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PART 5: Navigating the Early Stages of a Relationship » My last article, “Biblical Dating: Navigating the Early Stages of a Relationship,” sought to apply some of the principles we’ve discussed in this series to the early stages of a dating relationship.We talked about how to establish intentions for the early stages, appropriate topics of conversation, types of dates and level of emotional investment.The situation has obviously changed somewhat, but that is still too tempting and too intimate.Pray with the people that are watching over your relationship.Let’s look at how this stage might play out by considering some of the same issues we looked at for the early stage.Clarity and intentions should be established when things move from “testing the waters” to “yeah, the water’s fine.” Don’t assume that because you agreed to start dating or courting (presumably with the intention to determine whether marriage was the right thing) you (or your partner) will “just know” when things begin to progress. Maybe, but being deliberate and clear about where the relationship is need not suck all the fun, spontaneity and feeling out of the whole affair.Remember that in Scripture, we don’t see deeply intimate romantic relationships outside of marriage — or if we do, they’re described as sinful.Because of that, let me suggest, even as you assess at this heightened level whether marriage is right, that you limit your emotional (and, of course, physical) intimacy.

Things will likely be very difficult down the road if one of you feels strongly called to a particular life or ministry that the other would absolutely dread.If you’ve gone through the early stage of the relationship and truly feel before God (to whom you will give account for your decision) that you should begin to get more intimately involved with this woman because you think marriage to her is a good possibility, you have to tell her. If done well, it should actually put you both at ease moving forward.Tell her that you have loved getting to know her, that you find her a godly woman, that you are interested in pursuing a more serious relationship with her for a finite period of time, basically to see if there are any clear obstacles (in terms of beliefs or affections or goals or personalities) to the two of you getting married. Obviously, as your relationship progresses, the two of you will probably spend more time together than in the early stage, and more of that time will be spent together.Temptation in this area is easily underestimated, and it is very difficult to regain discipline and backtrack once you have sinned physically. Remember those long candle-light dinners in restaurants I suggested were unadvisable in the early stages of a relationship?They can actually be good at this stage — especially when compared to long nights “chatting” on the couch at one of your apartments.

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