How to Know if You’re Ready to Date or Court

When should you start to date (or court)? Here are three tell-tale signs (among others) that you’re ready:

1. Your authority figures give you the green light.

I heard from a girl recently who wrote:

I like this dude, and he happens to like me back. One day after school, we talked, and he told me that he likes me, and so I told him I like him, too. I have heard from many people that he is going to ask me to be his girlfriend . . . and that’s where things get crazy.

My parent will NOT let me date. And if they find out that I am dating . . . let’s just say that I will die. LITERALLY.

I am not dating him right now, but I just have a feeling that he will ask me . . . and I don’t know what to do. I really like him, and he likes me. This is very rare!!! When ur crush likes u back . . . Rare. My friends are like, “Just say yes, and just don’t tell your parents,” but I am like, “They will find out!!!”

I can relate. I told her:

We have a lot in common. My parents had the same rules . . . plus some. Growing up I thought they were totally unreasonable, and I dated behind their backs (and was always discovered).

Now, looking back, I can see that God was protecting me from myself through my parents. It sure wasn’t fun in junior high and high school, but now I am SO grateful I wasn’t allowed to get my way. I actually ended up dedicating my book to my parents. Here’s a little taste:

“[Thank you] for keeping such close tabs on me during those tumultuous teen years! At the time I thought you were just plain ol’ mean, but now I can’t thank you enough for sparing me a harvest of regret.”

You’ll end up being grateful, too, for those strict parents. Even though you feel anything but gratitude now, know this:

  • God promises to bless those who honor and obey their parents (Eph. 6:1–3). And He always keeps His promises! It’s not just
    a suggestion; He commands it. If you disobey your parents, you’re ultimately disobeying God.
  • If this guy really, really likes you, he will wait for as long as it takes. And if he is the kind of guy you want to end up with long-term, he will
    NOT encourage you to disobey your parents.

God promises to bless those who honor and obey their parents. And He always keeps His promises!

Please, please trust me. Going behind your parents’ backs will only end in regret. And if you already have, it’s not too late to get out.

(Psst . . . If you’re struggling with your parents’ rules, here are some posts from our archives that will help.)

When Your Parents Say NO
How To Get Your Parents’ Trust Back
How I Lost My Parents’ Trust
Dear Parent Hater

Let me add that just because an authority figure says you can date whenever you want doesn’t necessarily mean you should. Maybe this authority figure isn’t currently making the wisest decisions. In this case, ask yourself if you’re ready for marriage. That’s right. Marriage.

2. You’re ready for marriage.

That’s the point of dating, after all. Ben Stuart explains it like this: “Dating is not a status. It’s a process (of evaluating a person for marriage).”

That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily feel completely ready for marriage, as in, “Oh, yeah, I got this covered, no sweat.” But you’re actually at a point in life where you’re old—and mature—enough to get married. You don’t have something else you have to complete first, like a big chunk of schooling.

Scott Craft (a contributor to Sex and the Supremacy of Christ) says:

The practical advice I give the singles at our church is, if you cannot happily see yourself as a married woman in less than one year, then you are not ready to date.

But what if I met someone super special, you ask? And they actually like me? Shouldn’t I do something about that?!

Why would you, if marriage isn’t even a possibility?

I’ve gotta side with Scott and with the writer of the Song of Solomon on this one. Over and over throughout the book the warning is given, “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires,” or until the appropriate time (2:73:5; 8:4).

Song of Solomon 8:7 explains why: “Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” And as the verse before says, “It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.”

God knows that if we don’t wait to experience true love in the safe context of a God-blessed marriage, we will get severely burned.

Can you imagine a blazing forest fire that several rivers worth of water cannot extinguish? That would be one intense firestorm. God knows that if we don’t wait to experience true love in the safe context of a God-blessed marriage, we will get severely burned.

Better to build healthy ways of relating with all guys and to pursue your relationship with Christ at this stage in life. You will not regret it. Promise.

Another way to know if you’re ready to date is . . .

