When it comes to the topic of dating, there are many opinions on how to do it “right” (just search ‘dating’ on the internet and you’ll see clearly). Nonetheless, I’ve decided to add to that growing list because dating continues to be an area of extreme importance in our society. There is a saying that comes to mind: “if you want to know the ending, look at the beginning.”
In the case of intimate relationships, this saying is often true, as many times marriages and relationships end because of decisions made in the earlier phase of the relationship. While there are still cultures in the world that arrange marriages, obviously the norm in ours is for people to meet and decide themselves whether they will marry. Unfortunately, most of us did not have much help related to dating. Most of what we learned was by trial and error. However, there actually are principles that we can follow to help increase the likelihood of not only more positive dating experiences, but also can lead to more successful marriages.
Here are a few healthy dating principles:
- Understand that an important goal of the first date is to determine if there should be another one (S. Arterburn). In other words, don’t move too fast into thinking and talking about marriage, for example; focus more on enjoying the date and learning about the person.
- While physical attraction has a role, learning about the inner person is the most important goal. There should not be more focus on outward appearance than getting to know the person inwardly.
- It might seem old-fashioned, but it really is best to not be physically intimate early in a dating relationship. Besides the issues of respect and morality, once physical intimacy begins; we tend to focus much less on getting to know the real person. Often people later have regrets that they “let things move too fast” before really getting to know each other.
- If one senses “red flags” or areas of concern, it doesn’t necessarily mean doom, but it does mean these areas should be explored. It’s also a good idea to discuss the topic with a close confidant for a different perspective.
The most important principle for healthy dating is to be a healthy person. Whenever we have wounds (or losses) from our past that have not healed, the possibility of making unwise decisions or getting into unhealthy relationship patterns increases. It is very helpful in these cases to seek out a therapist.
These are some principles for healthy dating. I will deal with more, including some specifics related to evaluating character and dating when one or the other person has children, in part 2 of this topic.