“Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?”
As You Like It (3.5.84) William Shakespeare
Be warned: If you see dating as a chance to fool around and rack up numbers on a list of conquests then these tips are not for you!
While in high school I took a considerable interest in literature and loved to read books such as The Mayor of Casterbridge (Thomas Hardy), Great Expectations (Charles Dickens), and Twelfth Night (William Shakespeare). It happened quite accidentally as these were prescribed by our syllabus under the Cambridge curricula for learning which Zimbabwe prescribed to at the time.
Like most people it was my interest in relationship that had me captivated by these pieces of work. Whilst we may not all be passionate about English literature the majority of us do share the human desire to experience companionship and love. However much of what we read suggests that love is something that just happens followed by ‘happy ever after’. As a result we either miss or lose some of the key principles for establishing healthy and lasting romantic relationships.
Here are some key recipes for successful dating that I have learned:
Get your act together – Do not fool yourself in thinking that your life will make sense once he or she walks into your life. Be organized and make sure that you are mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially secure. Once your life is in order you can start dating with clarity and confidence regarding what you want and what you have to offer.
Be the right person – We are often so obsessed with the qualities we want in the other person that we lose sight of what it means to be the right person. Work on being a person of quality so as to attract people of similar character and standards. Be responsible for your own happiness and find the right person to share that with.
Be yourself – It is important to present the real you to society, friends and any potential partner. The last thing you want to do is get a potential partner attracted you on the basis of deception. In the first instance you should know yourself, have clarity on what you think life is all about, your purpose, your values and beliefs, and what you consider to be the ideal partner. Being true to be who you are in itself will reward you with much happiness and this will be multiplied further as you meet and partner with someone who is equally authentic.
Be of true intent – Be honest with respect to your intentions. Successful relationships are based on openness and honesty. Your intentions should be honourable otherwise all you are doing is wasting the other person’s time, deceiving them, and likely to disappointment and hurt them. Hurting others ultimately does harm to our own selves even if we do not realize it at the time.
Get to know your date – We are often first attracted to people for superficial reasons such as the way the look, the way they talk, their status, their skills and abilities, and where they are from etc. Prioritize and value qualities of good character and take time to identify and get to know the character and qualities of the person you are interested in. Ideally you should try to know them as much as possible before entering into the realm of expressing an interest to date. Once you start to date you can get to know them all the more as you spend increasing amounts of time and share in your values, beliefs, and interests together. In getting to know your date you should check to see just how compatible the two of you are. Getting to truly know the other person will help you to appreciate their unique qualities.
Recognize love for what it is – The popular modern day notion of love suggests that love is something that just happens to you and that you have no control over it. This often leaves people blinded to or in denial of some dangers of relationships. Under this misguided notion people often ‘fall out of love’ once they recognize that their partner is not the perfect person they thought. Love is a not just an uncontrollable feeling but a choice and commitment. It is an act of grace (yes, even in spousal relationships) which recognizes that people are not perfect but loves all the same. Be sure to distinguish between love and infatuation. It is also important to check that the love is mutual otherwise it will be a disaster waiting to happen. When the love is mutual you can establish the commitment necessary to make the relationship work.
Understand the Place of Physical Intimacy – Sex in addition to its function of procreation forms a powerful bond and way by which men and women connect and experience closeness. It has a special place in the covenant of marriage, as intended by God (the author of creation). We should show patience and commitment by not putting the ‘cart before the horse’ so to speak. This is of particular challenge to many people whether single, divorced, widowed or a widower. However, observing the purposes of sexual intimacy helps to build character, prepares us for faithfulness in marriage, as well as honouring God and the person that we plan to marry.
Seek counsel – We often make the mistake of relying on peer pressure (consciously and unconsciously) as some sort of guidance or point of advice. Do not be afraid to seek help from people whose opinion you value and respect. These may include your parents, pastor, uncles and aunts, or a trusted friend. Other sources of help can be wholesome books or programs covering the area of relationship.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”
I hope that the above will be of help in enabling healthy lasting relationships to form and encourage you to do all that you can to make your dating experience successful. Remember to always date your partner, especially after you get married!