How do you start a conversation about boundaries with somebody you're dating?
I realize that if you’re reading this, your relationship status may vary. Maybe you’re newly dating, or just in the ‘talking’ stage. Maybe you’re engaged, or you've started saving for a ring, or you’re pinning wedding ideas on Pinterest. You may even be single, and looking for advice on a future relationship. Regardless of your status, let me start by saying that this conversation actually should start between you and God.
Psalms 139 tells us that God knew us in our mother’s womb, that He knitted us together, carefully and purposefully. He knows our hearts’ desires and has a special purpose for us. He also knows what our temptations are, and our insecurities. Seeking God’s guidance, the one who knows us intimately, can only serve to help us in setting our boundaries. He may even bring up areas that you didn’t realize needed a strict boundary, but it can help to protect your heart in the future.
Any relationship conversation like this should be covered in prayer, but first as individuals and then together as a couple. If you go into a conversation like this, never having sought God for wisdom on what your boundaries should be, you are much more likely to compromise. Maybe you don’t want to offend your significant other, or come across too conservative, or you're afraid they won’t respect your need for boundaries. Those feelings are normal, but if you’ve sought God’s guidance, and are following His peace, you can walk in confidence knowing you’re doing what is right.
If you’re like me, and currently single, or even in a new relationship, let me encourage you to prayerfully set boundaries in your heart now. I grew up in church and heard that advice all my life, but I didn’t always listen. Instead of setting firm boundaries and seeking God’s peace, I just avoided situations that I felt could be tempting. And to be honest, that worked for a long time, but because I still hadn’t decided on my boundaries, when I wasn’t able to avoid a situation, temptation won out. I want to encourage you, whether single or not, that you spend time with God, letting Him reveal areas of your heart that need to be guarded extra carefully, and stand firm and confidently in that.
If, after prayer, you feel you have a good handle on your boundaries, I suggest simply bringing this to your significant other. Let them know that you want to honor God in all of your relationships, and that to do this, you need to be clear about what that looks like in a romantic relationship. I would even encourage you to pray together before the conversation even begins, and ask God to guide your words and bring peace and agreement into your decisions. It may feel a little awkward or vulnerable to bring this up with someone you're in a relationship with, but let me assure you, an risking a potentially awkward conversation is a small price to pay for a guarded heart and peace of mind.
I’ve never been in a relationship. Is being pursued as a woman outdated or should I ask a man out since no one is asking me?
Honestly, I’m right there with you in trying to figure out how to approach the dating game as a Christian woman. I completely understand the desire for a guy to want to pursue something romantically with you. And it can be hard to wait for God to bring around the right guy, especially since God’s time line is significantly different than our own. I truly don’t think it is outdated for a woman to be pursued by a man. I do however, think that the changes in our culture can make it seem as though no guy is willing to put forth that effort.
I don’t believe this to be true though, because I have seen many of my friends find those men that raise the bar for how a Godly relationship can happen. One commonality those relationships have had is that both people were pursuing God first. They were seeking God’s will for their life, and then their paths crossed. I want to encourage you to consistently keep Him first in your life, and looking to Him for purpose, and place your trust in Him to work out the rest.
If there is someone of interest to you, I would first ask, have you prayed about it? It may seem a little silly to pray about someone you just noticed and thought was attractive. But the Bible tells us to pray about everything. And since it’s a matter that can affect your heart in the future, why not surrender even the first attraction to Him? There have been moments in my own life where I have surrendered this very thing to God, and heard a resounding, ‘No, he’s not for you’. But there have also been times where God answered by providing me with opportunities to get to know that very guy I was interested in. It first came with prayer, and patience in His timing and a willingness to obey whatever answer God provided.
Something else I’ve observed in my friends’ relationships, is that they both made efforts to pursue one another. A relationship should never be one person chasing after another. Over time, they learned how the other liked to be shown affection and pursued. While it may be tricky to get the first meeting, or get to the first date, there should always be an understanding that both people are going to put forth effort.
