After being single for 6 years, I knew that there was a part of me that had somehow shut off from the face of the earth. I had read books on dating but not on Healthy Boundaries In Christian Dating. While single, I had become so used to operating in my own skin, my own terms, my timelines, and even my routine.
It was as if it had been intertwined in me to love being single and I thought I could do it forever! Don’t get me wrong: I loved the idea of dating. I loved seeing couples hold hands and lie down on green grass talking about how the clouds were different in different parts of where they lay.
Healthy boundaries in Christian dating are limits that we put when we are with another person of the opposite sex to find the true purpose of dating as a Christian. These conversations run chills in my spine. They do because its as though am being introduced once again to a part of me that has to open up because hey!
I have been praying for a man to sweep me off my feet. Earlier on, I actually felt I knew who it was and it was just a matter of time before I was whisked away into the sky and never to return.
Well, I would say boundaries while being single was amazing! I loved minding my own business and loving on Jesus. God was also preparing me for a new season! This was getting into the dating space or so I thought it would be a short part of my life. I mean, get the man, don’t waste any time, court and then get married as soon as the question is popped. So God did His magic and I was in for a ride!
Do healthy boundaries in Christian dating exist and if so what are they?
I finished my undergraduate studies in the year 2015 and this was one year that I understood a lot about men. To give you a flashback: I had dated back in 2012 and it had only lasted 3 months. This meant I really didn’t get deeper into the relationship and didn’t have much to learn or even see what exactly dating is.
Along the way, I found myself in flings and crushes that ended in just a week. If it went longer, it could go for just one month. In between, there was nothing interesting that happened.
I was so focused on living for Jesus and getting to know him hence I understood that guarding my heart was paramount. You can read more on this journey on Boundaries in Singlehood. So getting back to 2015, I met different men as I was now working and in a space where I had to interact.
I would immediately get into contact with the opposite sex and it was quite easy to strike conversations with them. I developed great friendships. It became more interesting to notice how men thought, spoke, analyzed, or even looked into different issues.
Healthy boundaries while dating exist and they are limits that help us to know what to go for in a relationship. It is what to invest in and also what you have to be able to watch out for while in a relationship. These boundaries can be in different forms from friendships to physical and spiritual intimacy to purpose to communication and even values that you have.
These are the forms of boundaries while in the dating phase of life. For example, if you understand that as a person, it’s important to have great friendships before getting to connect with a man. Then it forms an understanding of what you would like to focus on when a man or woman approaches you. If you know that you love Jesus and you would not want to connect with someone who doesn’t then that forms a boundary.
These different boundaries help one understand what they can take in their lives. This would go into who they would like to interact with because dating starts with a normal conversation after interaction with a particular person.
How Do You Set Healthy Boundaries In Christian dating
One of the greatest lessons I took out of being single was understanding what I stood for. It shaped me to know what I would like for my life having walked through the journey with Jesus. Here are some of the ways that you can set boundaries while dating:
As you start to relate with different people of the opposite sex, you will realize that you are both different. This means that the way they think through life is different. This can be from the way you live life and from the way you speak to other people.
All these forms who we are and what we are about. It also influences who we choose to connect with and how we connect with others.
I remember this gentleman who is now my husband, back then, I didn’t like him. I felt he was a bit different from the way he talked to ladies and they liked him a lot. That bothered me and what would run in my mind is I would never get to date someone like that.
You see, I had my own ideologies about friendships between men and women. To me, it was a no-no and I was so strict about it that I didn’t have any male friends, just counterparts but that was it.
Well, when I got to know my now-husband, I realized he had many lady friends. However, I didn’t get time or even want to understand why or how he had many friends.
However, when you get to know yourself and are in the process of self -identity, you start to embrace someone else’s difference. You learn to have the maturity to understand that their opinions and values have to be respected even if they don’t fit yours.
So we started having conversations with this nice guy and I realized that he had many lady friends. It was because of how and where he had been raised. This made me understand him as he was but not really get interested at that time or want a relationship of any sort. Hence, first, understand who you are as you love on the others.
It was March of 2015 when we had just left a German class. We walked towards the Central Business District of Nairobi talking about how the class was and how hard it was. We would laugh about it then rushed to get some food as we always did! I had started getting to know this man who I had hated him because ladies loved him.
Well, I started realising that we had so much in common and we could not stop talking to each other. I had no idea what friendships with men looked like but this one was one of a kind. Long walks became our thing. He would take me home then go to his place. I didn’t really mind the walks because they were a space for us to get to know one another more and more.
The long phone calls added the cherry on the ice. We had developed great friendships out of it. We asked each other questions that I had never thought I would ask anyone. It then became easier to talk about what crossed my mind. The great thing about dating is that you get to invest in friendship.
