Dating is hard. Given the casual, predominantly Internet and app-based approach available to singles today, there is no denying it can be difficult to know what the other person expects, or even what one’s own expectations should be.
Yet, for most people, dating is a necessary part of trying to find the person they want to spend the rest of their lives with.
But between the weirdness that often surrounds dating in the Church and the unrealistic expectations portrayed in Hollywood’s romantic films, it can be difficult to find good examples of healthy dating relationship.
There is no exact formula for relationship success, as every relationship is different. But In trying to lay some sort of general framework, it’s important to recognize some of the patterns that lead to the toxic relationships that are doomed to fail:
Recognize the Rebound.
The worst time to make important decisions is when you’re going through extreme high or low points in life. During these times, your guard lowers, increasing the likelihood of latching onto the nearest available person. After enduring loss or a crushing breakup, you are vulnerable to make decisions or compromises you wouldn’t ordinarily make.
The desire to have others reciprocate kindness, love, companionship and understanding is normal, but it is always best to take time—or give the person you’re interested in time—to evaluate mistakes made in previous relationships in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
Avoid Controlling and Possessive People.
Those closest to you should encourage you to pursue your goals and dreams. God created marriage to ultimately glorify Him—husbands and wives should lift each other up and point each other to Christ. A relationship that tears you down goes against the nature of God’s intent.
Healthy connections should always be centered on giving others freedom instead of confinement. If you see someone manipulating others to get their way, it should be a big red flag.
Don’t Tolerate a Flake.
Anyone who has been married for any length of time can attest to the reality that feelings are as unreliable as the weather forecast. People can bring us euphoria one moment and despair the next.
Feelings are not only fleeting but they can also prompt unrealistic expectations. Obviously, a relationship built on false expectations can easily fall apart because those in the relationship can’t live up to those expectations.
Biblical relationships are saturated in devotion, allegiance and loyalty to the person—not to flaky feelings. They endure even when things are hard.
Abolish the Myth That Physical Chemistry is Everything.
Contrary to popular belief, satisfaction and completion are not based on sexual fulfillment. Relationships built on this myth are destined to crumble as couples grow older and physical beauty fades. Attraction is necessary in a relationship, but true attraction can be found beyond physical beauty. While cliché, there is truth to the statement, “Beauty is only skin deep.”
It is important to remember that genuine love is based not on what you can gain from someone but what you can give. Lasting relationships are built on giving without the expectation of receiving in return.
Remember That Enablers Will Never Help You Grow.
Whether we’re married or single, we were made to serve God in all we do. Married couples should serve together and inspire one another to use their unique talents for God. So a partnership that doesn’t challenge, inspire, motivate and prompt you to stand true to your core beliefs, faith and convictions but rather enables you to stay stagnant in life, isn’t beneficial.
In the beginning of any relationship, it should be obvious if someone inspires you, challenges you and reminds you of what’s important. If these key attributes are not present, it’s time to bail out before emotions or the false belief that the other person can be changed are able to take root.
Unmatched Values and Priorities are a Recipe for a Broken Heart.
Teams that accomplish great things are those who are unified in their purpose and goals. We are told in 2 Corinthians 6:14 to not be yoked together with unbelievers.
God gives us this command for our own protection and joy, knowing that two people unequally matched will never fully fulfill His plan that, if patiently followed, leads to peace, fulfillment and lasting joy.
Jay Lowder is a full-time evangelist, founder of Jay Lowder Harvest Ministries and author of Midnight in Aisle 7. Find out more about Jay at jaylowder.com or on twitter, @jaylowder.