If there is someone you're interested in, one of the most non threatening ways to go about deciding to pursue them, is to get to know them in a group setting. There is less pressure this way, and it gives you the chance to build community with others in the process. If you decide you’re interested, have a friend to politely ask about any interest that person may have. This can provide you with a way to decide to move forward, without having to make yourself too vulnerable.
Regardless of how you decide to approach a potential love interest, I encourage you to seek God first. That is the relationship that will shape your heart and lead you in the direction of God’s will for your life. Our love with Him is what satisfies, and what should be reflected in how we relate to others.
In this generation of side chicks or side boos, is this something I have to put up with; if I love this person and don't want to break my commitment or relationship?
Let me start by saying that I really appreciate the honesty of this question, and it really breaks my heart that this is something I’ve noticed become so common and widely accepted within the last few years. To answer this question, I have to ask you a question of my own:
Are you willing to settle for less than God’s best for your life?
I certainly hope you’re not. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has plans to prosper us, not to harm us. Psalm 139 goes into great detail about God going before us and making a way, and that He knows every day of our lives before we had even been born. God has incredible plans for your life, and it is in His desire to bless us with the things we need, and heart’s deepest desires.
I can’t pretend to know what your situation is that you may be considering staying committed to someone that has been proven to be unfaithful. Here’s what I do believe to be true: the character and integrity you’re seeing displayed in your relationship now, is most likely to continue in your relationship. Typically people put their best version of themselves on display in the beginning of any relationship. And as time goes on, and their comfort level with you grows, you begin to see new aspects of them as a person. If they’re willing to show their character as being unfaithful, untrustworthy, or manipulative already, then it will most likely continue throughout your relationship.
Maybe you're considering staying faithful because you want to help them. And if that’s the case, I’m going to give you a little tough love. You don’t ever want to be in a relationship where you have to be someone’s savior. It is only through God, and in His ability that a person’s heart can be shaped and made new; we can’t do this alone or in our own strength.I understand that this happens sometimes, and Hollywood has certainly glamorized the idea of the good girl that changes the town’s bad boy. But in situations like this, where you’re having to compete for the affection of your significant other with another person, staying faithful isn’t the way to win them back. In most instances, staying with them is only condoning and accepting their behavior.
I can’t make this decision for you, and I don’t want to tell you one way or another to end a relationship, but just for kicks, can we call the ‘side boo’ term for what it is? It’s cheating. Plain and simple. That can come in many forms, whether physical, spiritual or emotional, but it’s cheating. Calling it by a different term may cushion the blow of what’s really going on, but isn’t that so typical of what the Devil does? He disguises himself, trying so hard to be appealing to us, and when God reveals those lies to us, Satan simply changes the appearance until we believe that same lie again.
Again, I don’t know where you are in life, but I truly believe this question may tap into a deeper issue. I believe that the enemy loves to make us think that whatever is in front of us is the best we’ll ever have, especially when it comes to things that are actually hindering us. I can tell you that any thought that you have to settle for a guy that doesn’t respect you is an absolute lie! God sent His son to earth to die and be resurrected because he knows you’re worth that price. He wants the best for you, in every aspect of life, especially relationships, because those are our example of how He loves us. Relationships are to be a reflection of God love, and to ultimately glorify Him, so you should never have to settle for less than that, especially in someone you’re dating. If you’re currently in a relationship, I urge you to prayerfully seek guidance before making any decisions. Whatever your relationship status, please know that you have worth, and God has a great plan for you, a plan for you to prosper and to be satisfied in every aspect of life.
As women we tend to over analyze the beginning stages of what could be a potential relationship. I personally have been praying that the next man I get in a relationship with will be my husband. But that also makes everything in the process feel heavy and every guy has this pressure when they pursue me. How can I honor my future husband, yet not take this dating thing so seriously?
