“Can you even kiss him?” Singles share on dating and dealing with desires on Salt&Light Family Night
by Christine Leow // June 9, 2022, 12:24 pm
Video director, executive producer and writer Angie Lim enjoys her work as well as life as a single. She was on the panel of Salt&Light Family Night to share her experiences and insights. Photo courtesy of Angie Lim
Growing up in church, Angie Lim learnt that a godly man would make an ideal husband.
“But we were not taught about the practical things, like what are the boundaries in dating.
“As a youth, someone just blew my mind away because I was on this track thinking about what kind of godly man I wanted while I wrote my list as an 18- or 20-year-old.
“This lady who was a Christian teacher just asked, ‘First question: Do you think you can even kiss this guy or not?’
“I was like, ‘Huh? Can think like that?’ I thought we were only supposed to think about the very godly things? She was just being very practical.”
The Church has not celebrated the dating process enough, said Angie, 38. Yet, getting to know the character of a man through dating is as important as discovering his “godly attributes”.
“We were not taught about the practical things, like what are the boundaries in dating.” – Angie
“As you date, sometimes that idea of a godly, mature man does change a little bit. It does bring you down to earth a little more – not in the sense of compromise but it puts better light, in terms of what is ‘godly’ in a practical sense.
“Sometimes, girls fantasise: Is he going to pray with me every night? Is he going to read the Bible and share revelations with me? They want to date someone close to Jesus – they practically want to date Jesus.
“Sometimes, maybe you should ask: ‘Is he going to take out the trash when I ask him to? Is he is going to wash the dishes or do household chores with me?’
“You can tell this by dating the guy, not so much by how he prays on stage or in cell group.”
Angie was speaking on Zoom chat show, Salt&Light Family Night (May 31), on the issue of balancing singlehood with the desire for a soulmate. She is a video director, executive producer and writer with Roar Singapore. The creative community of storytellers, filmmakers, photographers, designers and strategists tell real-life stories that deal with social issues.
On the panel with her were fellow singles Reuben Ang and Pastor Oliver Chia. Reuben is the Managing Director of Hesed and Emet, which owns catering businesses Elsie’s Kitchen and Continental Delight. Ps Oliver is an Associate Pastor at Grace Baptist Church. He oversees Discipleship and Outreach in his church.
Joining them were almost 350 viewers. Young adults aged between 26 and 35 made up more than half (48%). Those between the ages of 36 and 45 made up a third. Under 25s made up 13%.
In an opinion poll, most who participated said that they enjoyed the freedom of singlehood. Their main concern as singles was loneliness.
Here are some perspectives on Christian courtship that the panellists shared.
What should Christian courtship look like?
1. Find someone willing to grow in faith
“Scripture tells us we ought to be dating a Christian. We need to be yoked equally.
“The idea is that both of the potential dating partners, as they look towards marriage, they need to be able to see themselves growing towards Christ-likeness together,” said Ps Oliver, 50.
Marriage involves two sinners coming together and friction is inevitable – “they will get on each other’s nerves, irritate each other and, in the process, expose each other’s sin habits and idols”.
“As they look towards marriage, they need to be able to see themselves growing towards Christ-likeness together.” – Ps Oliver
That is why that willingness to grow in godliness and be open to God’s Word is more important than a checklist of godly attributes, he explained.
Angie agreed: “Many times, the men are not there yet. Can they be there? How much does a girl feel like she is compromising?
“He may never be a CG (cell group) leader his whole life. And it’s okay. Is he living in the purpose God has called him to? Do you identify with that?
“There is nothing wrong with dating someone less mature in the faith. Let’s be open to the fact that he doesn’t have to be CG leader and above, pastor, or missionary.
“We need to redefine in our heads how we want to see if a guy loves God and follows God or not. Those standards should not be based on their church work.”
Added Reuben, 34: “We need to understand the desired outcome of this partnership. It’s a joint work.
“We are coming together not for ourselves first but so that we, together, may continue to flourish to fulfil the purpose that God has for us together.”
2. Understand yourself through the relationship
Said Reuben: “One of the things I learnt is that when I am not ready, I know – because I need to work on myself in terms of being more patient.
“It’s a journey in understanding more about myself and not just about seeing how the other person can help me or is going to be compatible for me.”
3. Work on being the ideal partner
Angie added that this self-reflection and growth can also take place in the season of singleness where there is time to reflect and “work on ourselves”.
“Don’t keep fantasising on what we will be when we are with our partner, the things we will do. While we are waiting in our season of singleness, work on ourselves so that when the person comes, you are a better person for that person.”
4. Women: Regulate your emotions
For women, the need for intimacy may be so strong that they might overshare on dating apps, noted Angie.
She offered one practical advice to women: Don’t give of yourself too much on a dating app in the bid to connect emotionally quickly. Regulate yourself emotionally.
Women who overshare sometimes find men less than forthcoming in comparison, and can end up disillusioned.
5. Men: Take the lead
“We need to learn to lead in the relationship – to care in ways that are sacrificial and giving,” said Ps Oliver.
To avoid uncertainty in the relationship, talk about boundaries and expectations.
“If men are to lead in marriage, then my appeal to guys as you get into a relationship is to lead by providing clarity when you are dating. Do a DTR (define the relationship). Have conversations with the girl you are interested in.”
