Many a student meets their spouse at college…and many a student dates (or doesn’t date) and finds out that a significant other isn’t as easy to find as he or she first thought. College seems like a prime locale for meeting those of the opposite sex, and everyone knows that the roller coaster of love can be an amazing and confusing ride to ride.
Love is worth the time and intention it takes to get things right, so how can you do it well? Are there steps you can follow? Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all roadmap to dating “correctly,” but there are some things you can do and some mindsets you can hold that will help you make wise decisions, pursue holiness, and have a little fun while you’re at it.
1. Don’t isolate yourself from your friends
Once couples start dating, it can feel really easy to ditch your friends and start spending all your time with your new love interest. While you may both be feeling giddy infatuation, the reality is that it’s important and healthy for both of you to maintain friendships outside of your relationship. Your friends will be watching your relationship from the outside, and if they’re wise friends of good character, you’ll be able to trust their judgment as they observe you and your significant other.
If you’re dating someone who’s not good for you, they’ll probably see it before you do—since you’ll be sporting those rose-colored glasses. Keeping your friends also helps you maintain a sense of self and identity, instead of losing yourself in your relationship. Good friends can also help keep you accountable physically, emotionally, and spiritually as you grow closer with this other person, and if things don’t turn out as planned, they’re the ones who will be there for you if you end up breaking up. While your friends certainly don’t have to be best buds with your new love interest, it’s important that you see how your S/O interacts in a group and with those closest to you.
2. Make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to values
When it comes to dating, it’s important you figure out what values you have that you simply won’t compromise—no matter what. Your faith is one of these things—it impacts your lifestyle, your morals, your beliefs. If you’re not on the same page with something as important as that, it’s going to affect your whole relationship negatively.
As you date more seriously, there are other crucial conversations you should have: kids or no kids, your work ethic, family of origin, your desires for the future. It can be easy to look past certain subjects you disagree on when your head is swimming from infatuation, but as you get further down the line and start to date more seriously, these matters will crop up again, and you’ll have to work through them at some point. Better on the front end when the risk for a painful breakup is much less!
3. Communicate, communicate, communicate
You’ve probably heard it before, but communication is key when it comes to relationships—of all kinds, really. It can be easy when you’re dating to have expectations that your partner should simply “know” how you’re feeling and be able to meet your needs the way you want them met. However, more often than not, he or she is wired differently than you and may need these expectations spelled out. Do you like to be alone when you’re upset, or do you prefer your boyfriend or girlfriend pursue you and ask questions? Do you like things to be planned, or are you more spontaneous? Talking about your expectations as much as possible—even if your point seems obvious to you—will eliminate much confusion and struggle later on.
4. Take things seriously—but have fun, too
Dating is a big deal! After all, hearts that belong to real people are on the line. You want to protect and cultivate the relationship you’ve been entrusted, so playing the field is only going to end up hurting you and others in the long run. There’s a time and place for keeping things casual as you get to know each other, but the end goal of dating should be marriage, and you want that in the back of your mind as you consider a potential dating partner. Love requires unselfishness and sacrifice, as well as commitment, and practicing these in dating first will pay off in marriage later.
At the same time, be careful not to get Pharisaical about how you approach dating. There’s not a manual for doing it the “right” way, and following too many “rules” can make things stressful. Yes, please discuss your boundaries, and please do your best to keep them, but be careful not to heap up too many expectations and “should’s.” Talk things through, and enjoy your relationship. Dating is certainly a gift!