What did we do to build a strong relationship while dating?

  • We consulted with mature people, mentors,  parents, elders of our church. We wanted people to speak into our lives. Some couples may feel that their relationship is their private matter. Neither true nor wise. People we loved prayed for us and with us. We invited them into the discussion about a possible future together. Marriage was a new thing–we needed help.


  • We talked about how we would express the physical side of our relationship. We didn’t let it take over the relationship and derail it. It had a place. We walked in accountability with people we respected. We did not arouse love until its time—marriage. In that way we built trust that continues to this day. Worth building during the dating period. Trust compromised is sometimes difficult to rebuild. We talked honestly about what we would and would not do. And we walked in the light with mentors. (Guys, if you struggle with porn, expose it. Don’t carry it into marriage).


  • We did not spend a lot of time together. We limited ourselves to two times a week. We were looking to our future in which we would be together the rest of our lives. We didn’t need to be together every night to prove our love. That can put pressure on the proper growth of a relationship. We both lived in community, and we honored our household commitments. The purpose of engagement is to agree together that you will meet each other at the altar and live together “until death parts us.” It does not and should not mean that you double the amount of time you spend together. You may need to double your time at work, or with your mentor, or getting a house ready.


  • We did not spend any time together late at night. We did not put ourselves in situations where it would be easy to compromise our guidelines, like alone in an apartment. Familiarity breeds intimacy. That is for marriage. When we kissed, our feet didn’t leave the floor and our hands didn’t wander. It was not easy to hold to these commitments, but because we had asked for the help of others, we knew that we would be sharing with them if we stepped over the line. Walking in the light does not mean walking in perfection. It means exposing the darkness so you don’t live there.


  • One month of our short engagement (two months and two weeks) was spent away from each other. It is a good way to develop creativity in love’s expression. Couples who must be apart don’t need to panic. Historically, the man was gone the whole engagement period getting the house ready. Remember–Jesus the Bridegroom left to prepare a place for us.


  • We prayed for each other and with each other, but not until we knew we were in love and were heading to the altar. People who get overly spiritual too soon can also get physical too soon.


  • Neither Karen nor I put all our marbles as single people in the marriage basket. Of course, we wanted to get married. But we managed as single people to find our joy in God. We knew that He was the center. Try not to make marriage the answer to your misery, or you might put pressure on your spouse.. May you find your life in Christ more than sufficient. As St. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ.”


I find myself presently dealing with six marriages on the rocks. Some have hope, others lost it. Two have used the “d” word. I am trying to believe for them, when they are unable to believe for themselves. Rebuilding a broken marriage is no piece of cake. Takes work that some find daunting.

On the other side of the fence are single people who desperately want to be married. “Desperately” may not be a strong enough word. They look at couples enjoying life, having kids, doing the fun things families do, like going on vacations or watching a movie together. They know that they are meant to be married. Ouch. I tell singles, afraid that they may have the the gift of celibacy, “If you want to be married, you don’t have it.” Celibacy is for people who are called to it and rejoice in it (maybe).

So what I say to people on both sides of the fence: Life is not found in marriage or in the single life. People who are sad but know that once they get married all that will change could be in for a surprise. Singles who put all their marbles in the marriage basket better not leave them there if they get married. It would be too oppressive for their spouse.

I encourage engaged couples to write down their five biggest expectations for marriage, then throw them away. All too easy for an expectation to become a silent (or vocal) mandate for the partner: “You must do this for me to be happily married.” Rather than writing down expectations, try this: “Here are the five things I will do for you to make this marriage thrive.” A lifetime guarantee accompanies that posturing.

Not that I don’t understand the struggle of a single person desiring a spouse, a family, a legacy. But I still say, “Center your life on God. Be the best single person you can be. Paul regards it as a preferable station in life for people who want to have influence with others. The two most prominent people in the Bible were single. I know some single people who would make wonderful spouses but who chose to give their life away–like many missionaries have done.

They are champions, and their joy in eternity will mask any disappointment they may have felt in this life. They denied themselves, took up their cross, and followed Jesus. Instead of living in painful regret for what they didn’t have, they poured their life out and influenced many, something they probably could not have done the same way as married people. Paul writes like he understands: “Those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that” (I Cor. 7:28).

Likewise, I understand why marriage takes work. I failed as a young married man to give proper understanding to a young mother attempting to raise children with a religious husband. She forgave me. So Karen and I fight for marriages. God is a healing God. Bottom line: wherever you are, whatever you are–center your life in God.



I have mentored many young men. God has enabled me to believe in them, even when they cannot believe in themselves. I wrote Dare to Dream to help people of all ages, and especially young people, walk into their God-appointed destiny. If you are a releaser of dreams,  the next statement will hurt you as it hurts me, the words of a poet: “Most people die with the music still inside of them.” That includes those in the family of God. Makes me sad to see a life wasted on trivialities.

That is why I am presently investing in a young man with leadership potential whose future was derailed by bad decisions, but who is on the way back. He knows that I believe in him, and he is responding well. Recently I sent him what you can read below. I would be glad to send you the article I sent him: “Four Ways to Honor Your Parents.” It’s one of the big keys for young adults to walk into their future without baggage that slows them down.

1  Fully embrace your manhood. Men work hard and go to bed tired. They are supposed to. Work is a blessing from God. Find a good job that fits who you are and go for it. As you work, those above you will see what you are able to do. (Are you a salesman? You are good with people).  Men do not play video games–boys do. Men do not have time for it. They are pursuing higher goals. I have never played a video game. It would probably be fun, but I have higher goals than fun. I want to change people. You have a calling to be a leader, to influence others. Step into it. It is not about you.

2  Fully embrace your family, your heritage, your sibling, your parents. Read my article on honoring your parents. It promises a long life and a good life. What would people pay for those two priceless gifts? You will never regret getting close to your parents by honoring them. It will make your future with the family God gives you much more enjoyable.

3  Fully embrace your life in God. That is who you are. Do so enthusiastically. Make sure God is behind all that you do. The more I see you, the more I can help you walk into your future. Come to Lydia House. Engage with me–and with us. We are meant to live in Christ–together.

4  Fully embrace your future. You will be a dad someday. Act like it now. You will have kids looking up to you.  Start looking like the dad you will become. Live responsibly. A dad dies to himself to serve his family. I can see you doing that for others.

5  Pray and pursue. God wants to give you a wonderful wife. “He that finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22). Finding means looking. Being responsible for another human being grows you. And having kids grows you more. That is a good thing. Getting a good wife brings God’s favor. Cool!