I used to fear dating, to be honest. I once considered myself weak and vain for wanting someone to guard my heart, as an encourager and sustainer. Then, I realized the beauty of dating, of a relationship founded on selfless sacrifice and intentionality required out of two people who choose to care (or love) one another each day.
As you begin dating, it is vital to treat one another not just with common courtesy but with respect. When hearts and feelings are on the line, you must realize the weight of your actions and the importance of respect if you attempt to take part in a reciprocal relationship.
Here are 5 ways to show respect to someone while dating:
1) Ask questions.
As you look for ways to respect your partner, first you must understand their story. To listen with the purpose of gaining understanding is vital to craft respect in any relationship. Asking about their childhood, dreams, mentors, family, goals, and past decisions can provide you with good insight in the experiences or people, which molded their thought process and current perspectives or beliefs.
By understanding the path they have taken to be where they are today, you can better understand where they are heading and what they want out of a relationship. Ask them why they are considering dating and what their boundaries are in terms of the relationship (i.e. how often they want to communicate, what physical boundaries will they want to maintain, how they desire to be cared for, etc...). Asking questions shows your desire to know who they are (something we all so often want out of a relationship) and opens up a pathway for admiration and understanding.
2) Be friends.
Dating is not generally measurable. There is no formula or one "right" way to go about crafting a dating relationship. However, I would recommend that in order to create a relationship founded on respect, you should learn about your partner in their role as a friend towards you before placing romantic intimacy on the table.
Friendship is grounded in mutual trust and support, which can then lend toward a deeper sense of respect. If a friend never follows through on their word or promises and is only supportive during your seasons of success and not brokenness, then how much more will you be hurt by them if they were to carry out these same actions as your dating partner, one who should be a source of comfort and peace.
Try being friends first and learn to appreciate their character, then you can more fully admire and respect them for them.
3) Learn their communication style.
If there was ANYTHING I learned through dating, it is this - know how your partner communicates. Take the time to ask how they best respond - is it by text? A phone call? Do they reach out better earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon?
Don’t compare your communication styles to anyone else, especially other couples. Words can build up or tear down your partner, and the absence of them when they are expected is dangerous. Without knowing HOW your partner communicates, how can you interpret WHAT they communicate well?
In a generation of immediacy and impatience due to social media and the convenience of the internet, we must know the power of expectations and the destruction they can cause. By assuming your partner is just like you or matches the stereotypes of other dating couples as portrayed in the media, you can destroy a relationship.
Be honest about your desires but also flexible.
4) Stay open and honest.
Telling the truth will save you a world of trouble. I am not saying that the truth will always bring healing to a relationship, BUT it is the gateway to understanding and brings the potential of forgiveness. Hiding behind lies and deception is the fastest way to betray someone's trust and demolish their respect for you.
Would you admire someone who so easily and without regret deceives you? Most likely not.
Let your partner know what you are struggling with, what obstacles you are facing and if there is a way for them to help you face them. Likewise, be open and honest in asking them where you can improve, how can you serve them or care for them better? What is it they need that you can direct them to or provide for them?
5) Know their worth.
Showing gratitude and going out of your way to remind your partner how much you admire them, care for them, and enjoy spending time with them goes a long way.
Remind them of their worth, encourage them and affirm them. Surprise them with flowers or extra quality time because you can. Look them in the eyes and say "You are incredible. Thank you for investing and choosing to care for me." We shy away from compliments more and more because we are scared to be honest and real.
Not all relationships, even if based on respect, will remain. However, if you can approach a relationship with respect and give love, how much more can you serve the people around you no matter how different they are from you.
When I first began dating my husband Matt, I had never been in a relationship before. I didn't know the "ins" and "outs" of dating or how to approach such a fragile state of companionship blended together with attraction and admiration. We were friends, but as it evolved into a dating relationship, I had no idea of the difference between healthy and unhealthy expectations. We didn't share our communication desires. We also let physicality drive our second year of dating, and soon enough, found ourselves more acquainted with our skin rather than one another's heart and soul.
In our third year of dating, we knew we were discontent and finally had the hard conversation orienting around the questions - "How can I respect you more? How can I listen to your needs better? How can I better serve and encourage you?" This open communication style allowed us to grow together and choose to serve and respect one another. This pattern then led us to marriage, a lifetime of choosing to love each other as we change. Marriage is messy, and we still have these conversations and fall short of how we should care for one another. However, we are trying, constantly trying to be a better husband and wife than we were the day before and will continue to try to do better every day until death parts us.