Almost four years ago, an 18 year old boy came to my dad and asked to start a relationship with his daughter. My dad understood that the 18 year old boy and the 19 year old girl had a long way to go before they could get married. Both of them wanted to finish college (they were just starting their sophomore year of college) and neither of them had jobs.
Wisely, my parents guided my now husband and I into what I call an intentional friendship. We were not dating. We were not allowed to spend a lot of time together alone or spend a lot of money going out on dates. But we were not courting either. It was not this formal relationship that put pressure on us getting married.
My dad asked that my future husband spend time with my family and I together. He wanted whoever I marry to be a friend and brother to my siblings.
Now that I am married, I realize the wisdom in this kind of friendship for young people who want to pursue a relationship but have several years before they can get married. It is wise for several reasons.
1. My spouse is a part of the family - Because my husband had to spend time with the family to get to know me, he truly is a part of my family. No one felt like he was taking me away from them because they love him like a brother. He spent a lot of time over at our house and we all got to know one another. My family got to see his character first hand and he got to become a part of the family.
2. It put the brakes on the relationship - This guided friendship slowed the process down. We did not get married for two and a half years. Not being allowed to spend a lot of time alone helped us to be pure since it was going to be a long time before we could even think about getting married.
3. There wasn’t a lot of pressure on getting married - I think the problem with courting is that it can put unnecessary pressure on the idea of getting married. You don’t know this person, you need someway to get to know them. But dating can be a bit casual and often unsupervised. Granted, we definitely did date a year or so down the road. But it was after my family had gotten to know him and we had decided the relationship was something that we wanted to move forward with. (Please note that I am not saying that dating or courting is wrong. There is a time and a place for both of these things. It is between you guys, your parents, and the Lord to decide what to do).
4. It set a good foundation for our marriage - By the time we got married, we were really good friends. We had spent a lot of time hanging out in groups and with my family. We served together, talked together, and worked through differences together. It set great patterns for our marriage.
5. If we had broken up, we would not have had regrets - Since our friendship was guided (I am purposefully saying guided not supervised. I don’t want you to get the idea that they were hanging over our every move) and purposeful, we were prevented from doing anything that we would have regretted if we had broken up. There was nothing that would have damaged a future friendship. Sure, it would have been awkward, but it spared us from a lot of regrets.
I am thankful for parents who were purposeful about our relationship. They wanted to see us have healthy, Christ-centered relationships that were appropriate for our age and situation.