Free to Love
What is the secret to an authentic, Christ centered relationship?
As a newly married couple, Stephen and I have both been unraveling the mysteries of the grace that flows from entering the covenant of marriage. We’ve been experiencing the many fruits and blessings that have come from the years of striving to have our relationship chaste, virtuous and centered in Christ.
If you know Stephen and I, then you are aware that we are broken and flawed. We DO NOT intend to have the guidelines or cheat sheet to a picture-perfect ending. We merely intend to share a few pointers that help us refocus our relationship and hand the pen over to God to write our stories.
We are NOT meant to satisfy one another
When being in any relationship, especially a romantic one, it is essential to remember that this person (no matter how much you care and love them) will NEVER satisfy you. There are going to be times you feel rejected, alone, and your significant other will be the one you turn to console your heart. In so many ways God creates an emptiness and longing in each of us to be filled by Him not “your person”. We fail to let God satisfy us because that person is tangible and can give you immediate relief and temporary satisfaction.
The sooner you recognize that you cannot satisfy a person completely, the pressure is off of you and on God. The sooner you recognize that another person will not satisfy you, the freer you are to love them for who they are; not what they do or how they make you feel.
Date God before dating another
Woah weird. But think about it. Do you spend as much time with God as you do with your significant other or best friend? Time spent studying, all the movies watched, ice cream and errand runs, and time literally doing nothing.
Just as any relationship, time together doesn’t always mean diving into deep contemplative conversations, pondering the answers to life, and bringing up the hard stuff we’ve been trying to avoid. Time together can simply consist of being in each other’s presence. Make an effort to spend more present time with God than you do your significant other.
If you are striving for a Christ centered relationship, the whole point of dating is to get to TRULY know another person and see if they are compatible to walking with you on your life journey to God.
If you are neglecting your relationship with God, which takes #1 priority, then you will not properly be discerning God’s will but relying on what “feels right”, “makes sense” and is comfortable. That can and will get ugly.
Refocus your eyes on your relationship with God, establish structured prayer/quality time with him, and find balance.
Virtuous friendships and community are essential
Authentic relationships are tools to show more fully who God is. You learn to be loved and love others, who are very different from you. Authentic friendships are not always easy. Like any relationship they take time and vulnerability. They are not simply the people you hang out with at the Newman Center. God uses companionship as a big instrument to accompany you on your journey to him. Look at Jesus and his disciples.
Your significant other cannot play every role for you. God wants to help you grow, see, and console your heart through others and if you are in seclusion with your person then you are essentially alone, in physical company with another. You need people around you to hold you accountable and to help you see the areas where you need growth. If you are striving to be a saint, you can’t do it alone.
“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship” St. Thomas Aquinas
Chastity is worth it
Chastity is the most tangible way of expressing your love for another person. It is also the hardest.
God engraved in every male and female sexual desires: a thirst to be in union with another. You are not crazy for desiring that, it is actually quite beautiful. An authentic relationship involves willing the good of the other. In case of discerning marriage, it means willing the good by PROTECTING his/her soul by staying chaste; whether that person is your future spouse or not.
Let’s say you and your significant other break up, those wounds and sins will carry into his/her future marriage.
Let’s say you and your significant other do get married. Those wounds and sins STILL carry into your marriage. The both of you are making it harder for yourselves to see clearly/freely. Being physically intimate binds you to that person-therefore all of the above will be significantly harder to dissect.
By avoiding the temptation to be sexually active, you are showing that person that the love you have for them goes far beyond the temporary pleasure of the act. ALSO if you are marrying this person, choosing abstinence in tough times does not end with dating.
It is a lot easier said than done (especially if you and your significate other are already sexually active) But don’t be discouraged!!! The both of you need to be honest with yourselves and your significant other and establish firm “no break” guidelines such as…
- No hanging out in the bedroom.
- Don’t hangout by yourselves past 11 PM.
- Don’t mix overconsuming alcohol and being together.
- Be modest around each other, especially ladies…men are attracted to the physical, don’t make it harder than it already is.
- Be humble enough to express that you are struggling with sexual desires
Ultimately you and your significant other know the relationship better than anyone else, your list will look different. Don’t be discouraged by falls. Learn from them and be honest with yourselves to create ways you can avoid the areas that cause you the most temptation.
Honestly, Stephen and I have always struggled with praying together. Because of conflicting time schedules, difference in prayer methods, and just the comfortability; we struggle to find structure in our prayer together.
A friend once told us that your prayer life has to adapt in each season of your life that you are in, in the same ways that your body adapts to different exercises you do at the gym. If you do the same exercises your body will adapt and your muscle growth will plateau. In the same way, as life moves on you should not expect your prayer life to look the same. College is a time of forming lifelong habits, determining who you are, and setting a foundation that will carry on into your vocations. Our prayer lives will look radically different in the working world vs being a student at McNeese.
An ever-adapting prayer life is a good thing! Going to daily mass, adoration, devotional prayers, etc. are absolutely great to practice with your significant other! Practicing this is important and enhances your personal relationship with God.
But those “prayers” do NOT take the place of inviting your significant other into the depths of your relationship with the person of God. This is hard if you are in the midst of establishing your relationship with Him.
Don’t get discouraged! Stephen and I had realized that in the dating season of our lives most attainable form of “praying together” was through our intimate conversations. By inviting God into your conversations, he breaks down walls, shapes and remolds your heart to prepare for greater areas of faith and prayer with your significant other to come.
Pray for Stephen and I as we strive to find how God wants our prayer lives to look in this new season of our lives as a married couple.
As broken individuals, embedded in the community of striving saints and servants on this earth, we share from a place of hearing truth of the freedom that God desires each one of us to experience in all relationships. In this world we hear lies of who we are and how we ought to “be”. All the areas we’ve shared are ways we can refocus our attention on the “end all be all” which is meeting the author of life and our lover in the true home.