Society today tends to over romanticise love, making everyone feel as they need bae asap. Bae must be taking you to Winter Wonderland. Bae should be treating you to teddy bears and fresh lace frontals. Bae ought to be cooking for you. Bae should be your travel buddy. Bae goals, bae this and bae that. But I wonder or often think about how over romanticised the concept of relationships is. I often think that people are sold dreams about bae-hood in the sense that nobody tends to speak about the work that goes into a purposeful relationship. I am not married (yet) but I have been in a long-term relationship with my partner for a while now. He is great, and I am grateful that God has put him in my life.

When we first met, I was not at all interested in a relationship. Guys – when I say not at all, I mean I could not have been more single and happy in my singleness if I tried. I loved that I was alone and didn’t have anyone to be accountable to and I really enjoyed my own company. I had developed a new habit which was talking out loud to myself which made me feel like I was hanging out with another cool, like-minded person and in all honesty – it made me love me more. That is in the healthiest and least narcissistic way possible.

What I hadn’t realised is that, although I was happy in my singleness and lonesome company, I had not been checking myself as much as I should have. I have a long term bestfriend that I have known since we were both 12 and she has been one of my favourite humans since. She has seen me through many life changes including the passing of some family members and when we both went off to university, I didn’t really want to replace her with others. To add to this, I am an extroverted introvert so I actually LOVE being alone. Being away from my bestfriend combined with being an introvert deep down meant that I wasn’t actually down for making too many friends and was happy to do life by myself (whilst maintaining a close but long distance friendship with my bestfriend). I say all of this to paint the picture of my singleness and how it meant that I didn’t have anyone close to me to continuously check me and make sure that I was growing.

Fast forward three years, my walk with God wasn’t as great as it should have been and I had neglected going to church. I was in my final year of uni. Although I had close friends now, I didn’t really allow anyone in to get to know me for who I really was. I am not usually the type of person to let people in willy nilly anyway as I am more of a helper and a do-er. Not so much an open book for anyone to read. One friend once said that I spoke a lot about many things besides myself and this always stuck to me. Anyway, this was when my now partner came along. We were friends for a year before making it official and even in the first month of knowing him, he showed me to myself. That’s a crazy concept- right? How can someone you have only known for a little while… show YOU to yourself? Well- we had conversations about God, faith, relationships (platonic and romantic), behavioural patterns and music. So much more. There was intimacy in the conversations we had which perplexed me and it is only now that I can properly explain what this means.

Relationships unveil you. Who I thought I was prior to meeting him, changed and grew into something better. God-forbid anything happened to our relationship but if it did, there is so much that I can always be grateful for about our relationship and what it has done for my personal walk in Christ. This all seems rosy posy but guys – being unveiled isn’t easy. Relationships force you to constantly reassess yourself. Are you willing to compromise? How do you communicate? Why do you behave the way you do? What happens if one of you triggers something from your past which you thought you had dealt with? Are you both for God? Are you both walking in purpose in your relationship? How do you resolve arguments or disagreements? Are you a patient person? If not – why? Are you a forgiving person? How far does your forgiveness go? Do you apologise too much or too little? What’s your ego saying? How emotionally open are you? What’s your relationship with your family like? Are you ambitious? Are you a traditionalist or modern in your understanding and desires of what a family should be? Are you submissive? What is submission for you? What's your loyalty like? What does love look and sound like to you?

Some of these questions are easier to deal with than others and most of these questions aren’t just yes or no. They take hours, weeks or months to work through and resolve. Some are on going issues that require third parties to get involved. However, all will grow you and reveal to you who you are as well as who your partner is. Don’t get me wrong – relationships are also fun. Getting to know your partner is great and having someone close to you on your side is a great feeling. Also – who doesn’t like being loved? My point in saying this all is that relationships are rewarding so long as you are aware that bae comes with personal development and growth. Bae should be helping you grow in yourself and you should both be encouraging each other to grow in God.

The most important thing that I have learnt so far about myself through this relationship is how much God uses those around us as tools for us to grow. This and also that I NEED God. Many of the tough things that I have had to deal with stem from situations that have arose from my relationship. For example, I learnt last year that I am not so good at asking for help and that I rely too much on myself. This caused me to go back to God and ask Him for help. It showed me that I was not leaning enough on God and needed to work harder to ask Him and others close to me for help. Of course this both excites me for what marriage has in store but also frightens me.

If all of this work goes into a relationship, what then of marriage? Despite this worry, i know that God and only God alone can guide us through this. For those in relationships, I pray that God can continue to use your partner to grow you. For those that aren't, I pray that you have close ones around you that God is using to check you, grow you and make sure you're on track.

- D.D.

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