3. You have pursued and served God wholeheartedly as a single, and now a godly guy is pursuing you that you think you could be even more effective in serving Christ with as a team.

In the biggest section of Scripture on singleness and marriage, Paul writes,

In whatever condition each was called, there let him remain with God (1 Cor. 7:24).

I like how Gary Friesen explains this in Decision Making and the Will of God:

Make it the goal of your life not to change your status, but to serve God as effectively and energetically as possible in whatever state you are. The contemporary poster says it well: “Bloom where you are planted now!”

In declaring this principle Paul was not forbidding marriage for single people or freedom for slaves. If the opportunity comes along and it is expedient to take it, do so (7:21). His point was that people tend to concentrate on the wrong things. They pour their energies into changing their condition for their own sake rather than into changing the world for Christ’s sake (p. 293).

I’d love to hear from you. Do you think you’re ready to date (or court)? Why or why not?

About Author

Paula Marsteller

Paula no longer tries to catch guys' attention by swallowing live goldfish, arm wrestling, and jumping down flights of stairs. (She's married to a wonderful man now!) She spends her days caring for her son, Iren, and writing for Revive Our Hearts. She's the author of Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom, and she and her family live in New York.

HEY, GIRLS! We love hearing from you, but feel limited in the ways we can help. For one thing, we’re not trained counselors. If you’re seeking counsel, we encourage you to talk to your pastor or a godly woman in your life as they’ll know more details and can provide you with ongoing accountability and help. Also, the following comments do not necessarily reflect the views of Revive Our Hearts. We reserve the right to remove comments which might be unhelpful, unsuitable, or inappropriate. We may edit or remove your comment if it:

  • * Requests or gives personal information such as email address, address, or phone number.
  • * Attacks other readers.
  • * Uses vulgar or profane language.
  • MoonBrightInTheNight

    Nowhere near ready. I’m in my 20’s and when I think if I should be in a relationship with a guy now, I’m ultimately like “nahhhh”. In my heart of hearts I don’t want to (definitely not at present) partly because it freaks me out and I have so many questions and wonders but I trust God and I trust Him with my future 🙂 so I put all that at the back of my mind and get on with my relationship with Him and love my brothers in Christ as much as Christ loves me. And my brothers in Christ are very lovely and great 😀 👍

  • Alison

    This is something I have been struggling with the past two-ish months. I am in college and a legal adult, but I know I am not ready to be in a relationship yet. About two-ish months ago, I met an amazing guy. I found out first that he was a Christian (he brought it up himself–no prompting!) and then I exclaimed that I was one as well. We spoke for a few hours after that, and I gave him my number so we could keep in contact. For the next week or so, we did. Constant texting and even late night calls. But one day, he just stopped responding. Or rather, he responded less and less. We didn’t hold lengthy conversations anymore and I was the one doing the pursuing, which I knew wasn’t right. All through this experience I had prayed about our relationship; I had others pray about it with me! It has been a trial period of patience, letting go, and turning back to God. God’s love and commitment has seen me through this trial. After flipping through the archives in LYWB, I was lead to an article about emotional purity and realized that, although I have been physically pure, I had been emotionally promiscuous. Last night I repented, asked God for forgiveness, and re-pledged my purity to him. I thank God for this blog and for all of you!

  • Natalie

    Ahhh, this is becoming excruciatingly hard. I’m twenty, in school, and know that I have to wait… Simply exercising patience and asking God for wisdom seems like too little sometimes. A part of me feels that suppressing my (rather intense) sexuality is harmful and unhealthy, yet what alternative do I have? It’s deemed irresponsible to marry young, and immoral/ unwise to date years before marriage is feasible. I am careful to guard my eyes and thought life, but these longings for emotional, spiritual, and sexual intimacy exist nonetheless. I try to exercise a lot as means of releasing some of this angst and while that helps to an extent, I wish that I didn’t have to pretend that sexual thoughts never cross my mind.

    The answer is to draw closer to Jesus. Yet, I’m not at the place in my relationship with Him where I cease to crave human arms which would lovingly embrace me.

