How To Be Intentional In Romance (Without Even Trying)

Intentional Couple Looking Over Landscape

We were having “the talk.” The talk where the two of you hash out the reality that you’re not going to pursue a long-term relationship. We liked each other and had become good friends, but we came to face the reality that we didn’t have what’s needed to pursue a long-term relationship.

But as we talked about how our casual dating relationship led us to this point, she said something that took me by surprise. She said, “we’ve been really intentional about this (our casual dating relationship).”

Um…say WHAT?

The “Intentional” Movement

Over the last two or three decades, many Christians have taken up the conviction that you shouldn’t “date for the fun of it.” In other words, you shouldn’t date people just to have a fun time, when you really have no intention of pursuing a long-term relationship or considering marriage. This has resulted in many Christians believing that, even to tell someone you like him/her or go on a date, you have to be prepared to commit to an “intentional” romantic relationship. This essentially means committing to an exclusive romantic relationship in which the two of you intentionally consider if you’ll get married.

Have you ever felt like you could only go out with someone if you were seriously interested in him or her? Have you ever turned down a date because you felt like he or she isn’t the type of person you want to marry (even if he or she has good qualities)? If so, then you’ve probably experienced the impact of the “intentional” movement on our Christian culture.

Some Christians believe in intentionality so strongly that they feel a man should have an honest conversation with a woman about his interest and intentions before they even go on a single date. Not being this clear and intentional is often viewed as being self-serving, cowardly, or the mark of a poor leader.

If that’s the case, I must have been a real loser!

Unintentionally Intentional

See, what I didn’t tell you earlier about that young woman is that I met her online, a three hundred mile drive separated us, and, throughout six months of casually Skype dating, I never once talked with her about my intentions. Never. Nunca. Not-a-once.

So how was it that she said with complete conviction that we were intentional in our dating? How was it that I was unintentionally intentional?

Here’s the short answer: It’s who I am.

I behave in an intentional way when it comes to romance because, at heart, I’m someone who loves God and loves people. Because I love God, I want to give Him the best of my time and attention rather than waste it on self-serving, directionless flings. Because I love people, I don’t want to use a woman’s time and emotions for my own self-gratification if I already know I’m going to cut ties with her later.

On top of that, because I want to marry one day, all my dating (even casual dating) aims toward finding which woman is the one I’ll marry. That doesn’t mean I go to a first date thinking “okay, Justin, before the night is out, you’ve got to find out if she passes the First Date Marriage Material Test.” That’s called OVERTHINKING, and it can truly harm your love life! It simply means that even casual dating is producing a good effect: I’m learning through experience what person I should pursue a long-term relationship with.

See, who you are at heart determines your behavior. When you simply ARE a person who wants to build relationship rather than have a fling, it comes out of you whether you mean it to or not. That’s how the young woman saw intentionality in our casual dating. She intuitively recognized that both of us were trying to figure out where our relationship was going because we were interested in long-term potential, not self-gratification. Even though we didn’t ultimately become a couple, the intentionality was still there.

What It Means For You

There are two things I’m hoping you get out of this.

First, I want you to know you don’t have to follow some rule about stating your intentions to pursue marriage before you even go on a single date with a person. It can actually be a good thing to go out with a person casually before adding the intensity of talking about marriage or an exclusive relationship into the mix. (For more on that, see my post The Good And Bad Of Casual.) People can say all the right words and pretend to be pursuing marriage yet intend to dump you once they’ve gotten the self-gratification they wanted. Rules, regulations, and explicit conversations can’t make a person intentional if it’s not who he or she is at heart.

Second, I want you to know it’s who you are at heart that truly makes you intentional. Become a person who loves God above everything. Then you’ll honor Him and pursue what’s right in everything you do. Love your neighbor like you love yourself. Then you won’t use your neighbor to gratify yourself. You’ll naturally want to build relationship rather than serve yourself.

Allow God to make you like Him. As He does, you’ll find that your intentions naturally will be to pursue what’s good, right, and lasting…without even trying.


Do you have a story about how being intentional (or not) impacted your relationship? Please share it with us in the comments!

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