After graduating from college, I was ready to go get everything I’d ever wanted. I assumed that by 25, I would have a steady income, meet the woman of my dreams, and get married. We would buy our first home (with a white picket fence). Life would be just as I had always hoped!
In my twenties, I dated recklessly. And through a series of unhealthy dating relationships, I realized I had a lot of maturing to do. My hopes and dreams of being married by my mid-twenties were gone.
When I turned thirty, I was still single and finally ready to yield control to the Lord and allow Him to guide me — including my dating habits. Looking back, I can see some big dating mistakes I made in my twenties that I was able to correct in my thirties. Here are three of them:
Fun vs. Substance
In my twenties, I found myself interested in the attractive, athletic, and adventurous type. Although these characteristics are certainly not wrong to desire, I pursued them more than I pursued what God values in a life partner. I was drawn to a woman who could spike a volleyball more than a woman who loved Jesus.
In my thirties, I realized that her character was far more important than her knowledge of my favorite NFL team. Proverbs 31:30 talks of how a woman who fears the Lord — who puts Jesus first in her life — is the one to be desired. I finally realized that being purposeful in a dating relationship is not only a great way to avoid unnecessary heartache, but also to find someone who is serious about the right things.
Physicality vs. Purity
Through mistakes I had made in my twenties, I learned that any physicality had the tendency to distract me from seeking to genuinely get to know the other person. I learned that even going down the path of holding hands and kissing leads to heightened emotions, creating a false sense of familiarity.
According to Scripture, physical affection that is sexual in nature is to be reserved for marriage (Hebrews 13:4, Ephesians 5:3). And once that door is opened, it can be very difficult to put on the brakes.
When I started to date my wife Laura, we purposely set physical boundaries right from the beginning of the relationship. This was unique to both of us, and unlike our past relationships, we found that we were able to put Christ first as we got to know each other at a healthy pace. We also discovered that a pure relationship led to peace and joy, compared to the nagging sense of guilt and shame we experienced in other relationships when sexual sin was present.
Isolation vs. Community
I remember years ago being in a brand-new relationship. We started dating after having only talked a couple of times. We spent every day and evening that we possibly could with each other. Let’s just say that “dude time” for me diminished. My buddies, whom I loved hanging out with, probably thought I had dropped off the face of the earth. As I spent time with my new girlfriend, I found myself less and less connected to community and accountability. I may not have admitted it, but I knew what I was doing. The more I distanced myself from biblical community, the more I knew that people would have a hard time speaking into my life. And as long as that happened, I fooled myself into thinking I could ignore the Holy Spirit’s conviction.
After spending several years thinking I could manage just fine on my own, it all caught up with me. Reaping what I had sown became a reality in my life. Just before I turned 30, I went through a broken engagement only months away from the wedding, and in the process, I found that I was broken. I was hurting. I needed help. Through the loving pursuit of some close friends at my church, I realized the safest place to be was surrounded by godly people who could encourage me in the truth of God’s Word. They cared enough to speak into my life and hold me accountable. With their support, I found the strength to make better dating decisions.
Turning around to move forward
When I was entering my thirties, still single and having just gone through some challenging lessons, I knew I needed to make some decisions. Was I going to continue down the path I was on, or choose a different path, one of faith and obedience to the Lord?
Thankfully, through the encouragement of close friends and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, I was able to give up what I had been holding onto for so long. The desire to be married was an idol that dictated the decisions I was making. Have you been in this place before? Are you there now? C.S. Lewis says:
“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road…”
So often “doing an about-turn” is painful. But we have a compassionate God who is ready to forgive (1 John 1:9). Progress is not having a spouse we adore, but having a Savior we confide in. For me, progress was when I finally decided to put God first in my life, yielding the desires I had so desperately to be married. And when I did eventually have the opportunity to date again, being intentional, striving for purity, and surrounding myself with community were all fruit of the progress I was making.
Alex Florea is a small business owner who lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his wife and two young children. He loves sports, the outdoors, snowboarding, music, cooking and art. He has a theology degree and serves as a non-vocational singles pastor where his passions are evident when talking about relationships and how God’s Word practically impacts our everyday lives.