What Is God’s Will In Dating?
“I don’t think it’s God’s will for me to be dating you.”
My client told me her ex-boyfriend said to her that statement right before they broke up.
“I bet that felt pretty shitty,” I said, “that he cannot even decide about dating you – he has to blame God.”
“I know, right?!?”
“We had an excellent relationship, and when he moved to a different town, he told me it was God’s will to break up.”
Angie (my client) and Tom (the ex-boyfriend) are college-age students who have been dating for some time (until Tom threw God under the bus). They both are growing Christians who love their relationship with Jesus, and they love each other. Tom transferred to another school out of the area, while Angie stayed closer to home. They still talk pretty often, and in today’s session with me, Angie shared that she had had enough of Tom’s passive attitude in both friendship and the dating relationship. This was not what had drawn her to Tom in the first place – she loved that he could be emotionally present in the relationship – but that changed when he moved away.
So, what is God’s Will in Dating?
I told Angie that I didn’t believe what Tom said. Maybe Tom didn’t want to date Angie anymore and didn’t know how to tell her. But when we said it wasn’t God’s will, that brought a lot of anxiety into the inner life of my client.
“Have I been living out of God’s will for a while?”
“Is God mad at me because I was dating Tom?”
“Is my life falling off track because God is now judging me?’
These questions and others would haunt Angie’s mind as she tried to make sense of the break-up.
“Angie, I cannot speak for God, but I know He is FOR relationships (with Him and others). He designed us incomplete so that we would GO OUT and find others to complete us (Genesis 2:18). Tom is a good guy (not perfect), but he is good and wants to grow in his godly character. What’s more, I know you want to walk with God and develop your character. So, let’s look at the Bible and discover God’s will regarding dating.”
4 Rules to Remember in Determining God’s Will for Dating
So, how do you know whether you should date a person? How do you know if it’s “God’s Will”? What does that even mean? Let’s consider a short list of character skills that both individuals should develop, and those character aspects should complement each other. These four rules are not an exhaustive list but a jumping-in point.
Rule 1: Know Your Identity
Let’s start with your identity of who you are. I still remember being 18 years old, sitting on the hood of my friend’s car one summer evening in South Bend, IN, and saying, “Don, I don’t know who I am. I’m a chameleon. To some people, I act like a skater-punk; to others, I act like a preppy; and to some other friends, I act like a stoner. But I don’t know who I am.”
Personal identity is your superpower. Knowing who you are at a core level gives you the ability to have a POWERFUL YES and NO. I see this repeatedly in my coaching: clients who violate their core values are over-extended and burned out in life.
When we know our core values, we can be wise in dating others with similar ones. Teaming up, we can spur each other on to greater growth. However, we are in for a long and painful relationship ride when we date others with opposing core values. For instance, if Angie had a core value that included a priority of personal fitness and healthy living, and Tom could care less about that, then imagine their household five years later if nothing changed (Tom continues neglecting his health and Angie continues placing a high priority on being active and healthy). At some point, IT WILL become a point of unnecessary contention.
So the question becomes, do you know who you are, and WHY do you believe what you believe? And the second question is whether the person you are dating (or are interested in) has similar core beliefs.
Rule 2: Know How to be Trustworthy and Vulnerable
Tim came to me for coaching because he violated trust in his relationship with his wife. For them to be able to repair their trust, Tim had to learn to be trustworthy, and he had to learn to be vulnerable. Being trustworthy takes time and can be very easy (you do what you say you will do, and you become a person who is responsible). When you do trusting things over a period of time, you become trustworthy. However, being vulnerable is very hard, but it can happen in a split second. To be vulnerable means, we share our weakness with others in a way that draws them to us. That happened with Tim; he didn’t know how to be vulnerable with his spouse, so he had a lot of internal anxiety and started acting out with pornography to cope with the anxiety. Once Tim learned to be vulnerable and practice trustworthy habits with his spouse, their relationship began to grow again.
Being trustworthy and vulnerable goes hand in hand. It is the skill of being open about your imperfections and trusting your partner’s weaknesses. These are skills that my wife and I have had to learn (more me than her, to be honest). I have had to learn to STAY in difficult or awkward conversations and share my insecurities with Jen (my wife) while trusting that she will validate my feelings and not judge my insecurities. When trust and vulnerability are present by both people, the relationship then has the fuel to grow exponentially.
Rule 3: Know how to have Ownership and Autonomy
According to Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Changes that Heal, to be in a healthy relationship, the couple must have love for each other, have freedom or autonomy to be themselves and have the responsibility to solve their own problems. (Cloud, 1992)
More times than not, these are the issues in my marriage coaching. One spouse is trying to MAKE THE OTHER HAPPY. That one simple and seemingly innocent statement is a HUGE boundary breaker. It is not your responsibility to MAKE someone happy. Happiness depends on your ownership of your life and your responsibility to the relationship and not for the relationship. Autonomy is the concept of personal freedom; you can have your thoughts, feelings, dreams, and opinions. At the same time, ownership is the ability to own your Feelings, attitudes, actions, and behaviors (and not own your partners).
For years in my marriage, I tried to make Jen happy by doing the dishes. Sometimes she was happy, other times not. When I didn’t get the response I was looking for, I would become resentful; “Why isn’t she happy? I did the dishes; she should be happy.”
Instead, I had to learn to do the dishes simply because they need to be done and it’s the responsible thing to do. AND maybe sometimes I don’t do the dishes because I don’t want to. And that’s okay. I have the freedom to do them and not do them.
But, at some point, someone has to be responsible for the dishes.
Rule 4: Know that you don’t Know It All
Nobody wants to be with a Know It All.
I used to work with a guy named Bob. He was a sixty year/old maintenance man at a factory I worked at. Bob knew a lot about machines, how they worked, and how to fix them. The problem with Bob was he knew it all. No one, and I mean No One, could tell Bob anything. Over time, I saw machines catch on fire, break down, and completely malfunction because Bob wouldn’t listen to the observations or suggestions of others. It was funny and painful to watch Bob race around the shop “putting out fires” because he wouldn’t listen to the advice of others.
When looking for a partner, be sure they are teachable and humble. DON’T MARRY A KNOW-IT-ALL.
One Last Thought
God is for you, and He is for you to have healthy relationships. So be patient and take your time as you work through this list of rules. Develop your personal core values, and come up with a list of three to five values that make you unique. Learn to be trustworthy & vulnerable; you might need to practice vulnerability with a life coach, and at some point, you must TRUST that your potential partner will be trustworthy. Take ownership of your life and allow others to have the freedom to have their feelings, dreams, and opinions. Finally, be teachable and look for a humble and teachable partner as well.
Want more insight? Set up a free consultation today to start working on your leadership & critical relationships.
Note: Names and details have been changed to protect confidentiality