    It’s certainly a struggle and while both a man and God would be ideal, having a man outside of God’s plan would be unthinkable.

    I’m not sure if this is correct, but I gain encouragement from knowing that my future husband might be struggling with the same issues as well. If he can persevere through it, then so can I —or maybe he has already failed and I’ll just have to forgive him.

    I just want to please God in this. Compared to what other Christians endure out of love for God makes holding off on romantic dates and smooching seem horribly trivial!! I ought not to worry about it.

    • Leah

      We as humans are made to crave human interaction! It’s not a sin unless you put your relationship with people above your relationship with God, in which case it would become an idol. Otherwise, it’s a gift! 🙂

    • Andriel Wilson

      I completely relate.

  • Mais

    Thanks for adding Ben Stuart’s great comment from Breakaway! Whoop! If it’s any solace to other readers out there, I’m 23, about to graduate with my second degree and head off to graduate school….I’ve been independent for several years….and I don’t think I’m ready for courting yet. It’s not because I’m too career focused or busy (although I still have two years of school); it’s mainly that after my one and only relationship I realized that many areas of my life still need great improvement and healing from God.
    It would be a huge disservice to my future husband to be married to him in the near future, simply because I have so many issues in my life that I don’t want to project onto him. Does that make sense? I’ve just realized the more I thought about it that if you want a marriage that lasts until death, you have to prepare for it long in advance. Although I desire deeply to be married, I’ve realized it’s better to not rush it and be with the right person at the right time, then to end up deeply scarred.
    So hang in there, girls! Truthfully, there’s more to life than guys; even great guys! And the right guy will be attracted to you if you are faithfully, wholeheartedly following after the mission GOD has given you to do, confident that you don’t require a guy by your side in order to be fully fulfilled. Now THAT is attractive! 🙂

  • Meredith

    Thanks for the great article! I am about to turn 19, and finishing my freshman year of college. In high school, I thought I was so ready for a relationship. Looking back now, I know I wasn’t, and I’m so glad I never got into one! I know it is so hard to be single when it feels like everyone else is dating and having a great time, but I promise it is worth the wait! For me now, I feel like I am emotionally and mentally mature enough to date, but definitely not spiritually mature enough! God has made it abundantly clear to me that he is calling me to be close to him right now. The past few years haven’t been easy for my relationship with God, and right now I am coming back to him and letting him remind me who I am. I know God is preparing both me and my future husband for our future life together, but we aren’t ready to be together yet! As difficult as that sometimes is to know, I am trying to enjoy my single years and stay close to God.

  • Megan Smith

    By these standards, I am not ready to date, even though I am 20 years old, my parents have essentially given the green light, and I am ready to be married, because I what God has called me to do right now (study and pursue the calling He has for me in Special Education) is best accomplished as a single woman.

    And here’s why I’m totally ok with that: while I really want to be married, I know that my purpose is to serve God and glorify Him, not find a man.

    Girls, remember the truth about these two myths:
    1. “Singleness is a curse.” Being single can actually be a blessing because you are not distracted from serving God (1 Corinthians 7:34).
    2. “The end goal is to get married.” A lot of people think of singleness as a necessary evil until they reach the maturity level to be married. But marriage is not the end goal – glorifying God is. Don’t approach your single years as preparation for marriage (even though they may be that), think of them as another stage of life to grow closer to your Savior and make Him known!

    Whether you’re single, in a relationship, or married, remember your true calling and purpose, sisters! May God bless you as you do so.

  • Katelyn K.

    I do like this post, however the “if you cannot see yourself a married woman in a year” is a bit ridiculous. There are very many couples that have dated at a younger age. I’d rather ask the question, “Could you see yourself living a life with that person?” If within a half a decade, you do, then that’s suitable. But having your child wait until a young adult, speaking 18-20 years old is a bit harsh for my liking. But we have all different opinions! If you meant “if you cannot see yourself a married woman in a year” as in, not years, but relationship-wise. Still, some relationships start slow.

