I always say that dating isn’t marriage, but dating should still involve commitment and intentionality. We all want to be with someone we can trust and build something worth having. Our dating dynamics should foster enjoyment, trust, and commitment, to give the relationship the best chance. Which means: Don’t Look Twice; Stop Filling Our Heads; Watch The Flirting.
I always say to people that as we date, we should be focusing on the person in front of us. Fostering commitment, even though dating won’t necessarily end in marriage, is important for thriving relationships.
I say this because building trust and commitment at the start gives it the best chance of developing into the relationship we crave. Namely, being with someone who we can trust, be vulnerable with, and who will be faithful.
But what does fostering commitment look like practically?
Even if the dating relationship does end with a break-up, one which has been built on honesty and faithfulness means we can foster good relationship skills and hopefully find it easier to move forwards. This is because we weren’t cheated on or vice versa, and acted with integrity and tried to build it in the right way. (Read What Do You Do If You’re The One Who Got Dumped?)
But what does fostering commitment look like practically?
(The following extract is taken from page 118-120 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free here)
Looking At Your Boy/Girl, Only
So you’ve found someone, you’re growing together slowly, but you have this niggling suspicion that there might be someone better for you out there. But wait a minute, we wouldn’t want our girl/boyfriend to be waiting for someone better than us to come along, would we? If that’s not how we want to be seen, why do we allow ourselves to do it to others?
Being faithful is more than physical stuff
Everyone would accept that, if we went and kissed someone else, it would be cheating. But being faithful is more than physical stuff. Dating deeper challenges us to let our faithfulness run deep, affecting what we think as well as how we act.
I think I would feel more hurt and more betrayed if I found out that my future husband was having meaningful conversations and sharing secrets with another woman than if he had slept with someone else.
What Is Cheating?
So what do you think about flirting or having deep and meaningful chats with someone of the opposite sex? Is it OK to look but not touch? Even if it is ‘innocent’, this kind of behaviour might still make our boy/girlfriend feel inadequate.
Deciding whether or not we should do something isn’t just about what we feel happy with; it’s also about the impact it has on the person we love and would do anything for. God wants relationships to be marked with selflessness.
It can be difficult to stop our wandering eyes. For us lads, it can sometimes feel like we are hardwired to look at as many girls as possible. With our culture’s focus on sex, more and more girls are struggling as well.
So how do we avoid doing this when for most of us it will be a constant battle? For me (André), lust is always something I’m battling against. We all need God’s grace.
There are three things we can do.
1. Don’t Look Twice
First, remember we always have a choice. If we’re walking down the street and see a gorgeous man/woman and are attracted to them, that’s OK; it’s a natural reaction. However, if we keep looking, or look away and look back again, then we’re feeding the lust and it will grow.
The first look is a reaction; the second look is a choice
If you want to conquer your lust, don’t fuel it by feeding it. Kill it by starving it! The first look is a reaction; the second look is a choice. Dating someone doesn’t mean we won’t be attracted to anyone else, but dating someone well means choosing to starve our appetite for what we can’t have.
2. Stop Filling Our Heads
Remember, our will-power is not enough on its own. We need God’s Spirit
Secondly, we need to stop filling our heads with pictures of sex. Carrying porn – pictures or videos – around on our phones won’t help (See the Naked Truth website for more help on this). Listening to music with sexually explicit lyrics and engaging in sexual banter with friends makes unfaithfulness seem normal, and will cause us to be constantly distracted by sex and to read overtly sexual messages into situations.
Remember, our will-power is not enough on its own. We need God’s Spirit, which is readily available. Right here, right now.
3. Watch The Flirting
Flirting is another pitfall, because it can so easily be misunderstood. We probably all need to be challenged about this from time to time. Only having eyes for the person we’re dating also means having our ears open to what they’re saying!
Sometimes they may overreact, but we need to be sensitive and humble. We might not think that a meaningful conversation with someone late at night is flirting, but it may look like it to the person we’re dating. We need to balance the intimacy that we foster with other people so that it’s not a threat to our relationship. (Read Should I Be The Source Of All The Romance?)
True happiness . . . is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose
Seeing faithfulness in this broad way might be new to some of us. But whether or not we’ve considered it in that way before, it’s still a huge challenge. We probably all know of relationships that have ended because there was physical unfaithfulness. But how many have ended because someone was tempted to look elsewhere?
True happiness . . . is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
Don’t Look Twice. Stop Filling Our Heads. Watch The Flirting
Relationships that have commitment and faithfulness from the start will have a better chance to thrive. Sometimes it won’t work out despite doing these things, and we need to be honest about that (Read Dating Someone? Commitment Assumptions Can Cause Cracks). But it isn’t about knowing if you will be together forever after one date, but putting in place the best principles from the beginning to give it the best chance.
Don’t Look Twice. Stop Filling Our Heads. Watch The Flirting.
Imagine if this week we decided to improve our faithfulness by doing one of these things, no matter what our relationship status is.
How important do you think commitment is in dating? Comments welcome below.