One of the best lessons I’ve learned about healthy dating is to SLOW DOWN.
There’s no need to rush.
Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? How the hare bragged about how fast he was and how he was gonna win the race, but the slow-and-steady tortoise was the one who did?
It’s okay to be the tortoise in relationships, even if the world is telling you to be more like the hare.
It’s okay to take it slow and truly get to know a person to see if he or she is a good match for us, a healthy match for us, God’s BEST for us.
While yes, I do believe we can meet someone and have an inner feeling or peace that they are the one God has chosen for us, God still directs us to use our minds, even in loving HIM, the creator of the universe.
Luke 10:27 (NIV) tells us to “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…”
So why wouldn’t He want us to use our brains to love each other as well?
He has given us brains for a reason.
But oh, it can be REALLY DIFFICULT to use our brains when we have a mad crush on someone. But we can do it!!! I know we can. And it’s worth it!!!
What does it mean to slow down?
In short, it means being INTENTIONAL with dating. This is the steady part of the tortoise-and-the-hare story. The tortoise was slow but also steady—he kept moving at a consistent, even pace until he reached the finish line.
In dating, slow and steady means not rushing the process, moving at the pace that God leads and one that is right for you and your partner.
Taking things slow and steady with dating has the following benefits. I’m sure you could think of more.
Benefits to Dating Like the Tortoise
- It gives you time to really get to know a person.
- It helps you think beyond your hormones and make healthier choices.
- It helps you determine whether this person is truly a good fit for you. If you determine he or she isn’t, there’s less heartbreak.
- It helps you reap the benefits of dating that go beyond finding your mate—like learning about yourself, building up others, and growing in character (see my post “Dating Is Not Un-Christian”).
- It can help you learn to honor another, ultimately preparing you for marriage, which is a lifetime of sacrificial love and character building.
Practical Tips for Dating with Intention
- Invite God into your love life, and pray continually. Ask Him to give you discernment. Ask Him to help you avoid temptation. Ask Him to direct your love life and to open and close the right doors. When you invite Him in, He will guide. I have seen Him close door after door in my dating life, and while I may have thrown a temper tantrum at the time, with each one, I later understood why.
- Pray before each date. This is the pray-continually portion. It always puts you into a good frame of mind. It’s like putting on the full armor of God, dating style (but you still get to wear those cute heels or Vans)!
- Pray with your date, that the two of you would honor God and each other. Some dating authors advise against praying together, believing it creates unhealthy ties early in. I believe, however, that a simple prayer prayed at the start of a date or before a meal, asking God to help you both honor Him and each other, is a great way to focus your hearts and minds on dating with respect and intention.
- Ask others you trust to keep you accountable. Having an accountability partner or two to pray you through the process and to talk with after dates is a great way to stay on the healthy path. I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been to have a friend who won’t judge me when I’m struggling, a person who will help me see through the waves of emotion or pain or anger or hormones to make the next right choice and stay clear-headed. (If you want to learn more about accountability partners, read my post #1 Dating Tip: Get an Accountability Partner.)
- Know your nonnegotiables, and don’t compromise. Write out a list of traits that you won’t compromise on. We’re talking things like honesty and loyalty, not brown hair and blue eyes (though it’s okay to put them on your list!). Just saying: priorities. If you’re unsure whether you’re being too harsh or stepping into fear, call your accountability partner or talk to trusted friends to gather wisdom. Friends who truly love you will tell you what they think, especially when you give them permission and don’t jump down their throat when they do.
- Don’t just do things alone; invite community into your relationship. Invite your date out with friends, family, and church. Serve together. It’s amazing the things you’ll learn about a person in different settings, and you’ll get the input of people you trust.
- Don’t feel you have to rush things because others are. But don’t be afraid to ask for clarity. Wait until you feel right with a first kiss or defining your relationship or saying “I love you.” Every couple moves at its own pace. But don’t be afraid to ask for clarity when you need it. A person who is ready for a healthy relationship will not be afraid of words like “dating.” If they are, they’re not ready. I’ll never forget how refreshing it was when a former date said to me, “Let’s go on three dates. If we decide we want to pursue things further, we’ll continue. If we don’t, there’s nothing lost, and we can remain friends.”
