Written by Rachel Tso, Singapore
I have been in that situation before. The one where desperation starts to creep in when dating options seem limited, and there are long periods of not finding anyone suitable. And by suitable, I mean someone I’m attracted to, who is spiritually and emotionally mature, loyal, loving, and has a good, stable job and can provide for our future family.
So, when someone finally asked if I wanted to get into a relationship, even though he didn’t have some of the attributes I was looking for, I agreed. After all, he was a Christian and had a decent job. Maybe one day, I would become attracted to him. Maybe I just hadn’t seen him yet in a situation that would prove he was emotionally mature.
But after a couple of months, it became clear that our differences wouldn’t be easy to resolve. He would forget things we had discussed about the boundaries and pace for our relationship, and soon became insistent that our relationship should progress faster. And so it ended.
A similar thing happened two years later. Again, I was starting to feel desperate as I hadn’t dated anyone since the last person. So when this new guy asked, I thought, “I should at least give him a shot.” But deep down, I had an inkling that it would be a struggle given our differences in spiritual maturity. He regularly looked to me to help him grow spiritually. And at one point, he told me that he was unable and unwilling to take the lead on spiritual matters in our relationship. This made me worried and frustrated, and the relationship eventually ended as well.
When I look back, I realise these relationships shared a common thread. At the start of each one, I was worried that I wouldn’t find a suitable life partner. My trust in God had begun to waver. The resulting feeling of desperation caused me to compromise on aspects that should’ve been clear non-negotiables when looking for my future husband.
How can we deal with such desperation responsibly so that we don’t settle and date (or God forbid, marry) someone who is unsuitable for us? From one who’s been there, let me share five ways I learned (on hindsight) to climb out of these pits of desperation.
1. Take a short break and do things that give you life
In the past, I figured I’d soldier through the dating process even though I was tired and rather jaded by it all. But that was a wearisome process with an uncertain end. Trudging onwards when we are worn-out is not what Jesus calls us to do. In Matthew 11:28-30, He invites us to come to Him when we are weary and burdened so that He can give us rest. If you are feeling weary, go to Him. Exchange your unmanageable burden in the dating process for His promise of rest.
And in your period of rest, do things you enjoy. For me, writing is cathartic. Going for frequent runs relaxes my mind and boosts my mood. Do you like to create music or draw or do Pilates? Consider one life-giving activity you can do this week.
2. Let God heal those hurts
For some of us, the dating journey has been filled with rejections from people we were attracted to. More than once, guys I grew interested in would stop replying to messages or suddenly become uninterested in meeting up.
Maybe you’ve built your hopes up for a girl or a guy, only to have those hopes dashed. Maybe you’ve gone through a painful breakup. Perhaps you haven’t dated in a long time or at all.
No one wants to feel unwanted. Take it from someone who’s been through the worst kind of rejection: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53:3).
Let the One who has been through the greatest heartbreak and deepest hurt come alongside you. Let Him into your deep-set sorrow and allow Him to begin to heal your hurt (Psalm 147:3).
Coming honestly before God allowed me to surrender all the disappointment and jadedness I felt from dating. God reminded me that I was deeply and unconditionally loved—a truth which, after months of chasing after others’ love and acceptance, was overwhelmingly refreshing.
Also consider sharing what you’re feeling with a trusted friend so they can pray for and support you through the healing journey. I confide in my sister and in a friend who lives abroad, and they’ve been instrumental in helping me process my feelings and lean on God.
3. Keep your spiritual life healthy and flourishing
Whenever I became desperate in dating, I would start doubting God. Is He really good? Will He actually provide someone suitable for me? When will that happen, if at all? When those doubts arose, my trust in Him wavered, and I started to feel distant from Him.
I needed to straighten out my thought life and have people remind me of what I’d forgotten. Here’s what helped me:
- Give the platitudes a rest. Saying to yourself, “Just wait,” or “I just need to trust in God,” won’t help much. There may be truths to those, but you’ve probably heard them more times than you’d like, and the repetitiveness lacks the power to speak to your heart.
- Explore different means to get wise biblical counsel. When we feel jaded and reaching for our Bibles seems like the last thing we want to do, we can find creative ways to get into God’s Word.
During my dating droughts, I loved listening to hilarious podcasts such as Looking for the Middle and The Boundless Show by Focus on the Family. As I laughed along with them, I found hope in the biblical truths and practical advice from their experiences. One of my key takeaways was to never settle for a nominal Christian. The extent of their faith will impact how they treat you (Ephesians 5:25-27).
Do what works for you. Books, YouTube videos, seminars, the list goes on. Whatever way that looks like, use it to delve into God’s truth.
- Surround yourself with great community. Spend time with Christian friends who are generally satisfied in their stage of life and are good at encouraging those around them. Preferably not friends who lament about how depressing it is to be single or who try to make you feel better by complaining or exaggerating about how difficult it is to be in a relationship.
4. Keep on keeping on—but with a different mindset
Don’t give up. Keep looking. Get on the dating apps, go on dates, allow yourself to be set up by people who know you well—but do it with this mindset: “I’m going to enjoy this.”
Take off the pressure of needing to settle down and get this part of your life sorted out ASAP. Just enjoy the person in front of you.
Try to do this in a way that doesn’t burden you. Here are some suggestions:
- Spend at most 30 minutes in the morning and at night on your dating apps, so you’re not checking them constantly throughout the day.
- When you’ve matched with a few people (say, 2-3), don’t swipe anymore until you’ve gotten to know these people first. Constantly swiping can result in too many matches and conversations that you won’t be able to keep up with.
- Again, take breaks every now and then to do things you enjoy.
5. Remember that the non-negotiables are worthwhile
If you find yourself compromising on aspects of faith and character (for example, becoming partial to someone with a nominal faith or who does not demonstrate maturity), that’s settling.
If you are always the one reaching out, this person is unlikely worth pursuing. You want to be with someone who really wants to be with you, who genuinely enjoys your company, consistently communicates with you, and meets you for dates.
As a believer, you need a mature Christian who respects you, seeks to honour God and has plans in life, including plans for a relationship with you. Bringing your potential partner to meet your friends and family and hearing what they think of him or her will help you see this person more objectively and make a wiser choice.
Dear friend, I pray that you will take a moment to just breathe, take the pressure off yourself and enjoy the dating process.
Whether single or married, God desires for us to live joyfully. He wants the best for us and desires to bless us with good gifts. Settling is not consistent with God’s spirit of generosity and goodness.
Deep down, what we really want is to be unconditionally loved and accepted. And we have that perfectly in Jesus. When we’re able to rest and bask in His love, we can find contentment that becomes the antidote to our desperation.
Know that God’s got your back and has a good plan for you, even if it doesn’t involve a relationship right now–or marriage in the future. Let’s trust that His plans for us are always infinitely good.