Okay, it’s possible I could get in some “trouble” for this, but I’ve pretty much been sitting on this thought process for weeks. (I will be completely honest and say that I believe differently than most women in that the problem with many relationships and perspective relationships today are NOT primarily in the men’s department!) 😉
I may be long-winded a bit, but please bear with me a moment…
1. The Pre-concieved Problem
There are so many writings and teachings on how courtship/dating/relationships should be, and do you know what?? MOST of it is NOT BIBLICAL!! To be completely honest, there is NO biblical blueprint for how a relationship should work, other than that it is to be founded and ordained through Christ. There are SO many stories of God bringing people together throughout Scripture, history and testimonies of today that seem so bizarre, random, and in ways that no one would ever think about!
I know couples that have been blessed to meet through church, at the local grocery store, at conventions, on dating sites, and yes, one even found his wife by seeing a picture of her in someone else’s photo album! NO ONE can say in any of these cases that God did not work and did not bring them together. Why? Because there is NO SET WAY to have a relationship! God is a God of creativity, and I truly believe that nothing delights Him more than making a creative love story between a man and a woman with Him at the center.
Women especially have a tendency to hear something that seems the safest way to get a solid Christian husband, and will stick with it, and any other way is wrong. And yes, I’m speaking about ultra-conservative courting. The truth is, because of the iron mindset of those that follow this teaching, they miss out on many opportunities God brings their way to grow and learn and even possibly develop a relationship! There is no perfect way to do this! I was even dear friends with a lovely Christian young woman that followed all the steps in the “conservative courting manual.” Her and her husband’s family were both solid, conservative Christians, and their courtship was picture-perfect and beautiful. But not even a year into the marriage she was killed by her husband. You can set up as many safeguards and rules as you like, but it will not stop things from happening.
Being flexible and just following God’s lead and keeping Him as the foundation as He allows things to happen is always the best way to go. Don’t have a set way in your mind, just let go, be moldable and let God! He loves to mold blue and red clay to make purple!!
2. The Pattern Problem
Let’s be honest… how many of us have had a “list” for our future spouse? Most I’m sure! This also poses a problem for us for many reasons… first of all is because again, never in Scripture are we commanded to make a list… we ARE to seek Christ first and His righteousness, and know that all things will be added to us as He sees fit. Have you thought about the fact that if we are 100% focused on God and His leading in our lives, we will be 100% the person our spouse needs? Instead of looking around and seeing how this person does or does not fit the bill, we should be looking at ourselves and seeing how we line up with God’s word.
Secondly, our lists are not realistic for time… most of us have on our list attributes that most of the time only come from having been married for years. They are things we see in our parents or other godly married couples that we want in our marriage. Realistically, many of these things may be in our spouse in small part when we get married, but not nearly to the effect we want because that comes simply from BEING married! In truth some things are only learned by being in a marriage relationship for some people! My uncle had a list, and looking at the list to any unmarried person it was an amazing and godly woman he wanted to marry! And we would congratulate him on his list! My mom read the list however, and said, “Um… you know you’re wanting to marry a woman that has been married ten years, right??” He had to stop and REALLY think about it! When he finally let go of his list, he found an amazing and godly woman to marry… and you know what? She had very few of the things on his list!! But now… almost 30 years later… she has EVERYTHING on that list!!
Third, our lists are actually hypocritical! Listen carefully, as I don’t want to be misunderstood on this part… Reverse that list on yourself for a moment. During basic, everyday life, what are you like?? Do you have moments you’re angry? Mess up? Fall back into some struggle you *thought* you had conquered years ago? Areas you are stricter than your parents or church in? Not as strict? Are you different this year than you were last year? ARE YOU HUMAN???
This is the whole thing that gets me a little frustrated more than anything else I think. When we meet someone, and they are amazing, and seem to be lining up with our list, but then something happens, and we start to doubt whether or not they’re “the one,” take into consideration that God grows different people in different ways at different times! I had three friends, all three struggled in areas of modesty, the movies they watched and the music they listened to. Over a period of a few years, the Lord worked in each of them in ONE of those areas before anything else! So since Maggie still struggled with music and dress, but no longer watched movies that dishonored the Lord, do I say she’s not following the Lord like she needs to and thus should not be my friend? NO!! The Lord is working in her in those areas she needed it most! Not the areas I thought she needed most, but what God knew she needed most! The SAME THING IS TRUE IN A RELATIONSHIP!! We are learning each other. We are learning our strengths, our weaknesses, the ways we can encourage each other and the ways we can pray for each other! Being in a relationship and marriage is being a team and helping EACH OTHER!! Pretty much the main thing that should stop a relationship as far as differences go is doctorinal differences and the ways you would raise your children.
