It was the first day of "ad room." Barely making my way through Mr. Swanson's big red doors on time, I swung myself into a desk for day one of my junior year at Lincoln High School.
With the sound of the bell, Mr. Swanson started in on the announcements and his quircky "short fat guy" routine. As he did so, I turned around to discover the "new boy." Appearing rather shy (which is not the case), I offered a quick hello and returned to organizing my stuff.
Then I thought about the maze of a school he was now a part of.
"Do you know where your classes are?" I inquired.
"I think so..."
And that was the ice breaker that led to a friendship and ultimately marriage to the love of my life.
So how did my relationship with Charlie progress and why did it last? Let me offer teens reading this post some insight.
1) We didn't rush the relationship
Obviously Charlie and I saw each other every day, but his b-e-a-utiful hazel eyes were not enough to fall head over heals or go on any dates. Rather, we started chatting about surface stuff at school. Then he fell into my same social circle and church group. This led to more honest sharing and we started to get to know each other's heart. At the end of our junior year, after many months of daily conversation, he finally asked me out and, since I knew exactly who he was as a person, I was confident saying "yes."
2) He loved God and valued his family
One problem with how many date in today's culture is they look at appearance, or worse yet, who's available, and blindly jump into a relationship. But, that sets people up for failure and pain. During the year that Charlie and I were solely friends, we got to know each other's character.
From the outside we looked like the tale of two opposites. I am very Type A. He is ah er "relaxed." I was a study freak that accepted nothing less than As. He cared but didn't stress over it as much. He was in theater. I was all about cheerleading.
Our personalities were different. But our core was the same.
He loved God and valued his family; two qualities that were imperative for me to date someone. Why? My parents taught me that relationships matter so you should not invest your time with someone that didn't have similar values and spouse potential. During that year that we were just friends, I observed him. It was obvious that he was committed to his family and church was a place that he wanted to be. Because that was true of him, I knew that he would one day treat his wife with respect and fully invest in his family. I also knew faith in God would guide his life. He fulfilled the most important "dating qualifications."
3) We didn't close ourselves off from the world
When Charlie asked me out, I told him right away that I was friends with other guys and if that bothered him I'd have to respectfully decline. I'd seen jealousy in my friends' teenage relationships turn into control issues and could imagine that causing trust issues in a marriage one day. Beyond that, focussing on hanging out with our friends and group dates made for a "less pressure," more fun environment. Peers that only spent time with one another, which my co-author Pam Stenzel calls the "two tics no dog" effect," had all kinds of problems. Relationships failed, innocense was often lost, and old friendships were a distant memory. NOT worth it.
4) We remained pure
Charlie and I both grew up in homes where we were taught to abstain. We realized that honoring God by respecting the temples He made our body to be was critical to our health and our future marriage (whoever that was to. Obviously at 16 we did not know we would marry each other). So, it was a non-issue. This made our relationship much easier.
When you set the boundaries right away you don't have to wonder what will and will not happen. And, by not engaging in the physical, you are able to grow in the emotional and spiritual qualities that will eventually make for a successful marriage.
To serve as a constant reminder, we both wrote letters to our future spouse (about how we would honor our body & lifetime mate with our choices) and kept them in visible places. We gave them to one another on our wedding day. Mine is shared in Nobody Told Me.
5) Marriage meant forever
When we got engaged the summer before our senior year of college, we knew that marriage wouldn't mean "sweep me off my feet" love all the time. We knew there would be moments where we wouldn't feel happy love. Charlie still laughs when he remembers a first fight we had as newlyweds in our too small apartment that led to me locking myself in the bathroom and telling him that we needed a house so that I had more rooms to go to. :) BUT, we entered the marriage knowing that even when we didn't feel love we would have commitment to one another for life.
I'm thankful that Charlie kept me around even after my writing "I like pink" all over his high school math notebook. In him I found an incredible man. So incredible that he remembered the exact time that he asked me to be his girlfriend and proposed four and a half years later when the clock struck the same moment. Thoughtful, eh?!
Boys and girls, the foundation is laid long before you say, "I do." Neither one of us is perfect and we have and will make mistakes, but we were intentional in our relationship choices and I'm certain that it helped build the solid marriage we have today. Be wise.
For more helpful hints in dating boundaries and relationships, please read NOBODY TOLD ME. It's written in a fun facebook like style and has the flops and successes of your peers through story form and comment mixed in with Pam and I's counsel.