6 Dos and Don'ts of Dating

6 Dos and Don'ts of Dating

by Patrick Li-Barbour

"Is it okay that my girlfriend doesn't follow Jesus now that I do? ...Or do I have to break up with her?"

"What should I look for in a boyfriend?"

"I like my Bible-study leader...can I ask her out?"

If you're like most new Christians in college, you're probably wondering how your new relationship with Jesus affects your dating life. Whether you already have a significant other or you'd like to have one, it's not wrong to have dating be a top concern. It was for me too.

When I first started dating after accepting Christ, it was helpful to hear from Christians who'd been dating or married longer than me. Here are six pointers I learned from them that I believe will be helpful for you too:

DO: Develop Strong Same-Sex Friendships First

This does not seem to directly address dating, but hear me out.

My problem as a new Christian was that I had too many female friends. When I would confide in them, I didn’t realize that one—if not both—of us was growing closer emotionally. When I worked at building strong male friendships instead, I found I was able to talk about things I couldn't (or it wasn't appropriate to) discuss with my female friends. My male friends were also able to share perspectives that applied to who I was as a young man.

If you don’t currently have strong same-sex friendships, start investing in some people around you. A great place to start is with roommates or people in your fellowship. You need to have strong friendships with the same gender, people in whom you can confide, who can help you process life, and who can provide strong accountability when you are dating someone.

DO: Find a Mentor

As a new Christian, one of the best things you can do is find a mentor—and not just for dating advice. (It bears repeating that this should be someone of the same gender.)

It's not that someone of the opposite sex can’t or shouldn’t speak into your life, but the fact remains that men understand men and women understand women better than cross-gender relationships. We all need a person in our life who is older, wiser, and has navigated a lot of the same temptations. This person should be someone who is passionate about Jesus and living a Christ-centered life. A mentor does not have to be someone who is married; someone who has lived out their singleness and dating relationships with integrity will have wisdom to share too.

Don't wait for someone to find you and ask if they can speak into your life. You need to seek out a mentor. Keep your eyes and ears open for a Christian you look up to and respect, and then ask them if they'd be interested in meeting periodically to talk and pray.

DO: Date Jesus 

In the course of following Jesus, you will likely hear a pastor or another Christian use the phrase “maybe God is calling you to singleness.” While this may end up being true for some people, it’s not an encouraging saying. Instead of telling you that you may never date anyone, I’d prefer to tell you to “date” Jesus, whether you end up with a significant other or not.

When you're dating or married to someone, there is excitement to learn more about them and spend quality time with them. It's the same with Jesus. He's supposed to be the most important person in your life (in fact, he commands us to give him our whole selves), so think of dating Jesus as refocusing the energy and attention you'd spend on a significant other onto him.

As a side benefit, there is nothing more attractive than a person who loves Jesus more than they will ever love another person. For example, when I see my wife journaling or taking time out of her day to spend time with Jesus, it encourages me to do the same.

DON'T: Date Just for Fun

Please do not go on dates just for the thrill of it or to because it feels like "everyone else" is dating someone. The practice you get by dating is to help you prepare for the person with whom you could possibly spend the rest of your life...it may not be the person you have a crush on or are dating now.

Intentionally keep both your heart and theirs in mind, because the longer you date someone, the more you have invested and the more difficult it is to go separate ways if dating each another doesn't work out.

DON'T: Flirt to Convert

“Missionary dating” can be appealing. Some Christians hope that if they date someone who is not a Christian, they will eventually be able to convince the other person to follow Jesus. Not only does that not typically work out as desired, but it can lead the Christian into questionable moral ground. You may think you'll be the stronger influence on them, but you'll be influenced by them as well. Sex is one obvious area where this comes into play, but your other values could be negatively influenced as well. 

Not only is the Bible straightforward that the person you date should be a Christian (2 Corinthians 6:14), but from a practical standpoint, relationships are enough work already without adding one person witnessing to the other. Instead, look for someone who already values the importance of prayer and Bible study. Look for someone whose own relationship with Jesus is growing and who will encourage you into a deeper relationship with Jesus.

DO: Run at the Same Pace

Even when two Christians date, it's important they be compatible in their beliefs. A mentor once told me that it is often not the obvious things that make dating tough, but that smaller convictions people have within the body of Christ can cause tension later.

For example, though you both may be following Jesus, you might differ about which church denomination you want to attend. You may prefer a more subdued service with quiet hymns while your significant other would rather attend a church with loud music and people dancing in the aisles. One of you is not right and the other wrong, it's just a preference that would be helpful to agree upon when considering where your potential family may spend its Sundays.

There are also theological issues like gender roles in ministry. If you support women being in every role of leadership within the church, but the person you are dating doesn’t, it could lead to conflict later.

Neither of these examples are essential to what makes someone a Christian or not, but they are important. Take time to discover and decide what some of your theological viewpoints may be.

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Dating is not something where you bat a thousand. Sometimes it won't go smoothly. These tips won’t guarantee you a flawless dating life, but if you take particularly the third one seriously, Christ will guide you through the tough times, and hopefully someday you'll hit the home run of finding the person God has for you to marry.