Skip to main content

Learn How to 'Date Smart'

Share This article

With the numbers of singles, and single-again, swelling, more and more people are bouncing in and out of relationships, including marriage, apparently learning little from mistakes in the past. Having been hurt, again and again, many are ready to resign their dating membership, withdraw their ad, abandon their singles groups and settle into the easy comfort of their apartment with a bowl of popcorn and a plasma TV.

Why are singles retreating at increasing rates from the dating scene? What’s going wrong, and how can we fix it? In a sentence—we haven’t learned how to date smart, which includes being completely ready to date in the first place.

One of the first tasks of any serious dater is to determine if they and their date is really emotionally ready and available for love. This is no easy task, since most feel eager for a relationship.

Any of you who have dated in recent years know there is a vast difference between those with “the urge to merge,” those hidden behind a brick wall of distance and deception, who are scared to death to let themselves be vulnerable at all in a relationship, and those emotionally and spiritually ready for transparency and love.

But, how can you discern the difference? This is the critical question.

A recent response to a related message board voiced some of these concerns:

I have been in several relationships that I just ended abruptly. Each of them said that I am not willing to give enough to make the relationship work. I am very afraid of getting hurt, that is why I do not want to go too far. But now I realize the fact that I can not go on for long like this. How do I know when to let go and love someone freely and stop thinking from the beginning how bad I will feel if the relationship does not work? I am really confused and want to know how I can change things for the better.”

Sadly, this writer is experiencing many of the concerns typical of those seeking a love relationship. Let’s explore some of your concerns, expanded upon in my book, Are You Really Ready for Love?, and what you can do to protect yourself from future hurt.

First, listen carefully to the feedback you’re receiving. Anytime we get a message over and over, from multiple sources, there’s a good chance there’s some truth in those messages. In your case, they’re saying you don’t give enough, and you add that you’re afraid of being hurt. I suggest participating in counseling to explore old unresolved hurts that may be hampering your willingness to take risks in dating.

Second, guard yourself from the urge to merge. Having gotten out of a serious relationship, and still reeling from pain, many rush into a new relationship with the hope of anesthetizing their pain by entering into a new, euphoric love relationship. The problem is, every time a relationship ends, we need to take time not only to grieve that loss, understanding what went wrong and what to learn from it. Go slowly, allowing the experience to impact you.

Third, it is natural to fear being hurt, but these risks can be managed with good judgment and discernment. Each of us needs to be an astute judge of character. When we trust and untrustworthy individual, we’re likely to get hurt. But, we can learn to trust only trustworthy people. This is the way any of us know how much of ourselves to share with another. Can they be trusted with our words, our emotions, our love? The old principle, test, trust, test, trust, applies to each of our lives.

Fourth, after discerning who can be trusted, by judging their character, we take risks. In every relationship we take the risk of being hurt, knowing we can minimize those risks, and also knowing the incredible payoffs when we find someone worthy of sharing our lives with. When we refuse to take risks, we remain safe, but painfully alone.

Finally, as you work on healing old wounds, developing a good judge of character, and a willingness to take risks, you’re probably prepared to enter the dating arena. Being really ready for love means you’ve done your work, are emotionally and spiritually stable, and know what you’re looking for in a date. Additionally, you’ve prepared yourself to be an attractive date yourself.

Entering into the arena of dating and love involves risks—but these risks can be managed. We don’t have to blindly enter a dating relationship, crossing our fingers and hoping we don’t get hurt. As we prepare ourselves, growing stronger and wiser, we gain self-confidence and trust that God will guide us through this challenging, yet exciting journey of our lives.

Share This article

About The Author


With more than 30 years of counseling experience, David Hawkins, Ph.D., advises couples on how to strengthen their relationship. He's also a bestselling author and the founder and director of The Marriage Recovery Center in Washington state.