While the Bible does not address “dating” directly as a concept, it certainly has a lot to say about how we should conduct our relationships! Here are seven insights from scripture about how to date in a way that will help us find and maintain the kind of romantic relationships we truly desire.
- Feelings are important – but they don’t always tell us the truth! (Prov. 3:5-6)
Feelings are good and healthy and a normal part of what it means to be a human and be in relationship with other humans—but sometimes, our feelings can be based on something other than the truth!
For example, when the author of Psalm 13 felt like God had abandoned Him, even though he knew that wasn’t factual; but, expressing his feelings helped him process, and he then reminded himself of truth. Sharing our feelings with God and others can be helpful in working through why we feel a certain way and separating thoughts from facts.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t bring up things when they hurt our feelings; healthy relationships are about learning how each other functions, including how we respond when we feel sad, hurt, angry, or confused, and of course, how to move forward! But we need to acknowledge that feelings are guides, not God. Saying something like, “when you did X, I felt Y, and I would like to talk about that” is one of the best tools to work through our feelings, hear the perspective of the other person, and get back to reality!
On the other end of the spectrum, just because we have intensely positive romantic feelings for someone does not mean that they are a safe, wise, or healthy person for us to date. We need to pay attention to things like how they treat and talk about others, how they spend their time and money, and how they give and receive feedback. It is easy to feel an intense, deep connection when the romantic spark is there, but our feelings can trick us into thinking that a person would make a good partner when in reality, it might just be infatuation or even lust.
It is important to remind ourselves that feelings are a good, exciting, and necessary part of dating – but to have the kind of relationship we truly desire, our feelings must be tempered with truth. As Proverbs says, we should not ever lean on our own understanding (which includes our feelings!), but instead should acknowledge God’s wisdom and trust His truth.
- Genuine love is a choice, not a feeling! (1 Cor. 13:4-8)
Saying “I love you” to someone in a romantic context can be a big deal, and understandably so! However, biblically speaking, we should be showing intentional, selfless love to people every day – and this obviously includes the person we are dating!
1 Corinthians 13 (known as the “love chapter” in the Bible) gives incredibly practical wisdom for us in what truly loving someone looks like. It tells us that love is patient and kind; it is not envious, prideful, or rude. Love is laced with humility and is not self-seeking. It is not short-tempered and does not hold grudges. It seeks truth and justice and holds people accountable when needed. Love protects others, trusts others, hopes for the best, and doesn’t give up even when things are difficult. True love does not fail to do what love is supposed to do: help others become the best versions of themselves—who God has made them to be!
Being “in love” with someone is a glorious feeling and a privilege, but loving someone is an honor and a responsibility. It is a choice we must make over and over again, regardless of our mood, circumstances, or feelings. Whether we are on our first date or our 300th, and whether we have told our significant other about our loving feelings for them or not, God calls us to show love to them intentionally and selflessly. Telling someone we love them is wonderful; showing someone we love them is essential.
- Sometimes love means saying “no”! (Phil. 2:3-4)
Even good things can become idolatrous things if we are not careful. If we want to truly love and care for the person we are dating in the way God defines love, sometimes we have to say “no.”
Philippians 2 says that we should not make any decisions out of “selfish ambition,” but instead, “in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” It is not wrong of us to want to spend time with our significant other and seek out ways to do so, but as Paul writes, we should look “not only” to our “own interests, but also to the interests of others” (ESV, emphasis mine). In order to truly care for our partner, we need to ask ourselves if we are considering their needs more than our own desires.
We must be willing to ask ourselves hard questions, like: “is the amount of time I am spending with this person loving them by exercising wisdom and producing joy? Or, is it possibly becoming a burden, distraction, or getting in the way of their other relationships or responsibilities, like family, school, hobbies, or career?”
Additionally, having these conversations with the person you are dating is necessary for developing a healthy relationship that helps the other person thrive and not become codependent. If we are living out Phil. 2, sometimes we will need to say “no” to seeing our favorite person in a given moment in order to ensure that we are helping them become the best version of themselves and avoid treating them as a person who exists primarily to serve our relational/emotional needs or desires.
Saying “no” when needed helps protect our partner’s time, energy, other relationships, and goals – which is actually a demonstration of true, selfless love.
- No romantic relationship is an island! (Prov. 2:15)
Most people have heard the famous quote by the poet John Donne, “no man is an island.” This applies not just to individuals but to romantic partnerships, as well! When we first develop feelings for someone, the whole world can seem different—like we’re seeing it through new eyes. As a result, we can sometimes miss red (or even yellow!) flags that we might normally see.
We need trusted friends, family, and mentors to help us in this process while we are on “cloud nine.” Of course, we should use discernment about who we share the details of our love life with, but not sharing anything, sharing very little, or hiding important information from our trusted people is not a good sign. If we can’t be honest about a Very Important Relationship in our lives with our “safe people,” we must ask ourselves: why? Deep down, is this relationship possibly not actually good for us after all?
Proverbs 2:15 reminds us that it is the foolish person who ignores the insight of others and assumes that he is right, but a wise man listens to advice.
The reality is that we need our support system our whole lives, no matter what our romantic relationship status is; our platonic friends are not “placeholders” until we find a significant other, and we should never treat them as such! Whether we are at the beginning stages of our romance or have been married for years, we need the discernment, encouragement, accountability, and comfort of our platonic friends along the way. No person is meant to be “everything” to someone else—God didn’t create us that way! We need to let others into our world and let God use their wisdom to help us make healthy decisions in our dating life and all areas of our lives.