6. Do you find your excitement for her increasing as time goes on?
Weston, shortly after your mom passed I was talking to a couple who had just gotten married not two months prior. As we stood around a kitchen island with a handful of others, I carried on conversation with this cute couple all the while trying to disguise my attentiveness to their displays of affection. They were all over each other. Most people are grossed out by PDA but I secretly gazed at them fondly remembering your mom and how much I ached for her touch again. I commented to the couple that I loved how in love they appeared to be. They just grinned sheepishly back at me. As she wrapped her arms around his waist and buried her head against his chest another voice around that kitchen island chimed in, “Just give it a couple years. All that affection will wear off!”
I remember that remark making me sad for this other gal's marriage and the countless marriages in the world this is true of. I found the doting couple later and told them it didn’t have to be that way. That their relationship, friendship, trust, and love could flourish and grow increasingly as the years go by, that time doesn’t necessarily have to be an eroding agent, but that it can be a nutrient to their love and romance.
You see, Weston, that’s what I experienced with your mom. We were married for seven years. Seven perfect years. Did we have our arguments, spats, frustrations, and annoyances with one another? Of course. Every married couple does. But early on someone spoke into us that each year our marriage could get better and better, and let me tell you something . . . it did. The last year of marriage with her was one of the most glorious years of my life.
Your dating relationship should be the same way. Certainly you’ll have the butterflies and the giddiness of the early stages. But as that wears away, as time passes, and as you peel back more layers of her heart, your desire for her shouldn’t wane . . . it should increase. This certainly doesn’t happen by default. Relationships grow by design. You have to be intentional about growing your relationship, about feeding it, about spending time with each other and making each other a priority. Marriages lose this fire because over time it's not attended to, it's not fanned, and it flickers out. Weston, fires flicker out by default.
Ephesians 3:20 says, “To Him who is able to do increasingly, abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power at work within us.” I truly believe this can be true of marriages. That God is able to increasingly bless a relationship with more and more intimacy, friendship, and romance. I’ve witnessed this in both your grandparent’s marriages, Weston, and I’ve experienced it myself.
As time goes on, your heart should increasingly be convinced of: "I can't believe I’m hers, and I can’t believe she’s mine." And not just because you're trying to project some kind of online image that you have a fairy tale relationship or because you’re merely in love with the idea of love. Do you actually feel that inherently - and increasingly - about her?
If you do, you may have found your girl.
7. Are you willing to fight to make it work?
Weston, every couple fights. Every couple. If you and her haven’t fought yet, it’s not time to get married. You need to have a good fight before you ever step into this. Certainly don’t pick a fight. You never need to do that. Fights have a way of finding you if you’ve spent enough time together. Your mom and I used to beg couples not to get engaged until they’ve at least dated for an entire year and until they’ve had a good spat. You really need to see this girl in multiple seasons before you commit to do life with her. And you really need to learn how she fights.
One time we had a couple tell us they never fight. Your mom looked at them with all sincerity and bluntly responded with, “Well then one or both of you aren’t being honest with each other. Couples who don’t fight are faking."
When it comes to fighting, Weston, many couples don’t fight fair. Not because they don’t care, but because they don’t know how to fight fair. Your mom and I were counseling a couple one time who found themselves perpetually fighting (if this is the case with you, Weston, you may not have found your girl . . . but that’s a whole different issue).
Anyway, back to this couple. She was what I call an “attacker” when she fought. When she got upset with him, she would berate, criticize, and nag, often bringing up past frustrations along with the present situation. He, on the other hand, was a “suppressor.” When he got upset he would shut down and wouldn’t talk. They couldn’t see why this consistently thrust them in to the crazy cycle. Your mom and I pointed out to them that when this girl nags and berates, he shuts down because it makes him feel defeated. When he shuts down and won’t talk through the conflict it makes her more upset. She would then turn up the volume to “get a rise out of him.”
“I want to know he’s feeling something,” she told us. “I want to know he cares enough to hash this out.” I tried to help her see that it’s not a bad thing for her to want him to open up, in fact it’s a very good thing. I also tried to help her understand that the way she was going about it was counter-productive. It actually caused him to shut down all the more.
When this couple began to understand each other’s fighting styles, it helped each of them know how to create an environment where the conflict could be resolved in a healthy way.
Weston, if you two can learn to fight for this relationship rather than just in this relationship you’ll be on your way to a fruitful relationship. What I mean by this is recognize that she isn’t the enemy . . . even when she makes you upset. Recognize who the real enemy is.
