I have to admit that I’m not a top dating tips expert. But, when I look back on my dating habits before getting married, I will admit that I have many regrets. Let me tell you a little more of my story and what I learned.
You see, I grew up in a Christian home. I learned that I should “save sex for marriage” and that I should “only date Christian guys.” However, what I was taught about dating was very limited and my main influences came from my friends and the media. I ended up adapting a self-centered approach to romance and dating early on.
My parents told me I wasn’t allowed to date until I was sixteen. For some reason, that tends to be the “magical age” when we are suddenly ready and mature enough to date. However, my sophomore year, a senior guy started pursuing me and I convinced my parents to allow me to start dating earlier… about 6 months before I turned sixteen.
I enjoyed the attention my boyfriend gave me. In a selfish way, I saw my relationship with him as a way to feel good about myself. He made me feel special, he listened to me and I felt loved by him. It felt good that he had chosen me over all the other girls in the school to be his girlfriend.
Because he had a car, dating him opened up a whole new world of independence for me. We spent a lot of time together that year. I remember one night early on in our relationship; he pressured me to have sex with him. I was very strong in my conviction that I would save sex for marriage and said, “No.”
He said he would respect that boundary… and he did keep his word. We never had sexual intercourse. However, even though we didn’t cross the line and have intercourse, we went very close to the edge, a place I have come to regret. I ended up breaking up with my boyfriend when he went away to college that next year, but he took a piece of my heart with him.
They say hind sight is “20/20.” Looking back on my dating experiences, I realize some of my life circumstances set the stage for me to see guys in a distorted way… in a selfish way, for what I could get out of the relationship.
Unlike some of you, I had a dad that was present in my life. He came to all my games and activities and was a good financial provider for our family. However, his job as the pastor of our church often took much of his time and emotional energy.
Even though he was a good provider in many ways, he didn’t connect with me on a deeper emotional level. He left that to my mom. He admits that he didn’t truly know how to express his feelings until I was an adult. So, in some ways, I left childhood feeling emotionally neglected by my dad. I knew he loved me, but deep down I still didn’t feel loved by him. Instead, I felt emptiness inside, a longing to be loved.
Then, just as I was getting interested in boys, a popular guy in our school used me for what he wanted sexually and then never talked to me again. I felt rejected and hurt. As an adult, I realize that he stole something very precious from me… my innocence.
Through this experience, my eyes were opened to realize the power I held as a female to influence guys. And I began to use this power to my advantage. I realized that I could gain guys’ attention by how I dressed and interacted with them. Even though I wasn’t having sex with these guys, I still knew how to allure them with my eyes, my smile and my body.
Some of my friends would joke with me in college that I knew how to “attract all the guys.” I now regret those years of self-centered relationships. I am ashamed to say that I “attracted the guys” because I had learned how to be a “flirt.” It was something I had control over and used to feel good about myself.
Isaiah 3:16 (AMP) explains it pretty well, “the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks and with undisciplined (flirtatious and alluring) eyes.”
Therefore, since I had this longing to be loved and knew how to attract a guy’s attention, I saw guys as one way to fill the emptiness I felt on the inside.
I wasn’t thinking of their best interests, but only mine. Just like many other girls, I played the games and broke many hearts.
Even after I committed my life to Christ, I still didn’t fully surrender this area of romance and dating to Him. Because of this, I carried some of those habits I had developed into my marriage. Not good! God finally got my attention after some really hard years and many mistakes, almost costing me my marriage.
I am thankful to say that Jesus rescued me from the path of destruction I was headed down. You see, I was living a self-centered life. Instead of allowing God to help me forgive those who hurt me, heal my past hurts, and fill me completely with His love, I was trying to do things my own way in this area of relating to guys.
I realized that I needed to surrender this area of my life and allow God to change my thoughts and my actions. God began to transform me and the way I interacted with guys. He began to convict me in many areas, including modesty and flirting, and began to change me from the inside out.
Instead of living for myself and what makes me feel good, I am now a new creation and am to live for Christ.
In 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 Paul writes, “For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
Jesus promises to fill me completely with His love. I don’t need to go searching for it in relationships with guys.
Ephesians 3:16-19 says, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he (Jesus) may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
The amplified version says to be “flooded with God Himself.”
How about you? Have you gotten caught up in this self-centered dating game? Our culture encourages a string of short term relationships… looking for intimacy without commitment. I know I got caught up in it.
What this teaches us is intimacy without commitment and sets us up to continue in this cycle even after we’re married. We learn how to have one short term relationship after another while dating. Therefore, when things get tough in marriage, we may be more willing to settle for divorce instead of staying committed to our spouse, “for better or worse.”
When we have a relationship with God, then we will desire to please Him in all areas of our lives, including this area of dating and relationships. What is God’s standard?
His standard for us is intimacy within a committed relationship called marriage.
As Joshua Harris says in his book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye,
“An intimate relationship is a beautiful experience that God wants us to enjoy. After all, He stated that it wasn’t good for man to be alone and created the woman to perfectly complement him and help him (Genesis 2:18). But God has made the fulfillment of intimacy a by-product of commitment based love. If we want to experience the goodness of His plan, we need to reconnect the pursuit of intimacy with the pursuit of commitment. This is what I call the Little Relationship Principle: The joy of intimacy is the reward of commitment.”
This might sound radical to you, but I want to encourage you to consider avoiding romantic, one-on-one relationships until marriage. Not that you won’t have any opposite sex relationships, but appropriate friendships with guys. Not giving too much of your heart or asking for their exclusive affections unless you are ready to consider marriage. Some might call this courtship.
Otherwise, like I did, it’s easy to take your focus off of God and use that guy to meet your short term needs…not thinking about the long term effects for both of you!
Imagine actually loving the guy friends in your life, not with the selfish kind of love so often demonstrated in dating, but with the kind of love God encourages. True Love.
I Corinthians 13:4-8 tells us about this kind of true love. It’s not just the passionate kiss or embrace, but demonstrated in self-control, patience, etc.
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Before you are married, you have a gift… the “gift of singleness.” It’s a gift of time. This is the one season in your life that you have more extra time than any other.
How will you choose to spend your gift of time? Will you invest all of it into boys and dating or will you choose to honor God with your time and devote this season of your life to Him? Or will you get distracted and dedicate most of your time to a guy, who statistics say you will probably not marry if you are in high school?
Looking back at my high school years, I spent a lot of my time on things that don’t really matter today. And a huge chunk of my time and energy went into my boyfriends. I have asked God for forgiveness and He has forgiven me, but I can never get that time back.
Instead of being immersed in boyfriends, you could spend time developing relationships with your family and your girlfriends. Maybe there is someone that needs your support or encouragement. Or maybe you could begin using the gifts and abilities God has given you in a ministry. You could volunteer in a ministry already established, or start one of your own under the direction of trusted adults. I know some teens that have written books that have influenced their generations. God could be leading you into many different directions. All you need to do is surrender your time and then listen to where He leads you.
Instead of worrying about when you’ll get a boyfriend or when you’ll get married, start enjoying your “Gift of Singleness!!”
Stop and take a moment right now to pray about this area of dating and romance. If you are willing, surrender to God any current and future relationships as well as your future husband. Ask God for wisdom on how to proceed. Write down your prayer or any thoughts you have in your journal. Are you ready to “Kiss Dating Good-bye?”
Shelley has a heart for teen girls that began from her own journey of finding her true beauty in Christ. She is currently serving God by helping other Christians learn to let their light shine.
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