In January 2016, I went on a dating fast after listening to a talk at a SEEK FOCUS conference. After multiple conversations with both women and men, I realized that I was fed up with the way that I treated the men in my life. I was sick of getting caught up into the spiral of mentally stalking them, planning my wedding with them before they knew my name, and using them for my emotional benefit. I realized that I wasn’t ready for a relationship if someone was to ask me out because I was so desperate for an eternal love that I was ready to stuff temporary, human love into my life to fill the gap in my heart.
Dating fasts are a pretty hot topic. Some say you should avoid them at all costs. Others recommend it at the first sign of relationship woes. However, I benefited immensely from my five month dating fast and would offer a word of advice advice to those wondering about how good dating fasts can really be. The success of your dating fast,and the success of your future relationships, will depend on your level of intentionality.
You cannot have an un-intentional dating fast and hope it ends in an intentional relationship. If you do not put time into building the relationship between you and God, the subsequent human relationships will follow that lead. Ultimately, you can have an intentional, God-filled dating fast or you can have a dating fast that disguises the fact that you just want to take a break from dating in general.
My dating fast was not a success because it ended with me meeting the man that I am now engaged to. My dating fast was successful because it helped me discern what God was calling me to in life. At the end of the five months that I took off of dating, I was a better version of myself and much better prepared for a relationship…and it just so happens that I met Joseph a couple days afterward.
“The greatest deception and the deepest source of unhappiness is the illusion of finding life by excluding God.” (JPII)
If my dating fast had not been 100% wrapped up in a desire for happiness from God instead of a human lover, it would have failed. It would have gone on for months of sinking despair, wondering if I was ever going to find or be found by someone, and planning out my life with seventeen cats in a mountaintop cabin.
We’re made for more than what the world is offering us. I am tired of sweeping up the broken pieces of the hearts of people that I love because of the problem of use in today’s dating culture. We’re surrounded by the hook up phenomena, bombarded with opportunities through apps on our phone, pornography on our laptops and attention at the bars. It’s easy to find someone to spend the night with in order to get a quick fix of the emotions of love. It’s accessible to find someone to use.
To pursue someone’s heart with intentionality and clarity is challenging. To form a relationship where there isn’t a shred of use is counter-cultural. Maybe that’s why so many people decide to throw in the towel and abandon the idea of a romance that leads you to Heaven.
The relationship that our hearts yearn for is not perfect. It takes hard conversations, immense and incredible vulnerability and trust. There are moments of laughing so hard you think your heart will burst, and moments of soul-wrenching pain. As a dear friend once told me, “The greater your capacity for the love of another person, the greater your capacity for suffering because of the other person.” But there is God in every moment if you let Him in – and not only let Him in, but make Him the center of your relationship.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to how to date in today’s world. No amount of google searches or relationship advice books or even blogging will prepare you for the human, messy, rawness of dating another person. But the relationship that you can be assured of is your relationship with God. Invest in Him first, put Him in the center and the rest will follow.
Dating fasts are not a quick-fix answer, nor are they right for everyone. They should not be used to avoid dating, discernment or healing. If done intentionally, dating fasts offer an incredible opportunity for your soul to be pursued by the ultimate lover – God. In doing so, your souls capacity to love will expand and effect how you treat everyone else in your life. Regardless of whether you decide to go on a dating fast or not, set your eyes on Christ and fall in love with the maker of your soul.
“The capacity to love is determined by the fact that man is ready to seek the good consciously with others, to subordinate himself to this good because of others, or to subordinate himself to others because of this good.” (JPII, Love and Responsibility)