So you wanna go on a dating fast?

FOCUS missionaries do a lot of crazy things. They fundraise their salaries. They move to wherever they are told throughout the country. They talk to strangers about Jesus. But perhaps one of the most shocking things they do is give up dating for an entire year. That’s right. All first year missionaries fast from romantic relationships for one year.

No dating. No flirting. No handholding. No mentally stalking someone who has caught their attention… “He is going to look so amazing standing next to me in the wedding dress I pinned on my Pinterest wedding board, but maybe I should change his boutonniere from a red rose to blue hydrangeas to match his eyes!”  (For more on why you shouldn’t really be doing this last one anyway, read this post.)

So why would a young adult in perhaps the prime of their search for their future mate temporally give up dating? And why am I going to suggest that you do the same? It’s all about freedom. Freedom to love. Sounds backwards right? Read on.

When we fast from earthy goods, such as giving up meat on Fridays during Lent, we don’t do it because these things are bad or evil, we do it because we want to ensure that we are in control of our bodies, not that our bodies are in control of us. “Must eat meat… can’t say noooooo!!” (Use your best caveman voice here.)

Let’s say every morning you have a double shot of espresso to wake yourself up, until one morning your espresso maker breaks. So you order one online and think “I can go a few days without my espresso.” And after three painful mornings of obsessing over your missing shots of roasted goodness, you realize you can’t. You vow never again to order anything of importance online and hop in line at the local coffee shop.

In this scenario, were you free? I say not really. Sure, the espresso police didn’t barge in on your morning routine and rip your shots out of your hands to inform you that your actions were now illegal, but after three days of headaches, crabbiness, and exhaustion, you realized that you weren’t free to say no to the espresso without some undesirable side effects. Instead of you being in control of the espresso, the espresso was in control of you.

FOCUS doesn’t ask its missionaries to fast from dating because dating in and of itself is bad, but rather FOCUS asks its missionaries to fast from dating because if we are not careful dating can become something we just have to have. And for those who are not currently dating, this fact can turn into something they just have to obsess about. It’s like we’re just not free to enjoy life unless we have a significant other. I call that a pretty undesirable side effect. Sounds a lot like our espresso, huh?

Over the years I’ve heard numerous stories of the positive effects that the fast has had on our missionaries’ views of dating and love. Below are just a few of the desirable side effects of a dating fast. If you choose to take the fast on, you just might experience some of these yourself.

1. I CAN live with or without you

If you want to be free from always having to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, you have learn to live without one. This is not to say that we should isolate ourselves from others and learn to be independent, but rather, learn how to be in true community. In a community you have a variety of relationships, not just a significant other. When you step back from dating you can better look around at the bigger picture and see where you can strengthen your relationships and ultimately where you can better serve.

2. LYLAS (Love you like a sister… or brother)

When you go on a dating fast you stop seeing every person of the opposite sex as a potential date. This frees you to get to know them without analyzing them and to love them as a sister or brother in Christ.

3. Party of one

Learning to not NEED a relationship while on the fast helps you to make better decisions about entering into one after. If you are comfortable with your single life, you are less likely to jump into the first opportunity for a date, and thus you increase your chances of avoiding the wrong relationship.

4. What does God want?

A dating fast can be an amazing opportunity to discern more intensely your Vocation. If you are constantly jumping from one relationship to another, you make a pretty big assumption that God’s best plan for you is marriage. If you’ve never sat down and asked our Lord if He is calling you to religious life, how do you know if all of this dating is even necessary for what God is ultimately calling you to? This time can provide an opportunity for you to listen freely to God, without the distraction of potential relationships.

5. Finding your First love

Oftentimes it is easy to want a relationship because you feel like something is missing in your life, and you think a boyfriend or girlfriend can fix that. While if you are called to marriage, there will be a special place in your heart that only your spouse can fill, your spouse will never be your Savior. A fast is the perfect time to allow Jesus to pursue your heart and take His proper place in there, so when that special person comes along you are ready to welcome him or her, without putting the pressure on that person to fulfill some of your fundamental needs of security and purpose that only Jesus can satisfy.

6. Let go

Finally, many of us have scars and regrets from past relationships that haunt us and prevent us from the freedom Christ wants for us. We were made to love and be loved, not live in guilt with hard hearts. A fast can be a time of healing as you reorder your heart to Christ and allow Him to show you His plan and design for love and your life.

So the question is still up in the air – you wanna go on a dating fast? Even if it’s only for 6 months instead of a year, I still think it’s a worthy pursuit for anyone who thinks the above side effects sound desirable. If you really dive into it wholeheartedly, I think you’ll look back and thank yourself, and maybe one day your spouse will, too.

(This blog post was originally published at FOCUS.)

_______________________

lisacotterLisa Cotter and her husband Kevin have been a FOCUS family for the past 5 years. Currently she serves as the Family Liaison, a position in which she strives to connect FOCUS’ over 100 wives across the country. She is a proud graduate of Benedictine College where she received degrees in Religious Studies and Youth Ministry and later served as a Resident Director while Kevin served as an on-campus missionary. She is a national speaker as well as a video presenter for YDisciple Leader. In reality, she spends most of her days playing with her young children and trying to avoid laundry. Lisa is not currently on Twitter and her Facebook account has been disabled. You can connect with her by telegraph or Pony Express.

