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Courtship is a very important stage which couples about to marry should take very seriously. It is a solemn period which should be approached prayerfully with all care and open mind. Basically, the essence is to enable the parties know whether the relationship can or will eventually lead to marriage. In this article we looked at some important things intending couples should imbibe during courtship.
Talk the talk in courtship and walk the talk in marriage!
Whenever I hear some people expressing frustration, disappointment, or regret towards their spouses over some vital information they didn’t know about or were not told before the marriage, I remember the need for effective and efficient courtship before marriage. The truth is that most of these regrets and disappointments can lead to very unhappy and challenging marriage, if not divorce. So talk the talk during courtship and ensure your partner does the same. Unnecessary secrecy should raise a red flag that all is not well.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COURTSHIP
When you positively maximize your courtship period, you have lesser issues to deal with as a married couple.
Courtship is a period to address and not ignore any issue that gives you concern about your relationship. What you refuse to address in courtship will definitely resurface in marriage.
I remember our courtship days! We talked like no man business. It was that period when all night calls was in vogue. Does MTN still offer that service? Honestly that midnight call package helped in building and strengthening a lot of relationships including mine in those days. We maximized those all-night calls and later regulated it when our bodies started complaining of sleep deprivation. We did lots of talking during our courtship days. We talked virtually about everything. Courtship is a great time to talk the talk that you will walk in marriage.
WHAT IS COURTSHIP?
Courtship is the period between the marriage proposal (that is, when both of you agree to marry) and when the actual wedding takes place.
Courtship also involves the activities that occur when people are developing a romantic relationship that could lead to marriage.
Courtship is the period in an intending couple’s relationship which precedes their marriage. It is dating with a purpose and that purpose is marriage!
During courtship, intending couples get to know each other better and finally decide if there will be marriage.
Marriage should be the goal of every courtship but not every courtship must end in marriage! Intending couples discover if they are compatible or not for marriage during courtship. A failed courtship is better than a failed marriage!
THINGS TO TALK ABOUT IN COURTSHIP:
The success or otherwise of any relationship is highly dependent on how effectively the partners communicate with each other.
There is no end to talking in any successful relationship. You start talking and you keep talking!
The following points can serve as guide on what to talk about during courtship:
I seriously encourage talking and not hiding vital and relevant information about you to your intending partner, but this should not be done too soon in a relationship. You don’t need to spill out everything about you from the onset. As the courtship progresses and both of you get more committed and serious with each other in the relationship, then you need to tell yourselves EVERYTHING that needs to be told. Courtship that is built on lies and secrecy is a breeding ground for blackmailers in the relationship and failed marriage in the future.
- Family Background: You and your intending partner are obviously two different people, from different backgrounds with different orientation. Therefore, there is need to talk about your upbringings. Share your childhood experiences. Were you brought up by a single parent or both parents?
- Cultural Differences: This is more applicable to inter-tribal partners. Discuss your cultural orientation and differences.
- Finance/Money matter: Money matter is one of the areas that can create tensions in a relationship if not well handled. Most people in a relationship get quite uncomfortable and find it very difficult to talk about money. However, it is a matter you cannot shy away from because it has a ripple effect on almost all other areas of any relationship. Under finance, you talk about your debts if any, your income and expenditure patterns, views on savings and investments. You also share your views on whether you will open a joint account in addition to your individual accounts when you get married.
- Work/Family balance: This is very important because I have seen newlyweds having serious issues as a result of the husband telling the wife to stop working against her wish immediately after they got married. If work/family balance was discussed before marriage, they would have reached a Compromise on that issue before marriage. Here, you discuss if both of you will still maintain your job/work after marriage. Discuss how your present or intending job/work is likely going to affect your new home and talk about the necessary adjustments to make if any. However, from experience, I have observed that after marriage, as the home front evolves and children become part of the family, there may be need to make some additional adjustments to accommodate all.
- In-laws and friends’ relationship: It is a well-known fact in some climes and tribes that when you marry a person, you also marry his/her family. Third party, which are mostly in-laws and friends, influence marriages significantly and this poses a lot of challenges in relationships and marriages. Visitation rights of in-laws and friends should be discussed and an agreement/compromise reached by the intending couples during courtship. This does not mean that they cannot review the agreements later in their marriage, but it is important to have an initial understanding on this before marriage in order to avoid unnecessary friction. On the part of friends, intending couples should know that marriage means sharing their lives with their partner and this will definitely affect how often they hang out with their friends. Courtship is also the time to agree on if and when to involve a third party in your dispute resolution. My advice on this is to avoid involving third party in your dispute resolution as much as possible, especially if it is not a life threatening issue or an obviously very serious issue. However, for some very serious issues that are obviously beyond your resolution, you can agree to involve a neutral, mature and objectively reasoning person. If your spiritual leader or the person that did your pre-marital counselling meets this condition, you can agree to confide in such a person, rather than involving your family, who may have a biased view of the situation.
