Q&A - Relationships
(Part 1 of 2)
Q: What do you do when someone forces you into a relationship and you’ve tried to break up with them several times but they guilt you to stay in that relationship? How do you tell if this relationship is from God or not, and if not, how do you get out of it? (Female, Age 17)
Q: How do you know a relationship is from God? I’m in a relationship and I feel that it’s somewhat toxic but the other person keeps saying they “need me so badly” so sometimes I feel God needs me to be in this temporary relationship just to help the other person, but how do I know and what do I do? (Female, Age 19)
Q: How do you know when it’s time to leave a relationship? I have been praying a lot but I’m very unsure. (Female, Age 20)
A: Ladies, this is your life and you have full control over the decisions you make. Don’t let anyone pressure you or guilt you in doing something you don’t want to! I know selfishness is usually frowned upon, but in this case, you have to be selfish and put yourself first. Your mental and emotional health is something that should never be taken advantage of. Get out of these relationships that are not serving you well! Do not feel pressured to "save" this person. This is not your job, that's the Savior's job. The person you're dating has to become well all on their own before they are able to contribute to a healthy relationship, and it doesn't sound like they're there yet. Let them get close to God all on their own, without you, because in some cases you might even be an obstacle in that relationship.
You're still so young, and I don’t usually recommend dating at a young age when you're not yet grounded in who you are and who Christ is in your life (unless maybe you're already there, I know many people might not be there yet at your age).
If a relationship isn't bettering you or bringing you closer to Christ, then it’s probably not a relationship you should be in. Also, if it’s not blessed by your parents/ family and father of confession, then that’s another red flag that it might not be the right time or right relationship. This podcast episode touches on a lot of good points, I highly recommend giving it a listen.
Q: Talk more about dating! What can we do, what can't we do (in terms of intimacy)? (Female, Age 22)
A: This is always a popular question whenever I give a talk about purity. We know that the Bible calls us to purity, and calls out fornication (sex before marriage) as sin. But where should one draw the line with everything else? This is different for everyone; where you draw your line might be different for the next person. Here are some general rules I like to suggest:
If anything is leading to sexual arousal, don't do it; because once your body is there, it gets that much harder for self-control to kick in. For some that's kissing, and for some that could even be an intimate hug (you know the kind I'm talking about). So that’s where you have to draw your line.
If it's something you wouldn't do in public, don't do it in private.
Avoid being in private where no one is around and you're tempted to cross your boundaries.
Don't underestimate how the other person might feel, a relationship isn't just about you and guarding your purity, but your partner's as well.
If you're in a relationship where the other person isn't respecting your boundaries, that’s a red flag indicating it might be time to re-evaluate staying in the relationship.
Also know that getting physically involved with someone might blind you to red flags, and make you more attached than you should be. Answer this question for yourself, "how is getting physically intimate going to benefit this relationship?" Usually the answer isn't logically sound, and it’s our emotions and lust that get the best of us. So please be on guard, and it helps to have someone you check in with, like a mentor, that offers accountability and guidance. Here is a podcast episode that gives some great practical tips on physical touch within a relationship and boundaries that can be established.
Q: What is an appropriate time for proposal, engagement, and a wedding? (Female, Age 26)
A: There is no specific time line. It’s different for each couple and each situation. Here are some factors to consider: How often are you seeing each other? Is this a long distance relationship where you're not interacting as much as you'd like? Did you have a friendship prior to dating? How well do you know this person? Has your relationship seen ups and downs yet?
Before getting married, make sure you've gone through all four seasons of the relationship, and have experienced how you both handle conflict.
Q: How to get to know someone safely and in God’s way. Also how to know if they’re right for you? (Female)
A: Makar Naguib wrote a great guest blog post on how to safely and purposefully get to know someone, if you haven’t read it out yet, go check it out. Knowing if they’re the right person has many components, and I think this podcast episode does a great job explaining it. You should always be seeking God’s will and praying for Him to reveal it to you.
Q: How do I know I am ready to find my Godly husband? What are the signs for knowing I am ready? (Female, Age 29)
A: The book True Love Dates gives great examples of how to know if you’re ready to date. I like to sum it up and say you need to have two loves first, before looking for ‘true love.’ #1 God’s love, do you have a solid relationship with Him first? Because that’s the foundation of making any relationship work.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5)
#2 Self-love, do you know who you are in Christ and your true value? You have to be secure enough in who you are before bringing anyone else in the picture. Being spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and socially mature is another thing that you have to be confident in.
