Jacob and I have only been married for three and a half months, so I don’t have a lot to say in the way of marriage advice (even though we are ridiculously happy), but I do have a lot to say about dating considering we did that for three and a half years. Dating or courting at a young age comes with a lot of challenges- social pressures, life changes, school, and balancing healthy relationships outside of your couple..
I remember the day I started telling people that Jacob was my boyfriend, we were immediately met with people’s stories about their first relationships which often ended in disaster, and we were advised not to get serious because of the changes our lives that were coming up, or my least favorite of all- “this is going to be like your first car, drive it as much as you can but don’t be surprised if it breaks down.” People will always bet on your failure, but you both can be stronger than that.
I have always liked what the pastor and author Jefferson Bethke said, “Dating without the intent to marry is like going to the grocery store with no money. You either leave dissatisfied or take something that isn’t yours.” If you are dating with the intent to get married, as Jacob and I were, people will tell you that you are crazy because… what about college? What about you both working part time jobs and keeping your grades up? Jacob and I knew early on that marriage was the goal, and I think many times that kept us from making decisions we would later regret. So it was easy to support each other through the perils of things like new jobs, going to school, completing my apprenticeship, and merging into each other’s families. However you do have to understand (as we did) that these questions people ask are NOT invalid. These are real variables you both have to consider as you navigate through this time in your life, and you have to know that at any time the dating relationship could end, but that is more than okay! Keeping in mind that you can walk away with nothing more than emotional fallout (because you are too young to have bought a house together) actually helps keep pressure off of the relationship, and allows you to create a really strong foundation.
One thing I always noticed about other young relationships going on around us was that other couples always acted as if they had houses or children together. They acted like there was SO much to lose if they decided to call it quits even if ending the relationship was what was the best for both of them. Personalities change a lot from 17 to 21, but for Jacob and I those changes brought us closer together every time; and we supported those changes in each other so neither of us were ever afraid to grow and become better versions of ourselves. I’ve seen so many other couples our age get so dependant on each other they can’t handle the idea that this person that they love today might be a different person tomorrow, because they were afraid that this different person might be someone they can no longer date. What Jacob and I built I do believe is possible for most people to achieve, and I pray often for the young couples in my life that they can construct what we did, but that won’t be possible without making God the center of your life and listening to the people who love you.