If you never learn basic relationship skills before that special someone comes along, you are in trouble. You will not be able to do what you need to do in the relationship that matters most, and you may ruin it. In addition, if you don't learn mature relational skills, you will probably fall in love out of your dysfunction. So, use low–risk dating as a place to practice being a more mature person.

7. Perhaps promise yourself that you will make no serious commitment for a certain length of time.

Make a commitment to try this approach for a certain period of time. I recently made a friend promise me that he would not get into an exclusive dating relationship for six months. Even if he found a woman he really liked, he had to stay unattached, or nonexclusive, for six months. I gave him this assignment because I knew he did not know what he needed and wanted, and I wanted him to grow in self–knowledge.

Interestingly enough, he did meet a woman with whom he wanted to get serious, but he kept his commitment to see other women as well. This helped him to evaluate the one he really liked. It looks like he might commit to her. That is great, but if he does, he will be coming from a much more complete place than he would have if he had not dated others.

Changing your goal and expectations of dating from looking for a mate to learning and experiencing will do wonderful things for you. You are probably not ready to marry if you have always demanded that dating was for serious relationships only. Begin by taking the following pledge:

I will date as an end in and of itself. I will no longer see dating as a place only to find a mate, but as a place to learn, grow, experience, and serve other people. It is my new laboratory of learning, growth, and experience.

That is the first step in this program. See dating as a place not to find a mate but to learn and have fun.

Excerpted from How to Get a Date Worth Keeping. © 2005 by Dr. Henry Cloud. Used by permission of Zondervan.Copyright © 2005 ChristianityToday.com