Obviously, as Christians, certain parts of your relationship can (ok, should) ONLY start after you get married – like sex, and all sexual expression and living together. However, it suddenly occurred to me that I often think of the relationship starting after marriage, and of the decision to get married as a decision to start a relationship. And yet, it suddenly occurred to me that many people think of this so differently. For many people, going out with someone is starting a relationship, and this relationship progresses on to marriage if it is going well.
This would explain it if this blog on the whole does not make sense to lots of people.
There are a few reasons for my attitude in this. Firstly, I do not want to have a succession of relationships with different guys. I hope to have only one relationship, with my husband. I do not want to cultivate emotional intimacy with a variety of men. I do not want to share my hopes and dreams or “canoodle” with one guy after the other, even if it never goes further than “canoodling”. Also, my thoughts are very marriage oriented because ultimately that is the goal of my relationships, as a Christian – if a relationship cannot realistically result in marriage, then why would I be in it? I say “relationships”, for want of a better word, as I am of course trying to express the thought here that it will not become a relationship until marriage. I am too busy, I don’t want to waste my time or anyone else’s to explore avenues that are not clearly and obviously leading to marriage. This is one area in which we Christian ladies are at a distinct advantage compared to other women who might also dream of getting married. This is because, frankly, it should also be the goal of any Christian guy regarding relationships. I say “should”. This depends on how serious a Christian guy is about his Christian commitment. Some guys claim Christian faith but are quite obviously as happy to play around in non-serious relationships as anyone else, enjoying or exploring one girl after another. Apparently, some guys actually go around from church to church, knowing that many Christian ladies are eager to the point of desperation to get married. They then exploit this desperation to win attention from these ladies, and sometimes, sadly, a lot more than mere attention.
And yet I say that we Christian ladies are at an advantage. This is because as a Christian woman I should not have to preach to a Christian man about the fact that any possible girl/guy interaction between us should be marriage-oriented ( I would say “romantic” interaction, but romance too is something reserved for the actual marriage). I should also not have to preach to him about why I maintain very careful boundaries with him – no touching no holding, no late night conversations – even over the phone/online (actually approx 6 months ago I broke this late night conversations rule – and about two years ago I broke the “no holding” rule – every time I break one of these rules, I ALWAYS regret it! – but I don’t break them often – actually, “Tosin’s Guy Rules” are a LOT more extensive than these – I need to write them as a blog post! UPDATE: Now written and available here) If I DO have to explain any of this to him, or he tries to argue about any of these, then I know that he is not a serious Christian, or at least not as serious as my husband needs to be, and I can mentally ditch him as a marital option…
If you think of your relationship as beginning with marriage, then you can also think of what you would like in marriage, and then use that to inform the choice in the first place. So in a way, it is working backwards from what you want in your marriage, and in your life to choose a partner. On the other hand, if you think of yourself as engaging in relationships, which might or might not lead to marriage, then I imagine that in a way you’ll be more open to whatever might happen, or whoever might come along – but then if a marriage does result you might forever be trying to align the marriage which you’ve got with the life that you want. I can’t help feeling that this might be the reason why so many marriages struggle. It’s a little like going out into the street and picking the first person that you see (or the second, or the third, or the twentieth), and asking them to help you build a beautiful house. Yes, you could accidentally stumble upon a fantastic architect or builder, but would it not be better, would you not have a FAR higher chance of success, if you wanted to build a house, to go to an architectural practice to see the work that different architects have produced, to make sure that you chose someone suitably and excellently qualified for the task? So in the same way with marriage, would it not be better to deliberately seek out someone with the correct and excellent characteristics for the marriage and life that you want, rather than just waiting to see whom you might drift into a relationship with, and then seeing if that relationship could possibly be fashioned into a marriage? I know that the “architect” analogy breaks down a little of course because with an actual house/architect you would aim to look at a back catalogue of existing houses that your architect has built, but for marriage people generally aim to have only one marriage, so no-one comes with a back catalogue of previous marriages for you to examine carefully. However, you can examine the “back catalogue” of their previous behaviour to you and others – which is why the longer you know someone before marriage, the better, in my opinion.
I also can’t help feeling that if you have a succession of relationships, even non-sexual ones, before the one that will eventually result in marriage, then that just creates extra baggage for your eventual marriage to contend with – can that help?
So then, my attitude is that before marriage, you carefully make your choice. You carefully and honestly discuss your plans for the future, who you are, who you want to be. You listen to one another. You build up a foundation for excellent communication. However, mentally, I cultivate an attitude that right up until the marriage, it can still break. Therefore, you do not belong to one another until the actual marriage, and you do not “engage” in any behaviour that should be reserved for two people who belong to one another. Obviously, with emotional intimacy, for instance, there are things about me that a fiancé would know that an ordinary friend would not know. However there is still a level of emotional intimacy which should not be approached before marriage – we are not “one” yet, we are still two separate people who can go our separate ways. Once you are married, then it is finally set in stone, and you can enjoy canoodling aplenty – or at least that is what I plan for myself!
Anyway, all of this is to explain why for me the relationship starts with the wedding, not before. If you have never considered this, then might it be an idea? 😉 Alternatively, if you have another opinion, please share it in the comments below!
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Photo of hands by Geralt on Pixabay