As an engaged woman, you will be in demand. You’ll receive unrelenting requests for your time from family, friends, wedding suppliers, and your fiancé.
So how do you prioritise relationships during this very busy season?
I mentioned in this post how my husband and I create our “Relationship List” every year. For this list, we identify the key relationships that we will make an effort to spend more time with during that season. I suggest that you try this exercise over the course of your engagement, as this allows you to be more intentional about your relationships, and help you focus on key people with the limited time you’re given.
So how do you create your own “Relationship List”? My husband and I have identified three groups of relationships we need to prioritise in life.
This is best demonstrated by this.
1. People we look up to.
These people can either be someone God has placed in our lives, or people we intentionally allow in our lives..
One set of people that’s automatically part of this list are our parents or guardians. While not everyone may have a good relationship with their parents or the guardians they grew up with, God commands us to honour them. If honouring them means spending time with them, updating them about our lives once in a while, or praying for them, we ought to give that to them.
Outside of our parents, we need people who we can learn from, be mentored by, or be accountable to. We trust their advice. We allow them to speak into our lives, either wholly or in certain aspects of it. Their lives are something we want to emulate, and we want to build our relationship with them.
If you’re a Christian, it’s important to have mature Christians who you can be accountable to. They don’t necessarily have to be your pastors. Partnering with a mature and married Christian couple you both trust, specifically during your engagement season, will be very useful to you and your fiancé. They can walk you through your marriage preparation in depth.
Mike and I also have non-Christian friends on our list of people we look up to. We believe that we can learn loads of stuff from people who may not have the same faith as ours. For this, I also have a few coaches in the area of social entrepreneurship to help me gain acumen for my various business projects. I also need regular technical guidance in terms of building websites–so I have a coach for that too.
Whoever fits in this category will have to know that you want to learn from them, because they will have to agree to spend some time with you in the process of learning. It could be for a season (a definite period of time) or for a lifetime.
If you’re thinking of approaching people to add to this category, it’s okay if they say they can only commit to you for a certain period of time. It’s good when they say that, because it shows that they know their priorities. Who knows, you might end up building a really good friendship with these people and find that it’s a relationship to keep for a longer period of time.
God has given each of us believers lenses (also known as wisdom) to receive or reject whatever other people are teaching us. Thus, it is important that we regularly read His word too.
More tips for the engaged couple:
During the engagement season, you may want to spend time with:
Your wedding officiant and wife/family
Couples you can learn from about planning a wedding wisely
2. People we walk abreast.
Needless to say, it’s my husband who I will walk the closest to in this life. I look up to him for many things, but our relationship is not just me looking up and him teaching me.
My relationship with my husband is constantly evolving; it always needs time to cultivate. Our hearts have to constantly desire to protect and build each other up, while our minds must be deliberate about loving each other through action. A lot of times, we are vulnerable towards each other. Then there are times when we just want the other person to listen, not to teach or even talk. Far from a “business as usual” type of setup, we also have lots of fun times together because quantity of time is as important as quality of time.
While the husband and wife relationship becomes the most intimate relationship we’ll have other than our relationship with God, this actually has some resemblance to its relationship predecessors–that of a boyfriend-girlfriend and fiancé-fiancée. But outside of a romantic relationship, we also have friendships that we need in order to survive life. We want these people to walk alongside us, and they share the same sentiment.
My girlfriends are on this list. They have different personalities, and I love them each in a unique way. I pick a few each year, and most of them are constantly on the list.
Some friendships became friendships for a season, and that’s okay. Let’s say that I wanted to get to know this specific person better, so I put them on the list. We spend some time together, and along the way, we realise that we have very different hopes and expectations of the friendship.
Do I have male friends on the list? It’s my personal decision not to have any, if only because I would rather spend my limited time by building close friendships with women. I have a few male friends, but I wouldn’t deliberately and regularly carve out time to nurture those friendships. It’s healthier for my marriage too.
More tips for the engaged couple:
Thinking in this manner will greatly help you know who to pick for your bridal party.
Pick a girlfriend or two (or more) who you can ask to be your listening ears when you need to just rave or rant during this season. Be frank with them when you want them to just listen and not give any advice (which real friends should be able to do). Having them around helps to process thoughts during such an overwhelming period.
3. People we lead.
These are the people under our supervision, mentorship, coaching and leadership. We are responsible for them in one way or another.
On my list are: our son, our helper, my coaching clients, my nieces and nephews, my godchildren, and specific ladies I’m leading to Christ.
As a Christian, I am commanded by God to bring people closer to Him. I try as much as possible to have a few ladies in my life who I help learn about Christ. In some seasons, there’s only one person I’m regularly mentoring. While I’m not responsible for their lives, I am made responsible by God to carry out His command to speak life to them.
More tips for the engaged couple:
Get the help of siblings or friends in extending care to these people on your list when you need help for a period of time.
Welcome tough decisions if you really need to let go of certain partnerships or responsibilities for the time being.
Next up: what happens after you’ve made the list?
Intentionality is next. This means:
Praying for them. At the start of the year, my husband and I reach out to the people on our list to ask for their prayer requests. This includes even our non-praying friends who are often willing to be prayed for! After this, we ask them for updates throughout the year. It strengthens our faith when we hear about answered prayers! This also encourages us to pray more, or seek God for a renewed prayer request when some prayers haven’t yet been answered.
We often say as Christians, “I’ll pray for you!” But do we really? A prayer list helps make the praying happen.
Spending time with them. The amount of time and frequency will all depend on the relationship. Some relationships are low maintenance, some are high. But I wouldn’t pressure myself to spend as much time as the other person requires if I really can’t. Again, it’s something you have to mutually establish with the person.
I’m not shy about asking my friends or family if it’s okay that I call them for a certain amount of time (i.e. five minutes, ten minutes). If they say “no”, then I should be okay with it. If we’re confident that these relationships will stand the test of time, long lags of non-communication (but not long enough to lose it) are not damaging. Thank God for social media and other communication technologies.
Providing what you’re responsible to give them. As I mentioned, my husband and I have to regularly give our helper her salary and other things we’re legally required to provide her. But beyond that, we also need to give her a comfortable place to live in (she lives with us), and opportunities to improve her quality of life.
For those relationships we are responsible for, we can look to legal requirements for reference. But over and above that, the Bible is still the best resource to know how we should treat these relationships. Even the people we look up to and people we walk with ought to receive from us the love that the Bible describes.
Speaking their love language. If you really want to be intentional with your relationships, take it to the level of loving them based on their love language. What are these love languages? Gary Chapman puts the idea into words, and you could check it out here.
Mike, my husband, is a “words of affirmation” person. Apart from spending time with him to talk about life (and how to resurrect our orchids), I have to remember to often write him letters.
While it won’t necessarily be their love language when they grow up, kids generally love gifts. So if I’d like to intentionally love on my niece, nephew, and godchildren, I have to remember them on their birthdays and Christmas, and send them gifts regardless of where I am. They don’t have to be grand gifts. My four-year-old niece (at the time of this writing) is a happy kid when she receives a bow for her hair!
Scheduling to do these acts of love. Sounds like work? Scheduling goes beyond the office premises. Putting things in our calendar increases the likelihood that we actually get these things done. (This article gives a more in-depth insight on this.)
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the seemingly colossal task of maintaining relationships, you can take heart in the fact that having a plan to be intentional about them is much better than not having a plan. This perspective will help you appreciate the idea of focusing more on your relationships than the frills of throwing an elaborate, laborious, and time-consuming wedding.
Let’s chat! What tips do you have for other brides in terms of managing relationships during this busy season? Share them on the comment section below.