Doing Things Right in Matters of the Heart by John Ensor is a highly recommended book on dating/courting. Here are some thoughtful quotes.
Idyllic love is pornographic in the sense that it presents a relationship as we idealize it rather than as it comes. In pornography love is idealized as sexual satisfaction without intimacy, friendship, or obligations. It is not real, in romance novels it is idealized as intimacy, friendship, and mauls sacrifice and suffering, with no body noises or smells. This, too, is unreal.
Idyllic love is idolatry because it places on a man what only God can provide. No man can fulfill the deepest longings of the human heart because these longings belong to God alone and cannot be filled by another. Our desire for a healthy, tender, passionate, enduring, mutually fulfilling life with a good man or woman will always he a work in progress. There is no perfect marriage, only two people pledged to live together for better and worse. The best lover is still a sinner. [p. 48]
In contrast, I am the only condom my daughter will ever need. I am her protection. I have modeled for her what kind of man to look for in marriage by how I live and love her mother. I have shown her what to look for—someone who values integrity and lives in submission to God, someone who works hard for his family and laughs loud with them and can’t keep his hands off his wife. My boys too are watching and learning from me. [p. 57-58]
Wendy Shalit: “The best predictor of someone’s future behavior is their past behavior,” warns YM magazine in 1998. This is what used to be known as a reputation. All the questions a woman might wonder when it comes to the man she’s about to become involved with-—Is he moral? Is he good? And does he know what it means to be a man?—have been reduced to this. For we are not supposed to care if he’s moral (who knows what’s moral?), or if he’s good (who knows what’s good?), and above all we are not allowed to ask if he knows what it means to be a man. That, of course, would be extremely uncool because that would be sexist. One cannot ask about male honor because male honor is supposed to be oppressive to women. Every woman of my generation knows this—we learned it with our ABC’s. (p. 66-67)
I responded by saying that in my marriage, my wife and I never think about equality though if forced to think about it we should affirm our mutual worth before God. Instead, I see my wife as better and more precious that I—of greater worth. And I told him my wife took no offense in this matter. Indeed she gets upset with me precisely at the point when I start treating her as my’ equal. To her it feels like a step down. (p. 95)
Sisters, abstaining from sexual immorality is, for you, too, a matter of submitting to God and his commands, But it is more. It is God’s “Mature Manhood Test Kit” for women. The immature, self-centered, ungodly man will test negative in a matter of weeks. The deceitful and cunning predator will test negative in a matter of days. Men willing to wait, and wanting to wait, will test positive. It is not a lack of sexual interest; it is a healthy fear of God. It is love, which at this point rightfully expresses itself as protection from sin and shame. If he weakens, help him succeed. If all else goes well in the development of the relationship, you know you are marrying a godly man, one who has self-control and a clear sense of his calling as a man.
Brothers, sexual purity is also a good self-test for mature manhood. Make it a top priority in the relationship. Make it a matter of your leadership. You will see yourself growing in the grace of God. As Paul said about the disciplines of the Christian life, “Practice these things, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress” (I Timothy 4:15).
Then if all goes well in the relationship, you will be learning to lead well. If, in the unfolding of the relationship, it becomes clear that she is not the one, you have done the honorable thing. You have followed the first law of medicine contained in the Hippocratic Oath: “1 will … never do harm to anyone.” Your self-control has protected a sister in Christ, who will probably go on to he someone else’s wife. She, and he, will deeply appreciate your manly leadership in this delicate matter of intimacy. [p. 118]
I could think of only one solution—get married. I got married because I was not interested in being a virgin and leading an abstinent lifestyle. Like Billy Crystal’s character Harry Bums says in the film, When Harry Met Sally, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” (p. 120)
…first grasp this: Brothers, to love sacrificially is not a sacrifice! Sisters, in submitting you are not giving up something, you are gaining something!
What do I mean? How can this be so? Let’s begin with Ephesians 5:25—27:
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Brothers, when is sacrifice not a sacrifice? When you gain by it. Christ laid down his life in order to present to himself a radiant bride! So let us be clear on this. Did Christ sacrifice? Yes, he laid down his life. He did not, however, sacrifice in the sense of loss but in the sense of gain. He lost his life to win for himself a spotless and resplendent bride. (p. 144)
Selfishness, the deadly enemy of love, is not “seeking your own need.” Selfishness is seeking your own need separately from the needs of others, or at the expense of others, or apart from God. This is the kind of self-seeking that is condemned (Romans 2:5). The opposite of selfishness is riot selflessness. That is often the lofty language of altruistic idealism run amok. The opposite of selfishness is self-fulfillment in the holy joy arid well-being of others. This is doable. [p. 148]
For as long as I have known, courted, married, and raised a family with my wife, Kristen, she has done things to earn income .She worked full-time while I went to seminary. Then the babies came, and I started working full-time as the breadwinner. Her primary work became the home and the raising of our children. My primary work was outside the home working as a pastor. Secondarily I gas e as much time to my family as was possible. Kristen gave most of her time to the raising of our children and the management of our home. Even so, she was always looking to supplement our income.
For many years, she hosted foreign exchange students who cam to Boston to study English. She earned about nine hundred dollars a month for each student who lived with us. We had students about seen months out of the year, so she earned about six thousand dollars annually for the family while managing our home and raising our three children.
For the last ten years she has had a bulk-mailing job in which she labels postcards for a local business. There have been times when the kids and I have helped as we watch a movie or a Red Sox game. But mostly she does it on her own. She earns another four thousand dollars a year for the family doing this. Along the way she also home-schooled our children for a number of years. Since we lived in the inner city of Boston, this saved our children from poor educational experience and saved us tens of thousands of dollars in private school expenses. (p. 150)