We live in a society that is so fixated on knowing others. Young men and women are encouraged to get out there and date, to get to know people in the hope of finding a permanent match. They spend months—even years—in pursuit of the person they hope to spend the rest of their lives with, forgetting that the rest of their lives in marriage involves not just one individual but two.
At the end of the season of dating, you will have invested copious amounts of energy and countless hours getting to know the person you will be standing with at the altar, but what about the other person?
What about yourself?
God understands the importance of looking inward. The Bible teaches us to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). Loving others is contingent on the ability to love yourself. The ironic thing is that many singles are ready to get out there and love someone else, but they haven’t taken the time to love themselves. Loving yourself requires that you know, value, and respect the person you are while moving toward the person God has made you to be. But somehow this important truth gets moved to the back burner. We tend to focus so much on the first part of this verse that calls us to love others that we neglect to love ourselves.
I have to admit that for a while I was missing this piece of the puzzle. I spent so much of my young adult years looking for true love without ever getting to know and appreciate who I was. I read book after book on dating and courtship in an attempt to learn all that I could about meeting, identifying, and interacting with my soul mate. I focused on building a relationship not realizing how much of me that relationship would one day entail. I put a lot of effort into finding “the one,” all the while losing myself.
Trying to stay true to the concept of courtship that I had read about and so desperately wanted to believe in, I confined myself to a relationship that I eventually knew in my heart wasn’t the right fit. I was terrified of failure and of letting people down. Afraid of starting over, afraid of playing the dating game, I allowed my bond to get deeper and deeper with a man whom I ultimately would not marry.
After two years of heartache, I finally let go of this relationship and for the first time in my life engaged in dating inward. My relationship with God was strengthened, as was my awareness of myself and, in turn, my relationships with others. The more awareness I gained, the more I grew in confidence and was empowered to trust my heart again. Rather than allowing the stories of others to define my love life, I found the God-given wisdom to create my own story.
Dating inward may be the most important component of your story because it is not dependent on anyone else. You don’t even have to be in a relationship to get started. When you’re single, it’s easier to focus on what you don’t have than on what you do. It’s difficult to change that focus in a culture that defines the word single as “incomplete.” Dating inward requires a change of perspective, a shift in thinking that puts the focus on who you are rather than whom you are with. And the only commitment it requires is a commitment to yourself.
Getting to know yourself may seem simple, and on the one hand it is. It is as simple as strolling into an art gallery, yet as complex as closely observing, analyzing, and finding meaning in each and every piece of art. The difficulty comes in choosing how much you will allow yourself to engage and discover, how much you will allow yourself to come face to face with the person you never thought you would date: yourself.
Many people have little to no awareness of who they are. Others see their true self as a part of them that they have to hide from pain, brokenness, abandonment, abuse, and fear. It’s the part that may be covered with insecurities or painted with pride. Either way, it’s part of them. And it needs to be exposed to them for healthy relationships to become a possibility.
Author Julien Green says that “the greatest explorer on this earth never takes voyages as long as those of the man who descends to the depth of his heart.” When you choose to look inward, you are choosing to go where no man has gone before, because only you have access to this terrain. It is a journey that brings with it new discoveries each and every day.
Maybe you’re realizing how much time you’ve spent pursuing others and how very little time you’ve spent pursuing yourself. Maybe you acknowledge that in trying to find someone to love, you have actually lost yourself. Maybe these concepts resonate within your heart and you are ready to embark on this experience. So what does it mean to date inward? How do you get to know yourself?
When it comes to self-discovery, I find it helpful to begin by answering three questions:
1. Where do I come from?
2. Where and who am I now?
3. Where am I going?
Each question is an important component in getting to know yourself and requires you to take the time to learn, explore, and discover. Each answer offers fresh perspectives and insights, and challenges you to see yourself in a whole new way. My book True Love Dates will guide you in answering each question as you begin this voyage of self-discovery.
If you are ever to relate fully to another person, you must begin by dating yourself. Foundational to knowing what you need in a partner is knowing who you are. Are you ready to get to know the person you never thought you’d date?
Adapted from True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life by Debra Fileta. Click here to learn more about this title.
It is possible to find true love through dating.
In True Love Dates, Debra Fileta encourages singles not to “kiss dating goodbye” but instead to experience a season of dating as a way to find real love. Through powerful, real-life stories and Fileta’s personal journey, this book offers profound insights from the expertise of a professional counselor.
Christians are looking for answers to finding true love. They are disillusioned with the church that has provided little practical application in the area of love and relationships. They’re bombarded by Christian books that shun dating, idolize courting, fixate on spirituality, and in the end, offer little real relationship help.
True Love Dates provides honest help for dating by providing a guide into vital relationship essentials. Debra is a professional Christian counselor who reaches millions with her popular blog, Truelovedates.com, and her book offers sound advice grounded in Christian spirituality. She delivers insight, direction, and counsel when it comes to entering the world of dating and learning to do it right the first time around. Drawing on the stories and struggles of hundreds of young men and women who have pursued the search for true love, Fileta helps you bypass unnecessary pain while focusing on the things that really matter in the world of dating.
Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and the creator of the popular blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. You may also recognize her from her more than 200 articles at Relevant Magazine, Crosswalk.com, and all over the Web. Debra and her husband, John, have been happily married for over a decade and have three beautiful children.