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So much dating advice is focused on finding “the one;” on who you should date. Or shouldn’t. Indeed, the all-time most watched episode of our YouTube program, LoveEd with Julie & MJ, is Will God Tell You Who to Date?

While making wise decisions in this regard is essential to relational success, believe it or don’t, the secret to a healthy dating life has more to do with you than who you date!

That’s due to the simple fact that healthy, mature people tend to attract (and find themselves attracted to) other healthy mature people. While wounded, needy people tend to attract (and find themselves attracted to) other wounded, needy people.

This is why the first key to a successful dating life is discovering your junk. I’m talking about those past hurts and secret sins which will sabotage your relationship life no matter who you date.

Even if it were Jesus.

Assuming He were available to date.

Which He isn’t.

However, if you’re looking for a Savior, Jesus would like to be first in line, but…

The reality is most of us would rather date Jesus – or worse – “friendzone” Him, while we look to some gorgeous member of the opposite sex to be our Savior.

We don’t think of it that way. No one says, I’m dating Jesus, but hoping a romantic relationship will one day heal all my hurt, maybe some day after I get married.” (OK, so some people claim to be dating Jesus, but ain’t nobody say the latter part.)

Regardless, that’s the ultimate outcome of a dating life where you remain unconscious of all the junk you have stacked up in the closet, basement, attic, and garage of your heart.

You Good?

You will have to deal with all of that junk at some point in life. You may think you don’t, because you’ve made it this far and managed alright.

That was my Mom’s story. She was sexually abused as a little girl, but basically buried that past hurt and moved on. And she made it all the way through dating, engagement and right into marriage just fine, thank you very much.

But somewhere around 30 years of married life, unrelated events triggered my mom’s buried pain and insecurity. And, in spite of years of counseling, in the end my mom chose to take her own life.

Of course, many don’t react quite so dramatically to pent-up hurt. Many settle for clinical depression. Or an addiction. Or an affair. Or a divorce. Or any combination of the these reactions.

Regardless, is any of that what you’re hoping for 30 years into marriage?

No it isn’t.

But perhaps you’re thinking, “Look dude, I don’t have any issues like that. I’m good.”

That’s precisely what I thought before I ever started dating. And what I thought after I started dating my wife. And after I married her. “I’m good!”

What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You

It was only after marriage that I could sense I might have a few rough edges. And it wasn’t until we had our first child that I began to suspect I actually had what you might call issues. And it wasn’t until we were a year into foster care trying to adopt our youngest two boys that I had to face the facts: I had serious problems. It was nothing like sexual abuse, but never the less I had junk I hadn’t dealt with that was handicapping my emotional and relational health. Especially with my wife.

But what if you’re like me, and you don’t have obvious junk like my mom?

It will hopefully mean your past pain won’t plague your dating life as badly. Is that good enough for you: a dating life that’s only mildly affected by the hurt you harbor in your heart? No it’s not.

You want a dating life that’s full, fun and free of needless drama.

So here are some questions to consider that could help you discover your junk:

  • Are you easily angered?
  • Are you prone to overreact?
  • Do you struggle with fear or anxiety?
  • Do you struggle with discouraging thoughts?
  • Do you put yourself down a lot, either out loud or in your mind?
  • Do you find it difficult to freely express your feelings or opinions?
  • Do you find it difficult to even identify and understand your feelings?
  • Do you struggle with habits you can’t seem to break?
  • Do you find it impossible to resist sexual temptation?
  • Are you clingy in relationships?
  • Are you distant in relationships?
  • Do you trust people too easily?
  • Do you find it difficult to trust people?
  • Do you find yourself jumping from relationship to relationship (romantic or otherwise)?
  • Do you find yourself burning bridges with family, friends or at school or work?
  • Do you seem to attract the wrong kind of friends or dating partners?

Don’t just ask yourself those questions. Open up to someone else who knows and loves you well, and ask what they see in you.

And keep in mind: you’re not trying to get an “A” here, you’re trying to discover your junk.

We all have some. Including you.

So let the above questions (and whatever other questions, memories, or conversations they create) empower you to discover your junk before you take one more step in the direction of dating.

And once you’ve begun to do that you can advance to the 2nd key to a successful dating life: declaring your junk. We’ll talk about those next week. In the meantime, I urge you to check out our Hot Topic page dedicated to the topic of healthy relationships.

Final clarification: the goal isn’t to “arrive” at relational wholeness before you start dating. The goal is to set your life on a path to relational wholeness before you do. You shouldn’t fixate on “getting there” (“Are we there yet?”), but on growing. And the goal is not perfection, but maturity.

Because a successful dating life awaits!

Date Night Advice (DNA) series: What Marriage Vows Cannot Vow
Part 4: Marriage Vows Cannot Vow to Heal your Brokenness
Click here for the next post in the series.

DNA: It’s What’s For Dating

Dug this weekend’s DNA? Be a good friend and share with your friends on the social media platform of choice: Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, or Twitter.

The LoveEd discipleship series, Beyond Sex & Salvation, will empower you to prepare for relational success when it counts: BEFORE you fall in love!

It’s NOT for couples, but for any wise individual who thinks they might want to get married sometime before they die. And would like to learn how to better build healthy relationships in the meantime.

Check out all three study guides in our store. You can walk through them on your own, but it’s more fun with friends (that and it kinda makes sense to grow in relational success in actual relationships with others), so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study.

Even better?  And ask a rock star married couple you respect to lead it!