Who are you? What do you like? What is your personality? What interests do you have? What do you love? What can’t you stand? The answers to all of these questions make up a person’s individual identity. So, if you’re dating, I have a question for you: Where did you last leave your identity?
When two people start out dating, one of the first things that often occurs is a removal of one’s own identity. This seems to be one of the most counter-intuitive thing to do – after all, don’t you want the other person to get to know you… the real you? The answer for many people is often “no.” This answer largely has to do with life experience, security, and maturity.
When someone has an abundance of life experience, he or she often has a much more clear idea for whom he or she is looking in a marriage partner. This is one reason why those who are in their fifties and sixties can marry in a short time of meeting each other. Additionally, maturity plays a factor into allowing the other person to see you for who you really are with the understanding that you are not perfect – and neither is he or she. Lastly, those who do not struggle with issues of insecurity are also more likely to be themselves and retain their identity in dating.
So, what happens if you do not have the above combination? Primarily, you’ll go through the act of losing your identity when you start dating. This is because you’re still not sure how this relational dance works very well. You don’t want to allow the other person to get to know you too quickly – and yet you crave for him or her to know you. You will have a strong tendency to want to make the other person happy in your relationship – which is good; however, it will often be at the expense of your normal preferences… and when you become married, you’re not trying to impress your now-spouse quite as much as before. It is also natural to have a tendency to view whatever they do through rose-colored glasses – always seeing the best in the other person, no matter what he or she has done. And lastly, you’ll also tend to minimize your shortcomings, hoping that the other person will not notice and be turned off permanently.
Many young daters are in love with being in love; rather than really being in love with the other person. It’s not that they don’t like the other person; rather, he or she just enjoys having a relationship more than having a relationship with that particular person. You want to make sure that you are in the relationship because of the other person and his or her potential for a good and healthy marriage match.
Since losing one’s identity is so common when starting out a dating relationship, here are some helpful tips that you can do to avoid (as much as possible) this natural occurrence:
- Remember your identity in Christ. The most important identity a person can have is in Christ. This identity is for Christians who have been sealed by the Holy Spirit as a child of God because God has granted them repentance and they believe and trust in Him.
- Remember your individual identity. Make sure you are not compromising who you really are in the dating relationship just to hold onto the relationship. Just as it is important to seek the other person’s good and what is best for him or her (even if that is not you!), it is also very important to not mask who you are in the relationship. Girls, if you hate cooking, but you want to make him believe you love cooking and do so to impress him by cooking a four-course meal, then that is deceiving him. Guys, if you love sports, but you want to show her that it’s not a very big deal during your dating period and you focus on her (with the intention of returning to watching those sports after marriage), then that is deceiving her. You need to be you, the real you. Of course you can employ tact in revealing yourself – and you can even do things that you wouldn’t normally do to make the other person happy – however, doing so during the dating period and doing so during the course of a lifetime are two very different things. Be honest about who you are. In the long run, you will appreciate it and your future spouse will appreciate it.
- Remember your familial identity. When couples get together, they often work on forming their identity as a couple and start excluding their family from their lives. Some do this unintentionally by spending so much time with the other person; whereas, others use the relationship as an escape mechanism from their family of origin. When you marry someone, your spouse is joining your family – you are joining your spouse’s family. Blood is thicker than water. They will likely be there for you through thick and thin. Do not abandon your family in the dating period. Instead, guys should spend some time with her father to learn how to appreciate her and love her the way her father loves her. If she doesn’t have a father, then talk to the closest father-figure she has or even her pastor if needed to gain insight on how to love her well. As well, girls should spend time with his mother, learning about him – his strengths and weaknesses, how she can learn to best support and encourage him, what his favorite meals are, etc. God joined together Adam and Eve to form families… and the dating process does not exist to rip them apart.
- Remember your social identity. Some couples get so into each other that they leave their friends in the dust. This is unfortunate because some of these friends have stuck by their sides for many years – and this new person has quickly replaced them… and their allegiance. Make sure to spend time with your pre-dating friends. Get their opinions on the person you are dating – ask them the hard questions to see if they believe you are heading in the right direction with this person. This is not the time to look for blind encouragement, this is the time for you to utilize your social groups (who know you well) to help you with your decision of spousal selection. Don’t leave your church behind either. If your boyfriend or girlfriend is distracting you away from the Lord, it is a good sign that you should pause, suspend, or terminate the relationship.
When a person starts out dating – whether in junior high, high school, or college – it is easy to go into dating without a plan for keeping one’s identity. However, keeping the above identity remembrance tips in mind will help you traverse that minefield with a bit more ease.
(If you have a question about relationships you would like answered on PreEngaged.com, please contact us!)
Have you lost your identity in dating relationships? What have you done to keep your identity in the midst of dating/courting?