When am I ready to date?

 For many women, the prospect of getting back ‘out there’ or starting fresh on the dating scene after a lengthy struggle with pornography or masturbation is a daunting one. It is equally exciting and terrifying. The intimacy sounds great, but the fear of rejection, judgement and shame is strong. Besides, dating is already nerve wracking and just plain awkward at times anyway! The recovering woman has a double dose of dating anxiety.

If you’re starting to wonder when you’ll be ready for Mr Right, I’ve suggested five questions you can ask yourself before delving into the crazy, jelly-legged, is-it-gastro-or-is-it-love? world of dating, as a woman who has struggled with sexual addiction.

Please remember, these are a guideline only. Each individual story and journey is different and needs to be considered carefully alongside such questions. It would be wise to have a mentor or friend speak into the situation as well. Ask them what they think about your answers.

1. Am I struggling?

Are you striving for recovery or are you in the depths of secret struggle? If you’re at ‘rock bottom’ or somewhere near there, I would suggest you are not ready to bring someone else into your intimate world. It wouldn’t be fair on either of you.

What does striving look like? Striving toward recovery looks like genuine repentance and confession, consistent and honest accountability, actively using resources and resisting temptation with fervour.

Striving doesn’t mean you won’t be tempted, or have lapses. These are inevitable aspects of recovery and do not exclude you from a relationship, as long as you are ruthlessly honest in your accountability. Use lapses to identify the breaches in your recovery wall. Examine them and make lasting change. Relapses are a different matter. This refers to a return to a lifestyle. A lapse is one off. A relapse is giving up and regularly indulging in the behaviour. If this occurs, I suggest taking some time to work through the cause of this and stabilize before dating again.

2. Am I ready for marriage?

Wow. Big jump, right? Well, not really. While the Bible doesn’t speak about dating, it does talk about the sanctity and goodness of marriage. The highest levels of physical, spiritual and emotional intimacy are reserved for this special, binding relationship.

So, it makes sense that Christians who are dating should set marriage as their relationship ‘vision’. It is not the be-all and end-all. Not all relationships arrive at the destination, and that’s a probably a good thing! However, dating intentionally, to explore the possibility of lifelong union provides a framework to work toward what’s best for both of you. Whether it works out or not, setting marriage on the agenda allows for clarity and clear expectations. It also saves a lot of heart-break and helps you to avoid those guys who are just in it for a bit of casual fun or who are not ready to commit to that sacred relationship where you will become one.

Can you see yourself getting married? Are you ready? Of course, as a single, it is difficult to gauge this! Marriage is something you work toward as a team. It takes discussion, prayer and ‘doing life together’ to truly know if you are. From what I hear, neither of you will truly be ready for marriage on the big day. You grow into it. But, as long as you are willing to learn, repent, love unconditionally, merge your life with another and know there will be troubles ahead; you’re on the right track!

3. Have I prayed about it?

God knows what’s best. He has a plan. He knows who you’re going to date. He knows just how your first date will go and if you’ll see the honeymoon together. Ask God for wisdom. I believe He will respond as you wait and listen. Don’t just talk. Give Him time to respond. Spend time in silence, in nature, in worship, focusing on Him, reading the Bible, resting- however you practically listen to God. He’s the boss. Do you have the go-ahead?

4. Do I have a specific person in mind?

Sometimes we get caught up in the idea of dating for the sake of dating. We crave intimacy and love, and we want it through a relationship. So our mind begins to wander and seek possibility. It is okay to ask God about dating in general terms (I mean, it’s nice to know whether you should be keeping an eye out for that special someone…) He loves to give us clarity and peace. Just make sure you’re genuinely asking, and not just in it for the idea.

5. Am I ready to be open about the struggle?

A relationship is intimate and personal. The first date probably isn’t the right time to blurt out all of your past struggles and confess a raging porn addiction, but a serious relationship will have to deal with these things. For accountability, boundaries and expectations, you will tell him about your porn struggle. Gory details are not needed. The basics will do. If you are living in secrecy, how do you expect to communicate clearly and lovingly with a significant other? You should know by now that intimacy and secrets are arch enemies. Can you let it out?

If you’re striving, praying and have the go-ahead from God, it’s not a deal breaker. With the right guy, it will make your relationship stronger, deeper and more Christ like.

I hope the answers to these questions were overwhelmingly positive. But if not, that is okay. You will get there. Loneliness is a horrible, debilitating feeling. Encouragement can’t always make it disappear. But, trust me when I say God is relentlessly pursuing your heart and seeking after you. He is your greatest lover- the lover of your soul! He is here with you. Right now. As you read this, as you grieve, cry, celebrate, ponder, pray- whatever your response, He knows. He stands by your side.  You are not alone. And He loves you.

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