Most of the time when you’re upset with her, the real enemy is your own selfishness. She encroached on your selfishness and your self-centeredness flared up.
When something she did or said truly hurt you, recognize the real enemy is the little seed of a thought planted in your mind that's saying, “she intended to hurt you.” Most of the time she didn’t intend to.
When some small irritation pops up in your relationship over and over, recognize the real enemy is silence, bitterness and unforgiveness. The Song of Solomon tells us it’s the "small foxes that spoil the vines” (Song of Songs 2:15). Don’t let these little things perpetuate. Keep short accounts and drive the foxes away.
You see, Weston, the real enemy wants to steal, kill and destroy your unity. God blesses unity. The main strategy Satan employs to destroy God’s work is disunity. If you can approach this relationship understanding that the two of you are on the front lines of battle together, fighting against the real enemy, you may have found your girl.
8. Do wise, godly people affirm your relationship?
Weston, I’m certainly glad you came to me to ask me my opinion about this relationship. While I don’t believe I’m the wisest person in your life, I do believe my wisdom can help shape this decision-making process for you. Ultimately you have to make this decision, but if you don’t invite older, wiser, godly counsel into your life to speak into this relationship, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.
Proverbs says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” With that in mind, let me ask you this: What are other people saying about the two of you? What do her parents think? What does her pastor, or small group leader, or mentor, or counselor think? You certainly can’t invite everyone to share their opinion about your relationship. Lord knows we live in a culture where people think they have a right to share their opinion just because they have one. This act of propagating unsolicited opinions, my son, is called immaturity.
But not inviting anyone to speak into your life and this relationship is also immature.
And please, for heaven’s sake, don’t only go to your single friends for this counsel! That’s like asking a receptionist how to perform brain surgery. They’ve never been there! They don’t have the wisdom or life experience to offer valuable counsel as to whether or not you should marry this girl.
If other godly, wise, experienced people in your life are affirming your relationship with her, you may have found your girl.
9. Do you find yourself making excuses for her to your family and friends?
This is probably most obvious to people outside of your relationship, and the least obvious to you. Weston, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve encountered those who continually make excuses for their significant other. “But he’s ___________.” “But she’s __________.” It’s very easy to rationalize things about someone because you want to be with them. But when you rationalize, all you’re doing is telling yourself “rational lies.”
The reason people often do this is because they’re so afraid of being alone, they compromise on their principles and settle on the wrong person. Can I tell you something, Weston, it’s way better to be alone and single than to be lonely the rest of your life because you married the wrong person for the wrong reasons. Don’t fall into the trap of rationalizing and making excuses for her.
If you don’t have to make excuses for her - if you’re proud to have her by your side till death do you part - you may have found your girl.
10. Are you willing to let her go?
Weston, about a year after your mom passed your Uncle Gavin and Aunt Amber and I were having a conversation about marriage. They were asking me when I felt like I would be ready to start dating again. Gavin made a statement that I’ll never forget. He said, “Davey, you’ll know when God has brought you the right woman if you just can't live without her.” I thought about what he said for a couple minutes and then replied to him.
“Gavin, I don’t think that’s a fair or accurate statement.” He looked back at me inquisitively, so I continued, “I’ve been forced to live the past year without the girl I once would have told you I can’t live without - Amanda.” Gavin just nodded in somber agreement.
Weston, your Uncle Gavin’s statement reminded me that “the one” everyone is searching for is ultimately not theirs to possess . . . but to steward for a season. Buddy, I want you to go and read my blog post I wrote called “I loved her first.” It unpacks this idea more.
That brings me back to my original question. Are you willing to let her go? Are you willing to give her up to the Lord, trusting that He will bring her back to you if she’s in fact the one. James the brother of Jesus said, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you (James 1:5). You see, Weston, if I were you I’d be praying this prayer relentlessly: “Lord, I don’t want to make a bad decision here. If this isn’t of you, slam the door shut in my face. If it is of you, make it extremely obvious. Open the door wide.” He’ll come through. He doesn’t want you to make a bad decision here.
You see, what this does to your heart is it postures it in submission to the Lord. It enables you to hold her open-handedly, not closed-fisted. It idol-proofs your relationship.
I had a friend in college who didn’t understand Christianity because he couldn’t imagine loving Jesus more than he loves his girlfriend. I simply told him he couldn’t possibly know how to truly love his girlfriend without understanding and knowing the love of Christ.
Weston, if you can place this relationship in the Lord’s hands from the beginning, you may have found your girl.