Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Ruthie and Michael Dean’s book Real Men Don’t Text: A New Approach to Dating (Tyndale House Publishers, 2014).
While digital technology makes it fast and easy to communicate with potential boyfriends, it also creates confusion that leads to heartache all too often. Many men send casual texts or post brief social media messages to connect with women they’d like to date. But after making those connections, guys may neglect to develop real relationships, based on love and respect – the type of relationships that can lead to marriage.
If you’re tired of wasting time dating guys who are only interested in playing around when you’re hoping to find a godly husband, you need to change your approach to dating by setting new standards for yourself and the men you date.
Here’s how you can date wisely in a digital world:
Recognize that you’re worthy of real love. If you’ve been settling for disappointing and frustrating dating relationships, know that God wants much more for you – and because God made and loves you, you’re worthy of real love. Decide to pursue something better than staring at screens trying to decipher cryptic messages and responding to guys’ lazy attempts at hooking up with you. Realize that dating casually like that tells men how little you value yourself by allowing them to string you along, while also telling you how little guys value you because they’re treating you so nonchalantly. Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to see yourself as God sees you, so you can understand just how vulnerable and beloved you truly are. Confess your insecurities to God and ask him to heal you and help you develop the confidence that he wants you to enjoy. That confidence will then attract the right kind of men to you, while driving the wrong men away and protecting you from them. Embrace your God-given beauty and take care of yourself in order to honor the God who made you, not to try to please men. Look to your relationship with God, rather than relationships with men, as your ultimate source of love.
Stop making excuses for men who don’t treat you well. Let go of whatever excuses you’ve been making for guys who are mistreating you by not putting enough effort into their relationships with you, such as “He’s really busy” or “He is afraid of commitment because of his last relationship.” Face the fact that men who are truly interested in pursuing so will do so, without leaving you wondering what their messages mean or when you’ll hear from them again. When men don’t treat you well, don’t hesitate to cut off communication with them so you’ll be free to find a guy who treats you properly.
Choose purity now so you can enjoy true intimacy later. Since God has designed sex to bring people together in powerful and lasting ways, any sexual experiences you have with guys before getting married can pop into your mind when you’re making love with your future husband, diminishing the quality of the intimate connection God intends for spouses to enjoy together. The more you pursue God’s best plan for you – sexual purity – right now, the more you’ll be able to enjoy fulfilling sex with your future husband. Ask the Holy Spirit to renew your mind so you can overcome temptation by thinking pure thoughts that will lead to pure behavior in your dating life. Identify unhealthy sexual habits in your life (such as flirting with men just for the thrill of attention from them), and develop a plan for replacing those bad habits with healthy ones.
Set standards for your dating relationships. Some important standards to set are: planning in advance for dates (instead of responding to last-minute texts), making dates via phone calls where you and potential dates can have real conversations, expecting guys to pay for the first few dates with you to demonstrate that they care enough to invest in a relationship with you, getting to know each other in public (such as at restaurants and parks) rather than at each other’s homes – especially late at night, refusing to sleep over at night with the guys you date, avoiding sexting (sending either explicit photos or messages between you), setting clear and specific boundaries for how far to go physically when making out with guys, keeping intimate personal details of your life private until you’re in a committed relationship, and refusing to have sex or move into a man’s home until after you’re married.
Communicate wisely online. Always keep in mind that the goal of communicating online with a guy is to take the relationship offline. So online dating, tweeting, and messaging should always be vehicles that are driving toward a face-to-face relationship. When setting up online dating profiles, don’t post a selfie, but instead use a higher quality photo that a friend has taken of you. Never reveal too much personal information in your online profiles, such as how much money you make or where you live. Sign up for the best online dating service you can afford, since free and cheap sites tend to attract men looking for hookups rather than serious relationships. Feel free to date several guys simultaneously, as long as you’re honest with them about that and are guarding your heart while discerning which guy is the best one for you.
Pay attention to the warning signs of men with whom you’ll likely suffer bad relationships. Those warning signs include guys who: don’t make you feel special, doesn’t ask you many questions about yourself and focuses mostly on himself, lacks sensitivity and empathy for others, criticizes others, is possessive of you, jokes about inappropriate topics, overindulges in drugs or alcohol, doesn’t have a grown-up job and isn’t actively looking for one, is in debt or otherwise financially irresponsible, hasn’t healed from past addictions or bad habits, is on the rebound from another romantic relationship that just ended, is rude to his mom, lies to you, plays video games excessively, is abusive in any way (verbally, emotionally, physically, or sexually) and doesn’t share your Christian faith. Refuse to spend any more time dating guys who demonstrate any of these warning signs.
Give nice guys a chance. Get rid of any mental lists you may have about what Mr. Right may look and be like, so you can open yourself up to however God may surprise you by bringing a guy who’s unexpected yet truly good for you into your life. While it’s important to be physically attracted to a potential husband, realize that attraction can grow when you first focus on what’s most important: character.
Ruthie and Michael Dean grew up just down the street from one another, but not being fans of convenience, they fell in love long-distance while Ruthie lived in China and Michael lived in Germany. Now happily married, the Deans love to run, take advantage of Sunday coffee dates (without technology), and can often be spotted driving around Nashville in Michael's classic Ford truck. You can learn more about Michael and Ruthie, and share your own stories of dating, love, and romance on Ruthie's blog, www.ruthiedean.com, or on Twitter @MichaelDean10 or @Ruthie_Dean.
Whitney Hopler, who has served as a Crosswalk.com contributing writer for many years, is author of the Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Follow her on Twitter @WhitneyHopler.