ADVICE ON RELATIONSHIP PLANNING
I am a committed Christian and am now in university. I met a girl in the same year as I am. We get along smashingly and I can talk to her about my interests. She is also a Christian and we go to the same church. I’m courting her and would like your advice about doing some planning for the present and future.
It is wonderful to find a soul mate, someone who just clicks with you. I assume you are thinking this friendship may lead to something more. You are wise to ask for advice and to plan ahead.
Purpose of marriage
Let’s start from the very beginning of a relationship. Why do people get married? Probably everyone has a different answer, e.g. have someone take care of us, to ward off loneliness, to get out of an unhappy home situation, to satisfy the sexual need, etc. But what is God’s purpose for marriage?
Marriage was invented by God and when God instituted the first marriage, He gave Adam a companion and helpmate so they can be fruitful and multiply[i]. Eve was to fulfil this assignment – together they are to tend the garden, take care of God’s creation and produce offspring[ii]. So God not only wants to fulfil man’s needs, He also wants the husband and wife relationship to reflect the relationship of Christ and His bride – us (His church[iii]). This means the husband’s headship, love and sacrifice for His bride and His bride’s respect, submission and help for her bridegroom will enable people to understand Christ’s relationship with us (His beloved[iv]).
Getting to know you
Knowing God’s perspective of marriage will clarify the goal you are aiming towards. Tek and I were in the same church youth group in Hong Kong for several years. As friends, we got to know each other through interacting in group activities where we were in a natural environment to observe each other’s beliefs, characters, attitudes, work ethics, values, habits, etc. As ordinary friends, we had ample opportunity to interact in spiritual, social, mental and psychological circumstances and situations.
How do you know she is the one? If you pray for God to show you, He will do it step by step as you get to know each other. Interacting and observing each other over a period of time will reveal whether you are suitable partners and team mates. You should find out if you are compatible in character and personalities (usually opposites attract). You should agree on important issues such as worldview, philosophy of life, commitment to Jesus Christ, values, mission and vision for the future. Some of the things you should share with each other include how you committed your lives to Jesus Christ and what you understand about the roles of husband and wife. Do you agree that the husband is the head of the family, to love, protect, provide, sacrifice and the wife to respect, submit and help him?
Get to know each other’s family and receive advice from them and other respected people, such as your pastor and elders. In short, if the two of you are to walk together, you must be in agreement on the important issues, particularly God’s requirements[v].
After being ordinary friends for a few years, Tek and I started dating and courting for a year but marriage was not on the immediate horizon for us as he had already graduated and was going back home to Melaka and I was going to the US to finish my B.A. We were careful not to become physically intimate, beyond holding hands and kissing at this stage because we were aware that if we found later that we had to stop the friendship (especially after a year of separation), we could part as friends, with no sexual involvement to regret.
Regarding physical boundaries, as the man you should take the lead. Do not push the responsibility to her thinking “I will go as far as she lets me”. It is best to be open and honest by facing this squarely, then agree on what you will do and not do and help each other to keep the mutually agreed guidelines. Too many people are influenced by Hollywood movies, TV and the mass media which propagate relationships that start with sex.
When the physical is emphasised, the social, mental, spiritual aspects will be neglected. This is not good preparation for marriage. So spend your time on expressing your feelings, thoughts, viewpoints, etc. There should be no hidden agenda between you. You need to be able to argue, debate, negotiate, resolve conflicts (going through several quarrels), etc.
A fulfilling and successful relationship can be sustained and thrive only when a couple can communicate effectively. In our 52 years of marriage, we are still learning and improving in our communication, thus strengthening our relationship.
Furthermore, God says our bodies are His temple and that He wants His temple to be holy and pure. Sex is God’s gift and is good, right and beautiful only within marriage. Outside of marriage, fornication is a sin. Therefore be careful not to stir up the emotions, for once aroused it is difficult to stop the snowballing process which leads to more and more intimacy. Determine from the start that you will make yours a godly relationship. I was most impressed when a couple who signed the marriage papers in the government registry decided to wait a few months until the marriage was consecrated in the presence of God in a church ceremony before he and his bride moved into the same house and consummated their marriage. They wanted to honour not only the government’s law but God’s law.
I just bought a new vacuum cleaner and was eager to start using it. But then I saw the operating manual, so thought I better give it a look. It took a bit of time but I’m glad I did – I learnt something that will save me trouble later on. Similarly, God, who made us, knows how we function best as individuals, singles, couples, parents, children, etc. He has written His instructions in His Manufacturer’s Manual. Do not wait until a relationship breaks down before you check the Manual. For best results, follow it from the beginning.
[i] Genesis 2:18
[ii] Genesis 2:15, Malachi 2:15
[iii] Ephesians 5:22-24
[iv] Ephesians 5:25-30
[v] Amos 3:3
Asian Beacon: Jul-Sept 2017 (Vol 49 #2, p46)