14 Comments

  1. Awesome article! I personally feel called to the single vocation but this is still great advice that can benefit many people! God bless keep up good work. J.M.J.

    By marino | 3 years ago Reply
  2. This is incredible!! Thank you for posting this! NET has the same dating fast rule. I like how mich I relate to the ‘desirable side effects’

    By Theresa | 3 years ago Reply
  3. Wow…this could not be any more perfect for me right now. I’m exactly one month and two days into my own dating fast, and while at times it is really hard because I had been dating a guy previously for almost 3 years, it is definitely something I feel worth doing. These are the reasons I did it in the first place, and I needed this reminder today. Thank you!!

    By Kirby | 3 years ago Reply
  4. This is really a nice article. Now I know what I should do after going through a quite unusual experience on dating. It only shows that God has its own way of talking to us and reminding us of what we should do through people like you. Now I have to learn to focus on letting God fill the void inside of me rather than looking for a date which doesn’t even come close to the kind of love and peace of mind that God can give me. Thanks for sharing this very enlightening article.

    By Maria | 3 years ago Reply
  5. I even read the article about why a man and a woman can’t be ‘just’ friends and this one is a good advice that complete the “relationship area”. Not friends nor girlfriends too. Fast is the way. 🙂

    By Robert | 3 years ago Reply
  6. Thanks for this post.

    We had a no- dating rule on Crossroads and it really helped increase the community to be a better fellowship. While I haven’t dated in the last 4 years, I might try taking a “dating fast” to change the mentality I’ve had about being single. Thanks!

    By Kiki | 3 years ago Reply
  7. So what happens if I have been in a relationship for 4 years already? Would it be completely heartless of me to just “leave” for 6 months or a year and hope that one day I’ll be ready to date him again after I have discovered myself? But I kinda want to do this because I have always been jumping from relationship to relationship really quickly.

    By Honey | 3 years ago Reply
    • If he’s a catholic boy, show him this and ask what he thinks about it, and how he would feel about a small ‘rest’ from each other. I wouldn’t recommend 6 months though if your currently in a relationship. I’m in a similar position, and I’m thinking of proposing the idea of 2 weeks, not sure if that helps. Your in my prayers 🙂

      By Sasha | 3 years ago Reply
  8. Funny, I’m on my 20s and never went on a date or had a boyfriend, have I been fastening my entire life? I like the post but it centers more on people that have dated before.

    By Melissa | 3 years ago Reply
    • I’m in the same boat! But as someone else mentioned, it really changes your mentality on being single! Like, you will notice that if you start seeing yourself as on a dating fast, rather than “not datable” the “side effects” will start to surface, and you will feel so much more relieved and refreshed in your single status! I would recommend you read the book entitled, “And the Bride Wore White: Seven Secrets to Sexual Purity” I forget the author’s name unfortunately or else I would tell you, but I think her first name is Donna. Hope that you find information and wisdom! God Bless!

      By theresa | 3 years ago Reply
  9. Relieved to find a wonderful article about fasting intertwining with dating. For years, I’ve been impatiently waiting for my future spouse, to the point of choosing the mentality that every guy I meet could be “the one” in different ways. There’s a usual pattern with the guys I’ve dated, because none of them truely choose to possess what I look for the most.. a dedicated relationship with God in more ways than one.

    I’m thankful to God to have spotted this article, so that I will strive to take on the challenge to fast on dating for at least a year & wait patiently for God’s plan to unfold as I continue to manuever through life’s journey.

    May God continue to bless you for creating such inspirational and useful advice on important topics.

    By Lauren | 3 years ago Reply
  10. It’s funny how this reminds me of How I Met Your Mother! The main character would benefit from a dating fast rooted in personal discernment! 😛

    By Theresa | 3 years ago Reply
  11. This is exactly what I needed to read. I really think God lead me to it. I recently got out of a 4 1/2 year relationship. I was the one who ended it and all I could tell him was that I just felt that its what I needed to do. It took me a while to listen to this voice inside of me but I finally listened. Now, reading this article, I am so excited to start on this new journey. Pray for me guys. I think I’m going to do it for a full year, but I’m a little scared lol Thank you for this article!

    By Sheyla | 3 years ago Reply
  12. Hi Lisa! I’ve never actually dated anyone before (I’m 20), and it seems like dating fasts are always geared towards people who have been in relationships or gone on dates. What about people who have never even gone on dates or flirted with anyone? In some ways I feel like my whole life up to this point has been a dating fast that I decided to go on subconsciously, because I know I have a lot of self work to do (lot of physical/mental/emotional health problems). But this coming year I’ll be taking a school year to focus exclusively and more intensely on all my health problems and I’m wondering if a dating fast should be part of this too.

    By MJ | 3 years ago Reply

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