How to know what you want and need from dating
Many of us go dating in the dark, without a clear picture of what we want, need, deserve or can expect from a romantic relationship. We may be so intent on meeting someone that we override our intuition, ignore red flags and open our hearts to the first person who pays us any attention. When we experience the addictive ‘falling in love’ feeling, it’s easy to think the relationship is part of God’s plan for our lives. But is it?
I know this from experience. In my dating days, I blindly entered relationships, sometimes despite an uneasy feeling in my gut, and I have friends and clients who have done the same in the past.
The result? Often an unhealthy relationship that breaks down before it gets started or that lingers well beyond its sell-by date, bringing disappointment, heartache and pain.
If our dating needs and wants are not being met, if we’re not being heard or respected, if we’re being rushed or hurried or if we feel uneasy or on edge, I’d venture that God has a different plan for our romantic lives. He’s a good father, after all.
And what would a good father want for his child? What would any good parent want for their offspring? Perhaps you have an adult child who is dating or you know someone younger than you who is looking for love. As a parent, relative, guardian or caring person, what would you want for this person when they enter a romantic relationship?
I imagine that you would want the following:
- For them to be honoured and respected, emotionally, physically and spiritually.
- For them to feel safe and secure and to be able to move forward at their own pace.
- For them to feel heard and understood.
- For them to have sufficient confidence and self-worth to set healthy boundaries – for example, about the pace of physical intimacy or how long they stayed out on a date – and for those boundaries to be respected by the other person.
- For them to feel free to choose whether to see the person again or continue the relationship, rather than feel so besotted with someone that they lose the power of choice or feel pressured into being in a relationship that doesn’t feel right.
A parent would want these things for their son or daughter, sure in the knowledge they deserve to be treated in this way. You, as a parent, would want these things for your grown up child or a child you care about. God would want these things for His children.
Therefore, it’s only right that you should want these things for yourself – kindness, compassion, empathy and understanding; to be heard, seen, accepted and appreciated.
What else do you believe you deserve from a partner? What else do you believe you have the right to expect when you go dating?
You could jot down a few things you believe you deserve on a date or in a relationship right now. Keep it broad-brush. Then keep these words nearby and glance at them before you go to meet someone, as a reminder of what you can expect.
One important caveat: we’re not looking for perfection in our dates or partners. Nor do we show up with a list of specific characteristics and start ruling people out immediately if they don’t tick every single box – height, career, choice of clothes, family background and so forth.
This fault finding is often a sign that we’re afraid of intimacy and are looking for excuses to walk away. I’ve been there too.
But we do show up with a reasonable picture of what we deserve and can expect.
And we try to hold on to that picture, and hold on to ourselves, even when we’re tempted to disregard our own boundaries and lose ourselves completely in a new relationship.Because that happens, doesn’t it?
We have these intentions to respect ourselves and hold our boundaries in romantic relationships. And then we meet someone we find attractive and we turn to putty, forgetting all the promises we made to ourselves. Or rather it happens if we let it happen.
There are many things we can do to make sure we respect and honour ourselves and our wants and needs on dates and in relationships. As I suggested above, we can write a broad-brush list of our wants and needs.
We can also get support from others – friends, dating buddies, coaches or counsellors – so that we stay true to ourselves.
We can make sure we’re not dating with a craving – a deep need for love, affection and attention. We can do what we can to fill ourselves up from the inside and heal any wounds from our childhood relationships so that we can date with self-awareness and from a place of relative wholeness.
And we can stay close to God, pray, ask for His help, listen to His guidance.
Remember, you deserve to have wants and needs. This isn’t about being demanding, asking for the earth, being a diva or having rigid red lines.
This is about respecting, honouring and cherishing yourself and dating with healthy self-esteem. That’s what a good parent would want for you. That’s what God would want for you.
What are the best ways you’ve found to learn what you want and need from dating?
Enjoyed reading ‘How to know what you want and need from dating’? Read more Christian Connection posts by Katherine Baldwin here.