Romantic Relationships before Marriage (Part 1)

By: Beth Doohan and Jenni Walker

“The One who formed you says…‘I have called you by name; you are Mine.’” ~ Isaiah 43:1

“Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” ~ I Peter 3:3

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A note before we begin: Approaches to romantic relationships can vary strongly from person to person, family to family, and even within church communities.  (What is the “right” approach?  Should we call it dating?  Courtship?  Getting to “know each other better”?)  Regardless of semantics, we believe that all romantic relationships prior to marriage should be with marriage in mind.  Whether a couple becomes husband and wife may take some time to determine, and it may become clear that the relationship should be ended or, delightfully, that wedding bells will soon be ringing!  No matter your terminology, be intentional to avoid selfish or unholy attitudes that dishonor God’s design for marriage and romance.  Whether you are in a relationship right now or not, we encourage you to intentionally honor marriage in your heart, attitudes, and actions as you navigate romantic attractions, crushes, and dating relationships with God’s wisdom.  He designed marriage; lean on Him wholeheartedly in the details!

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Marriage is by God’s design.  The question is, how does a single, wholehearted woman of God get there?  First of all, she views her season of singleness as a gift, knows that times of loneliness can draw her closer to the Lord and those He has placed in her life, and chooses joy in the journey (more on these in later articles!).  But what about navigating times that aren’t just “waiting” times?  What is a girl to do with terms like “dating” and “courtship”?  Is there a right age?  Is there a right way to date?  Is there something she should do to actually find the “right guy”?  These are questions that may vary from person to person but that can and should be navigated with an identity rooted in Christ, a heart alive and yet anchored by the Word of God, and a holy expectancy that God can do more than we ask or think!

For the next two articles, we (Beth and Jenni) are providing you with insights from our own personal experiences of navigating romantic relationships leading toward marriage. Grab that cup of coffee, and curl up on the couch. You’re about to get the inside scoop!

Are you ready?  It’s story time, ladies!

Beth’s Romance Story

As we navigate dating relationships, we will learn what qualities we most value in a man and hone the type of man we are looking for. In my youth, I (Beth) was given wise advice to pay attention to the character qualities in men I found attractive. When I reached college, I decided to write down the qualities that I had observed and what I felt God was speaking to my heart about what I needed in a mate. What was it about them that I liked? Before long, I ended up with a post-it sized note with categories such as “active relationship with God,” “openly affirming with words and deeds,” “servant-hearted,” “creative,” “handsome,” and “challenges others and me to be better” (I have this post-it in my Bible to this day!).

During reflection on these qualities, God showed me a big one that had been missing in all the guys I was previously interested in: “hardworking/driven.” I realized that while the guys I had been interested in dating were not lazy, they were definitely laidback in their approaches to following dreams and earning a living. I am a highly goal-oriented person and become frustrated when “dreaming” never becomes reality.

This revelation about the type of man I needed helped me recognize what to look for, and lo and behold God brought Corey Doohan into my life!  We met during college and got married right after graduation.  For those of you who don’t know him, let me give you the 411 on my amazing hubby.  Corey was raised on a Wisconsin dairy farm and helped his dad from his youth. He earned a one-year Bible degree, attained his four-year undergraduate degree in three years while working full-time, and started his own business before finishing college. Corey defines “driven” with his personality, and together we are a force to be reckoned with! We get things accomplished not just to check something else off of the list (although that feels great!) but to work as unto the Lord and to move forward in the things God has placed in our hearts.

Of course, we love times of relaxing together or just watching a movie with a bowl of ice cream.  But our name “Doohan” is pronounced like the phrase “how are you doin’?” and, because of this, we fondly joke that we “do things” because we are “Doohans.”   I love that this is a part of who we both are, and it has been such a blessing in our marriage!

Marriage is God’s Design, and HE Can Make It Happen!

Sometimes when we are waiting for our deep longings to be fulfilled, we can begin to feel insecure in our relationship with God and who He created us to be as women. If we are not dating, we may think “What’s wrong with me? Am I not worthy of being pursued?” Or we may settle by dating someone we know is not God’s best for fear of staying single.

As sisters in Christ, we want to remind you that you are worth being pursued!! Your loving heavenly Father created you and called you to godly womanhood. He designed you uniquely as a woman and loves your individual personality, character traits, and passions. Our Lord has pursued your heart for a relationship with Him, which means you are of great value in His sight and are certainly a choice woman and daughter of the King.

Before I met Corey, I heard a powerful prayer spoken: “Lord, keep me from and for my future husband.” This means from him until the right time (God’s timing) and for him from other relationships that would seek to claim my heart. As you navigate romantic relationships, can I encourage you to wait for God’s best? He knows you better than you know yourself and knows exactly the man of God that He is preparing for you. God has things He wants to do in your heart to prepare you for your future mate (and to prepare your spouse for you!). God’s timing is perfect, and He will fulfill your heart’s desires more than you could imagine as you trust in Him!

In Elisabeth Elliot’s Let Me Be a Woman, she shares how a choice is a limitation. To say yes to one thing means saying no to all the others.  That is why it is so important that we put our dating and ultimately our future marriage into the Lord’s hands. Do not be afraid of making mistakes; God will lead your steps. Guard your heart from things of this world by walking in purity in your relationships and things you consume in entertainment. Be choosy in your relationships by valuing yourself, and be willing to get to know someone in friendship and dating.  Choose to believe that you are so valued and worthy of being pursued. In both the waiting and in the middle of navigating a romantic relationship, you can prepare for marriage by seeking after the Lord wholeheartedly, bringing your desires before Him, and asking Him for wisdom about your future spouse and how to honor God now.  You were created in Christ Jesus to do good works and bring Him glory (Ephesians 2:10). He created you, knows what you need, calls you His beautiful daughter, and He is with you! Take some time to ask God for wisdom about your future spouse and the person you may be dating.  He will lead and direct your steps as you follow Him!

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Stay tuned for Jenni’s Romance Story in Romantic Relationships before Marriage, Part 2!