Since as long as I can remember, I've heard questions and comments about my current or future relationship status. Since my preteen days, crushes, dating, and significant others have always been a popular topic to talk about with my friends. There is definitely no harm in this; I only say this to exemplify the prominence of romantic relationships in our lives.

At my small Christian school, as well as many other institutions, those who are single are assumed to be continuously searching for a person to date, those who are dating are assumed to be quickly pursuing marriage, and those who are married have reached their “happy ending.”

There’s nothing wrong with this process, but many people (even myself at times) feel pressured to rush it. The future is exciting, but I need to remember to simply stop and enjoy the relationship stage that I’m in, and I would like to encourage my readers to do the same.

It is so easy for those who are single to feel like they need to find a significant other. Growing up, I was the type of person to not feel rushed to find someone to date, but now that I am in a committed relationship, I’ve realized how valuable this patience truly was.

Though I am extremely happy to be with my boyfriend and would never change anything about the timing of our relationship, I am now able to further appreciate what I had when I was single. I was able to grow and experience life in ways that are unique to singleness, and I am glad I had that time to be truly independent.

I don’t say this to bash the pursuit of relationships or suggest that we are always better off alone, but to encourage my single readers to enjoy this stage in life and growth, because odds are that there will be a time when you never get this stage of your life back. If you are single, take advantage of this time to grow individually in your relationship with Christ and with others.

On the other hand, now that I am in a committed relationship, I am able to grow in new ways than before. My boyfriend has been an integral part of my recent strivings to become more patient, loving, kind, and spiritually mature, and I am so grateful for this. But despite my happiness with the stage of dating that I'm in, I’m learning that the natural desire to pursue the “next step” in a relationship never really ends.

As my friends get engaged and married, I can’t help but excitedly think about when it’s my turn. My boyfriend and I often look forward to these further steps in our relationship (only if God so calls us to move forward in this way, of course). I know that I'm not ready to be married yet, but sometimes I get so caught up in thinking ahead to when I will be. As fun as it is to imagine the future, I have to remember to enjoy the “now.”

Once engagement and marriage happen, relationships are never the same. Engagement is fun and exciting, but once the initial excitement dies down, the stress of planning a wedding, honeymoon, and a life together settles in. Marriage is beautiful and an amazing reflection of the testimony of God, but from then on, there will always be jobs, money, family, and other responsibilities to deal with.

To my readers in dating relationships: enjoy dating. Don’t rush it. Dating is supposed to be fun, so cherish it and take your time, because you have the rest of your lives to be married.

Once I realized that a preoccupation with pursuing the next stage in a relationship without God’s calling to do so is just another form of covetousness, my perspective on this topic was changed. I’ve found that if a person is encompassed with rushing to the “next stage” of a relationship status without God’s will, often that is stemmed from a desire to get what they don’t have. (This is the definition of covetousness.)

I’m not saying don’t get married young or quickly—sometimes God quickly acts in a relationship and calls them to become joined in holy matrimony, and those couples are blessed. But this path is not for everyone, and the couples who take it one day at a time are equally blessed.

There is no magic number for how long to stay single, date, or get engaged; for some it is months, and for some it is years.The two main points to all this are to listen to the timing of God regarding your relationship status and that it’s okay to relax and enjoy your current relationship status.