    • Jesusfreak17

      Thanks for sharing your opinion! I have to wonder though, why do you think it’s a good idea to date under 18? Just because lots of people do it doesn’t mean it’s a wise thing to do… Just wondering why you think that. 🙂

  • Hannah grace

    thank you for this article I’m not allowed to court till 18 (I’m 15) which I have no problem with but I’ve always wondered when I’d be ready . thx!!

  • Sarah

    Thanks for this, Paula!

  • me

    My mom and I just had the conversation. I’ll be 18 soon, and she and my dad think I’m ready. I’ve been busy serving God and will continue to do so. I know how to manage a house, my mamma taught me well. I have experience w kids I am considered to be very mature for my age.

  • Paulaaa!!!! This is so good. Oh my goodness. Thank you for this post!
    Off Topic Question: Will you be at True Woman this year?

  • Anon

    Wow I was just thinking about this. GREAT timing! I have a plethora of boy problems. My most pressing issue involves my MARRIED boss 8 years my senior. Please pray for me. I have an extreme attraction to my boss which is partially romantic. It is horrible. He complains about his wife sometimes to me. I just recently turned 18. It is frustrating because I have always been attracted to older guys and it is usually mutual but this situation is different because he is MARRIED. He is the reason I got hired because he convinced his boss to hire me as I am the youngest one at my workplace they have ever hired in 10 years so I feel partially indebted to him. Also, our comments and exchanges that we have always have a bit of a flirty air. I feel so awful that I feel this way about him. It’s so wrong. So….PLEASE pray for me. <3

    • Anon, I will definitely be praying for you. I have a challenge for you: every time you think of the man repeat a bible verse in your head that you have memorized, focus solely on God when sinful thoughts enter your mind. You have to want to flee from the sin…pray that God helps you and gives you that strength.
      Maybe at work since you may see the man at work you can write a bible verse somewhere (on a post it or a notepad) and look every time you find yourself slipping.
      You should ask a older woman, a mature Christian, about advice and maybe to be an accountability partner.

    • Dear Anon,

      I will pray for you now, and even more than that, I encourage you to do something super hard core. I would encourage you to run. Find a different job. This sounds dangerous.

      Praying,

      paula

  • My parents never had a set age limit for me for dating. I was deeply impacted by Leslie and Eric Ludy as a young teenager and perhaps they impacted my “love life” hopes as a teen. I’m 22 and still happily serving the Lord as a single young lady. I’m feel myself falling more deeply in love with my savior daily and I absolutely love it! I have never felt more joy!
    The Lord knows exactly who I’m going to marry and when. I know that right now if that young man asked me to be joined with him as one I’d be honestly ready. My love for him has grown strong over the past years…I can’t wait to meet him.

  • Elisabeth

    In a few minutes, it will be my 17th birthday. I’ve always put an age instead of a maturity level on dating until recently. I’m thankful for a new mindset and a passion for Jesus, but tonight I find myself struggling to keep that mindset. Pray as I try to keep my focus on Him, and that no matter what my age is I will seek Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

    Thank you!

    • Andriel Wilson

      Happy Birthday !! (= its great what God is doing in you.

    • Happy Birthday! Keep your thoughts on Christ!

  • chloe:)

    i would say, keep focusing on scripture, and submerge yourself in truth about the lord and his qualities. i know i struggle with that alot also, and it is best to keep your self thinking on truth about christ and how he loves you, and has a plan for your relationships

  • Andriel

    It is so helpful and encouraging to see subjects like this being brought up and tackled in a Biblical way and with Biblical truth. Especially since I am a young, Christian woman myself.

    I would like to comment on a few things that came to mind while & after reading a few things you said based on two of your points

    For the sake of Point 1, I would like to add that for all those young Christians who may not have believing parents…if what your parents ask of you or have set as rules in your home, if they are still moral and not against God’s Word, you must obey them still as the Word says to obey your parents as unto the Lord. At the same time, they may not always have the most reasonable or right rules, yet you can pray for them and be respectful, yet never fail to follow what God says.

