"I would like to date, but shouldn't I have to get myself" in order "before I can start dating seriously? It's important that I don't saddle someone else with my issues?"
I get this question more often and it usually stems from the healthy assumptions that someone else is not going to make you happy for the rest of your life, that someone else is not going to clear up your issues and that someone else is not your therapist. One of the basic principles of dating, relationships, and marriage is that you don't make the other person responsible for your happiness. You are responsible for your happiness, period. So someone else can be responsible for how he or she treats you. But even in that case you are responsible for setting boundaries in this. And, if they are not heard, for taking measures against it. Never stay in a relationship where you are being abused, be it sexually, emotionally or physically.
Choices, feelings and thoughts
That said: your issues will always remain your issues. Whether you are married or not, you are and will remain responsible for the choices you make, the feelings you feel and the thoughts you have. Another can and never will take responsibility for those things. If you are hoping for that and therefore want to get married, it is indeed better to learn to deal with your issues before you start dating seriously.
Well out of balance
If there are many issues from your childhood or past relationships that are still bothering you, it may help to talk them through with a therapist. Something like an attachment issue - for example, if you've had a very critical, self-centered father or a very overprotective, anxious mother - can leave its mark in the adult life you are now living. So learning to deal with that is a good idea.
But it is an illusion to think that you can be all "ready" for a relationship. Even if you think you have your life in order, a week after you start working with someone, your father could die. Or you lose your job. The relationship itself can also get you out of balance. The art is to deal with this consciously. If you've learned that earlier in life, it's easier when that relationship presents itself. If you already know how to talk about difficult matters with someone close, it will be easier in a new relationship.
In short, it is important that you know how to solve problems before you start dating, or when you are dating. Not because you have to solve them, but because you have to know strategies to solve them, together with someone else. Being an adult requires us to know how to say difficult things to those who are dear to us. That's called relationship skills. And you can best practice that in ... relationships.
Aukelien Van Abbema is a singles and couples counsellor, public speaker, and successful author, including the title Dare to Date.
Helping people with Christian dating, relationships, singleness in church, dating in church, loneliness, connectedness, christian connection, healthy relationships.