By Katherine Deal
1. Start spending time with godly married women and watch how they love their husbands. Before I joined the ranks of married women, I was extremely lucky to have some married role models to watch and listen to. They taught me so much about how a married woman should love her husband. I learned things like never talk bad about or down to your husband in public; always lift him up. I learned how friendships with members of the opposite sex should and need to change when you are in a relationship. I learned how to love my husband like Christ even when it’s hard, and how submission really is a beautiful thing when done in a godly relationship. There are women that I can still go to when I need some coaching and encouragement. I would urge you to choose wisely but make this a huge priority.
2. Set your standards of purity high and find someone to keep you accountable to that. Once you are in a dating relationship, temptation seems to come at you from every corner. The closer you get to marriage, the harder those temptations are to resist. You need someone who is going to hold you accountable to the standards you set, and even better if it’s one of those awesome married women from point #1 you are now hanging out with. They will have walked in your shoes and can give you appropriate encouragement and advice. While my husband and I were dating and then engaged, I met with an amazing lady once a week for prayer and accountability. She asked me hard questions during that time and never let me off the hook. While I might not have been at the time, I now am incredibly grateful for her during that time. Not only did she help me keep those purity standards high, she was a voice of reason at a time where my head was in the “in love clouds," but I was making a ton of important decisions, like saying yes to my future husband and father of my children. Find someone to be your voice of reason, one day you will be thankful!
3. If you are part of an engaged couple (and if you are not yet, remember this for later!), value your time in pre-marital counseling. Do not skip over this crucial step or think it’s not important. It might seem like everything is perfect in the dating and engagement stage. You might think you and your bae will always be on the same page and will be able to get through tough times seamlessly. It seems this way because dating/engagement is like the fairy tale period of life. Once you get married, real life starts, and real life is hard. My husband and I received some really amazing, top-notch pre-marital counseling. It was a time we took very seriously because we had been encouraged too by people much smarter than we were. But we had friends who did not receive enough or any pre-marital counseling, and some who just didn’t take it seriously. I can without a doubt say that their first few years and our first few years of marriage looked totally different. We still had the same trials, but my husband and I were prepared for how to handle them and our friends just were not. My husband and I often look back on those first few years and think, “That was easier than everyone said it would be.” We credit that to our preparation in pre-marital counseling.
4. Do not expect your significant other to fulfill you once you get married. I see a lot of girls fall into this trap (myself included!). We think once we get married __________. We can fill in that blank with so many things; once we get married I won't be lonely anymore, I will finally feel good about myself, my spouse will complete me, and a plethora of other things. The truth is the only person who can do any of those things for us is Christ. Putting this impossible expectation of fulfillment on your future spouse is like kryptonite to your relationship. Trust me, all of the things we can put in that blank will happen in marriage. Our spouse is not perfect and you are not perfect; the relationship will not be perfect. But Christ is. If we look to Christ to fill in those blanks for us, when they do happen in marriage, when the hard times come, we can handle them with grace and love because we will be so full of Christ it will overflow out of us. Fill yourself will Christ, not your significant other.
5. When you are in a dating relationship and even once you get engaged EVERYTHING is fun. REMEMBER that fun. (Again, if you aren’t in one of these relationships yet, this will be good to hold on to for later!) Hold tight to those moments; file those details away. At some point in marriage, something hard is going to happen because, again, life is hard. Sometimes it’s hard to see out of that hard thing. When these moments hit, having those fun and special times to look back on could be what brings you out of the hard. Those moments could be the reason you are able to look at your spouse again in love. They won't fix the hard, but they can ease the heart. Remember the fun!