Some people seem to have it all together when it comes to dating, but the truth is that most of us are more confused than we are confident. Too many wounds exist, and too many mistakes have been made for us to be careless in our dating relationships.
That is why dating is such a popular topic. We love reading relationship advice, stories of dating gone wrong and feel-good love stories. We are hungry for ground level wisdom when it comes to relationships.
But one area that can be overlooked in the dating discussion is motivation. We love to talk about the “how,” but often give the “why” just a passing glance. Dating practices and practical advice are essential, but if the issue of motive is neglected, we may be obsessing over symptoms without looking for a disease.
Dating happens in real time, with real people, so it makes sense that the day-to-day material is so intriguing. But there needs to be a recognition of what drives our daily decisions, actions and reactions; there should be some attention given to the deeper motivations beyond just attraction. To that end, here are three not so great motivations for a dating relationship.
1. Dating to Prove Yourself
Everybody knows somebody who has only dated their high school sweetheart, who they eventually ended up marrying. No relationship is easy, but those people didn’t have to wander through the relational wilderness called twenty-first century dating.
For those of us who know this landscape well, there have inevitably been times of rejection or times when the end of a relationship was truly our fault. These experiences can be damaging if not handled correctly. If we’re not careful, our next relationship can be less about selfless service and more about proving ourselves to the not-so-watching world—or proving ourselves to ourselves. Insecurity can derail healthy intentions, making it all about us and what we want people to think.
But your view of yourself isn’t always accurate, and it definitely isn’t final (1 Corinthians 4:3-5). While we should desire to grow in our relationships and in godliness, dating to perform better than “last time” in order to atone for our failures is neither good nor necessary. Your identity is secured in Christ, not in your relationship status.
2. Dating to Cure Loneliness or Boredom
There are seasons in life that can be monotonous. Sometimes life feels like a waiting room at the doctor’s office; we know we’re here for something, but nothing has happened in a while and we’re starting to wonder what’s taking so long.
Millennials seem particularly unable to deal with this reality and see God working in the midst of common things. This can lead to seeking a romantic relationship just for the sake of having a companion, someone to hang out with. Sometimes we think having a significant other will make us happier or less lonely or give us clarity or motivation.
In a world broken by sin, we will often deal with feeling discontent, lonely, unhappy, and a whole lot more, but they should not drive our relationships. Not even the greatest girlfriend, fiancee, wife or husband will settle those issues in your soul. At best, they will point you to the God who can. But they will never be His substitute.
Putting that kind of weight on someone will not end well for either person. So bring your cares to God instead, because He cares for you.
3. Dating To Be Loved
This one is tricky. Simply because, in the complexity of language, it is both right and wrong at the same time, depending on how you interpret it.
The search for love can be blessed or toxic, depending on a few things. First, is there a knowledge of God’s love for us? Second, are we seeking to follow Paul’s example when he said “the love of Christ controls me”? Third, do we know that in God’s presence is “fullness of joy,” not in the presence of a significant other?
Believing these truths sets our hearts in the proper place to begin and build a relationship. But when we lose sight of how much we are already loved, the search for love can be toxic. Then we will be looking for endless love in a flawed and limited person, and that kind of expectation will never be met that way. Resting in the love of God secures us against desperately needing love from others, while freeing us to seek relationships in the right way.
Where there are bad motives, there will inevitably be bad dating. The good news is, God has better motivations for your relationships than you do.
Ben works for Acts 29 West and lives in Huntington Beach, CA. He spends his free time writing, staying active, and following the Chicago Bulls. You can follow him @bwcliff, or check out his blog here.