Dating is fun. There’s no doubt about it.
Especially in the early days as you’re getting to know each other, through a flurry of text messages, cafe and movie dates, or a stroll in the park or museum, dating is a pleasure when it’s all about enjoying one another’s company.
But a relationship isn’t just built on that adrenaline rush you get from locking eyes, or hearing your partner’s voice, or when you indulge in your similar taste in music and books. It’s got to be built on something stronger, something that will endure the test of time, and that will carry the both of you through disagreements (yes, you will have many of them), weaknesses (yours and your partner’s), and both of your very inherently flawed sinful natures.
For us as believers, that foundation is Christ—not our likeable quirks and personalities, how well we speak or communicate, or how much money we have. Here are three keys to keeping Christ at the centre of our relationships.
1. Commit yourself and your relationship to Christ
All Christians know dating rule #1: do not be yoked together with unbelievers (1 Corinthians 6:14). It can’t be stressed enough that a partner who loves and pursues Christ is fundamental—not just for our relationship, but for the sake of our and our partner’s faith.
Even before committing ourselves to a relationship, it would be wise to find out where our partner stands in their walk with Jesus. Prayerfully discern and check ourselves: am I, first of all, someone who treasures Christ above all (Luke 14:26)? Next, find out: is my (potential) partner someone who loves Christ and His church (1 John 2:3–6)?
Let’s be intentional about keeping Christ at the centre of our lives and courtship. We can reflect on our relationship every so often by asking these questions: what did we do well in? What did we not do so well in? What could we improve on?
Ask ourselves whether we are drawing each other closer to Christ, or drifting away from Him. Confess and repent in prayer if we need to, and ask the Lord to help us to love Him more than one another.
The good news is that it’s never too late to talk about our commitment to Christ. It’s not a one-time, pre-courtship conversation. Instead, it should be a regular check-in with God on our own and as a couple.
2. Commit to knowing Christ together
The way we grow together in knowing, loving, obeying, and serving the Lord together is pretty much the same way we’d do it as single: through spiritual disciplines such as prayer and worship, the study and meditation of His Word, attending church regularly, and having fellowship with other Christians (more on that later).
Continue to grow in our walk with the Lord on our own, and find ways to do that as a couple, too. Prayer should be foundational to our relationships. Keep praying for each other throughout all phases of the relationship, whether you’re getting to know each other as friends, discerning whether or not to enter into a relationship, commencing courtship, dating, going through the ups and downs of married life, or even preparing for your little one.
Whenever either one of you is feeling down and out, remind each other of the sovereignty, goodness, and faithfulness of our Saviour. When you don’t have the answers, lead each other in prayer to remind each other of who He is and who we are in Him. When either of your faith is wavering in a cloud of spiritual depression, help to lift up each other’s eyes back to God by gently pointing to the Scriptures.
Practicing such spiritual disciplines together can help mould within us a Christlike mind-set (Romans 12:2), which is much-needed amid the noise and clamour from the world—whether from the media or unbelieving friends—on what dating ought to look like.
3. Commit to surrounding yourself with fellow believers.
No man—or woman—is an island, whether in faith or dating. Fellowship with believers is absolutely essential to our mutual edification and upbuilding, and in helping us through life’s difficulties (Hebrews 10:24–25; Ecclesiastes 4:9–12). Thankfully, we have the privilege of fellowship with brethren who can do just that for us, as we go through the different life seasons of courtship, engagement, marriage, and even, parenthood.
Take time to know each other in group settings, such as visiting one another’s churches and introducing each other to your circle of friends. Get to know the people who have journeyed with your partner through the years.
You could also find an older couple to be your spiritual mentors with whom you can share about the things you’re facing, from relationship woes and personality differences, to wedding planning and relating to your future in-laws.
Surround yourself with older brothers and sisters who can look out for you, and give you wise advice and counsel. For example, if you stumble in purity, account yourselves to them and ask them to keep you in prayer. In doing so, you can experience godly wisdom, encouragement, and support in these lowest of times, when it feels like you’re walking through a “dark valley” of temptations in your relationship.
Whether you’re already into your days of dating, or looking forward to them one day, now is always the right time to pray and ask the Lord to bless you with a partner who loves Him and leads you in loving Him, for the Holy Spirit to guide you in your mutual pursuit of Christ, and for a community of believers who can rally around you with their prayers, presence, and practical advice.
By God’s grace, He will help the both of you to keep Christ as the cornerstone of both your courtship and lives.