These friendships create freedom of getting to know one another. It helps the two of you be comfortable to have different conversations with each other. Hence choose your friends wisely so that you are able to lead each other through what you talk about and how you talk about things.
While dating or getting to know the person that probably is a potential, get to know how you would like to communicate together. It might be that texting is easier than calling for the two of you. Or maybe you could go old school and write letters to each other. If this works for the two of you then make it a priority to respect this boundary that makes it easy to communicate.
While dating my now-husband, we got to agree that every single day we would call each other in the morning and in the evening. As for within the day we would text especially when in a meeting or when doing something that’s important at that time but to call back immediately after that.
We would make sure that we allocate timelines in our day to make these calls. This helped a lot in addressing the time schedule that created a balance for the two of us.
The other aspect that came naturally for us is communicating positively with each other. That our conversations needed to be more affirmative of one another: Using words such as I am so proud of what you did today or I felt so loved today when you did this or that or I am so thankful to have you in my life.
These we purposed we would tell each other frequently to keep appreciating and celebrating one another.
We would also write down our dreams, goals, and prayers then look into them after some time. These helped us communicate what we were going through. It helped us see to it that we prayed about whatever it is that frustrated or disturbed the two of us.
This created a great boundary of keeping to prayers, affirmations and positive talk in conversations.
While dating my now-husband, we would get into arguments from time to time. These arguments would however not last more than a day and that’s because we purposed that we would solve any issue that we have before the day ends.
Some of them were difficult to solve in a day. From this, we would agree that when the matter was too intense then the next morning would be a good time to talk. This would bring a fresh understanding of the situation.
This has greatly helped us know that at the end of the day we are in the same team and hence the conversation came in of: When we talk we make it better!
One of the other things that we realized while dating was that we were both different. This was in terms of how we argued and how we brought out issues. Sometimes we would end up getting into loggerheads because we didn’t understand each other’s ways of tackling a matter and that led us to create a boundary.
For example, if I know I need time to cool down before coming back to the matter, then I would do that. This was the same for him: If he needed to solve the matter as soon as possible then we had to sit down and look into the issue.
If it was an issue that just needed to be solved immediately then we would do his way but if I needed time to cool off, then he would give me space then come back with a fresh way of dealing with it but in the end, we knew we were in the same team and we wanted to always win and not a win-lose situation.
The other concept we adopted during our dating days was that we would invest a lot in dates to helps us think through where we were, solve matters that needed more time, review, evaluate, dream and set goals for our relationship and what we wanted from it.
I have learned that the greatest connection and level of intimacy that someone can have is that of Christ. It is important to discuss this particular aspect of your dating life. Many of us can go on days when in a Christian relationship without really connecting with the other person in terms of asking each other questions concerning the faith.
While I do realize that this can be awkward if that was not the first thing that came naturally in the relationship, this can make the two of you love each other as God desires of the two of you.
Before I started dating the right way and the way Jesus desired of me, I had to sit down with Jesus and actually agree with him how He desired me to be with someone else. One of the things that struck me at that time was being able to think clearly what I desired in a man.
Not the list that we have as ladies of 100 things to tick off before choosing a dating partner!
After spending quite a lot of time conversing, arguing, agreeing, submitting and being corrected by my maker, I decided that I would intentionally wait to be found by this man and the person God saw it fit. I had thought it was someone else but I had to wait and you can read more on Waiting in Singleness.
As I wrestled with this, God started bringing in people who we had conversations about Jesus with and one of them included my now husband. I didn’t even have to tell him that we need to pray or fast or walk in the ways of the Lord. He knew his place as a man and He would lead us spiritually.
This came through praying together over the phone, doing devotionals and discussing them during date days. There were particular days we would discuss what God was teaching us or what we were learning about each other!
We also got days to cover and think through the purpose that God had put in us and pray over our future. We prayed about the work we had and now have. We offered our bodies to Him to show us how we can wait without getting sexually intimate.
We gave Him our brokenness and allowed Jesus to build us, to grow us, to challenge and correct us, to surrender our thoughts and our ways.
For us to connect spiritually as we dated, we surrendered our relationship to Jesus. It meant not allowing the devil to speak negatively to us or try to downgrade us. It meant allowing ourselves to fall deeper into Jesus’ feet and fully depending on the Holy Spirit and not what we thought or heard or saw or felt.
Connecting deeper to Jesus as a couple meant dying to ourselves. It also meant allowing ourselves to connect separately with Jesus then God would make our connection as a couple stronger and stronger!
This didn’t take one day! It took seconds, days, weeks, months, and years to develop and cultivate. We had to be intentional in making it work because we were both committed to walking together and growing deeper in Jesus.
