When I was dating in my early forties, to the sound of a ticking biological clock, I frequently forgot everything I’d learned about the importance of dating slowly and mindfully.
I rushed into relationships, ignoring any red flags, hoping to find someone to partner with and marry before my fertility ran out. Needless to say, my hasty dating didn’t produce the desired result.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being keen to find love. In fact, we need all the energy, enthusiasm and positivity we can muster, especially in this age of internet dating – there’s so much choice, yet at the same time it can be tricky to find a suitable match.
And it’s only natural that we would want to rev up our romantic lives after a global pandemic, which forced many of us to restrict our movements and isolate ourselves for many months.
But we won’t get any closer to our goal of a happy, healthy relationship by moving too fast.
In fact, we may well sabotage ourselves. We’ll lose time in the long run because we’ll fall into unhealthy relationships and need to extricate ourselves, or we’ll hurt someone or get hurt and need space to recover from the experience.
With all that in mind, here are three suggestions to date healthily and create the relationship we’ve been waiting and praying for:
Be proactive but don’t panic
Balance is the key to healthy dating – too little effort and we’ll get nowhere; too much effort and we’ll exhaust ourselves, put people off or make unhealthy choices.
To achieve balance, try setting some boundaries around your online dating behaviours.
A healthy and proactive approach to dating may look like this: you dedicate a few hours a week to internet dating or you check messages once a day at the end of the day and switch off the tech by 8 o’clock.
Once you’ve connected with someone, you exchange a few messages and then move to a telephone or video call and, if that goes well, to a coffee date.
Along the way, you check in with God through prayer, meditation and journaling, trying to discern His will for your life. You also check in with your friends and other people you trust, sharing your thoughts and asking for guidance. In short, you don’t date alone.
Alternatively, a panicked and obsessive approach may look like this: you check the dating site numerous times throughout your workday and get distracted by messages.
You connect with someone and message them late into the night, sharing too much of yourself and building up a false intensity that isn’t based on anything real.
You let your imagination run away with you before you meet, meaning that by the time you do meet, you are invested in the relationship and miss the red flags, or you suffer huge disappointment or disappoint him or her because there’s no spark.
Along the way, you ignore those little taps on the shoulder or the feeling in your gut that’s telling you this isn’t right. You don’t make time to talk or listen to God and you don’t share what’s going on with your friends. In short, you go it alone.
So be proactive, yes, but don’t panic and walk away if things get too intense.
Live with passion and maintain a full life
It’s all too easy, when we’re looking for love or just starting out in a new relationship, to abandon the rest of our lives and put all our eggs in the relationship basket.
Gradually or all at once, we stop seeing friends or family. We stop doing our hobbies. We miss out on our quiet time.
If you notice this happening, press the pause button, take a step back and connect again with other important aspects of your life.
Think about your life as a pie chart with many segments. Your relationship is just one of these segments. The other segments include work, friendships, play, finances, spiritual life, health and wellbeing, and any other categories you’d like to include.
Try to maintain a balance between all these segments and don’t let the relationship swallow all the other pieces of the pie.
Be patient and watch out for warning signs
What if your date or new love interest is coming on too strong? It might be tempting to roll with it. After all, you’ve waited a long time for someone to be this interested in you.
The problem is that intensity can build very quickly and before we know it, we’re in a committed relationship with someone we barely know. How on earth did we end up here?
Instead, this is the perfect time to practice setting boundaries. Express your truth: you’re not comfortable moving at this pace. You’d prefer to slow things down.
If the person is right for you, he or she will respect your boundaries. If they push back, then this isn’t the right match. The relationship may end but you have been true to yourself. Remember: rejection can be God’s protection – God has your back.
I hope these suggestions help you to date joyfully and effectively. Know that you will have the relationship you long for and deserve if you continue to respect yourself, hold your boundaries, proceed mindfully and trust in God’s timing.
How are you approaching post-pandemic dating?
Read stories from couples who met on Christian Connection here (including some who met during the pandemic!) or join Christian Connection here.