I recently found myself in a conversation with a newly made friend who, after I told him that I had been dating my boyfriend for seven months, turned to me and confidently said, “Wow—seven months! You know this is it, right? You’re probably going to marry this guy.”
After pausing a moment to close my gaping mouth, I realized I had some explaining to do. While I freely admit that I certainly hope my current boyfriend and I will eventually get married, I had to remind my friend, and perhaps myself, that we are not there yet.
But that doesn’t mean my boyfriend and I can’t be intentional in our dating by voicing that we are discerning marriage with the other. Quite the opposite, in fact! The hope for long-term commitment has given us a heightened awareness that we need to be intentional in our dating. If you’re wondering what intentional dating is, well, we’re in the same boat. But upon reflection, I’m willing to give you my two cents worth and my experience as an active participant.
To many, this might sound like your average dating concept. But I think there are two kinds of dating out there: those who date for immediate companionship and those who date for long term. Of course, every couple is different, and all are on different timelines. But at some point, I firmly believe a couple should be able to vocalize exactly why they’re dating the other, whether it be for current companionship or long term. And if it’s for long term, then presto!, you’re dating with intention.
So how do you date with intention?
1) Talk about why you’re dating.
Admittedly, yes, the first time you broach the subject on any level might be awkward. The first time my boyfriend and I talked about it, I was so embarrassed but oddly thrilled that I wanted to crawl under a rock and die…and then come back out again to be with him. The rest of your life is a big deal! It was both exciting and embarrassing to think he’ll be exposed to everything about me and my life. But with anything, the more you talk about the possibility of marriage the more confident you become, and the more freedom is gained to be entirely yourself around the other knowing that if you do end up with this person for the rest of your life, they have seen you at your best and your worst.
2) A couple should be intentional about the circumstances and surroundings they place themselves in.
The purpose of dating is to get to know your romantic partner as much as possible before the context of marriage. Bring him or her to dinner with friends, family gatherings, pray together, eat together. Strive to see the other in as many different circumstances as possible. With more knowledge of the other, more confidence and love is built between the two of you, opening the door to be as comfortable around each other as possible—and leaving less room for surprises further down the road.
3) Spend time apart from each other.
Although this might come as a surprise to some, it is a piece of advice that has served me well. There’s a song that goes, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone” and in my experience, that’s about as honest of a statement as there is. Spending time apart gives the couple an opportunity to step back and appreciate the other at a distance, realizing how good they are for the each other (or not), and ways that you can improve together and separately. But being intentional about spending time apart doesn’t mean one of you has to move to another state. I’m talking about taking a random night to be with your friends, family, or even by yourself, or in a sense, reverting to life before dating. Again, the more intention you about why you’re dating this person, the more you’ll be able to see if this is someone you don’t want to spend time apart from.
4) Ask others what they think about you and your significant other as a couple.
The saying “Love is blind” is true both in a good way and a bad way. If you love someone, you love them for their goodness, you love them for their flaws. But love can also cause you to close your eyes to red flags indicating that although you might think this person is right for you, other people might disagree. And sometimes they might be right. Third party members are not emotionally invested in your relationship, and chances are they are quite willing to tell you what they think, but in many cases you have to ask. Ask your friends and family what they like about him/her, and how they see him improving for you, and in turn, improving you. Intentionally asking others what they think about your relationship can only offer more clarity in your discernment if you want to spend the rest of your life with this person.
Again, the goal of dating with intention is to date for marriage. This doesn’t mean you immediately have to get down on one knee or let someone put a ring on your finger. Absolutely not! But it does mean that regardless of every couple’s different dating timelines, a couple should be able to prudently talk about why they’re dating the other–not for what they like about the other, but to clarify the individual intentions.
And who knows? Maybe my friend was right. Maybe I will end up marrying my boyfriend. But for now, we are content to enjoy dating each other with intention.