Today we call it dating, but, I want to use the word courtship because dating has been so misused.
What is courtship? It is a defined period where two people in a relationship decide to spend time getting to know each other with the intention of getting married in the foreseeable future.
Courtship has a purpose; to see whether two people can be able to build a marriage together. Often, courtship usually leads to an engagement and then marriage. But, sometimes two people may decide to go their separate ways because they don’t see a future together, and this is alright. You would rather have a broken courtship or engagement than divorce later in marriage.
Before two people can begin courting they have to have gone out on a couple of dates and have decided together (through clear communication) to pursue a relationship in a deeper way.
Let’s define an effective courtship:
Discovery of self
The first thing a relationship does is reveal to us who we are. But before we get into a relationship, we should at least have an idea of who we are. When we don’t know who we are, we will end up choosing the wrong people in relationships.
Discover what your boundaries are. What are your values and non-negotiables are. Discover what your needs in a relationship are, or the way you receive love.
We discover who we are by taking time to date ourselves first, before getting into a relationship. Take time to actually be single. Your single season is supposed to help you discover yourself. It is essential for the relationship you will build in the future. Take yourself out on a date ( yes sis, take yourself out for a nice brunch or dinner once in a while ). Have a life sis! Have hobbies. Go out and do things you like. You can also do this with friends. When we have taken the time to date and discover ourselves we are able to set a standard of how a man should come in and treat us in a relationship
Discovery of your partner
You learn him/her in the relationship. Do they know who they are? Are they a safe person to relate with? What are his/her convictions that lead their life? Do they have boundaries and do they honor other people’s boundaries? Do they know what they need in a relationship? Knowing what they need in a relationship will help take out the work and guesswork of trying to love someone who doesn’t know what it is they want.
Can we have fun together?
The next thing you discover in courtship is whether you can have fun together. Find out if you really like each other beyond the attraction. Life can be hard, and relationships won’t always be easy. You are going to need someone you can actually have fun with. Can you find something to bond you and be silly together? Do they know how to let loose and have fun from time to time?
By being a fun person I don’t mean finding a person who never takes life seriously or a joker who doesn’t know when to show up with seriousness because everything is a joke to them.
You can be a fun person without being a joker.
[Quick story] I remember in college going to the movies with a guy. It was our first date. It was a comedy. It was so hilarious I wouldn’t stop laughing but the guy I was with didn’t laugh even once. He sat there like a stooge. It was such a shocking revelation. The funny thing was he was the one who had picked out the movie. We watched Death at a Funeral( Hilarious! Disclaimer! I wasn’t saved and sanctified then ).
I didn’t bother going on a second date with him. He wasn’t fun, I needed a fun person because I can be an intense type-A kind of a person. Do a test of intentionally doing fun things together to see your “funometer” in the relationship.
Do our core values match?
Core values are principles that a person builds their life on. An example can be what they believe about family. What they believe about relationships and marriage( you would be surprised at how many people get into marriage not knowing what it is about). What commitment look like to them. What they believe about sex. What they believe about finances. Ask the questions, don’t wait to get into marriage to find out that the other person’s core values don’t match yours.
Is there room for improvement? Yes, we don’t come in with all the answers. Some of our beliefs may be wrong. There might be some unlearning and relearning you both need to do. However, you can at least make sure that the important things for you are theirs as well.
Is God rightly placed in the relationship?
Is God our true source of identity, strength, joy, comfort, peace, and love? Or have we placed other things as our source? Is God rightly placed where the two of you are concerned or is there a co-dependence that makes the relationship or the other person a god for you? When God is rightly placed we will not put undue pressure on the other person or relationship to be God for us. We can allow the other person to be imperfect and flawed and they can give us room for our imperfections too.
How do we communicate?
What is our communication style? Learning our respective communication styles will help us solve conflicts later in marriage. It will help us know how to approach the person we are in a relationship with.
Our communication style is largely defined by our parents’ relationships. What we saw growing up often become the trajectory of our relationships. If we learnt the wrong communication styles they will show up in our relationship.
How do we solve a conflict? Do we throw things under the rug and refuse to deal with them until they blow up? Do we become defensive and aggressive in a conflict? Do we resort to accusations and dishonor in disagreements? Do we know the right time to deal with something? Or do we blurt out things even when our partner isn’t in the space of mind to hear us out?
How do we respond when our needs aren’t being met? Do we punish them and withhold from them? Or do we talk to them and give them grace and allow God to fill out what they can’t be able to give to us?
It takes a lot of patience and learning to be able to communicate effectively. None of us is there yet, we can give ourselves grace and ask God to help us do better for the sake of our relationships. It will also help our children by giving them the tools they need to build healthy relationships if we learn to do this well.
Does our purpose in life align?
If you get married to a person just because you love them, you will be in so much trouble. Love isn’t enough to sustain a marriage. It is important and should be the foundation but it isn’t everything.
There has to be something in your life bigger than your marriage and that is purpose. If you don’t have a collective purpose for that marriage it will not last. If you don’t have a purpose for your lives individually, you will be unfulfilled and discontented in your relationship.
Also, does your purpose align? If one is called to ministry and the other in business do they align? And can you both make sacrifices for that person’s dreams without having to neglect yours? If they align it will be easy. If they don’t one of you will be resentful of the sacrifice they have to make for the other.
Can they show up for you in the relationship?
Does this person know how to show up for you? Do they know your needs and can they meet them? Do they know your priorities and responsibilities and can they respect them? –in respect to our jobs, careers, or calling. Do they understand your personality and can they live with it? Are they stable? Can you be upset without them getting upset too? Are they stable in conflict or do you have to always manage their emotions? Are they dependable and can you lean on them for strength when you need to?
Can people confirm your relationship?
It is important to be plugged into a community where people can speak into your life? Bring the person around your family and gauge their reaction. Bring them around your church family, and your pastors… Allow people to confirm your relationship. Sometimes, people can see red flags that we are blinded to see. It would be best if you had unbiased eyes to confirm for you. Marriage is a huge step and should not be taken lightly.
Submit yourselves to wise and godly counsel. Allow them to confirm because you will need to go to them for counsel when you have problems you cannot solve by yourselves. If you trust them from the beginning it will be easier to seek help later on.
With this post, I’m giving you the tools you need to build a great marriage from the start. I want to give you the right foundation to start your marriage on. If we start right, chances are we will sustain the relationship and be able to keep it to the end.
Have a blessed weekend! May God be seen and glorified in your relationships!