I remember the summer I started my first “official” dating relationship. I was 18 years old and I had just graduated high school. Most of my friends had girlfriends, so I figured I should have a girlfriend too. I met a girl through a friend and after hanging out with her for a couple of weeks, I asked her to be my girlfriend…It was a mess. In fact, the relationship only lasted two months.
But looking back in retrospect, I am not surprised at all. I had no real guidance or foundational principles to help me build a meaningful relationship. The relationship lacked trust, purity, boundaries, advice from others, and most importantly, it lacked God.
I’ve also seen many of my friends go from relationship to relationship, leaving a trail of hurtful wounds and broken hearts. But the good news is that this can be avoided by identifying unhealthy patterns and signs in the relationship. In doing so, you can take preventative measures sooner rather than later.
Now as a married man, I can look back on the past four years of dating my wife, and I have no regrets. Better yet, we have no regrets. Although our relationship wasn’t perfect (no relationship is), it was meaningful and fun. We kept God at the centre and we welcomed people into our lives for guidance and advice.
Before I share some signs and tips of a healthy dating relationship, first let’s look at some unhealthy signs to watch out for:
- Isolation: this is the Bonnie and Clyde couple, the “us against the world” mindset. It doesn’t work. We all need people in our lives for input and advice.
- Control: this is the couple where one or both people in the relationship feel imprisoned by each other.
- Emotional attachment: this type of couple can’t spend a minute apart. The relationship becomes idolatrous and the couple becomes emotionally dependent on each other.
- Impurity and sexual immorality: this couple has a lack of self-control physically. They either have weak boundaries or no boundaries altogether. Their lack of self-control and boundaries can eventually lead to sexual immorality.
- Lack of connection: This couple’s relationship is stale and maybe even uncomfortable. They don’t connect on a friendship level. There is a physical attraction, but they don’t really like each other.
Now that we’ve identified some unhealthy signs in a dating relationship, let’s look at some healthy ones:
1. It’s a God Centred Relationship
When God is at the centre of your relationship, you feel a sense of safety. There is no pressure to “make a move” when you are in the movie or in the car late at night. When both partners focus their relationship on pleasing God, they build a trust between each other. This trust has less to do with the other person’s trustworthiness and more to do with the couple’s mutual reverence for God and their hearts to please Him.
2. Other People are Involved in the Relationship
You need to involve other people in your life if you want to have a healthy and thriving dating relationship. People who know you and care about you can see things that you or your partner can’t see. That’s because they have an objective perspective of your relationship. Emotions have a way of blinding couples, especially when they are infatuated with each other.
Don’t seek advice from people who tell you only what you want to hear; rather, seek advice from wise friends and mature couples that can speak the truth in love while encouraging your relationship with helpful tips and insights from experience.
“Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.” – Proverbs 11:14
3. The Relationship has Healthy Boundaries
A lot of people don’t like to hear the word “boundaries” when it comes to anything, especially dating, but boundaries are necessary to ensure absolute purity in the relationship (1 Timothy 5:2). The idea of boundaries may seem restrictive, but they are really there to protect you and your partner from drifting down the road of emotional and physical impurity. However, boundaries will change over time as the relationship grows and evolves.
4. There is Friendship and Fun in the Relationship
Healthy couples take their relationship seriously, but not too seriously. Make sure to have lots of fun along the way. Prioritize time for each other. Go on many dates. Go on picnics. Go to plays. Paint together. Go biking. Build memories together and with your friends. The person you date is your potential spouse and there’s nothing better than marrying your best friend.
One of my mentors once told me: “One day your wife will get old and wrinkly. And she won’t look the same as she does today. All that’s going to matter is the friendship you’ve built with her.” In other words, physical beauty is important, but it fades with age. A friendship on the other hand, can stand the test of time.