Courtship has a clear purpose and goal. It aims toward the upcoming marriage of the two that are courting. Courtship is wonderful, but it is also a
serious matter. The time of courtship is meant to be a time when the future spouses get to know each other’s background, personality, values and
way of life; it is meant to be a time to plan a future together.
Falling in love can happen in many ways. It can be sudden and intense or it can last longer, deepening from a friendship or infatuation into love. Sure feelings or insecure feelings are part of falling in love and courtship. One has to give time and space for the other’s feeling of uncertainty, and no one should be forced to commit against their will. Over the years I have met many wedding couples. Love stories never follow the same pattern. Love is God’s gift. Through this gift, God unites two people in marriage, a beautiful gift of His creation work.
Courtship touches a person’s deepest feelings such as falling in love. One should not begin courtship without genuine intent to get married. Playing with another person’s feelings can hurt deeply. Courtship should not be used to show how “popular” one is among one’s peers or to show that “I have someone too.” Adolescence and growing to adulthood include infatuation and feelings of falling in love. These feelings, however, do not require courtship. When two people discover one another and notice their interest and mutual affection persisting and deepening, at some point they realize they are in love.
What Is Love?
The most important tools in courtship are listening and discussing. With these tools you can get to know the person you’re in love with, the person whom you wish to commit to and with whom you’re ready to spend the rest of your life. Love is the gift and power of God that unites two people. Apostle John states that “love is of God” (1 John 4:7). That love is more than just a deep feeling between two people. Married love could be described as many thin strands woven into a strong rope that unites a man and a woman in mutual matrimony. This deep relationship involves loving and accepting the other just as God has created him or her.
Nonetheless our own traits or even wrong behavior models learned in childhood do not justify doing sin. We cannot for example use our own short temper to justify insulting words or invalidating the other. Love does not place conditions or demands on another person. One does not need to earn love either. Love also involves building trust and respect. Caring for love requires openness and learning to be open.
Two Become One
During the time of courtship it is good to learn to express your opinions, wishes and feelings. It is also necessary to listen to what the other shares about himself or herself. Sometimes it takes time to learn openness, but it is worth it. When God unites spouses together, two become one. Then my spouse’s life becomes part of my life. It is good to know what kind of home the other has grown up in and what kind of life the other has lived to this point. In a secure courting relationship one may share joys and strengths in life and also those trials and difficulties that affect what kind of person I am today.
The courtship period also includes discussion of what kind of home we want to have in the future. What foundation do we want to build our home on? It is necessary to ask what faith means to you and me. Do we believe in the same way? It is also good to discuss other values that shape our lives. How important are money and temporal success in this life? Do we want to acquire a lot of material goods or perhaps settle for less and spend more time together with our family? What makes you happy in life? Or what makes you unhappy?
Even during courtship there are occasionally conflicts, arguments and sin. In those cases we learn how our future spouse faces adversity and difficulties. How do we resolve arguments and take care of matters? We learn that although we love each other, it does not make us perfect or sinless. During courtship we must learn to speak about matters such that we can talk freely and without fear or guilt about what we experience and feel. We must speak and listen to the other as long as it takes for the argument or other difficult matter to be dealt with so that we can be free of it and move forward.
Marriage Is Very Special
Marriage is the union of two people into one, as Jesus teaches us. He says they are no longer two, but one flesh (Matt. 19:6). In marriage we share and do almost everything in relation to our spouse. How I act or don’t act affects my spouse. How I pay attention to my spouse, serve him or her, what names I use and how I talk to him or her, how I take my spouse’s needs into account…all of these are what Jesus means by “being one.” The most important word in marriage is not me but us.
Marital love is part of our everyday life. In everyday life, the trust, affection and respect for the other – things that are born of love that is cared for – are tried. Healthy love shows itself in life’s small and larger things. Love can be expressed by talking beautifully to one’s own spouse and making him or her happy in small ways.
I still remember a time years ago when I came home from work to the scent of coffee. At that time my wife did not drink coffee, so I knew it was made for me. That ordinary coffee had a strong aftertaste of love! Seemingly small things can also be meaningful the other way around as well. I have noticed that time together with one’s spouse occasionally has great impact on the wellbeing of our mutual love. If I only have time for work, my own hobbies, friends and helping others, what does that say about our relationship. It is not a good sign if my spouse’s needs are met only after everybody else’s or if we don’t enjoy being together.
It is necessary to discuss the big things in life, such as moving to another location, work, bigger purchases, and to decide on these things together. That allows both to commit to the mutual decision and later also stand by it. When a decision is shared by the spouses, then both want to commit to it and also endure any possible resulting adversities. If big decisions are made without consulting one’s spouse, it may cause blame, arguments and bitterness. In the hands of the enemy of souls, fatigue and bitterness are powerful weapons against faith. In this way too we wish to support our spouse on the way to heaven.
Already at the beginning of marriage it is worth learning to spend time doing things together. My spouse and I have found that everyday life easily takes us further from one another on an emotional level. Our discussions revolve around everyday topics such as the children’s school, dentists and new bikes. What happened to our deep and love-filled discussions about life, dreams and the future? We have agreed to let the other know if we find that we’ve grown mentally distant from one another. Then we have to reserve time together to go on a walk or to eat out or get away for a short time. Spending time together helps us find the love and that familiar person from under all the matters of daily life.
Forgiveness Renews Love
God’s adversary, the enemy of souls, is against love. It would wish to destroy all the beauty that God has placed between spouses. Nonetheless, we have been given the strongest antidote to sin. This medicine is the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. Sin causes us to say bad things when we are arguing and to think wrongly of the other. We blame the other and defend ourselves, and we fail to see our own mistakes. We might even wonder why we are married since we have such deep disagreements. When we are able to stop and think about our own actions and words, we often find ourselves lacking. We can pray for the humility to approach our spouse and humbly ask him or her to forgive our sins and transgressions. Our hearts aren’t always willing to forgive, but the gospel thaws hearts and opens up a constructive way to discuss matters. I have found that sometimes when we are clearing up our arguments, I need to again ask for the gospel for the sake of my own corrupt nature.
When forgiveness of sins is asked, received and believed, we can continue our journey together in good spirits. The gospel of forgiveness also bears the fruit of being able to discuss those difficult matters that we as spouses have encountered. It may sometimes be necessary to get professional help if the difficulties involve, for example, some sort of violence or abuse of power between the spouses. We may need specialized professional help if, for example, substance abuse or addiction to e.g. gambling or pornography has become a part of one’s life. The gospel gives the sinful person’s life a new beginning and a new opportunity. Surviving these difficulties together deepens the love between spouses and makes clearer the common goal spouses have through faith – eternal life in heaven.