    And for the sake of Point 2, I would like to add that, there have been many Christian couples who were young that met and dated/courted in College who even got married while still in College and worked out. I don’t assume you were saying that those in situations as that can’t work but that to be as prepaired and ready for marriage is what is important

    I guess ultimately, I would like to say that I think everyone and their lives are different. Now, in no way am I saying that the Bible is wrong. What I am saying is that as true as these examples/points are, I believe that based on Biblical truth and directly seeing the lives of other believers, it also must be remembered that GOD sometimes works out things in each of His children’s lives differently. Or that each truth has to be applied to each person and their lives as it fits for their different lives. The truth of God’s Word is the same for everyone but the way it may apply can be different.

    I hope that what i’m saying is clear and makes sense to yall haha. Overall, thank you for this post and always seeking the best for us, God’s daughter’s 🙂

  • It’s hard for me to realize that I may not be ready because I have lots of friends who are dating that are younger than I am. I’m 18 but I don’t really have any guys on the horizon for me so I need patience to wait for the right timing and the right guy that God has for me.

  • This is such awesome advice! I agree wholeheartedly. I’m sixteen, and while many parents allow their kids date now, I’d so much rather wait until at least eighteen or twenty – I’m not even close to ready for marriage now! I love being able to serve God without being tied down by a relational commitment or distraction, and being able to grow in my faith so much now.
    Thanks for this article!

  • Maddy Himmelwright

    After I was saved at age 20, I told myself that I would only date Christian men. I upheld this standard for a couple years until I recently fell into a relationship with a non-Christian man. I’ve tried breaking up with him for this reason in addition to being in college, but it has never been successful. He fights so hard for me every time and I let him back in my life. He is my best friend, we love each other, but I know I don’t want to marry him. I am the only one in my circle of friends who thinks breaking up with someone because they don’t share my faith is rational. They tell me to “enjoy our time together.” I am finding it harder and harder to end it because I am afraid we won’t be friends and that he’ll resent me. It makes him angry that the prevalent Christian teaching is to only date/marry other Christians. I just need reassurance that I’m doing the right think by breaking up with him and that God will give me the perfect person when the time is right.

    • God has the right person for you, dear! I know he does. I was in a relationship that I was very addicted to. When it was over (he cheated and was far from a believer) I wanted to die: literally. But, time heals pain and pain turns to memory. You can do it. I would encourage you to find people to be your friends who share your beliefs. (We could be email penpals if you want:). But anyway, now in my life God brought a Christian and wants to be a missionary like me. And I have to wait for him because of age and school, but trusting God is key. I believe this will happen for you too 😀 Hope this helps.(Also the book “Get Lost” by Dannah Gresh was critical in helping me).

      • Carrie @ Revive Our Hearts

        Just wanted you to know we edited your comment a bit, Indwen. For the protection of our readers, we don’t allow sharing of personal contact information–including email addresses.

        Thanks,
        Carrie

        • Indwen

          Sorry about that!

          • Carrie @ Revive Our Hearts

            No worries! 🙂

    • Sarah, with Revive Our Hearts

      This blog will help you, Maddy, and will give you confidence that you are doing the right thing ~ http://www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com/is-it-okay-to-date-non-christians/. God’s Word is clear on the matter: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14) This last paragraph of the blog post (link given above) is a good summary: “Brice’s words echo the guidance given by Nancy and Dannah in Lies Young Women Believe. It is so important for you to realize that as Christians we need to only be considering other Christians for dating relationships. It is also important to know that God desires for you to marry (and therefore date) a Christian. But that’s not all. He desires for you to marry a man who can lead you spiritually. If you’re only dating qualification is to find a guy who goes to church, you may find yourself in the situation Brice did. The consequences of being ‘unequally yoked’ are painful!”

