It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. Nearly three years, actually. Since my last post, I’ve graduated college, moved to Illinois for my first job, visited Israel, gotten engaged, moved back to Ohio, gotten married, traveled to Italy, and traveled all across the country. Needless to say, we probably have a lot of catching up to do, dear reader.
I gave up writing for a bit because my voice no longer felt unique. The internet was overloaded with blogs written by writers who wrote with such humor and style, and I didn’t have anything to say that you couldn’t find tons of other 20-somethings writing about as well. And while I love teaching, I’m not much of a writer. So, I’m not sure how often I’ll return back to this page.
But, since Tanner and I just recently celebrated our seven-year dating anniversary (and nearly 9 months of marriage!) I figured that my two-cents on dating was probably something that would be worth reading. And, when I asked my twitter followers, 14 of you said you would read it. So, this is for you, my 14 beautiful little twitter followers.
I originally planned to tell our entire relationship story, but as I started writing it I realized that it is so nuanced that it can be hard to follow if you’re not intimately acquainted with every aspect of our lives. So, in lieu of doing that, I’ve decided to just use glimpses of our relationship to better explain the points I’m trying to make. Maybe in a future post I’ll explain our relationship story, because I really do find it beautiful, but that day is not today.
Here’s our 7 tips to a happy and healthy dating relationship:
- Don’t Rush in. I know that this seems so trite and overused, but Tanner and I taking time to build a friendship at first has blessed our relationship immensely over the years. Actually, we were close friends for nearly two years before we started dating. Our friendship formed after the death of a mutual friend, and Tanner’s friendship was huge in my healing. Through our friendship, I learned that I could trust people again, which eventually helped create a solid foundation of trust that has helped to hold up our relationship for the long haul. Remember, love is patient (1 Cor 13:4), if this love is something worth pursuing, it’s worth pursuing well.
- Be on the Same Page in Your Faith. Sometimes, this is referred to as being “equally yoked” (2 Cor 6:14). The idea of being equally yoked is that you are on the same page in your spiritual journey. Tanner and I both accepted Christ into our hearts about one year before we started dating. We had many conversations about our desire to know Jesus more fully and serve him. I never had to question his eternal journey, and I had a partner to help me grow. I highly discourage against entering into a relationship with someone if you are in drastically different points in your spiritual journeys, or if you’ve never talked about it.
- Don’t Try to be Their Everything. When I was in college, I struggled deeply with feelings of loneliness. The only person I’d feel comfortable around was Tanner, and if it was up to me I would have spent all of my time with him. But, he knew that I struggled with this feeling. So, he always encouraged me to get out of my room and try hanging out with a friend. A mantra we developed during this time was that we “needed to help each other be their own person”. I’ve watched so many relationships turn toxic because each person tries to be the other person’s “Everything” and ends up controlling every aspect of the other’s life. Trying to complete them is a futile goal, and you should run from that. You can’t, nor should you try to.
- Challenge Each Other, In Love. One of my favorite things about my relationship with Tanner is that we are able to challenge each other intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. If you were ever able to sneak into the backseat of our car you’d listen to our conversation buzz from us discussing Trump’s new policy, to what Jesus has been showing us lately in our quiet times, then taking a quick break to practice our screamo to old high school songs, then going back to discussing different things we’re learning at work and discussing our recent workouts. Doing life together is stimulating because we’re constantly pointing each other in a straighter path. Notice that my tip is to “Challenge each other in love”, and NOT “force each other to change”. Like the tip above, you can’t force them to change, nor should you try to. You chose to be with this person because they are not you, don’t try to force them to be exactly like you.
- Remember – love is a choice. Over the course of our time together, our feelings have waxed and waned at different periods. That’s normal, and I expect it to continue through the entirety of our marriage. You won’t always feel the same butterflies as you did when you were first together. But you will also not feel the sting of the bad days together. Our feelings lie to us, and they can sometimes be a very poor indicator of how we are doing both personally and in our relationships. When our feelings lie to us, we can still choose to love. We were given the choice to love by Jesus, who loved us first. I think that this secret is the one that helps relationships stand the test of time. We need to move past praying that the other person will change or “Get their act together” and instead choose to love them. Another part of this tip, though, is realizing that you do have power to separate in a dating relationship. No one is forcing you to date someone who is toxic, abusive, unhealthy, or not respectful. You can choose to leave a toxic relationship. Not every relationship is destined to end in marriage, and it is OK to leave something that is not God-honoring.
- Date to Marry. I can’t think of a worse way to waste your time than to spend months or even years with a person and have no intentions of marrying them. Both Tanner and I knew back in high school that if we were to date, marriage was a real possibility. We both felt that God had brought us together in a dating relationship, so it became a matter of when God would show us the right time to pursue marriage, rather than waiting on God to prove whether this was the perfect person or not.
- Be Willing To Do Hard Things for Future Benefits. When Tanner and I were writing down our list of relationship secrets, he said that this is the only rule I should write about, but I already had the idea of “7 tips for 7 years” figured out, so here we are 🙂 This tip sums up all of the other tips, and then some. On one hand, it covers issues like no pressuring each other to go to far physically, because giving that up for now (the hard thing) helps bring each of you closer to Christ and an eternal fulfillment in Him (the future benefit). But it also helps to cover issues like when you need to live long distance for a period, like we did. Right after college, I accepted a job in Chicago and needed to move there. We spent 18 months in a long distance relationship (with him in Ohio, and me in Chicago), with the 18 months including both our dating relationship and nearly all of our nine-month engagement. Trying to plan your lives together from separate states is HARD. But, now that we are married and get to hang out all the time, I know that it was worth it. We each grew a ton during that time, and our relationship got a heck of a lot sweeter, because we were able to talk a LOT. We talked through tons of issues we had been carrying through the years, and were able to experience freedom.
So, there you have it, my top 7 tips that I got from 7 years of dating Tanner. We’re still novices in love and have a heck of a stuff to learn about marriage, but I hope you’re able to learn from some of the things that God has taught us from dating. It still kind of blows my mind that we’ve been together for so long, especially when you factor in that both of us kind of grew up thinking we would end up single. But, I think that for us, God has used dating and marriage to grow us more in His image as we learn to die to ourselves and serve each other. I pray that this continues to happen in our marriage! Could you comment below of how I could be praying for you?
Enjoy these pictures of us through the years 🙂