Dating and relationships shouldn't have to be so difficult.
I mean, all you have to do is find someone amazing who thinks you're amazing too. You meet. You connect. You keep on connecting. He likes you. You like him. You commit. How hard can it be?
Well, for some of my married friends, it seems like a walk in the park. Take my friends Luke and Becca (not their real names), for example. They met in our church singles group, got married a year later, and had two beautiful children.
But not for everyone.
While I am truly joyful for my happily married friends, I also wonder why it's so hard for the rest of us to find the person who is the best fit and build a life with him.
Maybe they know something I don't.
Personally, when I was growing up, I didn't have the best role models for healthy and lasting love. My parents divorced when I was exiting middle school. And I watched many of the women in our family—the aunts and the grandmothers—wait on their husbands more like employees than wives. Thankfully, I've had the opportunity over the years to see real love in action by spending time with the parents of my friends. And I've read a lot of books. I've seen how love can be—positive, good, healthy, strong and lasting.
Maybe, like me, you want to find "the real thing." You're tired of players, and users, and losers, and the "catfishers" on social media who pretend to be someone they are not. Or, you're frustrated because you're not dating at all.
Whatever the case, I choose to believe there are awesome, godly men out there who would love to find lasting love with someone like you or me.
So, here's what I've learned over many years of dating. You can't change anyone else, but you can change how you approach dating and relationships. Maybe it's time for a new perspective. If I could go back in time and tell my younger self some foundational and important truths about dating and relationships, here's what I'd say to pave the way for a better dating life.
Here are seven things (hard-won life lessons, secrets, that I wish I would have known sooner) that could very well make your dating life more positive, healthy and joyful.
1. You deserve to be loved well. You, my friend, deserved to be loved—and to be loved well. Don't let a guy toy with your emotions or take up your time if he has no intention of dating you. Don't settle for players. Don't let yourself be used or abused just because you want someone to love you. That's not love. No 2:00 AM calls or texts to come over and "hang out." No. You deserve to be treated better and with respect.
2. Let him pursue you. A real man who wants a dating relationship will pursue you and respect you. He will make his intentions clear. Sure, it can be difficult for some guys to "man up" and ask you out, but don't settle for less. It's great to be friends with a guy, and get to know each other, and see if it leads to more. But the proof of desire is in the pursuit. If he is not intentionally pursuing you, then you are just friends; you are not dating. A real man will make it known that he wants to be in a relationship with you. You won't have to wonder or guess. When he pursues and you respond, you have the best chance for a "spark" of desire to turn into the burning embers of lasting love.
3. Let him please you. By nature, women are givers. We want to please others. But sometimes we do too much—and we don't let other people do nice things for us. Believe it or not, it makes a man feel good when he can do something nice for you. Men want to make you happy—whether it's fixing your car or taking you out for fresh seafood because he knows you like it. Of course, in a relationship it goes both ways; each person should desire to please the other person. But don't let it be one-sided. You don't have to do all the giving.
4. Know what you want—and don't want—in a relationship. When you're 17, you want someone who's "cute." When you're 27 or 37 or older, you definitely want more out of a dating relationship. Recently, a married friend told me that she wished she would have looked for traits in a future husband like good communication skills and conflict resolution skills—important things in a decades-long marriage (or even in your dating life) that some people may not have considered. In my book, When Love Ends and the Ice Cream Carton Is Empty, I list five traits to consider for whom you want to be and what you want to look for as a Christ-follower who wants a healthy and faith-based relationship—Christian, Communication, Character, Chemistry, and Calling.
5. Know what men want. It's been said that one of the most attractive things to a man in a woman is her confidence. In addition, he doesn't want you to pretend to be someone you're not just to make him happy. Be real. Be your wonderful self. What he wants from you is respect. Admiration. A best friend whom he is also in love with. Someone whom he can trust. I'm sure there's more, and each guy is different in the specifics he's looking for, but those are some general, foundational things as a start.
6. Trust God's timing. No matter how old you are, don't be in a rush to meet and marry someone. Growing a healthy relationship is like growing a beautiful garden; it takes time. Even if all of your friends are getting married and you feel left out or lonely, don't give in to your feelings. Trust that the One who loves you most, God, will prepare you and bring the best guy for you—if that is His plan for you. Don't control circumstances or try to make things happen.
7. Pray for your future husband. Pray for him and pray about him. Talk to God in prayer and ask Him to give you the desires of your heart. God will give you what you need to accomplish His good purposes. If you want a boyfriend, if you want to be married, or if you want both, tell Him. Ask God to prepare you for your future date and mate. What do you need to be doing now (in your emotional health, in your finances, in your spiritual life, and the like) to be ready when he comes along? Ask God to prepare the man—that he would have a deep and committed relationship with Christ. That he would be a man of wisdom, kindness, and whatever qualities are important to you.
When you know who you are, and what you really want in a dating relationship, you are closer to becoming prepared and finding real and lasting love. If dating and marriage are in God's plan for you, it will happen. You won't have to make it happen or force it.
You can trust God for His best. And be at peace.