As a woman, as someone who sometimes wonders when it’s gonna be my turn, as someone who wants to honor God in her relationships, and as someone that could win awards for over analyzing things, I completely understand where you’re coming from. I’ve been in that place where you’re interested in a guy, and any little hello or Instagram like feels like a sign from God that this is the one. And we all know that when our girl friends get involved in the analyzing, there’s already a proposal, and the wedding dress is picked out, when in reality you’ve only spoken to this guy twice. Trust me, I know where you're coming from.
Let me answer your question with another question, Do you really want to take on all this pressure by yourself?
Think for a minute about the God we serve and all He’s accomplished: He spoke the world into existence. Literally, He breathes stars out of His mouth. He caused the Red Sea to part, can calm the raging storms with a whisper, heals the blind, bleeding, deaf and raises the dead back to life. I could keep going, but my point is that this is who God is and thats only a small portion of what He is capable of doing. Wouldn't you want this God to be on your side, and working things out for your future?
To be transparent, this is what I sometimes have to remind myself of when I get too bogged down in the details of who God may have for me and when that will happen. I can get so caught up in reading into every glance or ‘Hello’ that I forget how huge God really is and how small my plan can look compared to His timeline. I know it sounds cliche to say ‘just don't worry about it, let God work things out, because He is always working’, that is really the best advice I can give, and have to give to myself more often than I care to admit.
Something I’ve been challenged with recently, is fixing my focus less on who will I meet, and more on, who will I be when I meet the right one? Will I be insecure, uncertain of my calling, and prideful, or will I walk in humility, confidence and security in what I’m made for? The more that I set my sights on letting God be the one to answer those questions, the more I appreciate my singleness for an opportunity to be refined.
See I used to think that those that are dating or married have in some sense ‘arrived’ and they have it all figured out. Surely they’re not insecure or questioning their calling. Over time, I’ve learned that just isn't the case, and if you’re looking for a person to solve any insecurity, then you’re in for a world of disappointment. It’s only through a relationship with Christ that we can be made whole and our insecurities turned into strengths.
That’s one of the first places I’ve learned to start with when it comes to honoring my future marriage:taking the burden of being a problem solver, or security blanket from that man, and placing it at the feet of Jesus. He is the only one that can heal and shape my heart the way to the way it needs to be. As I move through life, and see traits I find desirable, such as consistency, or honesty, I examine my own heart and life to see if those are things that I exhibit. See, being in a season of waiting, doesn't mean we have to be idle. In fact, we should instead be readying our hearts for what God is bringing us.
I understand that it can be difficult to wait. It’s hard enough waiting in traffic, or in line for Starbucks. And I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t have days that were a struggle. But the more that I focus on becoming the person God wants me to be, there is faith that grows a little more each day. When I let God worry about the details, and I worry about just serving him, the questions fade, and hope remains.
How do you cut non-christian relationships off in a Christian way? Is it like you're giving up on them?
If I’m being honest, this is actually something that has plagued me off and on for years. I’ve had to wrestle through seasons where I had relationships that I knew needed to end, but would convince myself it was okay because I was ‘being a witness’. I was constantly torn between a desire for community and friendship, and a heart to help others come to know Christ. The harsh reality is that during those seasons & relationships, my life was horribly out of balance.
I really believe that in this stage of life, as young adults, we are incredibly hungry for community. But what we need is authentic, God centered community. And because that can take time to develop naturally, we sometimes jump the gun and settle for those that are friends from work, the gym, etc that don’t necessarily share our beliefs. While those aren’t bad places to meet other young professionals, if we don’t have our life in balance and know who we are in Christ, it can be dangerous.
For me personally, this was how my story went. I moved to Dallas, and didn’t know really know anyone, so I threw myself into work, and developed a lot of friendships with the people I worked with. I never found a church, but because I was a Christian, I felt that I was still being a witness. The only problem is that I had no one to hold me to that higher standard, and I began slipping. I fell further away from my faith than I ever had, and if you would have met me during that time, I doubt you would know that somewhere deep in my heart I loved Jesus.
