Not all relationships lead to marriage ... but you can still grow and learn from them.
If you’re single right now, then you most likely have been — or will be — in a dating relationship during your lifetime that does not lead to marriage. How do you date well, so that even if the relationship ends, you’ve formed good habits for a future marriage? And how can you make sure you grow more as a person in these relationships rather than atrophying or leaving them a little worse off than you were before?
Start trying to die a little to yourself when dating. This is much easier in the first throes of a relationship, when Jerry seems like the best thing since sliced bread, and you want to spend every waking hour with him. Accompanying him to his weekly karaoke night even though you hate karaoke? Of course! Offering him the choice of where you eat out and helping him clean his car and apartment? Yes, absolutely! But when a relationship has aged a little, we get more selfish. We revert to our usual, concupiscence-driven selves who want what is best for us. And that’s when we have to try a little harder to think of our boyfriend or girlfriend first. Dying to self in little ways is THE way to imitate Christ. So, the sooner you form that habit the better.
An important note for any of us out there who have a tendency to become doormats in relationships … Remember, relationships are a two-way street. If your date never or rarely puts your needs above his or her own, that’s a sign that this is not the relationship for you. Don’t be so busy trying to die to yourself that you end up staying with the wrong person for too long.
Don’t isolate yourself
It’s very tempting to fall into the “two of you” trap, especially while wearing the rose-colored glasses of a new relationship. And the desire to get to know someone intimately and spend a lot of time with them is not a bad thing. But you have to keep it in check. Looking at it practically, the more people you watch your boyfriend or girlfriend interact with, and the more wide variety of situations you are able to see him or her in, the better you will know them! And if this is the person you marry someday, the two of you will need a community of friends to support you. Why not build those relationships now? Don’t make every time you hang out together just one-on-one time. Go out with your friends, his friends, your cousins, his sister, and your rec basketball team. Sign up for a pottery class together. Whatever it is, branching out will only help you in the long run.
Keep it G-rated
The more intimate and the more physical you get with someone, the harder it is too look at him or her objectively. And if you’re dating someone you want to figure out if you could marry, it is beneficial for both of you to figure that out sooner rather than later. Is it really him you like? Or is it the fact that making out with him makes you feel loved and secure? Because let’s be honest, many people could turn you on and make you feel good … but that doesn’t mean that you should marry them all. Not to mention that physicality in a relationship is like a current. Once you start moving down that stream, it gets increasingly harder to backtrack to calmer waters. On top of that, patience, self-control, etc., are virtues that you’ll need in marriage too.
One way to remember how to date better is to think of a Disney movie. There are no sex scenes in Disney movies, so keep your relationship Disney-safe. The Disney heroines usually have some kind of animal sidekicks to help them get through the ups and downs of the story. (They don’t spend the movie isolated with their prince.) And then, here’s where my analogy falls apart. I can’t think of many Disney couples who sacrifice for each other. But there’s where you can go beyond Disney, and just imitate Christ. Be selfless. Date better.