I’ve been thinking about her question. It reminded me that young adults spend a lot of time pondering dating and marriage. They wonder about how to know if they are in a good relationship or a bad one.
This presents an opportunity for churches who have a lot of experience with the spiritual practice of discernment. We talk about following God’s will all the time. The question here is what that means in light of young adult relationships, dating, engagement and marriage.
Churches would be much more attractive to young adults if they offered spiritual help with the relationship discernment processes that are inevitable for most young adults. A church-sponsored discernment service is bait for young adults.
For example, young couples wonder about traits of compatibility. I’ve offered the following reflection questions to help young people discern whether or not they are in a healthy relationship:
- Am I strongly attracted to this person on an emotional level? Rank your attraction on a scale of 1-10. When you are dating, anything below an 8 should raise concern.
- Am I comfortable with the way my partner integrates her/his family's ways of doing things into our relationship? If not, am I free to discuss the issues?
- Am I willing to meet my partner’s strongest emotional needs in the following areas: Affection, Conversation, Recreation, Openness & Honesty, Long-term Financial Plans, and Long-term Family Plans?
- Do I find it easy to admire my partner as a role model for myself in certain areas of life?
- Do I find that we are successful when we negotiate our differences?
- Do we negotiate our differences without violence (physical or verbal) and shouting?
- Do we have sufficient connection, understanding and respect, if not full agreement, on the level of deeply-held values such as faith, politics, religion, friendships, family, etc.?
- Do we appreciate each other's sense of humor?
- Are my family and friends enthusiastic about this relationship?