I don't regret the way our relationship went--not for one minute. God was keeping us in his hands every step of the way, and though we didn't do everything perfectly, it was still fantastic.
But if I could counsel a younger girl, or even my imaginary younger self, on dating and pre-marriage, here is what I would tell her, in no particular order:
1) Nothing is going to be the way you expected it to be.
Dating in real life is not like dating in the movies. It's often awkward, unexpected, crazy, frustrating, and sometimes confusing. But at the same time, it's often much better than you would expect it to be!
2) Listen to your parents.
They love you. They care about you. And they know you best. Plus, they really do have your best interests in mind! (If your parents aren't always there for you, I hope you find an adult mentor who really cares about you!)
3) Make very firm boundaries, then stick with them. This will be hard, but it's necessary.
I know how easy it is to not stick with your boundaries. I know how hard it is to always have integrity. But for your sake, be strong. You won't regret it. And when you do make it to marriage having had integrity, you will realize how worth it it really is.
4) Keep God your top priority, in your personal life and in your relationship.
He loves you more than anything, he really knows what's best for you, and he can see the future--you can't. So keep him as your focus. Seek his will for you in his Word. Make him the biggest part of your life, because if you don't, your relationship isn't going to go very well. And focus on him with your significant other! Have devotions together. Pray together. Go to church together. If this really is your future spouse, getting into those habits now will be good for you in the long run.
5) Don't let the relationship get beyond friendship if you can't see yourself marrying the person.
Ask yourself these questions: Am I ready to be married very soon? Is he? Is this a wise decision? Will our relationship be God-honoring? Can I see myself with this person for the rest of my life?? If you can't answer YES to all those questions, don't start dating or courting at all. (Because what's the point of dating just to break up eventually?)
6) Get to know his family. His friends. His interests and hobbies. And especially pay attention to how he treats his mom, and sisters if he has them.
This is something you should really try to do before you start a dating or courting relationship. Get to know him as well as you can--that will help determine if this is someone you can see yourself marrying! Also pay close attention to how he treats his mother and sisters. That's a fairly good determiner of how he will treat you.
7) You don't have any permanent commitment to each other until you're married, but once you've decided that you will get married, you do need to give a lot of attention to each other.
Start building your future life together now, by saving up for the wedding/apartment/car, by planning your future together, and by learning how to treat each other in a Godly manner. You don't have to be completely submissive to him yet, but learn to respect him completely, whether you agree with everything he says or not.
8) Realize that those lovey-dovey feelings you have right now will probably come and go.
Marriage is way harder than you have any idea of it to be. It is not always going to be romantic. You're not going to always feel madly in love with each other. That's normal, and it is to be expected. But you can nurture a mature love for one another, not the infatuation of your early relationship--a love that will stand the test of time, and that won't be swayed by outside influences.
9) Make a pact with each other, right now, that divorce will never, ever be an option.
Once you do that, you have the security and peace of knowing that you'll stick with each other for the rest of your lives, no matter what. And that's pretty awesome.
10) This is probably the easiest one, but get excited for marriage.
God has some amazing things in store for you. Marriage is incredible, for so many reasons. It's not easy by any means, but it's absolutely, positively worth it. Get excited for all the blessings God will give you in your marriage!
Linked to: Far Above Rubies; Growing Home; Time-Warp Wife; Call Me Blessed; Cornerstone Confessions; Lessons from Ivy; To Love, Honor and Vacuum; Raising Homemakers; A Wise Woman Builds Her Home; Deep Roots at Home; Women Living Well