‘Courtship’ or ‘dating’ or ‘dating with a purpose’ as I prefer to call it, is not solely about rules. This article will address guidelines and warnings, but specifics will vary from couple to couple as God leads. In observing and hearing about many relationships, from those that ended painfully to ones that concluded with wedding bells, I’ve seen a few common factors that contributed to either their dissolution or ultimate union. Obviously, adhering to the following advice won’t foolproof a relationship but could help prevent pointless heartbreak.
Before entering into a romantic relationship, it is critical that a couple first develop a healthy friendship. If a romance isn’t built upon friendship, during the seasons of life when the flames of passion aren’t roaring, all it will have to stand on is a distant commitment. It only makes sense for a couple to develop a close friendship so they can learn more about each other and whether their personalities and beliefs are even remotely compatible, rather than riding on superficial feelings of attraction that will cloud their judgement.
However, when a couple reaches a point in their friendship where they realize things cannot continue as casually as they have been, what next?
To begin with, I believe one important factor in any romantic relationship is to realize that it’s not the name we give it, but rather the heart with which we approach it. Anything done outside of God’s Will and Guidance is like building a house of play-dough that will fall into a crumpled, squishy heap the moment it hits resistance. This is why it is imperative that every relationship is first brought to God in prayer and then immersed in prayer throughout its duration. That said, another important factor in a healthy relationship is external advice. “Where no wise guidance is, the people fall, but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” – Proverbs 11:14. It is easy to get tangled in a web of emotions and overlook seemingly unimportant, yet often critical differences and issues, while those looking in from the outside are able to see these things and offer advice.
Ideally, parents are the best source for this advice as they have both understanding and the wisdom that comes only from years of experience. They obviously have experience with relationships and are likely to have regrets they could help their children avoid. It is important that we use these resources God has given us; typically a relationship is more likely to thrive when parents are involved. Whether the young man speaks first to the father or the daughter isn’t critical, although involving the father first might be preferable. What is important is that, if at all possible, the parents are involved in the relationship.
Both individuals should discuss the rate at which they want to pursue the relationship; if one wants to dive headlong while the other thinks they are slowly wading into it, friction will inevitably ensue. It is also crucial that they both know their ‘deal-breakers’ and discuss them early in the relationship, if not before it begins. Otherwise, they might discover an irreconcilable difference only after falling deeply in love, leaving the option of either compromising or breaking each other’s hearts. Naturally, when two unique individuals come together as one, compromise is necessary, but not of one’s deep convictions.
Before entering a relationship, it is crucial to pray about it. As fundamentally obvious as this is, it cannot be stated enough. God knows us better than we know ourselves and has ‘His Best’ for us; He’s just waiting for us to seek it. However, after much prayer, if a couple thinks it wise to pursue a relationship, there are many factors to be considered or avoided. One main element that either causes the dissolution of relationships or prevents individuals from pursuing one to begin with, is a perfectionist mentality. While it is important to know what you desire in a spouse, seeking perfection in one, even unconsciously, will leave you disillusioned and decidedly single. So many couples begin to over-focus on small details, allowing these to be divisive in their relationship. While everyone wants to marry the man or woman of their dreams, we must keep in mind they exist only in our dreams. We are all fallen humans, we will sin and we will make mistakes. This is absolutely inevitable. We must realize this and be willing to accept as a potential spouse, another flawed individual who is allowing their Creator to mold them into His Image; the important part is figuring out which flaws we can tolerate and which ones are impossible to overlook.
Another cause of broken relationships is rushed progression. Numerous couples quickly go from ‘just’ friends to nearly engaged with the mere acknowledgment of a mutual affection. While this may succeed in rare situations, it can be dangerous in many others. Beginning a courtship with another individual doesn’t automatically mean marriage will ensue; therefore, the higher and faster you fly in a relationship, the harder and more damaging the fall will be if it happens. Taking more time to get up in the air gives a couple time to learn more about each other and discover whether this new phase of their relationship will flourish.
Finally, I conclude with this infallible advice: pray. If you are single, pray that God will bring the right person to you in His time; if you are on the brink of a relationship, pray for God’s discernment whether this person is ‘His Best’ for you; if you are in a relationship, pray that God will give you both wisdom how to proceed in your relationship.