I am so lucky.  Actually, correction, I am so blessed.  Why?  Well, because Will is my first boyfriend.  And I am his first girlfriend.

I think these days, this is a rarity.  I think it’d be hard to find another couple where they are each others’ first significant other.  So how did we do it?  One word – commitment.

We had discussed this word even when we were first getting to know each other in 2005.  We had learned a bunch of superficial things about each other – where we were from, what we liked to do for fun, what our friends were like.  We also dove into some of the deeper things about ourselves – family challenges, our walk with God, and our views on relationships. Our personal experiences with relationships were nil, but we had many things to talk about regarding the topic (but so did every other college student).  One thing we found out about each other is that we both wanted to date for marriage.

At our DTR (Determine the Relationship) talk, we said the “I like you” and “I like you too” thing, but we also had this short dialogue:

Me: Okay.  I’m going to say a word and we don’t really have to talk about it right now, but I’m going to say it.
Will: Okay.
Me: Marriage.
Will: Okay.

Dating for marriage – WHAT THE HECK IS THAT?,” you may ask.  “What is that?  Like a voluntary arranged marriage?”  Well, no, not quite.  But in some ways, yes.  My view of “dating for marriage” involved a whole heck of a lot of commitment.  And yes, a lot of voluntary commitment, just the way relationships should be voluntary, not obligatory or out of ultimatums.  It takes a lot of commitment to live out this view during the relationship, but also before the relationship.  It involves being committed to yourself.  It’s a lot easier and better to be in a relationship if you already know and understand yourself.  It would be super difficult to try to get to know another person while trying to figure out how to get along together if you didn’t already know who you were.  In my first three years of college, I learned more about myself than I had ever in my first 18 years of life.  It took a lot of commitment to delve into my character, my interests and passions, my faith, my family and culture, my insecurities.  I became committed to myself to learn who I was and wanted to become.  With that foundation of understanding, I then became more ready to delve into learning about someone else’s character, passions, faith, family, and insecurities.

I was trying to think of an analogy to explain “dating for marriage.”  The best one I can think of is graduating from college.

There is a lot of preparation that goes into even getting into college.  You have to use four years of high school to simply get to that point!  You take classes, participate in extra curriculars, and work part-time jobs.  You fill out forms about your demographics, put your best foot forward with your transcript and SAT scores, write an essay about yourself, and maybe you even have an interview with someone at admissions.  Then you have to wait for that school to want you too.  Maybe the school takes a long time to accept you, or they’re absent-minded and lost your application, or maybe you were lucky and they wanted you right away.  You wanted to be at this school and they admitted you.  Great!  Now graduation is set!  Right?

Well, no.  Just because you got accepted doesn’t mean they automatically handed you your diploma.  (Though I wish they would – it’d save me a lot of time and money!)  After getting accepted, most likely, you’ll want to graduate.  That is your end goal.  You’ll attend class, stay up late studying, take exams, and wait for your grades – all in the hope that your hard work will get you to graduation day.  If you keep your goal in mind and strive to achieve it, and add in some guidance from God, that day will come.

Now, for some people, graduation doesn’t come.  It might not come for many reasons.  External circumstances, such as a family illness or financial issues, can direct you a different way.  Internal circumstances, like changing passions or a different work ethic, can also play a part.  Whatever the reason, with deep thought and consideration, not graduating could be the path you have to take.  It won’t be an easy choice, but it’ll be a necessary choice.  It won’t be a happy decision, but the feelings would be worse if you chose to stay.  In the end, in hindsight, the decision would have been the right one.  Maybe that college just wasn’t the right one, or the timing wasn’t right, or you weren’t the person you needed to be.  Maybe you didn’t even know yet who you needed to be.

In a similar way, for those who are looking for long-term relationships, you spend a lot of time preparing yourself.  You need time to understand who you are and what you’re looking for.  That may take months or years.  Once you do that, now you feel ready to start looking and getting to know different people.  You see which ones you are interested in, and those that you aren’t.  For those that you are – you may pursue them.  You continue to get to know them, and have them get to know you in return.  And then maybe you reach the point where you tell that person you want to see what happens if you two get to know each other exclusively.  That person decides whether they want to do that as well.  They may decide quickly, maybe not.  If they decide they want to be committed to you, an end goal should be established.  Marriage can be that goal.  Dating for marriage doesn’t mean that it HAS to end in marriage.  It just means that both people are aware that it’s there.  Both people will work hard to learn about each other, encountering challenges along the way, staying up late resolving problems, and seeing how you two grow.  All of this will help you figure out if marriage is still on the horizon.  Reasons may come up where it may cause you two to rethink if this goal is still for you both – family dynamics, financial issues, your passions in life don’t match, one person’s commitment level isn’t the same as yours.  With wisdom, these reasons can be valid enough for a decision not to marry.  And THAT’S OKAY.  A wise decision to break up is a better decision than staying together just because.

Will and I began our relationship fully aware of the goal.  I kept my eye on the goal, but was also fully aware that God could change it.  We worked hard to remain committed to each other (especially during those really tough challenges and resolutions!) and always found ourselves learning more and more through each challenge.

Now, I’m not saying that people who break up were not committed to each other.  God still needs to affirm and confirm the relationship and guide both people to the decision to marry.

We have felt God’s affirmation and confirmation and He has definitely helped guide us both in our decision.  We are each other’s first love and on May 15, we will become each other’s only love.  And for that we know we have truly been blessed.