How long should the premarital period, the period of dating, last? Skilled priests say that it should last at least a year. Why? First of all, a year is quite a long time, and you can get to know each other sufficiently well. Secondly, the natural cycles change completely in a year. The psychosomatic condition of a person is known to vary greatly depending on the season.
Psychologists are well aware of the notion of autumn depression. In Pushkin’s case, autumn, on the contrary, was a period of upswing, and he went into melancholy in spring. Thus, in order to get to know the character of a person better, it is necessary to see his or her state of mind during the entire year.
Even if a person is insincere with you or wants to seem better than he really is, he is unlikely to be able to pretend for a long time.
Here’s an example. Some journalists came to one of the military units where the facts of rude, unlawful relations had been reported. They were accommodated in a common barracks and allowed to do the filming. At first, the soldiers behaved in an exemplary manner. Pretty soon, however, they began to freak out, and a week later they stopped being shy of cameras, and the hazing and bullying of juniors appeared before the journalists’ eyes in the most overt form.
It is very useful not just to walk hand in hand under the moon in the pre-marriage period, but to make a trip or take part in a common activity together. A deacon I know said, “There is a very quick way to find out if you can survive in a married life with your chosen one. Buy two tickets to Vladivostok and take a round trip with him or her in the same compartment (and that’s 7 days to Vladivostok and 7 days back). If you can withstand it, you will most likely be able to withstand life in marriage as well.” You can just go camping together or make a pilgrimage. As Vysotsky put it, “If you don’t know if he’s bad or good at first, take him to the mountains, take a risk, don’t leave him alone, when he’s in tandem with you, you’ll see who he is”.
In short, try to get to know your chosen one better.
A very important factor is the family: how the person is brought up, who his parents are. If a young man is rude to his parents, he will behave the same way with you. A lot depends on how parents themselves build their relationships. When building one’s own family, a person often uses his or her parents’ example.
The way your boyfriend or girlfriend communicates not with you, but with friends, with people at all, whether or not they offer their seat to elderly people in public transport – all this can tell you a lot.
There is another way to learn whether your choice is right: to speak to someone who is older and more experienced than you, or even better, a priest. Ideally, the bride and groom should have the same spiritual counselor. Things are more obvious from the outside. A young man whom we will call Kolya studied with me at the seminary in the Holy Trinity St. Sergius Lavra. He had a girlfriend. One day he showed her to his friends, asking for advice. Everyone was trying to talk him out of marrying her. It was clear straight away that she was a secular person and could not be a matushka, a priest’s wife. However, Nicholas did not listen to the advice of his friends (maybe because they were his peers) and got married. Pretty soon his marriage broke up.
From the book The Home Church by Fr. Pavel Gumerov
Let me tell you a little bit about how girls should act to get married well. I focus on young ladies, because it is much easier for men in this respect. It’s a huge problem in general. The female population in our country is predominant, and especially in churches, women are the majority.
There is a popular saying: a woman’s success is not in having affairs with many men, but in having only one man (the real one). The chances of marrying a good man are much higher for a girl who does not seek to attract the men’s gazes at any cost than for a woman who is popular with the opposite sex. On the contrary, the so-called “femmes fatales” are often unhappy in marriage or do not get married at all, because they attract individuals who are incapable of serious relationships.
Let me tell you about losing your virginity before marriage. I know for a fact that even very spoiled guys would like to marry a virgin. Of course! Everyone likes to be the first and not the fifth or eleventh. It is a pity that there are fewer and fewer girls who have retained their virginity. Every affair before marriage doesn’t go without repercussions for the heart and soul; a woman who has entered into a marital union carries with her the trail of her past sinful life. This is a great hindrance to marriage. A girl who behaves and dresses modestly, not provocatively, is much more likely to get married.
All this does not mean that a girl should resemble something shapeless, wrapped up in a shawl. The Lord created the male and female sex and gave each of them their own attributes and beauty. There is a completely false idea of what an Orthodox woman should look like. When I was studying at the seminary, we had a choir school and an icon-painting school on the same premises. Some girls (mostly icon painters) wore baggy skirts to the floor, shabby denim jackets, headscarves wrapped crosswise, and hiking boots. Their image was often complemented by a backpack. Most girls, however, tried to dress differently, as they say, modestly but with taste. By the way, many of them later married seminarians.
A woman’s beauty should not be distorted or hidden, but neither should it seduce others.
Translated by The Catalogue of Good Deeds