DM & Mrs. DM taken while still dating
Conventional Christian dating advice is CRAP!
That is what I learned going through my divorce. Such advice promises much and delivers little. I put too much stock in following Christian dating rules to the detriment of ignoring red flags that might have spared me a marriage to a cheater.
1. Saving yourself sexually for marriage–while certainly the right thing to do (e.g. Hebrews 13:4)–does not guarantee good marital sex or save one from a spouse who treats sexual fidelity as of little value.
I did not have sex before getting married, and that obviously did not “save” me from my first marriage ending with my (now) ex-wife having sex with another man (while still married to me). And saving myself for marriage was certainly not the gateway to godly, sexual paradise either. That takes more work in the relationship than simply not having sex before marriage, fyi.
2. Dating for a long period of time may help one discover the other’s character, but a long dating period does not guarantee this.
I dated my first wife for over a year before I proposed marriage. Mrs. DM had bought my wedding ring within a couple months of us dating. A contest of character is not even close between my first wife and Mrs. DM. Bottomline: Duration of dating does not guarantee you will choose the partner with the best character.
3. Dating only other Christians is wise and biblical–e.g. 1 Corinthians 7:39 and 2 Corinthians 6:14–but does not guarantee the other person really walks out his or her faith in practice.
In high school and undergraduate days, I refused to date anyone who was not a professing Christian. I wanted to follow godly guidelines and did not want to waste time in a relationship that could not end in marriage. All the signs indicated that the woman I first married was a good, solid Christian. I was too focused on the label “Christian” to pay due diligence in checking my mate’s character.
The bad news is no matter how well you have done your vetting, you remain vulnerable to infidelity. We only control ourselves and being in a relationship means we are vulnerable to this other person because this other person alone controls his/her own actions and choices including whether or not to cheat.
That said, I do have some pointers for dating gained from personal painful experience:
1. Understand that sex in marriage does not magically make all sexual temptation go away, and it takes attentiveness to this area in the relationship, even a godly marriage, for it to blossom.
If the person you are dating is looking for you to police their behavior and makes you the boundary-setter, that is not a good sign. They need to be able to set their own boundaries as well as respect yours. I put that in this section because respecting boundaries also means sexually and romantically. “Opportunities” do not just disappear when one becomes married. A person of character does not need someone telling them that acting on those “opportunities” is not wise or right. They actively protect the relationship from their side as well.
2. Pay attention to their friends.
You can learn a lot about a person by the sort of people make up his or her inner circle. It might be telling if all their friends are the opposite sex or if all their friends are party animals who reinforce unhealthy life-choices, for example. Her friends were a huge selling point for me with Mrs. DM. I had had enough of religious, sappy Christianity. It was nice to meet friends who were real as well as Christian.
3. Look to see if this person behaves like a good friend.
Would you be friends with this sort of a person minus the sexual or romantic attraction? Does he or she apologize when he or she says or does something mean or thoughtless? Does he or she allow you–i.e. respect you enough–to have a differing opinion? Is this person someone whose presence you enjoy? Are they kind and loyal to you? Those are a few questions to consider in this point. One major piece that made me feel safe and confident in choosing Mrs. DM is how loyal she was to me early in the relationship. For obvious reasons, this meant a great deal to me coming out of a marriage destroyed via infidelity.
4. Pay attention to the patterns of your conflict or non-conflict in the relationship.
In general, is your dating relationship stormy or stable? Are you competing for your emotional needs to be met in a zero-sum sort of game–i.e. if you get them met, then your partner does not? I wish I had paid better attention to this one while I was dating my first wife. It was very stormy and felt like a battle of wills from the get-go. That is not a recipe for success. Real relationships have conflict but those conflicts are not the normal way of things, IMO. If you are constantly fighting each other in order to get something to feel loved, that does not bode well for the future of the relationship.
Relationships require some level of trust and vulnerability. That means we open ourselves up to trust violations and betrayals by the mere fact that we are in a relationship.
I made a conscious choice not to allow my bad experiences with my first wife shut me down from ever trusting another woman again. That did not mean it was completely smooth sailing when I started dating, again. I had some interesting and seriously disappointing false starts.
However, I had decided I rather err on the side of trust and life than to reject half of humanity because of one morally corrupt actor.
And remember that: Your ex is just one morally corrupt actor.
People who commit to lifelong relationships and do not cheat exist in this world from both genders. Still, do not go into your dating experience with the naive assumption that “following the Christian rules” will guarantee finding an excellent spouse. That is not how relationships work. They are much more messy than that.
Still, I hope for each of you that you choose to be open to what God might have in store for you whether that is remarriage or a fulfilling single life, which is also a good gift from God. Just do not allow one corrupt actor to have so much power over you that you reject half of humanity refusing to trust ever again. That is too much power to give any individual human being!