One thing I have touched on before, is the idea of having mentors. I think I should write a bit more about it, since it is so important. The idea of having a mentor might seem weird at first. Nobody wants to feel like their relationship or their decisions are influenced by some external party. Then there is the issue of confidentiality - how do you trust that the person (s) will keep your gist confidential? Or how about trusting that they won't later use that information against you. And how can you guarantee that they will not be partial in their advice to you and your partner? All these are valid concerns. I still believe though, that for any young person in a Christian dating relationship, having Christian mentors is really important.
In my case, when I first started dating Mr, I realised that going to my friends for advice was not helping, in fact it was making things worse. My friends were well meaning people, but at the time, they were just as unwise and as immature as I was. I soon realised a few things: my friends couldn't give me better advice than I could give myself, most times they only said what I wanted to hear, they always took my side even when I was wrong, and at the time none of them had been in a long-term committed relationship so their knowledge was severely limited. After Mr and I had had two arguments early in the relationship and advice from friends was getting me nowhere, I decided to go somewhere else.
I started speaking to my aunt instead. I was quite close to her so she was the easiest person (in the absence of my mum) that I could discuss with. I thought, since she has been happily married for more than 20 years, she must know a thing or two about making relationships work! I found out that when I talked to her, she always made me see things from a point of view I would never have thought about. Even though she was my aunt, she was very impartial. Unlike my friends, she was not afraid to tell me bluntly if I was in the wrong. She taught me so many things: keeping myself from losing my temper during an argument, putting my issues into prayers, expressing to Mr that I love him, how to practice submission, avoiding sexual temptations and so on. Sometimes when I just wanted to get a load of stuff off my chest, she would sit down and listen to me. Afterwards she would advice me and we would pray together. As time went on, I became wiser and started recognising what I had been doing wrong. Now I'll always be grateful for her guidance.
Later on, I got close to a couple in my church and they became my official mentors. I used to admire their relationship so much. They were always smiling at each other and I could tell that they were very good friends. I became close to them after we were put on the same table at a wedding reception. They were teasing me that I was next. Thereafter, they asked about my relationship and how it was going and we started gisting. I liked the fact that even though they were older than me, they were still young at heart and they could come down to my level.
Over time, I learnt so much from them as well. They were very honest and open, there was no topic that we didn't discuss. We talked about everything: from facing sexual temptations to dealing with in-laws to managing finances and their funny experience on their wedding night. Some of the stories they told me about their courtship were hilarious. Mr got to know them too and he liked them at once. Whenever I saw them we always had fun talking. I still try to keep in touch with them now cos they helped me so much.
I think mentors have a role to play in helping young people with relationships. Having mentors really helped me and that's why I think they are so important. They can fulfil the role of giving you practical advice. They can speak from their own experience. They can correct you if they think you are making a mistake. They will look out for you and pray with you. I also think it is the best way of passing down wisdom from one generation to the other.
Choosing a mentor can be quite difficult though. Ideally you should choose a couple, so that you can hear from both points of view. They should be people you look up to and admire. They should be happily married, who have successfully gone through all the stages you are currently going through and have stayed together. Choose people you can see or speak to on a regular basis so that you can keep in touch easily. And choose people who are not biased so they can be impartial in their opinions.
And above all, trust God to lead you because human beings can only say what they know, but God knows everything.