Right now I'm debating between writing a pregnancy update (currently 32 weeks) or sharing my thoughts on a topic that has really been on my mind and heart lately. I'm afraid if I try and skip over this topic again, that I will eventually give up and not even write about it. So here goes...
I am four years into marriage now (and yes, with a baby on the way!) and I am still constantly giving dating and relationship advice. One reason could be due to the fact that I was married young and still have lots of friends that are single. The other could be that my husband and I serve in student ministry and that's all that seems to be on the minds of teenagers these days (and my days and your days, I'm sure).
But I'm not here to write just another cheesy post on "finding the one" or a "dating 101" guide that will give you all the answers. The truth is, I want to challenge some of the advice out there on what makes relationships work.
Disclaimer: Your number one reason for dating should be to find a husband or wife. If it's not, then you probably should stop reading now because what I'm about to say will be of no interest to you.
1) Watch out for red flags.
Red flags, warning signs, etc. I received this dating advice from many well-meaning, godly women when I was dating Josh. They would respond with it after I would mention a certain character flaw that bugged me about him (yes, he has flaws!) At the time, it just confused me. But now, this advice really concerns me. Just think about it for a second... what are "red flags?"
He/she has an anger problem - red flag. He/she struggles with pornography - red flag. He/she is obsessive, controlling, jealous, manipulative (the list could go on) - red flag.
So basically what you're telling me is - this person has a sin problem. And for that reason, we should "watch out" and probably steer clear of them. Are you kidding me?!? Sure, I understand these qualities are probably not at the top of the list when praying for a future husband/wife. But this advice encourages us to find a perfect, flawless person... with no red flags... that ultimately doesn't exist.
2) If you have to work at it now, just wait until you're married.
This was advice I also received from Christian men and women. It gave me the illusion that if our relationship took any "work" at all, that it was obviously flawed and probably not who God intended me to marry. This too may seem like a fair warning, but it just isn't solid advice. Any two sinners that come together will have conflict. The Bible is clear that marriage will have it's troubles.
Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned... but those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this. - 1 Corinthians 7:27-28
Yes, this is talking about marriage troubles. But if we want to go Biblical, a lot of them didn't even have a choice in who they would marry or were they given much time to "date and figure it out." So when it comes to relationships, the Bible is clear that there will be troubles (i.e. work) involved whenever two people join together as one.
3) When you know, you know.
This is probably the one that bugs me the most. I just don't believe it. But that's the thing about me - I have a hard time being sure about anything. For me, this is where faith comes in. I cannot be honest and say that I was 100% sure I was going to marry Josh, until the day he got down on his knee and asked me to marry him. Did I love him and want to marry him? Yes. But until he put a ring on my finger, I just wasn't sure. And even during our (very short) engagement, I still knew there was a possibility that one of us could pass away before the wedding day. I let go of all doubt when I stood before him and promised to love him through sickness and health and all the troubles in between. That's when I knew he was "the one."
But still, this advice is given to couples while dating and I just don't understand it. Why confuse them anymore by telling them a lie? Why burden them with the pressure of having to "know for certain" that this person is who God has for them? They may not make it to the altar, what then? I know many couples who claim to have known their spouse was "the one" while dating, who ended up divorced later. This is not the answer to making a relationship work.
So... what does it take to make a relationship work?
Good question. I believe there is no formula for a perfect relationship because there are no perfect relationships. In fact, if we take a look at relationships in the Bible they are full of conflict and awkward situations... starting all the way back with Adam and Eve. Marriage shouldn't be taken lightly, but it also shouldn't be as difficult as we make it. Fix your eyes on Jesus, run hard after Him and then look around and see who's running next to you.
"A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” -Ruth Bell Graham.