Girls can request a DTR as well, to avoid uncertainty in the relationship. Talk about boundaries and expectations.
6. Listen to your community
“What I lacked in previous relationships was putting people around me,” said Angie.
“Putting people around you during the courtship phase – asking for feedback, listening to them, including them – is important.
“My community is my second, third and fourth eye because when we are inside the well, it’s all lovey-dovey. Love covers a multitude of red flags.”
“What I lacked in previous relationships was putting people around me.” – Angie
Agreed Ps Oliver: “I’m Baptist. We joke that when you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, you need to bring them to us for us to vote whether we accept them or not.”
Many of the young people in his church recognise the importance of community in courtship and do inform their pastors or friends around them when they are dating, so these leaders can “keep them accountable and provide the additional line-of-sight in the relationship”.
The local church can also teach explicitly about boundaries in dating. Putting singles in cell groups with married couples can help to model what godly marriages look like, added Angie.
How can singles remain sexually pure in courtship?
1. Know what the Bible says
The Bible says that “sex is reserved for marriage”, maintained Ps Oliver. Knowing this is an important starting point.
2. Realise there can be intimacy outside of sex
Besides praying when tempted because “young men are hot-blooded”, Reuben had one more piece of advice.
“Ensure that you continue to have that rhythm and cycle of having intimacy with God.” – Reuben
The desire for sex stems from the need for intimacy and this intimacy can be found in God.
“Ensure that you continue to have that rhythm and cycle of having intimacy with God,” he said.
Angie has had the same experience.
Much of her work revolves around helping people share stories about their struggles with sexuality. Through her encounters, she has learnt to expand her definition of intimacy.
“Intimacy can be found in friendships, intimacy in deep community, and in being known.”
“Intimacy can be found in friendships, intimacy in deep community, and in being known.” – Angie
It took time for Angie to develop such a community of friends who truly cared for her and know her. She admitted that this may not exactly replace sexual intimacy, but it offers a level of intimacy that has helped her.
Another source of intimacy is God. She said: “To know that I am known by God, I am known by the Holy Spirit, is to commune with the Holy Spirit, to talk to the Holy Spirit and to know that He knows what’s up in my mind.
“It’s one thing to tell Jesus everything, to occupy God. It’s another thing to let the Holy Spirit affirm what you have been thinking and feeling.
“That’s intimacy with the Holy Spirit.”
3. Recognise your triggers
Said Reuben: “We must know what triggers us. It could be times, places, friends we hang out with.
“I travel for work. A single man travelling for work where nobody knows you is a big temptation.”
The temptation is compounded by the fact that some of Reuben’s business associates “go to countries for explicit purposes”.
So, Reuben is careful not to put himself in situations or go to places when he is abroad where he can be tempted.
He is also very public about his faith.
“They know who I am and what I stand for. To put that up front helps, and to ensure the community around you respects those boundaries.”
“We must know what triggers us. It could be times, places, friends we hang out with.” – Reuben
Ps Oliver has come to realise that his defences are lower when he is tired.
“When I am particularly tired, my thoughts will wander. So, I try to put things aside or take a rest.”
For women, the trigger can be romance novels and Korean dramas that portray dewy-eyed versions of relationships that feed into their fantasies, said Angie.
“For women, their fantasy world can be very strong. Girls can marinate in the feeling, in the fantasy that there is a guy out there who can romance me.
“The best way to live in the fantasy is through romance novels, through binge-watching Korean dramas where the guy does the sweetest things for you, acts of intimacy.
“So, I make sure I don’t build a fantasy world.”
4. Develop counter strategies
Ps Oliver keeps active to expend excess energy. He runs, walks, as well as practises Brazilian jujitsu. He keeps his mind active as well, by reading good books – especially books that turn his attention to God.
“It replaces my desire for sexual relationships with a greater affection for what God has done for me in Jesus Christ.”
“Music helps me in those moments – to return to Him and find intimacy in that communion. ” – Reuben
For Reuben, music helps. He sings worship songs to God.
“It helps me in those moments – to come back and return to Him and find intimacy in that communion. That’s where our rootedness lies.”
Angie fills her time with other pursuits so that she does not have much time to indulge in Korean dramas that might cause her to dwell in a fantasy narrative.
“Many women build a fantasy world to the point that when they date said person, he doesn’t meet the expectations of their fantasy world, because they spend too long in their fantasy world that they forget to come back to real life.
“When you explore deeper, maybe they built a fantasy world that is stronger than their reality sometimes.”
5. Seek forgiveness when you fail
Encouraged Ps Oliver: “There are times where we fail. We will linger on a website or thought too long. But the encouragement I want to give is there is forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
“Return and turn back, and trust that He will forgive and love us.”
How do I know if I have been called to be single?
“We need to understand there is one primary calling to know Jesus and love Jesus and that applies to all of us,” affirmed Ps Oliver.
“If you are single now, then you are called to be single. If you are married, you are called to be married.
“The better question to ask is: How can I be devoted to Christ wherever I am?”
This report is Part 2 of the Salt&Light Family Night episode on How do I balance singlehood and the desire for a soulmate? You can read Part 1 here.
A full recording of this episode will be posted on the Salt&Light YouTube channel at the end of the week. You can watch past episodes of Salt&Light Family Night on our YouTube channel here.
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