Small personal example: When I thought I was getting married, the man I was with wanted his kids to be able to celebrate Santa Clause. To begin with I REALLY wasn’t sure about it!! Was it a deal-breaker?? But then I started to realize… my parents started us out that way! It only took a few years for them to realize that they didn’t want to do that with their children because they felt like they were lying to them, so they stopped. My parents had been married, learned how to compromise, and it didn’t break their marriage, even though one of them hadn’t wanted to do so from the beginning! God gave me a peace about it, because I knew relationships are founded on a relationship with God and compromise and understanding for and towards each other.
Again, give God room to grow! You have areas you are not right in and need growth in, and SO WILL YOUR SPOUSE!!! It’s part of how God beautifully brings people together!
3. The Problem-Solving Problem
So I’m going to talk to the girls here a little, because this is a HUGE problem I’m seeing on SO MANY levels… And I’m afraid I’m unable to clearly explain it here… We women often complain how the men are not being men and stepping up or stepping forward… or how after we’re in a relationship they are failing to lead. Yes, that is a TINY part of the problem. But give me your ear a minute as I explain something, and please listen all the way through…
We are not allowing our men to be men! I mean, YES!! We want them to be men and lead, but look at this scenario a minute. We as women are designed to be helpers. We WANT to help and support and encourage men! This is good!! God created us that way! But we get in a relationship… we begin to get to know a man, and we’re excited, and they’re excited and everything seems to be going well… but then something happens, we’re not sure what, but they aren’t being as open as before, or things come up that cause us to wonder if they’re problems… But we are unaware that as we get to know him better our natural tendency to help kicks in. When he says or does something we know we can help him with, we jump in sharing ideas and thoughts! They are TRULY GOOD thoughts and ideas, and he loves them!! But… because we feel we are being helpful, we continue to “help,” unaware that the more we are “helping” the more we are “showing them” how they aren’t doing things the best way or that they are lacking in an area.
I was just listening to someone talking to her boyfriend the other day, and as they talked she got quiet and thoughtful, and then she said, “Well, I don’t know if you meant it this way, and I’m sure you were unaware of it, but this is how you came across…” and she proceeded to tell him how he had failed in his communication and how he could do better. Now, before you jump all over me for this… yes, she did it in the sweetest way possible. BUT… it happened several times over the course of the week. The fact is, she KNEW what he meant, but she was being “helpful” and correcting him, trying to “fix” him to be a better man. Is it no small wonder that he is struggling with his sense of ability and value as a man when he is being “helped” and “fixed” almost every time he does something questionable or unclear? Then this brings up other problems!! It was JUST THE TWO OF THEM TALKING… so there was no need to clarify unless she genuinely didn’t understand. And this is just one example of many I could give. Wordings like “I wish you ….” or “Do you think next time you could…” can cause men to feel under par or like they’re failing if they hear it a lot!
Now, this isn’t to say we shouldn’t bring up stuff like this ever, especially if it is needful, but it should ALWAYS be prefaced with prayer, and if it’s something the Lord can do without “our help,” give it to him and wait and see what He does with it! If it’s a decision that needs to be made, give your thoughts, but in such a way that he is able to make the decision. We women many times are super creative and imaginative, so we can talk things through in such a way that our idea would naturally sound better… BUT we women, as much as we may not like to believe it, ARE DECEIVED much easier than men. For him to be able to lead, we have to give room for him to make unbiased decisions and recognize that he is the one leading in the friendship, the relationship, and ultimately the marriage.
My parents have learned through the years to be open to each other’s opinions. Even though we all know my dad has the final say, he takes my mom’s view into consideration. But one thing she has shared with all of us daughters is that the more she tries to press any issues, the more complicated their relationship gets. It is only when she is open to allowing him to lead, giving her opinion over to the Lord that she has complete peace in following my dad. Think about it! We trust God enough for the salvation of our very lives! Do we also trust Him to be able to lead and open the mind of our husband/suitor to follow God’s will?
4. The Prospecting Problem
How did you get to become best friends with your best friend? How did you become friends at all? Did you size up the person, have a list of questions and if they answered them all right, THEN and ONLY THEN you allowed yourselves to become friends?? Goodness no!! The most BEAUTIFUL relationships I have seen were those that were started simply by being brother and sister in Christ, then friends, then best friends! It happened NATURALLY!!! There was no forcing, no pressure… just being friends! This enabled them to realize who each other was as a brother or sister in Christ, and how important God was in a relationship. It also helped them to realize their value as friends. Last, but not least, it enabled them to be at a point where, when it was time, they were truly marrying their best friend.
It’s not that complicated people! 😀