A Single Guy’s Take on How to Know When You’re Ready for a Relationship
Recently, a friend asked me, “What do you think is a defining feature that shows someone is ready for a relationship?” That is an excellent question. Though I have never dated, I do have thoughts on this topic that I want to share with my friends who are single.
First of all, I want to say that I think one could answer this question several different ways, depending on how it is interpreted. Are we talking about physical readiness? Spiritual? Mental? Emotional? However you want to think about this question is fine, because my thoughts apply to multiple categories, as I will explain briefly at the end of this post.
You may think this is strange, but my answer to the question, “What do you think is a defining feature that shows someone is ready for a relationship?” is “Contentment in singleness.” Now, how does that make sense? Well, we might be able to answer that question with another question: What are some defining features of someone who is not content in singleness? There are probably more than two, but here are two that came to mind.
Defining Feature #1: Obsession with Being in a Relationship
We live in a relationship-crazed, sex-crazed culture. That’s just the reality of things. I don’t think I even need to elaborate much on that, because you know what I’m talking about. In this culture, it is easy to obsess over “being in a relationship.” Why? Because our society places such a high value on being in a relationship that you would almost think you’re less than human if you’re single. Most people buy into that lie, so they do everything they can to find someone to date. For a lot of people, dating has nothing to do with true love; it’s all about the emotion of being with someone, or the status symbol of “being in a relationship” (for example, how many likes you’ll get when you add a new life event to your Facebook timeline). In other words, most of our culture is driven by a self-centered idea of “love” that is nowhere near the beautiful, selfless, satisfying definition of love that the Bible gives us. Today, “love” seems to be more about what another person does for you, or how they make you feel, then it is about you daily laying down your life for them through sacrificially honoring and serving them. Discontented singles are often “me-focused” in their search for a significant other.
Defining Feature #2: Allowing One’s Happiness to Depend on Another Person
A lot of people’s emotions look something like a roller coaster, going up when their relationship is going well, and down when their relationship is not going well, or when they’re still waiting to date. This is really just a part of the first defining feature, because the reason people are obsessed about getting in and staying in a relationship is that they are basing their happiness on another person. A person who cannot be happy without a significant other is obviously not content in singleness.
(NOTE: I am distinguishing between desiring to be in a relationship and being obsessed with being in a relationship. God gave us these desires because they are good, but they become unhealthy when they become too important to us.)
“So,” someone might say, “aren’t these signs that one should be in a relationship? If a person is so desperate to date, they should be able to, right?” There are a couple of problems with that line of thinking, though, and they are all related to things that God has said about Himself.
Consider the first defining feature of a discontented single person that I mentioned. What does being obsessed with getting into a relationship say about how a person might view God? What has God said?
I think that we can get obsessed with being in a relationship because we’ve bought the lie that there’s someone out there who is going to “complete” us. So, we spend our lives looking for that one person who is going to validate our entire existence. Without that special someone, life is the pits. We don’t really believe that our value and worth is rooted in who God is and what He has done; we think that our value and worth is rooted in another person.
But the Bible says that we are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-16), He chose us to be His children, and guarantees an inheritance of eternal life to us (Ephesians 1:4-5, 13-14), He died for us when we didn’t deserve it (Romans 5:8), and He gave us His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). He is the one who gives us value and worth because of who He is and what He has done. In this society, it’s easy to get caught in the hype about finding someone to “complete” you, but the Bible says that we are already “complete” in Christ. No person can do what Christ has already done for you.*
What about the second defining feature of a discontented single person? What does basing one’s happiness on another person say about how a person might view God? What has God said?
A discontented single person with this perspective probably believes that their ultimate satisfaction is going to come from another person, and that God is less than capable of satisfying them completely. God plainly says that this is evil, when He tells Jeremiah, “my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13).” David says to God in Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” To put these two verses together, then, God Himself is the source of ultimate delight and satisfaction, and it is both unacceptable and foolish to try to find our greatest joy in any other person or thing.
I would humbly submit that a discontented single person is not ready for a relationship because they are putting their future significant other in God’s place. In doing that, they will end up placing unfair demands on another person that only God can meet. And, they will never be truly happy. Only someone who is seeking satisfaction in God can find the strength to love someone in good times and bad times.
I’m not saying there won’t be moments – days, weeks, or months, even – of discontentment. I have them. Those are the times that we need to fight for joy in God. It isn’t always easy. But we need to remember that Christ has already won this battle for us. It’s not going to overtake us; we can overcome in His strength.
Also, as I stated earlier, there are many ways to answer this question. I am not saying that spiritual maturity is the only indicator that you’re ready for a relationship. I do think, though, that spiritual maturity leads to a desire to seek maturity in a whole host of other important ways that would indicate readiness for a relationship. So, while I know that this is only a portion of a larger answer, I think it’s the most important portion.
Above all, rest in God. Work hard, but know that He will make you ready for a relationship in His perfect time.
*Thanks to S. Michael Houdmann for his article on what the Bible says about self-worth, from which I got my Bible references.