I often hear young Christians who are dating tell me they can't wait to get married. I was exactly the same when it came to dating: "I can't wait to get married!" As a Christian, the dating process can often feel overwhelming and dishearteningâparticularly if you're saving sex for marriage.
Now happily married, I see how essential the dating period is to help provide a good start in marriage. These are the five best things I learnt while I was dating my now-husband, James.
Becoming best friends is your number one priority
Not only is dating a good time to find out everything you can about the other person, but it also provides an opportunity to develop a strong friendship.
If you're thinking about getting married to this person, you'll eventually be spending every day with them, so aiming to be best friends is what will hold you together when other things don't go to plan.
Being best friends means getting to know each other, getting to know family and friends, spending time together, supporting each other, challenging each other, and laughing and crying together.
Don't despise difficult situationsâthey are an opportunity to show love
I can't count on my hands the difficult things that my husband and I walked through together during our dating period. Every couple has things that come up, things that were unexpected that are painful and hard to get through.
Supporting a partner can be a difficult thing to know how to do and we often dread situations like this. However, they are an opportunity for you to learn to love selflessly. They are an opportunity for you to be loyal, to be a friend, to be thoughtful, to be present and to put your needs aside for your boyfriend/girlfriend.
This helps set you up for a committed marriage, one where you're able to put the other person's needs before your own.
Take the compliment and the challenge
Your boyfriend/girlfriend will give you compliments. You are in a relationship, so there is probably some level of attraction. Take the compliments! Say thank you! Learn to see yourself as they see you.
Often we hear positive comments from our significant other and are way too quick to shrug it off. Listen to what the other person is saying about you. Not only that, but, provided they're doing it in love, be willing to listen and hear what the other person says about who you are, and about things you could improve on.
If they're mean or denigrating, then run!
However, if your boyfriend/girlfriend is able to respectfully and lovingly speak about concerns it pays to listen. Communication is a key component of marriage and works best when two people can stop to listen and hear each other.
Face your insecurities
As you share life with another person, any walls you have built up around yourself will start to come down. Everything becomes visible: the things you like about yourself, and the things that you don't.
Being in a relationship is probably one of the scariest things you can do. If you're prepared to be honest with each other about everything it can be quite daunting.
Don't be scared when your insecurities are revealed, if you work together to address them, you'll slowly be able to dismiss them by replacing them with truth.
Advice from older couples is a great gift
If you have friends who are married, a few years older than you, and have been where you are, their words of encouragement and guidance are priceless.
My husband and I would have struggled a lot more during dating if we hadn't received support from people who got alongside us and helped nurture our relationship.
We had friends who gave us advice about the physical side of things and family members who helped support us. Older couples showed us how to love each other in suffering and discussed the timing of marriage with wisdom. Our friends and family prayed with us and always pointed us to Jesus.
Sarah Young is completing her Masters in Clinical Psychology and loves spending time engaging with young people. She spends her spare time writing songs, running and going on adventures with her husband, James.
Sarah Young's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/sarah-young.html