The desire to associate or mingle with the opposite sex, especially by young adults, is as natural as the sunrise in the morning. Young men and women growing up always have the desire to socialise with people of the opposite sex. They engage in all kinds of social activities like sports, excursions, parties, picnics, shopping, birthday celebrations, and religious activities. Interestingly, you’ll find many youths involved in certain social activities because someone they are fond of is also involved. Naturally, they feel belonged and connected to such people.
Dating is a ‘marriage market’
The word ‘dating’ is a term coined in America from the idea of ‘setting a date’ where two people – or more, if in a group date – agree to meet at a certain time and place for a purpose. Dating, thus, is a prearranged time spent with someone – often of the opposite sex with an interest in them – with the intention of assessing or evaluating how suitable or compatible you are for a possible committed or intimate relationship.
In his book ‘Your Guide to Marriage’, Dr. John Boakye described dating as a “marriage market” in which people “shop” for their prospective life partners. There are all sorts of people out there in this “market” who are your potential mates. In principle, you are not restricted to one person; you can “date” different people on different dates.
The meaning and practice, however, has changed significantly over the years; and it is now largely seen as an issue of semantics. While it was seen in the days of old as a ‘trial period’ where two people explore whether to take a relationship a step further, it has become increasingly known within recent centuries to mean a time when one actively pursues a romantic and sexual relationship with someone.
Dating is interchangeably used with the term ‘going out’. People are described to be dating when they are seen out in public together, especially when they are unmarried. In recent times, people choose to ‘go steady’ in their dating relationship by narrowing their ‘dates’ and rather ‘go out’ with just one person. For this reason, people feel entitled to their dates, and they lament as being ‘cheated on’ when they find their ‘partner’ dating other people.
Time to date?
One common question young people and even parents ask about dating is: “How old should one be in order to date?” The answer is subjective. However, I tie one’s readiness to date more to maturity than the person’s chronological age.
Dr. Myles Munroe, in his book ‘Waiting and Dating’, postulates four dating readiness principles that every person should meet before they begin dating.
- The first principle is that “you are not ready to date until you are fully aware of both the dangers and benefits of dating”. When you understand not only the fringe benefits, but also the dangers and pitfalls of dating, then you are mature enough to begin getting involved in ‘committed relationships’.
- Secondly, “you are not ready to date until you have worked out a clean and clear set of godly guidelines for behaviour based on God’s word”. This requires that you attain a certain degree of spiritual maturity. You need a good understanding of God’s standards for relationships.
- The third prerequisite for preparing to date is that “you are not ready to date until you have resolved never to lower or compromise those standards for any reason, even if it means losing dates”. To compromise moral or godly standards to get a date or hold onto a relationship is immature behaviour.
- The last of the principles, which I consider the most important and have been drumming home all these years is that “you are only ready to date when you don’t need to, but you regard dating as a matter of choice rather than necessity”. If you think you ‘need’ to date to make you a fulfilled or complete person, then you are not ready for dating. You are ready to date only to the extent that you feel whole and satisfied within yourself. You don’t have to date before you can get married. The most important thing is to make friendship a major part of your life.
Effects of dating
Dating has many social significances for people. It helps people to get along well socially as they develop their social-interaction skills. It makes you learn a lot about how to behave when with someone, especially the opposite sex. Dating helps people to develop their self-confidence and build exposure.
Dating, if done well, can lead to a loving and lasting relationship. One of the main reasons people get into dating relationships is to evaluate one another’s suitability as a life partner. Ultimately, it helps you in the selection of a spouse – deciding what kind of person you want to marry.
However, there are dangers associated with dating, which can hurt hearts and hamper peoples’ chances for future happiness.
One major danger in dating is the feeling of failure and rejection. In dating relationships, the desire of everyone is to be accepted, wishing that the outcome would be marriage. People assess one another based on their physical nature, personality, communication skills, social manners, and financial status, among others.
As a result, dating relationships have become very stressful, and many who ‘fail’ this assessment, justifiably or unjustifiably, develop feelings of hurt and lose confidence. There can be emotional and psychological trauma coupled with waste of productive time at work and in academics. Others even commit suicide – Never the best option though. Seek counselling in such situations.
Getting physically and emotionally involved too quickly at too deep a level also can lead to inappropriate behaviour. The Law of Progression teaches that even iron will melt upon continuous exposure to high temperatures. The instances of ‘date rape’ can also not be ignored and overlooked. There are many who have been raped in their dating relationships.
Whom should I date?
A major reason for dating is to find the right life partner. When you date someone, you are in a sense ‘stamping your approval’ on that person as a potential life partner. For this reason, you must start right by asking yourself some questions. Some of the important questions you should ask yourself are: “Are they having a personal relationship with God and evidenced in their behaviour and lifestyle?”, “Do they believe and share in my life goals?”, “Do they have self-control?” and “Do they have a good relationship with their own family – parents and siblings?” Your answers to these questions should help you discern the right person to date.
Attach seriousness to your dating!
Many of us ‘play’ during our dating relationship. Our conversations and activities are just those of fantasies. He tells her: “Your eyes are beautiful and pretty”, and she replies: “You have a well-trimmed moustache”. They set out on a date and it’s only movies and parties. All these compliments and activities are good, but you need to stop the jokes and have serious talks that go deeper to help you know and understand yourselves. Be sincere, honest and friendly on your dates so that you can learn more about each other. Ultimately, make friendship-building the purpose of your dating.
Remember, dating is a marriage market, and be careful the kind of stuff you ‘shop’ for in that market. Some are either genuine or fake, others quality or inferior, and of course, you’ll find those that are either authentic or synthetic. In any case, be decisive to look out for a good ‘marriage material’ on your dates!
>>>The writer is a Love & Relationship Expert, and a Licensed Counsellor by the Ghana Psychology Council. He is a member of the Ghana Psychological Association (GPA) and the Ghana Academy of Christian Counselors (GACC). He can be reached via +233 (0) 207295852 and [email protected]