When it comes to our bodies and how God created us, we are wired to be cared for and care for others. We are wired to love and be loved. We are wired to feel and be felt. We are wired to touch, hug, and get closer to each other especially when it comes to the times when we are dating.
These moments are when the bodies would like to do more than just hug, they want to know what’s inside the clothes and want to feel what’s inside.
It is very easy to get caught up in fulfilling the desires that our flesh gives us every single day. I don’t think these feelings are wrong in any way but then it requires a lot of self-control not to find yourselves entertaining the flesh and what it offers.
Ideally, relationships should be spaces where we actually grow together in all manner of ways whether it be spiritually, physically, emotionally, or socially but sometimes they can be harmful in different ways such as getting into sexual intimacy before you get married and having to deal with the guilt.
Some relationships may be emotionally or physically toxic to you as a person and you are wondering how I do ensure the next one will be better? Well, first and foremost, pray and ask God for healing.
Then dwell in His word and let His presence fill you up. Take time to get to know yourself and move from that place of hurt and disappointment. You could also see a therapist to help you dig deeper into the pain and be able to move past it.
Then journal or write or have someone that you can trust to let it all out. The other part is to allow yourself to feel the pain but get out of it by taking the time to know yourself better. Get to love on yourself once again then forgive yourself and the other person. Just remember that it takes time.
Once you feel you have started coping, then take your time before you get into another relationship. However, one of the best ways to keep physical boundaries intact in your relationship aside from having Jesus on your side is being intentional. This would mean avoiding secluded places because this breeds a lot of closeness that end ups in falling into sexual temptation.
One of the things that I remember we did as we dated was to not be in the car together alone especially at night. This was because we kept on hugging for so long that the hug felt like we should now do more than just hug.
The other place we could not be together was in the same house without anyone else around us. So we discovered that its quite easy for us to love each other and love the closeness because it gives us privacy. However, we felt it was breeding secrecy; Secrecy breeds sin.
We also realized hugging too long was causing us to go beyond the hug and want to touch any part of the body that brought pleasure and that was a no-no for us.
So we worked at not getting intimate physically or sexually. We worked at not being alone in spaces but going to restaurants during the day and saying goodbye without hugging. It was hard not to be so close but it paid off during our wedding day! It was hard telling a friend to keep you accountable so that you don’t end up in bed or in each other’s alone spaces but we now look back and see God’s hand on us.
We look back and see that it was worth the wait. It was worth the boundaries. It was worth not hugging for long or even kissing before getting married. There were occasions where we felt the urge to kiss like when we got engaged! But that did not make us do it every time, it made us not want to do it again because our bodies were like a fire that cannot be put off. Our bodies wanted more and more pleasure and we had to say no to them as hard as it was.
This was a hard boundary to maintain but we made it! We survived through not having sex before marriage. It led us to a beautiful first night that was heavenly and only touched by God’s presence through it all.
If you want to set Healthy Boundaries in christian dating then you must have accountability.
If there is one area where couples struggle to keep it together and work through is having someone else be accountable to your relationship. What I mean is allowing someone else to be a part of your journey by guiding you and calling you out to rise up again. There are different levels of accountability: There are peers and older couples to younger couples.
One of the best things that happened to our relationship as we dated was having different couples walk and hold our hands as we walked through the journey to marriage. We had different couples mentoring us through finances, sex, in-laws and outlaws, purpose, and conflict resolution. It was refreshing hearing different couples share their experiences and let us know what we should do if any of what they went through would happen.
We were amazed at what we learned. We were empowered to be a better couple. We were uplifted to know we were walking in the right direction. One of the things that mentorship and accountability do is that it helps you see the other side of what you discuss with your partner. We got to have more than what we taught during Premarital classes. This is also another way of being kept accountable.
Attending premarital class whether it be in a church set up or a therapy group setup helps the two of you understand how to function better as a couple. The other amazing thing that accountability does is that you become more flexible and open to each other. You get to know each other in a different way other than just saying things to each other.
You get to hear someone else give pointers of what your partner is going through. The other aspect of accountability is that you get the courage to speak to another dating couple who would desire someone to mentor them through their journey.
Having peer couples also helps you know how different people work through their relationship and this is a good place to get the courage to borrow a leaf from them. It can also be a place to know that there is a fellow man or woman who can be there for your partner if something happens to either of you. You also get to accept your partner’s strengths and weaknesses and accept them for who they are.
Accountability also keeps you at a place of wanting more than just being in a relationship. It helps you focus on why you are both together in the relationship. I learnt through accountability that people are always watching the two of you.
This helps you to create a legacy that you can pass on to the next generation regardless of whether you would get married to that person or not. So at the end of the day, what kind of person would you like to be in the relationship that can serve as a blueprint for the person you would intend to marry in the long run?