"Falling in love is a fantastic experience, but it presents a few problems as well."

   The speaker was a young friend of mine who had been unexpectedly swept off her feet by a member of our congregation. Her experience is not unusual.

   Take Ken and Sue, for example. They fell in love in their second term at the university. It seemed such a wonderful relationship. They really cared for one another, enjoyed each other's company and encouraged each other spiritually. But with two more academic years to complete, neither dared contemplate marriage. What were they, then — just good friends, or something more? How should they behave towards each other?

   Or I think of Pete and Linda. They have already been going out together for four years. They are certain that they want to marry eventually, but Pete's mother insists that they are not suited and strongly advises them not to get engaged. Yet they know they are in love. They feel their love will result in marriage. How can they tell whether their feelings are right or whether Pete's mother has seen something they have missed?

   And can anyone help Ron? He and Carolyn have been going out together for over a year now. Carolyn is convinced that God told her in a vision that she and Ron were to marry. But no voice from heaven seems to have given Ron the assurance he is seeking. Does this mean that he is less spiritual than Carolyn? Should he simply accept her vision without question?

   Then there's Frank and Mary. They have a long engagement ahead of them. They are already finding that living with a powerful sex drive presents problems. How far can

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they go physically now that they are engaged? Having erected realistic boundaries, how can they guard against the temptation to push these boundaries further and further out?

   This book is an attempt to answer these questions and some of the others which young people in love frequently ask. It is therefore a book for all young people who are attracted by the opposite sex, as well as for those who are thinking of getting engaged and engaged couples who are preparing for marriage.

   Marriage and engagement are frequently mentioned. This is not because I believe that boy-girl relationships which do not result in marriage are wrong. It is because I believe that the best time to crystallize your thinking about committed love — engagement and marriage — is now, when love has been newly awakened, or better still, before you even think of going out with a person of the opposite sex. People in love become delightfully disoriented. Very often they are unable to think very clearly. For this reason, I am not simply answering questions couples have asked me over the years. I am also asking you the questions I have put to couples who have come to me for help.

How to use this book

If you really want to benefit from reading this book, you will not just read it and put it down; you will use it as an assignment, working at the questions in italics.

   A quick glance through the book will show you that there are plenty of these questions. There is no need to plough through them all. Be selective. But, of course, don't simply avoid the ones that look difficult or revealing!

   If, like Ken and Sue, you are just good friends, it will be enough to discuss the questions which seem relevant to your relationship at the moment. But if you are seriously considering getting engaged, or if you are already planning your wedding, I would like to suggest an alternative way of responding to some of the questions in each chapter. Do it in writing.

   Some couples avoid this method of communication, claiming

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that they cannot write well. Yet most couples become very excited about it when they have given it a try. This is not surprising, since writing has several advantages over talking.

   Paper is very patient, for one thing, so it is never even tempted to interrupt your train of thought. Paper never looks bored, it can't cry and it never looks angry. Paper pays equal attention to men and women, so both partners have an equal say. If you really want to understand one another more fully, therefore, I strongly recommend that you try writing love letters to one another. Those letters will increase your knowledge of one another and this is vital, because knowledge is one aspect of real love.

   A few couples insist that they cannot write. None the less, the kind of communication I am suggesting is vital to wholesome relationships. So if you can't write, talk.

   Set aside half an hour and select one question. If you are writing, allow yourselves ten minutes to put down on paper how you are feeling about the question under discussion. Exchange letters. After you have read what your partner has written, discuss the contents of both letters. Then bring God into the feelings you have expressed by praying together.

   Alternatively, if you are a non-writer, let one partner talk for five or ten minutes while the other listens, being careful not to interrupt. Then change roles. After you have each shared your innermost thoughts and feelings, you may find it helpful to discuss and pray over what has been said.

   Does this sound like the dissection of love, like tearing off the wings of a fly to how it works? It is not. Rather, it is the open sesame to understanding, knowledge and trust. Without these true love does not exist, but with them love not only survives, it blossoms.

   Growth and love. That is what this book is all about. I believe that when a relationship grows, love grows. I also believe that love grows for those who work at it. That is why I am unafraid to suggest to you who are in love that you work at your love. I cannot guarantee that this will necessarily result in marriage with this partner. What I can assure you is

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that your understanding of love will deepen and if you do then decide to adventure into marriage, you will find yourselves growing ever deeper into love.

JOYCE HUGGETT           
March 1982          

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