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Once you understand the characteristics and responsibilities of each level of friendship, you can begin to lay a foundation for dating. Unfortunately, most of us in today's generation don't even know the purpose of dating. Young people are dating just to be dating. Older singles are no better, dating just for companionship or friendship.

I was glancing through a book on marriage one time, and it said that the purpose of dating was to learn how to relate to people. I thought, "Oh, no. If you don't know how to relate to people and you're talking about dating, then there's no hope for you, Honey!"

Relating to other people is something you're supposed to learn as a child. That's what school is all about. You start out as a little kid, relating to your mommy, daddy, brothers and sisters. Then you go to school and you learn to relate to all those other little kids. So if you're dating just to learn how to relate to people, someone along the line did you a serious injustice.

The basic purpose of dating is not to learn how to relate to people; and it's not for companionship. It's so you can find someone who is committed to the same life goals with whom you can develop a oneness of spirit. By the time you decide to date, you should have already been relating to one another. At the dating stage, you're working on establishing a close relationship and deciding if you want to take it to the next level.

After checking into the tragic accounts of some marriages, it's evident that the decisions and patterns made during the dating process have a far more serious effect on the success or failure of a marriage than most people realize. Many times people go into the dating relationship unprepared, and they relate to each other in such a negative way. Then they bring that same negativity over into the marriage relationship. Certain seeds were sown during their dating years - seeds for successfully failing in marriage. They totally destroy their marriage because the relationship wasn't built on knowledge. It was built on presumption - getting even with one another, and all sorts of other little games they learned while dating. So they have the same problems when they get married.
That's why there needs to be prerequisites for dating and marriage.

Now the question that I'm asked most often is, "How old should a person be before he or she starts to date?" Well, you shouldn't be dating in the first place if you don't realize that marriage is the ultimate goal of dating! Realizing that marriage is the ultimate goal should be the number-one qualification for dating. Next would be to understand all God's requirements for marriage. But, generally speaking, you're old enough to date when you've met these three prerequisites:

(1) You're aware of both the benefits and dangers of dating. In other words, you've considered its advantages and disadvantages before you enter the dating relationship.
(2) You've worked out a set of personal dating standards from Scripture, which simply means that, in addition to God's standards, you've established your own personal values for choosing the right life partner.
(3) You've purposed in your heart not to lower your standards, even if it means losing dates or relationships.

This last prerequisite is especially important because emotions can pull you in the wrong direction if you let them. If you're not careful, they'll automatically decide for you what you'll do in the early stages of a dating relationship. But, most of the time you don't really see what you're dealing with until you've been dating for at least six months. By then, the initial feelings have begun to wear off and you may find you want to get out of the relationship. That's when people can get hurt. It's much easier to set your standards ahead of time and learn how to control your emotions.

The main reason for establishing a set of standards before you start to date is so you can seek God apart from the pressures and the emotions of dating. You need that time to determine the sort of person who will be right for you. Then you need to settle in your heart that you're not going to let anything or anyone cause you to lower your standards. So once you set your standards, stick to them. You'll both save yourself a lot of time and trouble by refusing to compromise. That's why it's important to lay the groundwork for evaluating relationships first. You'll avoid a lot of problems if you don't even consider getting close to someone unless that person meets your criteria.

Source: Establishing Godly Relationships Through Marriage and Family
by Deborah L. Butler
Excerpt permission granted by Word of Faith Publishing

Author Biography

Deborah Butler
Web site: Word of Faith International Christian Center
Pastor Deborah L. Butler serves in ministry with her husband, Bishop Keith A. Butler at Word of Faith International Christian Center in Southfield, MI. She is a licensed and ordained minister of the Gospel.

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