Emotionally Married Before Marriage: 6 Questions to Consider for Your Dating Relationship
You will one day be someone’s spouse and that someone may or may not currently be your significant other. Let’s assume you’ve found a genuinely great guy. Infinite discussions could be had for determining the validity of said assumption but for now, let’s assume all green lights and the potential for a really healthy relationship.
No matter how great a dating relationship may be, the only true way to protect your fragile yet lovely heart is to assume that you possibly (probably?) aren’t in a relationship that will one day lead to a beautiful, lifelong commitment. A beautiful lifelong commitment, as it was designed to be, is the only human relationship in which an offered heart can find protection. Even the most beautiful marriages can bruise and break, but under the protection of this commitment, there is permission for grace and growth. As it was designed to be -a selfless expression of love between a husband and wife where each person chooses constantly to pursue their spouse’s interests before their own; to lay down their own needs and desires with the goal of loving the other better. Can you imagine being called to love someone this way outside of a forever commitment? What a HUGE responsibility. Those who follow Jesus know this love to be impossible without the strength of His resurrection. Those who don’t – please let go of these expectations; they cannot be met by human strength alone.
What if I approached you, my friend, requesting to borrow your entire life savings? But with this demand comes a disclaimer; I cannot guarantee that I will ever be able to pay it back. Why does this request sound so much more absurd? Why is it beyond us to request something so fleeting without promise of reciprocation, yet we eagerly give away the one precious thing that makes us who we are? Sweet, but strong and beautiful girls, we cannot keep offering our hearts like this. We are loved and still learning who we are. If we keep giving away the thing that teaches us about ourselves, we’ll lose us.
Some pretty words and fool’s gold convinced me to squander my life savings. For the first several years of my dating life, I failed to recognize my worth and sought validation in some unhealthy places. It is incredibly painful to lose all that progress in discovering who you are; recovery is slow and residual side effects can hinder even the healthiest future relationships. As a friend, I urge you to consider these few things in your now and someday dating relationships:
1. Am I spending time with others?
You should not spend all of your time together. In a dating relationship you live separate lives, you maintain separate friendships. Too much time spent together gives a false sense of a commitment level that does not yet exist. The time that you do spend together should often not be spent alone. You should surround yourselves with people who will lovingly weigh in on your relationship.
2. Are we on the same page?
I pretty stubbornly believe that this conversation should only be had once, and early. You either date to marry or you break up – there are literally no other outcomes. Is this guy dating you to determine if one day, you will become his wife? If so, there will come a time when he decides that the answer is yes, and he will propose. On the flip side though, if he decides the answer is no, he has to end the relationship. If you decide the answer is no, you have to end the relationship. There should never be gray area here.
3. Are we in a place where we could get married in the foreseeable future?
If the above conversation happens and you find that you’re on the same page, consider this: Could we get married in a realistic amount of time? Relationships should progress in a way that respects your physical and emotional boundaries. I’m almost begging you here; please don’t talk about marriage. Past the initial “establishing what page we’re on” conversation, talking about marriage is possibly the quickest way to become emotionally married to this person. Do not pin to your dream wedding Pinterest board. Do not covet wedding dresses. Do not talk about baby names. Just don’t. Do your very best to consider this objectively: If five years lie between you and a life stage that could cultivate a healthy marriage, most likely the responsible decision is not to enter into a serious relationship.
4. Are we respecting physical boundaries?
Physical intimacy may be the only thing that rivals talking about marriage as the fastest way to becoming emotionally married. A myriad of reasons exist for protecting this part of us, but in summation: We were literally created to be physically intimate with only one person, our spouse. Any physical intimacy outside of marriage can only leave us wanting.
5. Is he considerate of my heart?
A relationship should eventually grow so that you bring out the very best in each other. I truly believe that my husband brings out the truest part of myself – he encourages me to be the most “me.” Your significant other should respect what makes you who you are and should be a champion for those healthy boundaries.
6. Are we cultivating a fun relationship?
This part of your relationship should be fun, adventurous, and really – rarely super serious. Go explore. Laugh a lot. He should be creative in planning dates, putting forth effort to pursue you and making this time count (remember guys, this is when you’re trying to convince her that marriage should be the end goal.) Please text each other less. He should call you, open your door, and meet your parents. And I really mean this, Snapchat is a symbol for the degradation of healthy commitments – just stop doing it.
I promise you, it is so worth it to be able to offer your spouse your entire (intact) heart!