Dating Yourself is a prerequisite
to dating others

You can call it “becoming mature” or “working on yourself” but I think “dating yourself” sounds better, don’t you? It sounds more fun, and in fact, it is.

Dating inward is a term I’ve recently learned from reading a great book called “True Love Dates” by Debra Fileta, a licensed professional counselor specializing in dating, marriage and relationships issues. Her book is split into three parts: Dating Inward, Dating Outward, and Dating Upward. I highly appreciated the first part in particular because “many people have little to no awareness of who they are” and yet this is such a critical step in having a healthy marriage. (p. 23)

During a church service she attended the pastor asked people to raise their hand if they thought the church was a serving church. 90% of the people raised their hands. Then he asked them to raise their hands if they gave up more than one hour of their time every week to serve those in need. Only a few raised their hands. The pastor noted, “By the showing of hands, there is clearly a huge difference between who you think you are and who you really are.” How many of us are guilty of the same thing - living under the guise of who we want to be rather than coming to terms with who we actually are? (p. 33)

As a result of this, she encourages you to ask yourself (and answer) these three main questions before getting into a serious relationship:

  1. Who am I?

    “Take a look at your family of origins and address the hurts that have caused pain and anger, identifying the dysfunction that has produced fear and doubt, and considering the broken relationships that have led to anxiety and mistrust. Understanding where you come from means taking a good hard look at your past and giving yourself the freedom to learn from it….For those who don’t take time to understand their past and are blind to how it has shaped them, the road to true love can be difficult” (p. 27)

    Some of the areas to she encourages you to examine in particular are communication patterns, self image, desire for love and acceptance, views of sex and sexuality, divorce, fatherlessness, religious hypocrisy, physical or sexual abuse, alcoholism and addiction.

    By committing to this process of dating yourself you will expose faulty ways of thinking that you may have never questioned before. This will help you to make decisions based on truth so that you can take the pain of your past and turn it into perspective as you make changes for a healthier future.

    2.    Where and who am I now?

    Analyzing your past will then bring you to the present. Your identity determines what and even whom you will connect with, because human beings are drawn to what is familiar. This is where we get the phrase, “Birds of a feather flock together.” So if you want someone who is emotionally healthy, work on those emotional issues you’ve kept buried. If you want someone who is spiritual, make spiritual things a priority in your own life. “Become the kind of person you want to marry.” (p. 44)

    We all live with labels we’ve placed on ourselves and labels others have slapped on us without our permission. Some may be true, but many of them are probably lies. We all have thoughts and beliefs that we default to because of our life’s experiences. But dating yourself involves taking the time to re-evaluate your identity based on trustworthy sources. We all know that we should turn to God’s word instead of our physical appearance, friendships, parental approval, grades or accomplishments, but how exactly do you “find your identity in Christ”?

    Debra Fileta encourages journaling to keep track of your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, experiences, and interactions to help you observe yourself from the inside out. As you do this you will find patterns in your beliefs and begin to  recognize default thinking and then compare it to what God says about you. It will make your emotional world tangible and give you a concrete place to put off the old labels and put on God’s opinion of you. Sometimes you have to stand alone and learn who you are before you can join your life with another person.

    3.    Where am I going?

    You may have heard the saying, "Fix your eyes on Jesus and the plans he has for your life. Look ahead and run after him with all your heart. Then look around. Whoever has kept up with you, marry that person."

This was the motto that Debra Fileta kept as she committed herself to the Lord and let go of her obsession to find true love. As she kept her eyes on Jesus, letting Him be the sole proprietor of her affections, she was enabled to live each day with joy instead of discontentment, worrying over what she did not have. 

Let God give you a bigger vision for your life than just getting married. "Your story has far more to do with finding God's unique calling and purpose for your life than it does with finding the love of your life...Finding true love may be a beautiful portion of your story, but it was never intended to be the grand finale." (p. 51)

Dating yourself can be an exciting time of discovery and growth. Don't shortchange yourself by sidestepping this experience. By dating yourself you'll find that instead of changing to make a relationship work, you will be able to be yourself in the relationship God wants you to be in. 

In the back of the book Debra Fileta provides a list of questions to help you start the process of dating yourself as well as some pointers for knowing whether or not you need professional counseling to work through your past.

I was expecting her book to be contrary to my paradigm of courtship, but I was surprised to see that she was very balanced and took a common sense, principle centered, God led approach to finding true love. If you are looking for a relationship book that offers good advice, it's worth the read.

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