When I speak to single people about marriage and dating, they often ask: What’s the right way to date?
The answer isn’t as easy as opening up the Bible to find out what Jesus said on the topic. The Bible doesn’t say one word about dating as we think of it. Why? Because people didn’t date back then. They courted. They dated intentionally.
They spent time together as an important step that could possibly lead to marriage. That’s why I encourage young people to consider intentional dating instead of the world’s approach of just “having fun” together.
When dating someone intentionally, you don’t just hang out with a person to hang out. That’s recreational dating. It’s not serious. It may often be sexual, but it’s a relationship that is not going anywhere.
If you’re romantically interested in someone and it begins to get serious, that’s when you should begin to date each other intentionally. You take the steps to make sure the two of you are right for each other. Intentional dating prepares for marriage. Here are three standards of intentional dating:
1⃣ It honors the families. “We are going to honor our parents and we are going to honor God.”
Did you know I never asked Karen’s father for permission to marry his daughter? I didn’t know you were supposed to ask for someone’s hand in marriage. I had never even heard about it. (He might have said “no” anyway, because they hated my guts.)
Dating with another person’s future in mind—rather than simply having fun in the moment—honors them as a child of God. It honors their families.
2⃣ It is non-sexual. “We’re not going to have sex.”
Sex is wonderful. God created it for us, but He intended it to belong only within the context of marriage. That means sex should not be a part of the dating process.
Intentional dating leads toward marriage. You may end up getting married. But God will never bless sex outside of marriage.
You have to restrain yourself sexually and set parameters on your physical affection. For instance, you will kiss, but you won’t French kiss. You will hold hands or put your arms around each other, but you won’t full-body embrace each other. You refuse to be alone together. You’ll only watch appropriate entertainment.
Set your own boundaries, and know that breaking those boundaries is a step in the wrong direction.
3⃣ It is deep. “We’re going to date to explore, not to impress.”
In recreational dating, people strive to be their best in order to appeal to their date. This may work for a week or two, but you can’t hide your flaws in marriage. When you date intentionally, your purpose isn’t to impress, but to truly get to know a person. You have to be honest and dig deep.
That means having meaningful conversations. Where do you see yourself in ten years? Where do you hope to live? How many kids do you want to have? How are you going to raise your kids? What kind of church do you want to attend?
Some couples never ask these kinds of questions before they get married, and the differences cause conflict in their marriages. Engaging in deep, intentional conversations helps you enter marriage with realistic expectations.
Honor each other’s families. Avoid premarital sex. Engage in deep communication. These are all elements of intentional dating, and they can ensure a strong, healthy foundation for marriage.
Jimmy Evans // Marriage Today