Someone recently wrote to Boundless, asking for advice on figuring out the ins and outs of a new relationship. Recently in a relationship with a godly guy, she’s experiencing some bumps in the road as she and her suitor figure out how to go about their fledgling relationship.
She’s looking for specifics: “How much time should we spend together?”; “Which activities are suitable for us to do together and which ones are not?”; “How often should we call each other and which one of us should do the calling?” And she asks, “Can you talk about some of your experiences navigating the early stages of your relationship?”
I can’t fully deliver on the specifics (because I believe every relationship is different), but making a plan is a great strategy. At some point, I will write an article about planning your relationship. It’s good to have an objective — particularly in the area of physical boundaries. New relationships benefit when both people are willing to openly and honestly discuss how they would like to see their relationship play out. For example, my now-husband Kevin and I agreed together that we would not have sex (or put ourselves in situations where this could be an option) until marriage. Making this decision together up front proved to be very helpful to us in achieving the spiritual goals we had for our relationship (such as honoring God and being a testimony to others).
But beyond the hallmark aspects you want to maintain in any relationship — sexual purity, spiritual growth, good communication, godly accountability and a positive influence on one another — the specifics of a relationship can vary as much as the people involved. I once wrote an article called “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff,” where I encouraged readers to concentrate on what was really important about the person they were getting to know (e.g. character and compatibility) and not worry so much about the details.
The same holds true for the specifics of a relationship. A couple in which both parties are extroverted may be able to spend hours and hours together in groups, because their personalities thrive on those kinds of interactions, while those who prefer alone time may have to limit the time they spend with their significant other. Some couples may have no trouble praying together while others may discover that this spiritual activity is too bonding and leads to temptation. A personal example: I hate talking on the phone. So I had to ask Kevin to talk to me about important matters in person because I felt frustrated discussing them over the phone. Other couples I know forged their relationship almost entirely by phone.
The “bumps in the road” that each couple experiences will vary. But it’s not abnormal when encountering these issues to have to make adjustments and set standards. Navigate your relationship based on the principle of wisdom and your overall plan as a couple. Handle the details on a case-by-case basis. Feel like you’re spending too much time together? Dial it back a notch and see if you feel more comfortable. Curious if an activity is OK to do together? Seek out the advice of a trusted mentor or church leader. There are many ways to deal with potential problems as they arise.
Beginning a relationship is exciting and a little scary at times. But the best thing about it is that God provides you with wisdom and freedom to shape your relationship into one that brings Him glory. So make a plan to have a relationship that is above reproach, but don’t complicate it with unnecessary “rules.” Trust in what God is doing and seek His wisdom every day. Then you will give Him the room to work His perfect plan in your relationship.