A GUIDE TO DATING

Dating (committed relationship), especially if it is your first time, might be a bit scary or daunting. However, it is an important stage in any relationship that might to lead to marriage. Well, If you think it is early to start dating, it is not late to start praying about the ideal type of relationship you desire in the not too far future. I started praying for the ideal man I wanted to marry at age 12. The important thing to note here is that praying about anything you want in life is not a bad idea. More so, relationships can either make or break you.

Before you get into a ‘dating’ relationship , make sure you have prayerfully considered your decision because dating the wrong person can be emotionally damaging not only to you but to the other person. Ensure that there are valuable qualities that you have seen in the other person and want to explore further, before you proceed to date that person.

Consent in any relationship, especially
while dating, is very crucial. It shows respect for your partner and sets the tone of the relationship early on. A man that intends to date a woman or vice versa should seek permission first and respect the decision of the other person. Once your request to date a person is accepted by your partner, then you have officially become a ‘couple.’
Dating should be consensual (which means both parties in the relationship should agree to do this). Boundaries of friendships should never be crossed or assumed without a mutual understanding by both parties. A decision not to continue with the dating relationship by one of the partners, even after it has started, must be respected by the other party.

Several relationships start up as friendships; you become friends first then if all things go well, you can take the relationship forward by dating, and then even a step forward, getting engaged (where a man formally ‘proposes’ or requests the woman to become his future wife by kneeling down on one knee and presenting a ring). Engagement is also known as the
traditional’ marriage ceremony in some parts of the world like West Africa, where the nuclear and extended families of the couple celebrate the union of the couple formally. This ceremony normally preceeds the white wedding/religious ceremony.

Many people like to learn more about the person they want to consider for a committed relationship by taking them out on dates first. We learn a lot about people when we engage with them casually or catch them unawares, however, don’t go on dates aimlessly. Have a timeline and a list of qualities (most likely written down) in mind to guide your decision to make the relationship ‘official.’ Take your time but don’t take too long. It is true that you never know someone in one sitting, thus give the other person the benefit of doubt and spend time praying to God to help you make the right decision.

HOW LONG DO YOU DATE FOR AND WHAT DO YOU DO WHILE YOU DATE?

I dated my very first boyfriend at age 19 (my current husband) for 3 years and he proposed right after on bended knees and a ring. We got married 10 months after. So the dating period to marriage lasted almost 4 years. I will say that there isn’t a set period of time to date before one party formally signifies his/her interest in marriage, however, I will say get to know your partner well enough to know when the next stage in the relationship is ripe. I will recommend that you date someone in close proximity to you i.e. same city or neighborhood to observe some important or personality traits of your partner closely and resolve conflicts that may arise easily.

During the dating period, get to know your partner closely. Find out how he/she reacts in various scenarios i.e. when alone with you and friends or with family, when he/she is happy or upset; observe how he/she treats you in comparison to how he/she treats his/her family members. and in comparison to how he/she treats strangers- there should be consistency or a pattern that gives you an insight into the kind of partner he/she is likely to turn out to be. Pay attention to cues- people hardly change who they are.

Go out, dine together at restaurants or local eateries, watch movies or go to the cinema , volunteer at a local charity together. Set goals for your relationship and timelines and talk about them so that there is an mutual understanding of each party’s expectations from the relationship. Spend quality time as a couple but with boundaries in place to protect you if you decide to call it quits. I would not suggest that the female gets pregnant or have ‘children before marriage,’ even though it is becoming a growing trend; don’t get me wrong, children are a blessing but interrupting a dating relationship with the arrival of a baby just makes the relationship complicated. It also makes it more painful when the relationship doesn’t end up in marriage. If possible, a couple should wait to have children
until both parties have agreed to become a legal couple.

Get to know each other’s families. This means spending time at each other’s families’ residences. A few months to a year or more will help you determine if you can cope with your partner’s family. If the family is situated outside of your vicinity, encourage your partner to invite them over to your city so that you get to meet them or perhaps go visit them occasionally. This gives you an insight into who your potential In-laws are and what to expect from them. Family members will be quite instrumental to fall back on when you relationship eventually progresses to marriage, so make sure you get along with each others’ relatives and they are supportive of your relationship. If they are not during the dating period and you feel that you and your partner are a right fit, try your best to win them over. It is a lot easier if your families, especially the nuclear families, approve of your relationship. I mean they won’t marry or live with your partner but they may be able to point out some important issues to consider in your decision to progress the relationship.

Emotions run deep during the dating period and it is important to protect your mental health if you feel the need to personally or feel the relationship is taking a toll on your health. You should ensure a healthy balance between your ‘other’ personal (i.e family, leisure, etc ), social and work life and your dating life. Please don’t waste the time of your partner if you loose interest in the relationship. Politely request to end the relationship or ask for some time off if necessary. I took a few weeks off from my dating relationship at some point. We came back together and the relationship was better than it was before the break. What helped my first date (my husband) and I to balance other aspects of our lives with our dating life was spending a lot of quality time together and doing activities that we enjoyed with friends. For example, we had double dates with other couples that were in the same boat with us. Our relationship was also easier to manage because we had similar interests and lived in the same city and were both committed to making the relationship work.

Dating has the potentiality to result in marriage so it is better to pay attention to red flags and respond to them once you see them. Don’t take this period lightly. If you do it right, It might very well lead to a happy marriage that is meaningful and long lasting. Go out and date, start early if you can but pray about this important step while taking steps to ensure you set personal goals that are achievable. All the best!!!

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