So, in prepping for this article I knew that I first had to admit that will be mostly based on things I DIDN'T do. Regrettably, I failed to keep boundaries, there were times I settled, letting people into my heart that I shouldn't have. If someone had told me that those choices I was making weren't right, at the time I most likely would not have listened (actually I know I wouldn't have). Or I would have been too embarrassed to even talk about how I felt deep down.
So, my prayer would be that you would hear me. That you would know that it gets better, and that the right kind of love - the kind that actually makes you a better you, and that makes you more like Christ - is worth waiting for. And you are worth someone else waiting for. With that, it's no surprise that my first tip is this...
It can feel wonderful; those butterflies in you stomach when you see 'that guy'. Your crush. "Oooh he looks cute today. Did he just look at me? I wonder if he likes me? Do I look okay? Wait, am I still staring at him?! OMG he just texted me. He wants to meet up after class! Ahhh! He just liked my latest Instagram photo. He's so funny. We are sooo meant to be together..." Or was that just me? Lol
But as fun as all that can be, with your feelings and hormones (let's be honest here) leading your decisions, it's easy to get on a slippery slope to trouble. Not every guy who you like is worth dating. Not every guy who gives us attention is worth letting into our hearts. Every person who you build a relationship with is going to change and affect you in some way. So please - wait a bit. Get to know them as a friend. Get to know yourself. Ask the tough questions. See if this person is actually going to help you be the person God wants you to be. And if you're not sure - wait a bit more.
You're young. I know it feels like fooorrreevveerrr, but trust me, you'll be okay. You'll be better off if you don't rush.
2. Obey Your Parents (and of course God)
If your parents don't want you to date until a certain age, then, yep - you need to listen to them. You can ask to talk to them and explain your side, but when it comes down to it - it's God's command to obey our parents (unless of course they ask you to do something immoral or sinful against God or someone else). It's their job to do their best (and believe me, I know they're not perfect, they're trying really hard) to take care of you. And they have done that since you were just a little squirt in diapers who needed to be held all the time. So talk to them calmly about how you feel, but also trust and respect their decisions.
3. Know What Matters to You
I'm not saying your whole life needs to be sorted out before you date, because then we'd all still be single at 75. (I'm 31, have been married almost 9 years, and still am learning all the time.) However, you need to have some pretty clear ideas about what's most important to you, how you want to spend your time, what kind of relationship you want, how to handle disappointment, forgiveness and conflict.
Make sure you know those key and critical things about the other person. It'smore than just their favourite movie or what classes they're taking - and more than if they go to church (although that's a good start). It's about what they value, how they make decisions, and who they worship. Don't settle for less than God's best in any area of your life.
4. Set (and actually Keep) Boundaries
Ok, here's the tricky one. You need to set clear standards about where, when and how you're going to spend time together because - here come the hormones and that slippery slope again.
Make sure you know in your heart and check in with God about how to protect yourself and your boundaries, and then let the other person know what you expect. You don't want to get into a situation you're uncomfortable with, and then not be sure how to back away. It's better to talk about it beforehand. Some examples might be: Hang out in groups, with your family around, not late at night, set limits on what kind of movies you'll watch...
It's more than just protecting your body, but also your heart, your mind and your soul. It's all connected , and it's all important to God. And that guy? Yeah, his boundaries are also important to God so don't set him up in a tempting situation either. You need to help him to serve and honour God in your relationship too.
(Note: if this is an area where you are or have struggled, DO NOT let shame over take you. You are forgiven. You get to start again tomorrow. But make sure you find someone to talk to. Don't keep it to yourself. Send us a message if you'd like! Just DON'T try to fight the same battle over and over alone. Okay? Good.)
5. Get Accountability
Ask someone you trust and respect to help you keep your boundaries and standards. And if they aren't sure or they say no - keep asking around until you find someone who will. Yes, it's that important. Maybe a youth pastor or leader, a family member, an older friend - it could be in person, by phone or even over the computer. But have someone who will check in with you about how things are going and who you can actually be honest with.
Dating can be fun and it can be done right. But let's face it - it's not easy and having someone to help along the way can make a huge difference!
6. Last but not least - Know Your Foundation is Christ
Unless this guy ends up being the one you marry, the relationship will end at some point. Crushing, right? It certainly can feel that way. It may end well and you may stay friends, but sometimes things don't end well. Sometimes there's jealousy, fighting, tears...and one or both people feel torn up inside.
We need to know that no matter what happened, even if we hurt them, or they wronged us - it doesn't change God's love for us. We need to have enough of ourselves, our full selves, relying on Him as our source, so that we don't crumble apart when that person isn't in our lives anymore.
God has never left you and He will never reject you. His love for you is pure and unmatchable. And He is the One who gets to tell you who, and just how very beautiful, you are.