- Ask questions! Ask each other the important questions in addition to the fun ones. I’d advise making a list of questions so you can get to know things about your date/future potential partner that you really want and need to know. This doesn’t mean you have to talk about kids and marriage on the first date—remember, pace—but don’t be afraid to talk about things that really matter. And you can ask your important questions in such a way that they’re general and fun. Say, for example, someone walks by with a train of kiddos. If your dream is to have a large family someday, you could comment on the person’s kiddos and see what response you get. Something like, “Can you imagine having that many kids?…”
It takes time to get to know a person and whether they are a good long-term fit for you. And even if you believe God is showing you someone is your person (or “your penguin,” as my friend Shirley says), He still wants us to use our brains. Even as Christians who hear from God, sometimes we can fall into a signs mentality.
- Oh my gosh, he played my future marriage song, and no one else knows it!!! He is THE ONE.
- Oh my gosh, I just saw a falling star on our first date, and I asked for a sign. He is THE ONE.
- Oh my gosh, I met him on the day I threw out all the remnants of my last yucky relationship. What if he’s THE ONE?
- Oh my gosh, she loves [insert weird thing that only you thought you liked]. She must be THE ONE.
- Insert your own “THE ONE” story:___________. I know you have one! Or two. Or three. Not judging!
As someone who in her thirty-something years has had MANY “he-is-the-one” signs, I have learned to not trust them as the sole indicator of whether a man is sent from God. Now I do believe God can speak in supernatural ways, no doubt, but I have more so come to trust His confirmations and reassurances more than supernatural signs. And I ALWAYS couple the seemingly supernatural with my brain and take it to God in prayer.
Be a tortoise in today’s Instagram selfie; friends with benefits; Facebook relationship status change; drive-through Venti caramel macchiato with extra espresso; Taylor Swift has a new breakup song (surprise!) world. Honor yourself. Honor your date. Honor the God of the universe who has a beautiful and best plan for your life. Take dating at a step-by-step, slow-and-steady pace, and watch yourself grow and mature along your way to the finish line (a beautiful, healthy relationship).
Try to be patient with the process. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
Have a wonderful week! I love you and pray for you all.
P.S. I like Starbucks and some of Taylor Swift’s music. No judgment. ; )
[…] Part of why I feel God wanted me to go on this dating journey is to discover what “I” want, to slow down and reflect and learn the things that “I” want in a relationship, that are healthy for “me.” Yes, Christ should be at the center, but marriage is your […]
I am impressed with the wisdom and sound judgement that this blog reflects. Thank you for sharing your good ideas. I’m so proud of you, girl!
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Thanks so much, dear friend! ❤ Each Sunday—writing day!—I ask God to lay on my heart what He’d have me to write. I truly try to honor Him in this. Thank you for reading and commenting. 🙂
You have some really smart tips. While I can see both sides of number 3 (pray together), 4 and 5 are crucial. Two non-negotiables I finally paid attention to were, He has to treat me with respect, and, I need to feel comfortable with him. Number 8 is good too. When my husband and I were dating (for the second time) he told me, “No questions are off the table.” What a relief!
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Thanks for reading, JoAnne! Those are great nonnegotiables. What do you mean by comfortable? Just curious. 🙂 For me, I give a little wiggle room with comfort at the beginning because I can get so nervous it takes me time to settle in and be fully myself. This is a personal struggle for me as I have a bit of anxiety in not only dating but also social interaction. But that said, I do pay attention and ask myself questions throughout such as, “Am I being myself?” “Why am I feeling nervous? Is it just nerves, or is it something else?” I try to use my head when dating, too. Since I struggle a bit with nerves, not rushing the dating process has been even more important. And guys like to win us over/pursue, so maybe it’s not a bad thing. Hehe. P.S. I loved that part of your memoir—the “no-questions-off-the-table” part. It honestly inspired me.