As a recently engaged woman (which still blows my mind I found someone who wants to spend his life with me), I've gone through my fair share of ups and downs in the dating world. But I've also found my forever person. Finding him took perseverance and taught me a lot of lessons about myself, other people, and what I desire in someone with whom I'm going to spend the rest of my life.
These are just a few things I've learned from my dating, and a now-engagement, journey I think might be useful for other Christians trying to find their way in our modern world:
Know who you are
It's really difficult to find someone else if you have no clue who you are and what you truly need from a life partner.
For a long time, I had no idea what I wanted, and that led me only to flounder in my own doubts and insecurities. Figuring out who I was and knowing what I wanted made it much easier to find someone who shared the same ideals as me.
Date a Christian
Missionary dating, dating a non-Christian, isn't all it's cracked up to be.
I've seen many Christians attempt to change their significant others, and it's really difficult! As one of my pastors put it, "It's a whole lot easier to pull someone off a chair than it is to pull them onto a chair." Meaning it's a lot harder for a non-Christian to become a Christian than vice versa.
How do you know if they're only coming to Jesus for you? I would hate for this to be their motive, but it most certainly could be. If it's true, you'll see it in their daily life that they're not truly following Christ. No one is perfect, and you will be able to tell if they're faking it.
As Christians, your faith is probably important to you; you'll find it challenging to share your faith with a non-Christian. Trust me, dating a Christian takes your relationship to a whole new level.
Realize Christians are imperfect, too
Don't be blindsided by someone's faith - we're all imperfect.
It's easy to view your relationship with rose-colored glasses and ignore your partner's flaws, but it can be a beautiful thing to see someone's flaws and love them despite it all. When you share your darkest secrets and struggles, you can work through them together. The person you'll spend your life with will love you no matter what, through all of the imperfections.
Neither of you should expect the other to be perfect but instead walk through life together as imperfect people attempting to live as Jesus did.
Look for a strong leader, ladies
I know that in today's day and age, we as women desperately want to be independent, and that is great! By all means, live your life and be your own person. However, there is still something innate to us that craves a leader.
Your significant other should be able to lead you through life by making decisions, providing for you and your (potential) family, and showing an example of Jesus' love for us. Strong leaders are capable of protecting you. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be with someone who doesn't make me feel safe.
If the relationship feels wrong, it probably is
Always trust your gut. It's usually right.
I'm sure we've all had that feeling of remorse, guilt, or regret. Many of my relationships have left me feeling this way, and it made me feel empty inside. I don't want that for you! If you start feeling this way, trust yourself. You know yourself best, and if it doesn't feel right, it's probably wrong.
Be on the same page with your significant other
There's nothing worse than a fight. Being on different pages, or being in entirely different books, will cause tension and conflict between the two of you.
When you are on the same page with your partner, it's a beautiful thing. Life tends to go much smoother, and you're able to work together in ways you can't with someone you're constantly arguing with about basic morals and decisions. Being with someone who shares your same principles makes life so much better.
Know that dating apps aren't as bad as they're made out to be
Sure there are always people who are on them only to get laid, but there are also people on them who genuinely want a relationship!
I met my fiancé on the app "Coffee Meets Bagel." This one is secular and has a place for you to state your faith and beliefs. There are free Christian dating apps out there such as "Crosspaths" if you're more comfortable using a Christian-based app.
Dating apps can be helpful or harmful depending on how you use them. If you idolize and obsess over the people you match with, you're not off to a great start. If you maintain healthy boundaries and make wise decisions about the people you talk to, you may just find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.
Don't change your beliefs for someone else
As I mentioned before, it's much easier to pull someone off of a chair than to pull them upon it.
Have I knowingly gone on dates with non-Christians? Yes. Have any of them ended successfully? No. My heart was broken time after time (song reference intended) usually because their morals didn't align with my own. If I really wanted to stay with one of these people, I would've been challenged in my faith.
Being with a strong Christian does make things easier, but I'm not here to tell you exactly how to live your life - this is just some advice. So if you are going to date non-Christians, stay strong. No matter what.
It's good to know what you want
Before I got into a serious relationship, I had a "list" of what I wanted.
One of the first things I told my now-fiancé when we began dating was that I wasn't messing around - I was in this relationship with marriage in mind. This let my partner know right off the bat what I wanted, and if our desires didn't align, there wasn't much of a point to continuing the relationship (thank goodness my fiancé wanted the same thing).
Be at peace with where you are in your life
If there's anyone out there who considers themselves an "old soul" like I do, this one can be difficult.
When I was in college, I had to accept that I was in a stage of my life where relationships may not last. It was a time where I needed to be focused on academics and creating a stable future for myself.
It was difficult for me to do this because I was only looking ahead to what my life could be and who I would spend the rest of my life with. If you are in this place, know that life has seasons. Good or bad, all of them end. Be at peace with where you're at right now.
Long distance is still difficult and still sucks
After going through it myself for 1.5 years, I can tell you that long distance is awful.
There are some people who can do it, and I applaud them for it! I couldn't do it (though part of that had to do with my partner at the time), but you may be able to. Just remember that even though you and your significant other may be Christians doesn't mean that long distance is going to be any easier.
Waiting for the right person is worth it
This sounds terribly cliché, but I really do mean it.
If I had settled for any of my other partners, I wouldn't be even close to as happy as I am with my fiancé. Sure, I didn't know that at the time, but I am so glad I listened to my gut and didn't stay with these people.
It's also true that "when you know, you know." When you meet the person you're supposed to be with for the rest of your life, you will know. I don't know how else to explain it, but you will know.
Dating in and of itself isn't easy
Everyone struggles with dating. No one does it in the exact same way, and there is no manual to follow.
Dating is complicated and delicate since you're dealing with other people's hearts and feelings (not to mention your own). No one knows what they're doing, and if the relationship doesn't end in marriage, someone is usually hurt in the end. However, we do it anyway. And if you want to find a life partner, it's pretty necessary.
Just because you're a Christian doesn't mean dating is going to be any easier
Life isn't easier for us as Christians, so why should dating be any different?
Even when I've dated Christians, I've still had my heart broken. We are all still human and can still hurt each other even when we don't mean to. We can do our best and use our best judgment to follow God's will for our lives. We didn't sign up for a life that's easy - we signed up to follow Jesus and give our lives to him. Dating is not the end-all-be-all in this life.
No one will fully fulfill you the way God does
To me, this is the most important thing to remember.
We have a hole in our heart that we try to fill with people, things, and feelings. Nothing can wholly fill this hole - only God can. We tend to most often fill it with relationships yet are disappointed with the results. Why? Because these relationships are with imperfect humans who will all disappoint in the end. God is perfect and will never disappoint us nor forsake us, and that is why His presence can't be replaced by anything in our material world.
Remembering this while dating is important because we must keep God as number one in our hearts and restrain ourselves from replacing Him with other people.
It seems God puts us with people and takes us away from people on purpose. He, after all, is in total control of our lives. He will make it known to us whether or not we're doing the right thing. Sometimes He closes doors to lead us away from temptation, and sometimes he opens doors right in front of our face and pushes us into them whether we're ready or not. Praying and trusting in Him is the only way we will successfully journey through this life.