Ah, dating… fun, awkward, and sometimes traumatic. The rising popular phrase of “red flags” and groups such as “Are we dating the same guy?” can make it all seem… bad. The great news is that you don’t have to waste your time! When you date confidently you will learn to respect yourself and make it easier to wave goodbye to all the “red flags” and “thank u next” partners.
Dating confidently does not come easily. Most of it is developed before you begin dating. This comes from when you have a solid understanding of who you are, what you’re doing, where you’re going, and what your end goal in life is. Once you know these things, you’ll not only pick better partners - but you’ll have peace in the process. You’ll worry less about whether the person you’re dating likes you and whether you like them. You’ll be able to raise your standards and say no to anything less. Speaking from learned experience, I want to give some solid advice that will help you to date confidently and not waste your time!
But beware… some easy and culturally popular pitfalls can get you off track. Speaking from experience and observation, here are just two pitfalls that can make those “red flags” look a little pinkish-green.
Spooky Traps to Avoid in Dating:
Too early into dating: This can also apply if you’re too young. You should be at the point in your dating relationship where you are ready to enter the “either we end in marriage or break up” stage. The age range for this varies although I’d say you start to enter this stage in your mid-20s. Some people have very short discernment stages and realize they didn’t know everything they needed about their partner. You’re not just aiming for the wedding or the wedding night… you are thinking about the rest of your life. So slow down, take a breather, and invest time in getting to know the person. Relationships are not always butterflies and rainbows, so you’ll want to move past that stage and enter reality. Don’t worry – the reality is still way more fun when you’re with the right person!
Sins against chastity/cohabitation: Speaking from lessons learned and observation… Anytime sins against chastity appear in a relationship it’s like putting on rose-colored glasses. You essentially create a physical bond when neither of you has made any real intention of it being forever. It also will make it even harder for you to discern out of the relationship since those hormones can make red flags look pinkish-green. Cohabitation is another huge barrier. It should automatically be a red flag if you want to live together with no real commitment. You’re committing to living with someone who can still say “I’m out” at any point. Usually, people assume this is the next step to have a “test drive” before marriage but that is statistically not the case. The tendency to fall into complacency and put off marriage at this stage can be fatal. If there are serious reasons why you can’t get married at this point, then there should be serious reasons why you can’t live with your partner. Overall, these barriers can be hidden little traps that will waste your time with the wrong person.
So, what do you do if you’re already in these situations:
Hit the refresh button with your soul, mind, and body.
The first step is to reflect a little and go to confession. The ascent to holiness is not linear (you will fall) but how you bounce back matters. The graces of confession can strengthen you to pursue virtue and make the changes you need (even if you’re still falling along the way). It’s also good to have your partner on the same page and if they practice your faith - talk about it and have them go with you.
Reflect on your relationship (seriously). It’s easy to get caught up in how fun everything is and how terrible it would be to break up… but it’s also worse to waste your time. Start to consider the reality… either you will get married, or you will break up. In the meantime, you don’t want to conflict with your physical intimacy and/or cohabitation forever when it’s just convenient. You’re worth much more than that and so is your partner. If you’re living with your partner, you should consider how you could live apart. If marriage is not in your immediate future the possibility of one of you moving out is still up in the air.
Reevaluate your physical intimacy. Recommit, and recommit again to chastity. It’s not a one-time cure-all. There’s never a simple fix for this. Not being alone with your partner is unrealistic and unhelpful advice. If you’re living together this is even harder. Since this can look different for couples my only advice is to keep trying, give yourself grace, and know it will all be worth it in the end. One final helpful tip is to not frame physical intimacy as “bad”. Intimacy is a great and important part of marriage… God created it so it’s good! It’s just a little lackluster and not as fun when you realize you have been vulnerable with someone who isn’t in it for the long run.
May you have a fun and confident dating experience!