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Ten ways to be a better date. Three reasons you should take a break from dating. Five qualities you should look for in a spouse. Twelve things you’re doing to sabotage your relationships.

Some days, being a single Christian can be exhausting. There is no shortage of advice coming from well-meaning authors, bloggers, pastors, teachers and “dating experts.” There is constantly a new blogpost, podcast, sermon series or book for us to pick up to learn the keys to “biblical” dating and start doing things the right way.

I wonder if any generation before ours ever had so much instruction on the topic of finding a spouse—and if any other generation has been so confused about it.

While sound advice from trusted people is something we should seek out and embrace in our lives, where the line is between healthy wisdom and excessive over-analyzing? Is finding someone to marry really so complicated that single adults need to have the process defined and explained to them over and over again? 

There Is No Formula

At the root of it all, many of us are searching for a formula, a foolproof plan for landing Mr. or Mrs. Right. Deep down, we hope that if we follow the right steps, we’ll be guaranteed a great relationship or happy marriage. And so we look for strategies to date better and scroll through bullet point lists meant to point us to more fulfilling relationships.

The problem is, when we become consumed with following a formula or series of steps, it’s easy to grow into critics and cynics, evaluating other people with a standard we might not even hold ourselves to. It’s easy to become so concerned with the process that we lose sight of the very real person sitting across the table from us. Our checklist looms bigger in our minds than the prospect of learning to appreciate someone who has given us the honor of sharing their time.

We can also fall into the trap of believing that our single status must indicate a deficiency on our part. Much of the dating counsel that floods our newsfeeds daily stems from an assumption that our singleness must mean we are sub-par at relationships, and we need to have those skills fine-tuned. We’re left scratching our heads, wondering if we have what it takes to pursue a meaningful relationship, and questioning if that right person could even exist.

Ditching the Rules

Perhaps instead of more advice, more tips and more “how-to’s,” what we need most is a gentle reminder that God created us for relationship, both romantic and otherwise. He gave us the good desire to know and be known, and crafted us to long for intimacy. And He gave us all the tools we need to pursue just that. Maybe it’s time we ditch the dating rules and embrace the freedom that comes from knowing that we were made for this. Relationships are part of our very nature, no instruction manual needed. Since Adam and Eve caught their first glimpse of one another in the garden, humans have been figuring out what it means for two to become one.

Relationships won’t always come easy, a lesson we will continue to learn well into marriage. Building a foundation of trust and commitment takes time and work, but it is a task that God has uniquely equipped and wired us to accomplish. It’s a gift He designated to humans, despite our flaws and our sinfulness.

Instead of placing so much focus on how to find the perfect match, the one who meets our specifications, let’s instead ask ourselves if we’re prepared to show someone else the scandalous grace Christ has shown us. And, even as we seek to grow spiritually and personally, let’s breathe a sigh of relief of knowing we will never be responsible for “fixing” ourselves. That task belongs to Christ as He works in our lives.

Embracing the Process

Let’s free ourselves of the notion that there is roadmap to relational success we must follow. Scripture doesn’t offer us a formula, and God offers us no guarantees that relationships will turn out the way we want them to, or even that we’ll have a romantic relationship at all. But what He offers us is an assurance that He has given us the ability to love, and a promise that He is with us in the process.

“We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

We don’t need more lists and more rules to navigate the road to marriage. We don’t need to play the role of judge on every date, or question our ability to attract the opposite sex. We’ve got all we need. We can do this, as we lean into God for wisdom and grace.

We might get married or we might not, but Christ just might use those experiences along the way to shape us and help us look more like Him. And, at the end of the day, that should be the real standard of success we seek the most.

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