A few weeks ago I wrote about three ways Christian students get it wrong when trying to find “The One.” I said there are three things students should not do in their search for a husband or wife: don’t pray about it, don’t talk about it, and don’t get physical. This week I’ll suggest three things students should do instead.
The best thing you can do while dating someone is remain truly objective. As I wrote in the previous blog, don’t pray about it and wait for God to tell you something. Just look at the facts. Look honestly at the person’s interests, intelligence, sense of humor, appearance, habits, passions, goals, friends, parents, siblings, community, career, finances, ministry, relationship with God, etc. Sadly, this is something I had to learn the hard way.
Before I met my wife, I was in a year-long relationship that drove me straight into counseling. The first four months of the relationship were great, but then it became obvious that we had some real problems. Stubbornly, we both kept trying to make it work (for eight months). I learned through my counseling that I was unable to remain objective in relationships. By God’s grace I learned to be objective, dating one girl for a few months before seeing some bad signs and breaking up only to find my wife in the next relationship.
This is what dating is for. It gives you a chance to be objective and say “yes” or “no.” After you say “I do” you do not have this option. Then you are 100% committed to the relationship, which is why character is most important.
While remaining objective, the most important thing to judge is the person’s character. The truth is that as objective as you may like to be, you’re never really going to know everything about the person you marry. That’s where character comes in.
Is the person you’re interested in forgiving? Do they admit when they are wrong? Are they kind? Are the gentle? Are the humble? Do they put others above themselves? Are they faithful? Are they trustworthy? What is their character like? Being objective about their character is more important than being objective about anything else.
Don’t just judge their character as they relate to you. Judge their character as they relate to friends and family. Trust me. They are on their best behavior when they are with you. Character can only be judged by time, which is why you should look deeply into the quality of relationships they have with their friends and family. What you see there is ultimately what you will see in your relationship with them once you get past their best behavior while dating.
A word of warning here for Christians who rightly believe that God can change us. Of course He can, but you should never enter a relationship where you see character flaws because you believe the person can change with God’s help. You must see them change first.
As a side note, if this is the most important thing to judge in others then it is certainly the most important thing to be focusing on yourself. Allow God to work on your character and you will become more attractive yourself.
Listen to Others
In all my years of counseling with students I’ve almost never seen a student end or back off of a relationship after a trusted friend, pastor, or parent suggested they do so. In almost every case, the student has their mind made up and they will not listen to the red flags that others may be able to see.
While I say “remain objective,” the truth is that it is very hard to do so when your emotions are so deeply wrapped up in the relationship. If anyone has the ability to be truly objective, it is someone outside of the relationship. So listen to them.
True, I have seen some crazy Christian parents who always think no one is good enough for their son or daughter, but more often I see parents who are able to see something that the student cannot see. Trust your friends, pastors, and parents. They see things that you’re not able to see.
This is sobering to write, but over the years I have had many friends get married despite the concerns expressed by their friends and families. Almost without fail, these are my married friends who struggle the most. Some of their marriages have ended. Others have, by God’s grace, developed their character and improved their marriages. Even so, their marriages remain more difficult than others I know who had the full support of their friends.
Justin Christopher is the national campus director for Campus Renewal Ministries and the author of Campus Renewal: A Practical Plan for Uniting Campus Ministries in Prayer and Mission. He facilitates CRM’s Partnering Campus Project and also gives leadership to the Campus House of Prayer and the missional community movement at the University of Texas.