Written by Evi Idoghor
People have a tendency to jump into relationships without first learning about the other person. I used to do this a lot in my 20s when I didn't know my left from my right. We started dating as soon as someone said "hello" to me. All those relationships, of course, ended in tears. This was due to my intrinsic desire to be in a relationship and my want for it to happen fast — time was running out even at the age of 23.
Now, if you are a Christian who seeks to please God, and you are trying to enter a relationship with someone of the other sex, your mind is normally set on marriage – assuming you are of marriageable age. You're not dating just to date, but with the intention of marrying one day. Although this is a good perspective to have, and I have no objections to it, it puts undue pressure on both parties. Rather than enjoying getting to know someone and developing a friendship with them, your mind is preoccupied with whether or not they are the one. Like John began to wonder if Jesus was the Messiah - he sent his disciples to ask Him, “Are you the coming one, or do we look for another?”
Just because a man says hello or appears interested does not indicate that they want to spend the rest of their life with you, and perhaps if you got to know them for who they truly are, you wouldn't see yourself walking down the aisle with said person. If someone expresses an interest in you, or if you both like each other for any reason, this should be the key (I believe) that unlocks the door to getting to know each other on a friendship level. Not on an exclusive or dating level until you've gotten to know each other well enough to feel comfortable moving forward with the relationship. Even better, until someone makes their intentions known.
Why Building a Friendship is Important
It saves you a lot of trouble. You get to witness people in their element, experiencing who they truly are firsthand. It is a personal preference of mine to meet individuals in groups where I can take my time learning them from a distance. That way, I can see how they interact with others, if they can take a joke, what makes them tick, if they are talkative, kindhearted, mature, or enjoy taking advantage of others. You'll know what it's like to be in their presence when they're upset or when things don't go their way.
I do this with my female friendships as well - I don't meet a woman today and become best friends with her tomorrow, unless we're in a foreign land, from the same country, and we're 18 years old. As a result, every caution is permitted to be tossed to the wind (I met all my college friends this way). But I'm not talking to 18-year-olds. Spend time getting to know individuals by developing friendships with them - in such a setting, no one is concerned with putting on a show, and everyone is free to be themselves to some level.
Of course, there is no set time limit for how long this process should take, and there is no set formula for how a love relationship should develop. If you want to be on the safe side, the friendship path is usually the best bet. Throughout this process, you should be asking yourself key questions such as, what is it about this person that I like? Okay, so I'm attracted to him, but do I picture myself with him? Do our values align, and is there a future in this? Is it possible that I'm just lonely and seeking to fill a void? Or am I simply becoming more anxious as the years pass?
Now, when we don't take the time to learn about someone, we frequently end ourselves in the wrong relationships. We rush in before finding out if they love God or what their outlook on life is (amongst a myriad of things). Then, somewhere in the middle of the relationship, we start uncovering things that make us uncomfortable and think to ourselves, if I had known, this person should never have progressed beyond an acquaintance – boy, have I been there, one too many times.
To reiterate previous points, there are things you should spend time discovering about people on a friendship level, and if your discovery causes you to lose sleep at night, you may surmise that whatever you both have will be nothing more than a platonic relationship. As a result, make the appropriate adjustments so that you do not lead the other person on. Finally, don't make assumptions about the person you admire and are developing a friendship with until they explicitly convey their intentions toward you. Treat the relationship as if it were a friendship until that happens.
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