Over the last couple of years I've heard and read a lot about different perspectives on the benefits/detriments to dating. Recently I've been thinking about how my opinion on such matters has changed since Brandon and I got engaged - and many of the retrospective pieces of advice are much more understandable.
From an early age I remember being overly concerned about getting married and having a family. I longed to be a wife and mother and I was scared of the possibility of that never happening. As a result I started seeking and desiring a relationship strongly, especially as I entered high school. I think really, I was looking for confirmation that I was someone who a man could want, that I had that wife potential. I was incredibly insecure about who I was and my worth. Throughout this period in my life I should mention that my parents were incredibly supportive and encouraging. However, I was thinking the other day that I wish during that time someone had encouraged me to put more energy towards my relationship with God rather than striving for a boyfriend. I was so focused on validating my worth through earthly relationships that I wasn't fully giving my heart to God and fully devoting myself to him.
Senior year of High School - 2006
The reality is that at that time I was no where near ready for marriage and consequently shouldn't even have considered entering a dating relationship. BUT, my parents and one of my brothers/SIL met each other in high school - so it was always a possibility in my mind that I should be keeping my eyes open.
"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us."
Enter my college years. My attitude didn't really change during my early college years. I attended a small Christian college and there were frequent discussions about this being the perfect time to meet your future spouse and how much your chances would diminish after college (inferring that it would be unlikely that you would be in a place with so many other Christian singles at the same time). My freshman year of college I had my first boyfriend - a guy I actually had known several years earlier. In reality, I was much more enamored with the idea of having an official boyfriend than I was with the guy himself! I gave him my first kiss.
Junior year of college brought more challenges. At this point I lived in a house with 4 other girls - 2 who were engaged, one who was "pearled" (pre-engagement) and the fourth who had a serious boyfriend. It was a long, hard year, during which I often felt very lonely and angry. However, I should mention that this was also a time of significant spiritual growth for me - I was growing closer to God and fully believed I was focused on putting him first in my life.
Junior year of college with my housemates
Then came senior year and another man entered my life. Those of you who have read my blog for awhile know about Justin - a man who was a critical part of my life for nearly 3 years. For a long time I convinced myself that he was the one God had planned for me. But please notice those words....I convinced myself. I gave him my first "I love you."
"Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose."
It was only after things ended with Justin and I that I really realized my problem. I was still coveting marriage. I was still putting my desire for marriage before my desire to commit myself fully to the Lord - to accept whatever plan he had for my life, whether that was to serve him as a single, or as a wife. I needed to say no to marriage and yes to God before his plan was revealed.
Honestly, I still don't know what I think about dating. I don't think there is anything wrong with it - although I do believe that one shouldn't consider dating another unless they are in a position where they are ready to get married. Why? Because the reality is, as cliche as it may sound, I did give parts of my heart away to men other than my future husband. Mind you, I have saved alot for Brandon :) but I still wish he could have it all. For me, one of the hardest things was separating myself from a man and a family who I had grown incredibly close to.
But yet I still can't say that I am fully against dating. Both Brandon and I dated other people before we met each other and were both very aware of what we were looking for in a spouse. For us, key factors were faith, communication, and the importance of relationships. I know many people tend to make the argument that dating and breaking up is like practicing for divorce. While I can see their point, especially in today's society where teens and pre-teens are "dating" and moving on at such a young age, I still see a benefit in getting to know a person and ensuring where their priorities lie before making a marriage commitment - however I think you can do that without getting involved with a lot of the baggage that is typically associated with dating.
When Brandon and I started dating we were very cautious. Our first conversation included a long discussion about how if we entered into a relationship it was with the intentional end goal of getting married. We both spent time in prayer and talking to others before we talked to each other. We set strict physical boundaries for ourselves and waited to say "I love you" until we were engaged.
Last month with Brandon, my fiance
At the end of the day, I don't regret my past relationships - but I can't deny the hurt and sadness that has come with them.
"The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him"