A few weeks ago, my wife Jossie and I had the privilege of talking to Air Force Academy cadets at a MILL small group called GodChasers. We shared the story of how we met, dated and got married, followed by answering questions written on 3X5 cards. We took about 45 minutes to answer as many as we could but, inevitably, there wasn’t enough time to answer them all. So here are my responses to some of the ones that went unanswered.
What is the most important advice you can give for a long-distance relationship?
I know several people who don’t like long-distance relationships – they are a lot of work and can be a hassle. However, I actually think that there are several benefits to dating from a distance. Talking on the phone or interacting online requires the development of one of the most important variables in a relationship – communication. Without the “distractions” of things to do and places to go, the only thing you have left is what you talk about. Such a heavy emphasis on talking requires diligent work on communicating thoroughly and clearly, establishing expectations and resolving conflicts. From my perspective, if things don’t work long-distance, they likely wouldn’t work living in the same city. That being said, if the relationship is going towards marriage, I recommend that you have a good period of time together in the same city prior to marriage (3-6 months minimum). Though developing good communication is important, it can’t replace that which is learned as you interact in person on a daily basis.
What is the best way to distinguish between our voice and the Holy Spirit when pursuing a girl?
You can’t! Your emotions blur your vision. This is why it is so important to have solid, trusted community in your life. Proverbs 19:20-21 says “Listen to advice and accept instruction and in the end you will be wise. Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.” If you are wondering if you should move forward in a relationship, ask trusted friends and leaders for honest input. Their vantage point is one you will never have about your own life. (That means if you don’t hear what you want to, don’t scoff at them). There is great safety in involving friends in your relationships from the beginning; plus, it sets a good precedent if that relationship does get the green light.
I believe that it’s a bad idea to date anyone you can’t marry. What do you think?
I agree. Dating with the knowledge that the relationship doesn’t have a long-term future is dangerous. I have heard the “we are just hanging out” line over and over. The problem with “just hanging out” is that, when you spend extended time with someone, you often begin to like him. That leads to problem two: the person you like is often the person with whom you fall in love. So now you are in love with someone you don’t want to marry…that’s dangerous. So when you know the person you are dating is not the one you would like to spend the rest of your life with, end it. In my opinion (and this is only my opinion), it should take no longer than 6-9 months of dating someone to know if you should marry them.
Do you believe in full disclosure in your relationship about your life before you get married?
Yes. This does not mean that you need to share all details on the first date (that might scare someone off!) but at least during the engagement season all should be on the table. You and your spouse deserve the full knowledge of the person with whom you are entering a life-long covenant. Doing so sets a culture of honesty and openness in your relationship for the long haul.
What if you want to be married, but never think about it except once every blue moon? Is that okay? What does it mean if you don’t care much about marriage or really pray about it in the meantime?
I think you are totally fine. Marriage is about God’s timing, so not worrying about it might actually be a good thing. Just make sure you are open to someone entering your life -- even when you least expect it.
If you have no desire for marriage now or in the future, you may also want to consider and pray about if you have the gift of singleness. The vast majority of people do not have this gift and even the thought of being single for life causes a breakout in hives. However, the apostle Paul says these individuals are to be celebrated (I Corinthians 7). Here are few things that may indicate that you might have this gift.
-You don’t have a burning desire to get married.
-You are completely satisfied being single.
-You aren’t frustrated that you won’t have sex.
If you are praying that you don’t have the gift, chances are that you probably don’t!