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dna-interests and identityMany would say that one of the main reasons for dating is to get to know someone. And yet, more often than not, people learn very little about each other via the avenue of contemporary dating.

Part of this is due to the fact that many playing the dating game are “under the influence.” Yes, sometimes of alcohol, but more often under the influence of a chemical condition that can incapacitate the brain far longer than a beer buzz; even up to two years: romance. We talk a lot about that on this blog.

Further, our modern dating practices are centered more around experience than relationship, which means we’re focused on impressing and entertaining each other instead of actually connecting and enjoying each other’s company. We touched on that last week, as well as when we introduced #8 of the TOP10 Dumbest Reasons to Date: Just for fun.

But if you want to defy the norm, and truly get to know your date, there’s some key data you want to discover and share. Let’s get started!

First, you want to get to know what interests your date. What do they like to spend their time doing? What makes them think? What gets them excited?

However, though that is a great way to begin getting to know your date, it’s just scratching the surface of who someone is. But as your date shares their interests, if you’re a careful listener you can begin to discern where they find their identity. And that, my friend, is when you’re cooking with grease.

Don’t Make Their Interests about You

Now a common temptation is to continually compare how your date’s interests mesh with your own. However, then you’re keeping the focus on you. (Indeed, if you’re a narcissist, that’s the only reason you’ll seek to know your date’s interests.)

“Oh, they like movies and I like movies! And they like horseback riding and I like horseback riding! And they like what I like and I like what I like!”

Don’t judge your date’s interests by your own. Their interests aren’t about you. They’re about your date. Keep asking questions and keep learning about them!

Questions to ask your date:

  • How did you come to be involved in [insert interest here]?
  • With whom have you most often shared [insert interest here]?
  • What are some fun/meaningful/favorite memories of enjoying [insert interest here]?
  • What challenges have you overcome as you have pursued [insert interest here]?
  • What future aspirations do you have for [insert interest here]?

Warning: Interests Can Change

Sharing common interests will be important with someone with whom you wind up spending the rest of your life, but if it’s early in your dating relationship, that’s too soon to worry about that. Plus, interests can change.

When Julie married me I had absolutely no interest in professional sports of any kind. I simply never watched sports. Ever. For any reason

But after seven years of marriage, we moved to Nashville, and that’s when something happened that neither of us saw coming, nor can even explain to this day.

I became a Titan fan. I changed from someone who would rather clean the toilet bowl than watch sports, to this somewhat-psychotic fan who didn’t want to miss a single play of a single game, even if my team was on their way to toilet bowl instead of the Super Bowl. Which, if you’ve watched the Titans over the last five years or so, you know that’s pretty much been their bowl game. (It’s going to be different this year though, I can feel it!)

Here’s what hasn’t changed though: my identity. My identity didn’t revolve around sports then. And it doesn’t now. As soon as the game is over I don’t watch Sports Center for the play-by-play. I don’t read the interviews with the players. I don’t pay any attention to how all the other teams are doing. I hardly think about football at all until the next game.

Getting Beyond the Interests

In comparison, my personal interests that come out of my identity don’t change. The same is true for you and whoever you’re dating.

Take my faith in Jesus. I’m not just interested in Jesus, I am identified with Him. I love Him, think about Him and talk about Him and to Him all the time. He’s been my best friend, since sixth grade, when he first asked me to surrender something to him, something near and dear to my heart. And I did.

That something is another part of my identity: music. Turns out, surrendering my love of music, didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy it any more. It meant I could enjoy it far more. In fact, to this day, the bills get paid by my job in the music industry.

Julie loved music too, and we share many favorite artists, and songs and memories of those artists performing those songs.

More than music though, we share a passion for Jesus that not only gives us something to talk about, it binds us together and motivates us to do crazy things like home school, or adopt kids through the State foster care system, or make relationship videos in our “free time.”

We enjoy sharing common interests, but we couldn’t have made it this far (much less enjoyed the ride) without sharing a common source of identity. This is why you want to get beyond what someone finds interesting to discovering where someone finds their identity.

Questions to ask your date:

  • What interests could they never imagine changing?
  • Would they rather engage in [insert interest here] or [insert interest here]?
  • What significant sacrifices have they given up for [insert interest here]?
  • What would they be willing to sacrifice to realize their future dream for [insert interest here]?
  • Have they seen ways [insert interest here] has changed them? For better? For worse?
  • How do they feel about themselves when they’ve had a successful experience with [insert interest here]?
  • What about when they’ve had a bad experience with [insert interest here]? How have they worked through that experience?
  • How do their friends and family feel about their passion for [insert interest here]?

What’s the Point?

Whatever interests rise to the top in your conversations represent the tip of the iceberg of identity hidden beneath. So ask questions and probe answers. And be sure to seek wise counsel from friends who know you and love you well, to help you discern what you are learning. They can enable you to catch obvious things that you aren’t seeing. Or don’t want to see.

At the end of the day, you want to date someone who’s identity is securely rooted, because if it’s not, your lover is going to be looking to you to help them. And, unless you’re a skilled and experienced counselor or pastor, you’re probably not going to be very good at that. And even if you are, you’re probably not going to want to spend your date nights playing therapy session. And you’re certainly not going to want to spend your marriage that way.

So break through the interests to identity. Oh… and maybe first make sure you’ve done that with yourself already. Prayerfully consider the questions above and then go over them with a good friend or mentor, asking them to share their perspective.

Tell us in the comment section below if this was helpful… or if you came up with other questions. And join us next week for more direction in purpose driven dating!

This post is one in a series on Purpose-Driven Dating which we define as follows: Intentional time invested in one other person for the purpose of growing in intimacy that might lead to a life-giving, life-long marriage. Our current focus: …for the purpose of growing in intimacy… The series begins with this post.

DNA: It’s What’s For Dating

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The LoveEd study guide 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. Check out the first two 8-lesson study guides in our store. You can walk through it on your own, but it’s more fun with friends, so consider putting together an FMU LoveEd small group study. Even better?  And ask a married couple you respect to lead it!