- Sex and sexual orientation: Celibacy and abstinence is highly encouraged before marriage. However, this does not mean that you cannot discuss sex and sex related issues with your intending partner. You and your partner should discuss your sexual expectations, sexual orientations and sexual fantasies. The Bible says in Hebrew 13:4 “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” Setting boundaries in the area of sex is a great way to build self control and trust in your relationship. When people spend all their courtship period exploring their bodies through sex and romance, I wonder what they would do during honeymoon. Speaking from experience, it feels very great looking forward to exploring your bodies during honeymoon! Another reason to hold back on being sexually intimate with your intending partner is because courtship does not guarantee marriage. The essence of courtship is to know if you are really compatible for marriage. You can end a courtship if you see obvious danger signs that marriage will not be feasible between you two. When you hold back sex in a relationship and it finally did not lead to marriage, it is much easier to pick up your life and move on than when you gave your all. For you to achieve purity in courtship, avoid putting yourselves in compromising situations like spending nights together alone and co habitations.
- Desired family size and family planning: You may want to have one or two children while your intending partner is the type that prefers a large family size. Also, there are people that don’t believe in using contraceptive method in family planning. You need to discuss these and reach a compromise.
- Your pasts (including past relationships): You need to open up on your past relationships. Avoid Lies. Do you have a child (ren)? Were you married before? Are you a widow or widower? Were you divorced? Discuss these issues to avoid unnecessary surprises after marriage.
- Career ambitions and goals: Discuss your future career ambitions and how to properly align them for mutual benefit and understanding.
- Sharing of family duties: This could be a problem if not well understood from the beginning. Therefore, discuss your opinions on family duties. Have an open mind and mutually agree to help out with family duties as the need arises.
- Wedding and honeymoon plans: Agree to work within your budget in planning for your Wedding and honeymoon. Don’t try to impress anyone because if you do that at the expense of your union and financial ability, those you impressed won’t be there to bear the brunt with you.
- Place/city of residence: Talk about your place/city of residence after marriage and agree on it.
- Choice of next of kin: It is always advisable to use yourselves as next of kin. Discuss this and be on the same page.
- Health issues/medical history: Talk about your health history, challenges and way forward. Do you have any terminal disease or health issues like diabetics, epilepsy, asthma, etc? Any known fertility issues like erectile dysfunction, low sperm count, fibroid, any abortions, snoring, irregular menstrual cycle, sexually transmitted diseases, etc? Do full disclosure of these things to yourselves before marriage and avoid building your union on deceit.
- Conflict resolution (If and when to involve third party): Agree on your conflict resolution methods. It is always good to minimize, or totally avoid third party involvement in your conflict resolution. Work towards early resolution of conflicts and avoid procrastination or silent treatments during your conflict periods. However, there may be some heavy issues that may arise in marriage, such as Domestic Violence and Infidelity. In such case, you may need to involve an objectively reasoning, trusted third party for guidance. Discuss and avoid running back to your family and friends over every little issue to avoid unnecessary third party influence in your marriage.
- Child discipline: Discuss your different views and have a mutual understanding on child discipline.
- Place of worship: Spiritual compatibility is a stabilizing factor in marriage. I recommend same place of worship for couples as this helps your bonding. So, your courtship period is a perfect time for you to discuss and agree on this. For Christians, Praying Together with your intending partner is great spiritual foundation for your marriage.
This list is by no means exhaustive as each relationship may be peculiar or involve certain specific feature or circumstances that may not be global or generally present in others. Therefore the parties involved may use the outlined issues as a sort of platform to fashion out their own topics or lists of discussion.
It should also be noted that certain issues may not be exhaustively discussed during courtship and the couples may need to continue discussing even years into the marriage. Even issues which were agreed upon may need review or fine tuning due to unforeseen circumstances that life may throw at the couple. It is therefore important that couples have it at the back of their minds that no condition is permanent. As they say, not even Permanent Secretaries are permanent. Things do and will always change. They should therefore get ready for the changes while ensuring that the fundamentals remain sacrosanct.