A few wise people have told me, “What you do in your courtship is what you will do in your marriage.” So basically, courting is a dress rehearsal, minus a few scenes, for marriage. You know why this is so interesting to me? Because an array of words like…

respect LEADERSHIP spirituality
VALUES compromise vs. collaboration PET PEEVES
family BODY IMAGE finances
growth COMMUNICATION self-love

…come to mind. I mean, my mind is reeling even just thinking about the conversations I’ve had with my SO (significant other) about those topics! Whew (as I lay my head back on this couch to catch my breath). If you’re like me, you may have entered into your courtship with a lot of high expectations for certain things, unchecked or low expectations for other things, and absolutely no expectations for a lot of things. And why wouldn’t you? Relationships have a lot of the same elements, but the person you’re courting NOW is likely a lot different from anyone in your PAST. So, an area that you may have mastered before could totally make a novice out of you now. Factor in that we’re human and we change our minds, too, so what you once deemed as important may no longer be on your radar.

But! No need to fear, a-person-who-has-beautifully-struggled-through-this-albeit-struggling-nevertheless-beautiful is here! The number one tool that has proven helpful in my courtship is— *drumroll*—communication! There you have it ladies and gentlemen. Cuh-myoo-nih-kay-shun will save the day; most times, at least. A Godly courtship has no room for gray areas. You and your partner must communicate effectively in order to progress in a healthy manner in your relationship. Key phrase: you and YOUR partner. Not you and your girlfriends, momma, auntie, cousin, SOCIAL MEDIA, his daddy about your partner. You. And him. If you get too used to seeking outside counsel about every single issue you face, you will not know how to solve problems within your courtship and later, your marriage! That’s a hard lesson I learned in a past relationship. I always thought that someone could give me the key to this man better than he could, and there I was, lost, scared, AND confused for no reason. So you better believe I communicate the mess (literally) OUT of my relationship.

There is, however, such a thing as over-communication. You don’t have to talk about every little thing. Especially when you (or him) make mistakes. The remedy to the seemingly ever-present need to remind him of his slack is: GRACE. When you and your partner have created a safe place for one another to openly communicate, it can be all too easy to communicate everything, and not always positive things. He’s gonna mess up, and so are you. But you don’t have to tell him EVERY time he messes up. Instead, pray for him. Give the Holy Spirit a chance to change Him. First of all, because He can. Second of all, because that’s Whose image he is made in. He might not open your car door on each road trip. Appreciate him. He’s probably going to overlook an opportunity to be super romantic. Laugh with him. And yes, sometimes he might even reach over to your plate and eat your last bite (or was that me??). Forgive him, albeit difficult. I kid, I kid. 😉

Next, let’s tackle some personal habits that might leak into your relationship and cause some real damage! Are you flirtatious? Do you scroll through — AND then LIKE—pictures on social media of the fine, chocolate (or caramel) brothas? Are you mesmerized by those raunchy short stories or drama-filled enactments on Facebook? What is your behavior like behind the screen? Who are the people you have in your news feeds (Twitter, FB, IG, Snapchat, etc.) and just what are they posting? Things in line with your beliefs or not? Things that will help you shed that lustful tendency or not? Things that ignite that old jealous spirit or not? Regardless of whether you actively engage in some of these activities or just casually scroll past them, in my personal opinion, you need to stop it all. Cut all ties. Block, delete, unfollow, abort, deactivate—WHATEVER. That kind of MESS is not helping you in any way and it certainly won’t aid you in fostering a healthy foundation inside yourself, let alone your relationship. Yes, you’re strong. And we all have our “harmless” guilty pleasures, but you also are human. A lot of times we end up adapting to things without even realizing it. So while you’re posting about the day where you gracefully walked in your calling as you ministered to the lady at the checkout line, as soon as your page refreshes and you see a series of memes bashing purity or bullying a certain group of people or downright blaspheming your God, you need to reevaluate who you follow and why. Whatever you are attached to that could be a detriment to your relationship, especially on a spiritual level, handle it before it handles you.

I’ve heard that marriage is a laaaarrge mirror, and all the good, bad, ugly and otherwise comes out in plain sight. Don’t leave all the mining to your partner; you can do some of it yourself by digging up trash now.

Well, that went a totally different direction than I planned LOL!

What I’m trying to say in all this is… really think about your daily life, every single aspect of it, and imagine fitting another person into it. Becoming the best person is a multifaceted, continual endeavor. When the right man comes along, it all will be worth it. I promise!!! Give your relationship the best foundation on which to build. No, it won’t be perfect. No, you and your partner won’t always get it right. But take it from me: what you don’t deal with before him will still be there when you join together with him. Your problems don’t go away, your dysfunctional habits don’t disappear, and while he may be able to help you through them, see what prep work you and God can get done together beforehand 🙂

With immense love and hope for your future,