I am the poster child for all things “godly relationship.” I read all the books, did all the right things, had the approval of everyone in my life, and married the first guy I was ever in a relationship with. But honestly, inside I felt like I was floundering and had no idea what I was doing.
There were so many lists of don’ts for relationships, and I wish I had had a couple lists of things to do instead! So here I am, writing some how-to’s in hopes of giving other couples, parents, or friends some ideas for going about courting well. If you didn’t catch my first post sharing a bit of my journey with courtship and some ways to navigate relationships check it out here. Again, my working definition of “courting” is “a romantic relationship with the intent of figuring out if you want to get married to that person.”
Here are five more helpful tips for how to go about courtship:
Find the speed that best suits the two of you.
The speed of your relationship will be unique to you. Going too fast sometimes means rash decisions, unwise choices, or struggles early into marriage. Going too slow can mean compromise or frustration. There is a skill to finding the right balance. It may mean making a couple of mistakes or adjustments as you go and as you learn together. That’s ok. The kind of touching you do, the amount of talking you do, when to meet the families, the depth of your conversations, where you hang out, the things you discuss. All of these things will be something you figure out together. Go at the best pace for you.
Deal with your family junk.
This is a big one. And kind of heavy one. We bring a lot of baggage with us into relationships. Any relationships. Friendships. Parenting. Marriage. The ways we function are largely impacted by the ways our families did things. And they deeply affect our relationships with others. Unresolved hurts and hard things are important to be aware of and to deal with. If there are ways your family does things that you want to change, now is the time. Bring your hurts before the Lord, ask Him to heal them, and start setting new habits now! And understand the other person’s hurts and baggage as well. Sometimes counseling can be helpful, or even necessary, for this. It’s always beneficial to get things worked through, so whatever it takes to help you go from a good relationship to a great one, go for it!
There are so many places we can go for wisdom! We can be searching the Scriptures and praying to hear from the Lord. He says in James that He will give wisdom to those who are asking for the right reasons. God loves giving us wisdom! Ask Him for it in your relationships, especially as you court or consider a spouse. There are also countless books, sermons, articles, and studies that are filled with bits and pieces of wisdom concerning courting, relationships, and marriage. Find a few and give them a try. This will probably include a few that give you the “don’t” lists, but try to find a couple good nuggets in there. Also, look for wise couples! See who you have around you that you can sit down to lunch with and glean from what they say. Ask them about their story. Do you admire their marriage? See if they will give you their best marriage tips. Utilize your community. Learn from those who have gone before you and have already had the chance to learn from their mistakes.
Choose to honor one another.
Real talk here, friends. Pushing physical boundaries is never doing what is best for the other person or yourself. It’s seen in study after study (even secular ones like this one) that waiting to have sex until marriage, not living together, and not pushing each other physically is the healthiest thing for your relationship. When we do not choose to wait, our bodies release hormones called oxytocin and vasopressin that cause us to lose objectivity of our partner and send mixed signals to our brains. Our minds and bodies bond to this person in a way that can cause confusion and hurt. When we wait we gain security, emotional well-being, and stability that comes with commitment. Include appropriate levels of bonding for the level of commitment you have to one another. Dating does not warrant marital privileges.
Be intentional and get married soon!
This kind of goes along with the speed of your relationship. This will be so dependent on the couple and the circumstances. If you live different states and only see one another once a month, that’s a much different situation than if you’re in a dorm seeing each other several times a day. But don’t dilly dally in your relationship. Be intentional, spend time together, decide, and then get married if that is what you decide. I am such an analyzer that throughout my relationship with Connor I could get so hung up on my occasional thoughts of “Am I really doing the right thing?” Some of my favorite advice I received from my mom when I was engaged to Connor was that it would be ok. If I was attracted to him, could support him, and had taken the time to assess this man’s character and decide that he was a godly man who would be committed to the Lord, to me, and to our marriage, it would be ok. I could marry him and we could have a healthy, God-honoring marriage. When you’re in a relationship with that kind of person, there can be freedom in a decision that can otherwise feel so heavy.
Bonus tip: You do not have to marry the person you court.
So often there is seen a sort of holiness in only ever being in a relationship with one person. Yes, there is a sweetness and a beauty to that for sure, but it does not mean you are less worthy or less pure or less valuable if you have been in more than one relationship. Do not let the fear of having a “past relationship” keep you tied to someone you should not be with. God redeems. God renews. God blesses. Do what is wise and best.
I hope this was helpful. I hope it encourages you, gives you ideas, and is a starting point for you to take and make your own.