If you know me, then you have heard of my girlfriend Suz. I have mentioned her in a handful of posts. Although, she has impacted more posts than you know. Everything I do is impacted by her. She has impacted me more than I even know. We met in youth group around 8th grade for me, 7th grade for her. She has a really romantic story of when she first saw me in our middle school cafeteria, but I don’t remember. During my sophomore year of high school, I asked her out and she said… no. A couple weeks later I asked her out again and she said… no. Third time is the charm, I asked and… no. Then I gave up. I was about to be done then she decided she would put up with me.

Now, on February 8th, this will be our fourth year of dating, and we are still in the beginning of where God is going to take us. Over four years, you learn a lot. I like to say our relationship is now in preschool. Suz and I have had to mold and love each other through a lot. No one’s journey is perfect, but when we fail, we choose to learn from it.

Here are 13 lessons I have learned from 4 years of dating:

  1. DATE YOUR MATE – Levi Lusko said in his book Swipe Right “If you don’t date your mate then the Devil will find someone who will.” It’s not about spending money or doing fancy things. It is about consistently telling through time and thought that you love them. I’m not saying it is easy, but you better believe that your mate is worth every penny, second, and thought that you put into making them happy.
  2. CONSISTENTLY CHANGE THINGS UP – If you stay in for a movie night, then go out to eat on the next date. If you get them flowers on one date, then write them a letter for the next date. Always show love in multiple ways.
  3. LONG DISTANCE IS WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT – Suz and I did long distance for a year while I was in Knoxville, TN. We were three hours apart and still had to have a growing and loving relationship. Suz and I talked before I left for school and knew that long distance was going to be tough, but we were adamant to make long distance work. Long distance is hard and takes a lot of intentionality. Yet, if you are both willing to have long calls, write letters, and be intentional with the time you are together, then it can work.
  4. GRACE SPEAKS LOUDER THAN A CRITIQUE  – This advice is one more personal and may not resonate with everyone. Personally, I am a professional over-thinker. I have gotten into the bad habit of making sure everything is the way I think it should be. So, when I mess up it is not a critique that helps me through it, but someone saying that they love me in spite of my faults. Grace speaks louder than discipline.
  5. YOU ARE NOT CHIP AND JOANNA – Right now you may be in a relationship and know that the person you are with is NOT for you. Yet, you insist that you can “change them”. I am not talking about minor annoyances in a relationship. I’m talking about changing the definition of who they are. If you are trying so hard to change who they are, then how can you love them for who they are? You can’t. You need someone you can love for who they are, not who you want them to be.
  6. NEVER DATE SOMEONE YOU WOULDN’T MARRY – My mom always said this to me when I was in middle school. I honestly pushed it aside as grown-up nonsense until I met the girl I am going to marry, then I realized what she meant. Don’t waste your time making a good story when you could be making a good life.
  7. LOVE IS SACRIFICE – God gave his all for the bride, even to the point of death. When it comes to loving your girlfriend or wife you have to be willing to sacrifice the small and the big. Sacrifice is the greatest way you can show love.
  8. JOURNEY TOGETHER – Once a week I always hear from Suz, “Don’t leave your woman.” Although she is speaking in a certain context. She wants me to slow down and be by her side. Both people in a relationship are on an individual journey towards God. You have the blessing to be on that same journey together. You may not be in the same place, but you are both growing and falling in love with God.
  9. TREAT EACH DATE LIKE IT’S THE FIRST (SUZ) – This isn’t saying that you have butterflies in your stomach and you sweat with nervousness. This means that you never lose touch with that initial spark of romance. You always intend to make them feel special, like a king or queen, on every date.
  10. CHALLENGE YOUR PARTNER (SUZ) – Everyday you get the opportunity to make the change you want to see in the world. When you share your dreams and hopes with someone you love, then they can push you to be the best you. I do not advocate girlfriends/boyfriends as accountability partners, but they should encourage you to chase your passions.
  11. THERE IS A TIME FOR PLAY AND A TIME TO BE SERIOUS (SUZ) – Every relationship has an element of enjoyment from being goofy. Goofiness is a huge part of my relationship with Suz. Although this is good, there is a time to be serious. It could be a nice dinner or a discussion you are having that happens to be serious. Do not mix play when you should be serious. Learn to discern when to play and when to be serious.
  12. DON’T CALL EACH OTHER NAMES – Use your words intentionally and lovingly. When you call names, you hurt them and your influence. Love isn’t hierarchal.
  13. HONESTYNO MATTER THE COST – Men… If you struggle with a habit that you know is wrong you will eventually have to tell your girlfriend or wife. You would rather have an honest conversation rather than a heartbreaking truth discovered by accident. Women… Tell us what you want for dinner. We ask for a reason. But really, be straight with us. We can take it. If you have a problem, do not keep it in. Build trust through honesty, no matter the cost.

These were years in the making. A lot of wins and losses helped me realize these lessons. I hope this allows you not to make the same mistakes I did. I am so excited for even more lessons ahead. I would love to hear from you on social media or in the comments below.

Here’s to many more years together!

Grace and peace.

Nick Settles Initials

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