Am I ready for a real relationship? How do I turn down someone I’m just not interested in? Do we have to publicize it online? It’s easy to lose sleep over the multitude of nagging questions that arise in the pursuit of romance. The answer may not always be obvious, but love is worth the time and intention it takes to get it right. Here are 10 tips to creating healthy dating relationships:
Finding a new love and ditching your friends is the biggest mistake people make. It’s so easy at the beginning of a relationship to get lost in the giddy infatuation you’re both feeling. However, making time for both your romance and your friendships is vital to maintaining balance, happiness and healthiness. Keeping friendships a priority in your life will help maintain your sense of self and identity. Too often, people lose themselves in relationships. Your new love doesn’t necessarily have to like all your friends, but if they love you, they’ll respect that you need time for both friends and love in your life.
Put Faith First
This is a tough one. Some might think: “We get along, have fun together, are attracted to one another …religion won’t be a big deal. Right?” The thing is, the whole point of believing in something is that it should be a big deal in our lives. It should impact our morals, lifestyle and everyday choices.
Think about some of the issues a dating relationship between people of different faiths would create, and work through what your answers to these tough questions would be: What are our respective moral beliefs? Can we agree about cheating, modesty, lying, gender roles, etc.? Do our faiths cause us to have opposing lifestyles?
Decide When to Start Dating
Some people try to come up with guidelines for what dating looks like. While each relationship will be unique, it’s worthwhile to have a specific set of conversations before starting to date.
Have you both talked to God? When we look to God for guidance and confirmation, He will provide it—given time and patience.
Have you talked to others? God has put friends, parents and others in our lives to provide insight and wisdom. They might see a positive or negative about your potential relationship that you don’t see. Having the blessing and support of those closest to you will help strengthen your relationship.
Have you talked to him/her? Maybe that sounds a little obvious, but it’s important. If you aren’t on the same page about what you’re both looking for, there will be hurt feelings and issues to work through pretty quickly.
Have you talked to yourself? Love requires sacrifice and unselfishness. It’s OK to feel like you might not be able to give to anyone right now. It’s also OK to feel like you’re mature and ready. Either way, take some time and self-reflect before dating someone.
Discern the Purpose of Your Relationship
We can often overlook the purpose of dating as feelings of love and excitement overtake our senses. However, it’s important to pause and clarify the expectations both people have about this new relationship.
For some, the purpose of dating is about finding a spouse and seeing how compatible you are for marriage. For others, dating is more about a social status, wanting to have a close friend of the opposite sex or not wanting to be alone. Understanding what each of you want out of the relationship will create a healthy and united place for love to grow.
Figure Out When to Update Your “Status”
So, when does one update a Facebook status from “Single” to “In a Relationship” or vice versa? Broadcasting the state of your relationship on social networking sites is a relatively new phenomenon, and because of that there aren’t really any accepted rules or guidelines. The easiest way to deal with this is to change your status when both people agree to do so. That means you talk about it and agree to be “In a Relationship” or “Single”—or you can remove your “status” altogether.
If you post your romantic life online, be prepared for both positive and negative outcomes. Not everyone will be mature, and it’ll sting if you happen to be dumped and the entire Facebook world knows. So think it through. Privacy has its merits.
Let Them Down Easy
Most of us know how to say yes when someone we like asks us out. But what if the person who wants to be more than friends is someone you don’t really want to date?
The thing to always remember is kindness. It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability to put yourself out there. So don’t lie, laugh in their face, blow them off or give out fake numbers and fake encouragement.
Honesty and kindness are always best. If you don’t find the person attractive, simply say, “Thanks, that’s really flattering, but I’m going to have to say no.” Telling the truth, and saying it in a sensitive way, will help the other person realistically deal with the fact that you’re not interested.
Maintain a Long-Distance Love
In order to keep a faraway romance strong, there needs to be an equal level of commitment from both of you. Also, consistent communication via the phone or video chat is important as it allows you to connect verbally and visually and creates shared times together. Handling long-distance relationships takes a special amount of endurance and effort. Each couple will be unique in making this difficult situation work, and should not feel guilty if it turns out to be too hard to maintain.
It can definitely be a mistake to rush into a relationship. Sometimes a fling happens as a response to freedom—you’re living in a new place, and there are no friends or family to check in on your love life. Maybe it’s a response to boredom, and you’re looking for something new or exciting. Other times, there can be anxiety about getting involved with someone before they’re all “taken.”
Whatever the case may be, it’s better to be slow and cautious when considering a relationship. There will be plenty of dating opportunities throughout your life, and it might save a broken heart or two to gradually ease into a dating relationship when you’re ready.
Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
Don’t break up just because of conflict. Disagreements, tension and fights are normal as you become close with someone. If it gets hard, try working through your problems and/or seeing an on-campus counselor to help mediate. (Physical, verbal, mental or emotional abuse should never be tolerated. If you experience any type of abuse, get away from the person and seek help from a trusted adult/counselor immediately.)
Work through the questions listed in “Decide When to Start Dating.” They can all be applied to breaking up as well.
Always break up face to face. Facebook, Twitter, emailing and texting are not the right ways to end things. Everybody deserves the respect and time it takes to resolve things in person.
Balance Life and Love
Your relationship should contribute to a well-rounded life, not distract you from your work, faith, leisure or dreams. It’s vital to learn how to prioritize. It’s perfectly fine to spend time with them, but you need to make sure you have enough time to devote to community, staying on top of work and developing yourself daily. It’s all about balance, which is unique to each individual. Be aware that romance can easily eat up your time, and formulate some proactive plans to keep an equal balance between love and life.
This article is adapted from one in Issue 03 of the RELEVANT Magazine College Guide.