You rocked your first date. Then, like a pro, you smoothly navigated the choppy waters of the “more-than-one-date-but-still-not-in-a-relationship” phase. And then, when the moment was right, you pulled the trigger. You had the oft-anticipated, more-oft-avoided conversation: the DTR (“Define The Relationship”).
In other words: You’re officially dating.
First off, congrats for getting this far. In a world of flake-outs, hook-ups and commitment-phobes, entering into an actual exclusive relationship is no small feat, and you’ve climbed a significant distance to get here.
But the journey’s not over yet. In fact, entering into a committed, exclusive relationship marks a pivotal point in your discernment. You’ve moved from “casual” to “official,” and now, more than ever, you’re dating with a purpose.
Let’s be real, folks: If marriage is truly on your horizon, you’re just one step shy of engagement.
But we’ll get to that later. Fear not! Take one day at a time, and if all else fails, hopefully some of the tips below will help guide you through this exciting time.
Be clear. Like… really clear. First thing’s first. If you’re reading this, you’re probably under the impression that you’re in an exclusive-and-committed dating relationship.
Now pause to consider: Is she under that same impression? Hopefully so. Still, our culture is so confused about dating these days that it doesn’t hurt to double-check.
When some friends of mine started dating, the guy asked her by saying this:
“I just want to make sure that my intentions are perfectly clear. Would you like to be in a relationship — discerning marriage — with me?”
While she was a bit surprised by his directness, she so appreciated the way he honored her by clearly stating his hopes for their relationship. Men, we’d all do well to imitate his boldness! (Note: You don’t necessarily have to say the phrase “discerning marriage,” but whatever your intentions are, say them clearly.)
Never stop wooing. She said “yes” to exclusive dating? Sweet! The hard part’s over! Now that you’ve won her heart, it’s time to settle in on the proverbial “couch” of the relationship, grab a bag of chips and enjoy the comfort of life with an awesome girlfriend. Right?
Wrong. Too many a man takes his lady for granted after entering a formal relationship. We backslide. We stop holding doors, dressing to impress and paying for dates. We get complacent.
Don’t let this happen! Entering into an exclusive courtship is all the more reason to step up your game. She deserves to be honored, respected and wooed all over again every single day. As you get to know her more deeply, you should naturally start thinking of increasingly personal ways to show her you care about her. Never stop pursuing her heart.
That said, if, over the course of time, you find yourself with no genuine desire to do so, then it’s likely time to think about ending the relationship.
Keep the goal in mind. If you’re dating exclusively, then marriage and family life should be on your radar. While I’m not saying you should start dating, get engaged and say your vows within a week and a half, it’s important to actively discern marriage within a realistic timeline. Don’t keep a gal waiting around forever.
There’s no pat answer here — but if you don’t know she’s right for you after one to two years of exclusive, intentional dating, it’s probably time to move on.
Don’t use porn. It will neuter your relationship will almost certainly destroy your future marriage. If you’re into that stuff, seek the help you need to kick the habit now. When temptations arise, counter them with powerful prayers for your future wife and kids.
Dating someone in an exclusive relationship is not only really fun, but it’s a wonderful opportunity for Christ to work on your heart. A relationship brings up things within you didn’t know where there — fears, wounds, strengths, greater knowledge of yourself and others — so keep close to the Father in prayer throughout this time. And as you get to know the man you’re dating, keep these things in mind!
Have fun and enjoy him. Dating exclusively someone is so much fun! The fun-sucking happens when you overthink things. Be simple, go with the flow and just have fun getting to know each other in a deeper way.
He’s not Jesus. The most important thing to remember is to keep your relationship with God your number-one priority, the number-one Person whom you share your soul with. In loving God first and foremost, your relationship will be so much better for it. No man can carry the pressure of filling the emptiness inside you that only God can fill!
Be vulnerable, but ease into it appropriately. Some women don’t share themselves at all. Others bare their entire soul all at once. Yikes! The goal is a virtuous medium here: Be vulnerable and share with him who you are. That’s the point of a dating relationship. But ease into it as you get to know each other — share little amounts at first, and as your relationship progresses, you can share more and more. But don’t ever bare your entire soul to someone to whom you’re not married! You might not physically be going “all the way,” but it’s just as important to guard your soul as well as your body in dating.
Don’t jump too far ahead emotionally too quickly. It can be tempting to imagine your Pinterest wedding. Don’t do it. Live your relationship one day at a time. If you aren’t talking to each other about the future yet, don’t jump there in your thoughts. Let your thoughts and emotions be present where your relationship is in reality.
Get to know him as a person. Dating someone is super fun, but sometimes we can value the relationship because of the fun feelings it brings. That eventually fades away. While you’re dating, be intentional about getting to know the person your boyfriend is and value him for that, not for the feelings he stirs up in you.
Physical affection is wonderful. It is. I don’t have to tell you that. And most of us have been told what not to do physically, so I don’t feel the need to give you a litany of dating commandments. I will say, however, that while it is holy and good to show physical affection to your boyfriend, remember that it can quickly turn into the basis of your whole relationship if you’re not careful. It shouldn’t be a thing you do just because you can. That becomes use. To prevent this, a really helpful suggestion is to talk about physical boundaries together that you’ll stick to. One good rule of thumb is this: Would we do this in public? (Not that everything becomes PDA, but there’s only a certain level you can reach while in public. It’s probably a good place to stay.) Again, love the whole person, not just the feelings the physical affection stirs up.
So there you have it: a few tips to keep in mind when striving to live out a virtuous relationship.
We hope you’re enjoying this series so far, and don’t forget to check back next time!
Check out the rest of our dating series!
- He Says/She Says: Your Utility Belt for Surviving the “Dating Apocalypse”
- He Says/She Says: The Unspeakable “F Word” of Dating
- He Says/She Says: How to Ask Somebody on a Date (and How to Respond)
- He Says/She Says: How to Have a First Date that Rocks (and Isn’t Awkward)
- He Says/She Says: So You’ve Been on a Couple Dates…Now What?
- He Says/She Says: The Virtuous Relationship
- He Says/She Says: How to Break Up (and Keep Some Semblance of Dignity)