Q: More about dating, “talking”, are we even allowed to have friends who are boys? (Female, Age 15)
A: Yes, you can have friends who are boys as long as they are nothing more than friends, and you are following your parents’ rules when it comes to interacting with them. It's important to know how to have healthy and respectful interactions with the opposite sex. You can read more about the right time to date in this blog post.
Q: When it comes to relationships I lose interest in the other person really fast and get bored with them, does that mean he is not the one or it's me the problem? (Female, Age 24)
A: In order to answer that question, I’d ask “Why are you getting bored?” It’s because of their personality, and feeling like that this person isn’t a good fit for you? If that’s the case, then it’s okay, maybe this is the right person for you.
If it’s because of something else like fear of commitment, or something rooted in negative past experiences, then I would do some self-reflection and find out what’s causing those fears and try to work on them.
Q: I am 29 and I feel like I’m in a place in my life that I feel ready to settle down and to find my best friend who loves God and to start to get to know him at least and build our friendship. I am praying to God about that but nothing is happening. If you were me, what would you do? As in my part in all of this and also using my time wisely as a single. (Female, Age 29)
A: It’s great that you are being prayerful about it, that is definitely the first step. It also helps to sometimes step out of your comfort zone and get to know new people. Or even reconsider some people who you already know, but never looked at them as a potential spouse. If there is anyone you are interested in, don’t be afraid to start a conversation. Sometimes guys just need a little nudge.
Some of my single friends have found this resource to be very helpful, so I would recommend starting there.
Q: I feel like marriage isn’t for me, every time I tell someone I don’t want to get married, they reply with, so you’re going to a convent, but that was never my intention either. Why is celibacy in the world frowned upon? Are my two options really marriage or monasticism? (Female, Age 19)
A: Society may unfortunately frown on celibacy and singleness, but the Bible definitely doesn’t! St. Paul even recommends celibacy to those who can endure it (1 Corinthians 7:32). But what’s your reason for not wanting to get married? Is it because there’s some fear of commitment or marriage in general? Or is it because you want to spend your life serving God and pursuing purity as St. Paul says? If it's the latter, then that’s great, and you don’t have to do that in a monastery; you can serve God right where you are in the world. If it’s the first reason, I would challenge you to think about it more.
Family Involvement in Relationships
Q: Problems with the significant other’s family (mostly siblings). Do you mention the issue to significant other and cause a fight because they always defend their sibling (gives unrealistic reasons why they may have done it to defend them) or is this part of the in law life and you just have to bite your tongue and live with it. (Female, Age 25)
Q: Can you please do a post on how to best deal with in-laws and what to do if your husband is a momma’s boy, his sister is a loser, boundaries, etc.? Help! A post about this topic would be great. (Female, Age 33)
A: As much as I’d love to tackle this topic, I’m definitely not qualified to do so (fortunately, I’ve been blessed with great in-laws, thank God). I would start with setting some clear boundaries with your spouse. Things that you’re okay with and things that are not acceptable, while still treating everyone with love and respect. I highly recommend reading Boundaries in Marriage which gives great advice on this subject.
A critical concept to understand and apply here is that you should not expect your significant other to change as your relationship status evolves. The issues you face in dating/engagement are likely to carry into marriage. If you are not yet wed, and you are experiencing these strong external influences on your relationship, it’s important to evaluate how serious the relationship is and if the involvement is warranted. If you are in the early stages, note these interactions for further evaluation if the relationship evolves.
If the relationship is serious enough that you are considering a future together, then the priority should shift to reflect that. It all boils down to what you are willing to accept in your marriage. You may decide that you do not want to compete with your in-laws for the support of your spouse, and that might be enough for you to walk away. No one can fault you for making that choice, because the sanctity of a marriage between two people comes with it’s own challenges and is to be protected where possible.
Ultimately, the success of your relationship hangs on the ability of you and your significant other to agree on the life you want to lead together, and that includes interactions with others.
Also, if this issue is causing any kind of rift in your marriage, please address it before it becomes too late. A big reason for general dissatisfaction in marriage (that sometimes leads to divorce), is outside family involvement. Marriage counseling might be a great place to start tackling this issue.