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for Young Men

As a young man, you may desire to use courtship as a tool for helping you discern God's will for a mate. You follow the recommendation of speaking with the father first and he immediately gives you the go ahead. This may be because of ignorance in this area, or other reasons. He does not question you or offer to help you with this process. What should you do now?

First of all you must take the view that you will now bear a greater responsibility for leading the relationship through the process of examining your beliefs, convictions, and standards. You must now take leadership in all aspects of the relational process. What I would recommend is that you begin this process by laying out a plan for your courtship. This plan will help guide you through several phases in an orderly way so that you get through the important issues related to marriage before there is a lot of emotional involvement. Essentially, I am trying to help you reverse the world's model of becoming emotionally involved, getting married, and then spending the next ten years being surprised by what your spouse believes and thinks. It seems more sensible to spend some concentrated time during the courtship process finding out the truly important things such as what your future spouse believes, what they want to accomplish, how they want to do it, what their needs are, and how you can come to an agreement about these matters. If you then decide to marry, you have a much better idea of who you are marrying and if you can work together.

If this sequence sounds appealing then I will give you a process to help you through it. This process comes in several phases. The rough outline is below and then I will explain each phase:

1) Friendship
2) Beliefs, standards, and convictions
3) Knowing more, ways you would handle life
4) Knowing more, ways we would handle our married life
5) Engagement

As we begin our discussion, please remember that either party can halt the process at any time. The purpose of these discussions is always focused on  finding God's best for you both and determining if you can commit to this person for your entire life. This is not a date, this is a marriage focused examination of yourself and another person. . It does not take years, it typically takes months. Surprisingly, if you approach this matter seriously and with intensity, you find that the number of surprises after marriage is minimized.

The Friendship stage may or may not apply to you. If you have known each other for years it is not needed. If you have met recently or had limited interaction, then go through a short time of sharing. Talk about things you like, people who you respect, activities you enjoy, your family background, etc. The purpose of this phase is to become comfortable enough to begin sharing serious matters together. Note that I am not recommending dates to get to know each other, rather interaction over email or the phone. Why you ask? If your purpose is to look at this person as constructively as possible (eyes wide open) then you want to minimize the emotional content at this time. That will come later. Your purpose now is to examine the person and see them for who they are.

The beliefs, standards, and convictions stage is really about discovering those things. Spend time (again over email to minimize the emotional involvement) asking each other questions about the things that really matter.
* What do you believe
* Why do you believe it
* What are your convictions
* What standards did you grow up with
* What standards have you adopted
* What is your testimony
* What are the evidences of your faith
* What do you see as your life direction
* What do you see yourself accomplishing with your life

Be careful when communicating over email. Be clear in your words. If you are unclear on the things you read, ask questions until you are clear. Try rewording and sending back what the other person wrote to see if you understood it. Once you have completed this line of questions, you should have a good idea about the really essential items of life.

Now you both arrive at a decision point. Does this person have the convictions that you can support and live with? Do they meet your criteria for a spouse? If so, then you are ready for the Knowing more, ways you would handle life phase. During this phase you again ask more questions. This time you are asking about how the individual sees life issues that are important.

You are also likely to notice that there are emotions arising within you for the young lady. This is a desirable situation, in fact, if you do not experience a growing emotional desire to be with her by the time the next phase is done, I would ask some hard questions about proceeding with this relationship. The emotional aspect of the relationship is not the primary thing, but it is an important thing. For you to meet the romantic needs of a wife, you will need to feel a deep love for her now and in the future.

Now is the time to begin talking more with each other over the phone or face to face. As a part of your leadership, you should also consider what safeguards you want to put in place to protect the purity of the young lady. Decide what limits you need to have in physical contact, being alone, and the things you will reserve for marriage. Find ways to instill accountability into your relationship to uphold these limits.

During the Knowing more, ways you would handle life phase you will want to discuss a wide range of subjects. Don't limit your questions to my list since you want to know a lot about this person. Some of the starter subjects could be:
* Spiritual questions. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What evidence is there that God is initiating this relationship? Describe your spiritual gifts and the things you are passionate about for God. How have you been preparing in spirit and character to be the best man/woman for a spouse?
* Relational questions. What is your relation with your parents and siblings? Why do you want to be married? How have you been preparing for marriage? What other relationships have you had? Do you get angry? Why and how?
* Financial questions. How do you handle money? What do you believe about debt? life insurance? health insurance?
* Moral questions. How will failure in moral purity impact marriage? What struggles have you had with lust, masturbation, pornography, homosexual tendencies, or wrong thoughts? What action steps of accountability have you taken to combat these issues?
* Leadership questions. What does family leadership mean? What are the roles of husband and wife in marriage? How should a family be protected? from what? How would you choose where to live? What do you believe about children, discipline and  education?
* Direction questions. What is your life purpose? What is your vision for life? What are your plans for the future? How would marriage increase your usefulness to God?

After these questions, you have reached another decision point. Often this point seems to grow on you over time. Perhaps by this time you have a good idea of how God is leading you regarding this woman. If so, you will find that the next set of questions will flow quite naturally from your lips. If you have a lot of uncertainty, then spend more time in the last phase. Also spend time in prayer. Are there other things God is trying to teach you or is asking you to surrender? Enter this phase with confidence or risk lots of potential emotional turmoil for the young lady. Moving to this phase and its questions says you are clearly moving toward commitment and you are forming an expectation in her mind.

The phase Knowing more, ways we would handle our married life consists of many of the same questions except now you can focus on answering specific questions related to the two of you. The questions change to:
* How will spiritual leadership happen in our home? Who will lead what?
* How will you keep love alive in a marriage? How well do you understand how each other thinks?
* How many check books will you have? How will you make financial decisions? What are the important priorities for money? How will you cut back when times are lean? How will you save for things you want?
* How will you cherish you wife? How will she show you respect? How will you show her honor through your manners and daily treatment? How will you guard the sanctity of a marriage?
* What are your roles? How will you determine the educational option for your children?
* Where would you want to aim a life together? How can you be more effective married? What are your shared visions for life?

You have arrived at the final decision point. You have led the relationship through a process to see the real beliefs of this woman and presented your own beliefs. By now you should have a good idea of the will of God. You should also know if you can commit yourself to this woman for life. It is time for engagement. Continue to lead because you are not done yet. After engagement you still need to determine how to protect the honor and purity of both of you. My guideline is simple. The more things you save for marriage, the more you will value those things. May God bless your efforts.