absolutely no guidance is just as bad, so discussing the application is key.

Which is why I did actually really enjoy doing this Q and A in the end. (Read One Great Dating Tip From Ruth and Boaz. Really?)

Imagine If…

Imagine if we realised people want help, they want guidance, but we are all different too. Application in our individual contexts will vary. Perfect seven step plans do not work.

We need to get away from the ‘rigid system’, and help each other not only discover good principles instead of bad ones, but also, how we can apply them in a way to make our relationship thrive in our situation. (Read Who Else Wants Great Relationships? Why Dating Well Still Matters)

Do you think principles are better than a ‘seven-step plan’? Comments welcomed below.