“I’ll just take anything I can get. I’ll date anyone who says he loves me.”
As a youth, this was how Jennifer Heng used to approach relationships. Growing up in a broken family where her parents were divorced, one of the things she craved was the need for attention and love.
In her teenage years, she went from one relationship into another, driven by a desire to be accepted for who she was.
“I tried to look for guys to feed that need, but the more I tried, the worse it became,” admitted Jennifer during her workshop session at Not Gonna Lie, a young women’s conference recently organised by Singapore Youth for Christ and Kallos.
She eventually learnt the painful way – through the lack of dating boundaries and an abortion at the age of 17 – that only God was able to fulfil her deepest longing to be loved.
“Nowadays, because of COVID-19, we’re all very familiar with safe distancing or social distancing,” quipped Jennifer. “That safe distancing (in relationships) was something that I did not know and did not practise.”
Now the Director of Safe Place, a centre that supports pregnant women who need help, she ‘fesses up about her mess-ups, so that others can benefit from what she has gone through.
Here are 5 mistakes that you don’t wanna make when seeking out a boyfriend or girlfriend.
1. NOT UNDERSTANDING WHY YOU DATE
“To some people, dating is like an experiment or test. We go all the way to see if we are suitable for each other,” said Jennifer.
However, knowing what it means to date is very important before you consider pursuing romance.
What is your definition of dating? What is the purpose of dating?
“Talk to people whom you trust – older people, people who are godly, people who are stable. Ask them if your idea of dating is right,” she advised.
Listen to them with an open mind, learn from the good principles and then make a decision for yourself.
2. FINDING YOUR IDENTITY & SECURITY IN THE WRONG PLACE
We each have needs, and it is natural to want to be intimately known, to trust, and to have the stability and enjoyment of a relationship.
But it is also important to know that ultimately, God is the only one who is going to meet all our needs.
“I tried to find my identity in my destructive relationships, and I couldn’t find it,” said Jennifer. “When I finally found it in God first, I realised that I could have a healthy relationship with another person, especially a person of the opposite sex.”
Having said that, finding our identity in God is a lifelong process that can continue to take place through a healthy relationship, she added. Our relationship can affect our identity in God, and vice versa.
She also debunked the myth that a person can only feel complete through marriage, explaining that one can still lead a fulfilled life while being single.
While people often refer to their life partner as “my better half” or “my other half”, Jennifer has a different take: “I want to propose to you that it is not half of you. It is the whole of you, and the whole of someone else, that makes marriage happen.”
3. GETTING YOUR PRIORITIES MIXED UP
Is there a specific age when we can date?
Jennifer clarified this for us: “The truth is, there is no magic number. Be wise and ensure that your priorities are correct.”
If you are still studying, that should be your priority.
“If dating compromises or affects your studies in a negative way, then that could be a sign that you’re not ready to date,” she surmised.
You can always wait a little longer to date after fulfilling the basic obligations of a young person first.
4. HIDING THE FACT THAT YOU’RE DATING
Maybe you’re already dating, but you feel the need to keep your relationship on the down-low from everyone: your parents, mentors and even those closest to you.
“If you find that you want to keep the relationship secret for whatever reason, that could also be a sign that you’re not ready,” Jennifer said.
You should be able to comfortably tell people about your relationship, so find out what is holding you back.
If you’re afraid of telling others because you know they won’t approve, that could be an indication that you shouldn’t be dating yet.
5. GIVING IN TO DOUBTS & DISCOURAGEMENT
Finally, Jennifer reminded us to remember to trust in God’s perfect timing, especially for those who might find themselves single for a bit longer than others.
“Some of us may feel so hurt by not being able to find the right person that we begin to get really upset or despise that desire,” Jennifer said.
“Our desire to be in that one, committed, loving relationship is not a bad thing… It is something that God has given to us: our emotions, our need for intimacy and love with another person.”
But she also warned that the romance we see on Korean dramas is not realistic.
“Don’t live in Korean drama. Those are fantasies, and they are not real. The reality is God’s reality,” she cautioned.
Jennifer pointed out that in every stage of our lives, our desires are definitely known by God: what we need, what we want and what truly satisfies us are not a mystery to Him.
“The question to ask yourself is: Do you really trust God to meet the need that you are bringing before Him?” she challenged. “We need to trust in God’s perfect plan and timing.”
- What is the purpose of dating? How can we date with that in mind?
- Are you looking to a relationship to fill needs that only God can meet?
- Do you find it a struggle to trust in God’s perfect plan and timing where dating is concerned?