This is the second part to this post. The first is available here.
However, if you had simply allowed yourself to get to know them for those same two years, without actually entering into a relationship with them, then that same pressure would not be there, either from within yourself, or from external expectations, you would not have made the same investment, there would not be so much to lose by walking away. Consequently you could freely walk away if you did not feel that they were quite what you had been looking for maritally.
Of course, this point is even stronger if you don’t wait for the relationship to last two years before getting married. In that case you would have the joy of discovering what your spouse is actually like once you have already committed your life to them, once it is essentially too late to back out. Obviously it could happen that your spouse turned out to be the most amazing, holy, supportive, sacrifical, loving, tender spouse in the world, in which case you would be very fortunate. However, why would you leave it to a matter of fortune, or luck, if you could take simple steps to more reliably ensure success?
Let’s assume now that the relationship does not last two years at all, but breaks down. In that case you would have to start all over again – check out some other person in a romantic context, make yourself vulnerable, start all the romantic lovey-dovey business of holding hands etc etc – then a few months in discover once again that they are not “all that”, break the relationship…and then have to start again (taking a few more months to recover in-between, because it was “a bad breakup”). Ultimately it is a lot more efficient to just get to know a lot of people from the outset, and based on that, know the ones you could possibly go forward with – and then do that. This does not mean that the relationships formed between people who know one another well might not also eventually break, sometimes badly. However, these relationships would surely be a lot more targeted from the outset and ultimately you would waste a lot less time. So then, it is not a matter of whether you can afford to wait those initial two years. Rather it is a matter of whether you can afford not to wait those two years.
Once you are married
I was also thinking that if you get to know someone very well before you start a relationship with them, and then if you take the time to build a great foundation for a great marriage before you go ahead to get married, then once you actually are married your marriage has a far greater chance of flying from the outset. In some very real ways your marriage can quickly overtake the place it would have been if you had not taken that time to fully get to know one another, or to build the foundation for your marriage, or if you had married someone less suitable. It is a bit like setting yourself on the fast track to success and marital joy. I don’t think anyone can ever feel complacent about marital success and we have to remain always conscious of the attacks of the devil. However to me this thing is such a no-brainer. In an alternative marital universe there might have been issues or problems that you and your spouse would circle around for years, or even decades, which you might eliminate altogether firstly by getting to know eligible people well before a relationship (so you might eventually avoid a potentially problematic spouse altogether), and then secondly by building a great foundation for your future marriage. So I believe that taking these two years to get to know someone well before actually considering them romantically, then consciously proceeding to build a foundation of friendship and communication for your marriage, is such a powerful way of investing into your marriage, and thereby your future.
This is the one thing that I have to admit as a proviso in all this. Yes you could pray, and yes, God could direct you specifically to go and propose to some guy that you have known for a day. However, this is the part where I have to emphasise that the two year thing is a personal conviction. I am so paranoid about thinking I’ve heard from God, where I actually haven’t. I am also so aware of my own capability to convince myself that I am “hearing from God” about a certain guy, if I am strongly attracted to him. My saving grace, if it could be considered that, in this regard, is that the guys I’ve been strongly attracted to have not actually been Christians, so there was simply no way I could manage to persuade myself (believe me, I tried!) that God was telling me to marry them. Otherwise I know I would have beaten myself up so badly. “Is this me? Is this God? Does this attraction come from You, Lord?!” Frankly, even if I felt God was telling me to go ahead and marry someone, I hope He would allow me to wait two years to get to know this “someone” first before starting a relationship with him, so that at least I would have a reliable understanding of what I’d be getting myself into.
Most important thing
From all of these things, I’ve come up with a slightly unexpected conclusion. That is, for me, with this personal conviction that I have, the single most important thing for me to do, after prayer, for the sake of finding an excellent prospective spouse, is to put myself in a place where I can reliably get to know people for a good considerable length of time. Realistically speaking, because of my (other) personal convictions, this is going to be a church. However, there is simply no way I am going to compromise my beliefs for the sake of putting myself in a bigger, but less prayerful, less Bible-centred church where I’d be more likely to come across more single people. What kind of person would I expect to find in a church with less determined spiritual commitment, anyway? This does not mean that my husband will definitely be found in a church, or my church. It does mean that I am doing all that is reasonable to put myself in the right place. If I randomly came across someone from another aspect of my life, then the question would be what we could both commit to, that would allow us to reliably get to know one another, without any romantic overtones whatsoever? I’m just not open to striking up an interaction with guys I randomly meet without any possibility of reliably getting to know them better in a consistent, non-intimate environment.
What I need to do is to find somewhere, no matter how small it is, where I can wholeheartedly commit for the long term, where I’m in agreement with the leadership, I believe in their character, their vision, and then I will pray. And based on how many eligible people there are, I’ll know how hard I need to pray. At the moment, it appears that I need to pray very hard!
Perhaps another way of thinking of all this is that physical attraction, or whatever else might instantly attract you to someone, is simply not a reliable basis on which to form a relationship that you would like to last. Character is far more important. However, to be able to make a judgement about someone’s marital suitability based on their character you have to give yourself time to get to know that character. And the length of time you are going to need has already been worked out – two years, no less!
31 Do not look on the wine when it is red,
When it sparkles in the cup,
When it swirls around smoothly;
32 At the last it bites like a serpent,
And stings like a viper.
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