      I’m praying for you, Maddy, that God will give you the kindness, compassion, courage, and strength to do what is right — that He may be glorified in your life. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

    • Sarah, with Revive Our Hearts

      This blog will help you, Maddy, and will give you confidence that you are doing the right thing ~ http://www.liesyoungwomenbelieve.com/is-it-okay-to-date-non-christians/. God’s Word is clear on the matter: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14) This last paragraph of the blog post (link given above) is a good summary: “Brice’s words echo the guidance given by Nancy and Dannah in Lies Young Women Believe. It is so important for you to realize that as Christians we need to only be considering other Christians for dating relationships. It is also important to know that God desires for you to marry (and therefore date) a Christian. But that’s not all. He desires for you to marry a man who can lead you spiritually. If you’re only dating qualification is to find a guy who goes to church, you may find yourself in the situation Brice did. The consequences of being ‘unequally yoked’ are painful!”

      I’m praying for you, Maddy, that God will give you the kindness, compassion, courage, and strength to do what is right — that He may be glorified in your life. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)

  • Kim

    My boyfriend and I have been dating for 2 years and met in high school were 20 years old. Were very serious and talk about marriage. were both christians and recently I’ve been feeling insecure of our relationship since we don’t have a lot in common. and marriage really scares me sometimes and i just wanted some advice or prayer!

    • Hey, Kim,

      My hubby and I don’t have a lot in common either (opposites tend to attract!), but what we do have in common is all the truly important things: our beliefs about God, the Bible, men’s and women’s roles in marriage, and so much more. Do you have the most important things in common? If so, you can learn to meet each other where they’re at in re. to hobbies, etc.

      Is there an older, godly woman in your church who seems to have a good marriage? If so, could you get together with her and talk through your fears about marriage? I always thought it was all downhill after marriage, but I have been proven wrong. When you marry a godly guy, it just gets better with time.

      Praying for you now,

      paula

  • Gabrielle

    Excellent, thanks for sharing!

  • Anon

    Ok so advice would be helpful. I just recently met a guy…still don’t know him 100%, but from what I’ve seen, he’s so amazing and sweet and Godly. I don’t want to lie and say I’m in the best relationship ever with God, but I’m definitely a lot better and more mature than I was a year ago and I am continuing to strengthen my relationship with Him. I’m also in school which is taking up a good chunk of time… Well this guy started showing interest in me and I really like him and want to get to know him as friends and possibly even more if God allows. I’m just a bit worried that I might not be ready and if I’m not, I know I’ll be disappointed. I’ve never had a boyfriend before and even though I’m in school, with a lot left to go, I’ve still always dreamed and dreamed of meeting a guy like this and always desired to date and marry in my younger/mid twenties rather than later (not sure why). So with school still going strong, what do you guys think? I’m definitely going to be praying about it and it would be amazing if you guys prayed about it too, but also what’s your advice? I guess I’m just kinda confused since this may potentially be my first ever relationship and I have no idea where to start and I’m just feeling sooo many different emotions right now that it’s hard to even figure out what to do. I definitely don’t want to ruin my relationship with God and break my focus with Him for some boy, but because of personal struggles and this boy’s seemingly strong faith, I’m wondering if he even may help to strengthen mine, even if we just end up being friends only. Any advice or thoughts would be appreciated.

    • Dear Anon,

      Honestly, I wouldn’t worry about it until/if this guy asks you to date him. Would you read Matthew 6:25-34? Then ask God to help you put these verses into practice. You will experience such peace as a result. Keep seeking God above all; He’ll lead you step by step.

      Praying for you now,

      paula

      • Anon

        Wow God must have spoken through you because those verses are really what I needed to hear, not just about this whole situation but with other aspects of my life as well. I do tend to worry about everything and I always look to the next day instead of focusing on today and what I can be doing in the present time. Thank you so much, I really appreciate it!

  • Baia

    Dear Paula,
    Firstly I want to thank you for this message. Paula, I am 25 years old and I have had my share of heartaches. No one had ever liked me enough to ask me to be his girlfriend except once, recently which only lasted for a few weeks. I had no peace, I knew it wasn’t right and my parents told me to let him go, which I did. So I have been developing this thought that I shouldn’t want to be in a relationship, that I should not desire it as if it is wrong. Even when the longing comes, I react against it as if this longing is bad and I should shun it. Please help me as to what I should do.. Is it wrong to have a desire to want a relationship?