God had a plan though, and over the course of about a year, He slowly began to nudge my heart back to Him, and reawaken me to the life I should have been living all along. As He did this, and my focus shifted and the things that I had once enjoyed, began to loose their appeal. The more I spent time praying, God changed my heart, and I found that I had less in common with those old friends. I believe that there are many relationships that are simply seasonal, and as your priorities and interests change, those that don't share the same ideals phase themselves out over time.
In other instances though, there are relationships that are toxic, in the sense that they are actually hindering your spiritual growth. Deciding that you may need to let some people go is never easy, and something to be done after careful consideration and prayer. I’m not speaking about the relationships that you may disagree with from time to time, this is a much deeper issue. I’m talking about those in your life that are encouraging you to compromise your standards rather than respect them. Those whose company you leave, and find yourself thinking, ‘They just don’t know who I really am, they don’t understand this spiritual part of my life.’
If that’s you, then please know that you’re not alone in feeling that way. I’ve had plenty of nights where I would come home after a night with those friends and my heart just didn’t feel right. What God began to teach me in the process, was that I had essentially become way too close in my friendships and dating relationships with non Christians. 2 Corinthians 6 talks about this very thing,
“Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?’
When we are in close relationships with non christians, this is exactly what happens. We are bonded together in intimate relationships with people who don’t have God as their top priority and so our lives are literally heading in different directions. If after prayer, you decide that there is a relationship that needs to be ended, the most Biblically sound advice I can offer, is to go to that person, and explain to them what you’re feeling. I can’t promise that it will be easy, but it’s for your spiritual health. Let them know that you are wanting to make your faith the top priority, and that means having to leave some old habits behind, and that includes some relationships that encourage those habits.
Deciding that you need to distance yourself from some, doesn’t have to mean they are cut off all together, but that really has to be determined through prayer, and taking into account the severity of that person’s influence on your life. Personally, there are a few in my life that just one conversation with them will pull me down, and yet others that I can talk with sporadically without my priorities shifting away from God. Regardless of how much distance needs to be put in those relationships, it hasn’t ever stopped me from caring for those old friends. There have been plenty of times that I have felt led to pray for them. God doesn’t bring people together on accident, and while it may be time to part ways for some, we can still bring honor to that friendship by surrendering it to Him in prayer.
For those relationships you may be questioning, I challenge you to pray. And for the friends you may not have met yet, again, I challenge you to pray. The Bible directs us to pray about everything, and relationships should be no different. They are there to reflect the relationship that we have with God. I can guarantee that the most satisfying relationships are the ones you have covered in prayer, and have a confidence in knowing they are from God.
Associate with the lowly how? And to what extent? How do you do it without losing yourself?
As Christians,we’re taught to associate with the lowly and the non believer because that is being Christlike. Yet, I’ve noticed that we tend to take this to extremes, either befriending every one we meet that needs help, or keeping to ourselves, not wanting to be pulled into a potentially tempting or harmful life. Take a moment and think through the things that you remember about the life of Jesus. What comes to mind? Healing the blind beggars, walking on water, or feeding the five thousand? It’s common for us to think of Jesus and the miracles he did during his years of ministry as an example of how we are to live in the world, but that isn’t the entirety of His life.
Jesus is often known for being controversial, a man claiming to be the Messiah to religious zealots. But something I don’t think He gets enough credit for, is the way He lived His live with balance. He remained steady and was unwavering in His mission because of the balance He had in all areas of life. Rather than trying to perform miracles and minister to the poor on an empty tank, He would seek out places of solitude to hear from his Father. He understood how important it was to clearly hear direction from Him, and to be rejuvenated as His focus stayed consistently on God.
It is only by spending time alone with God that we can hear the direction He wants us to follow in our own lives. It is there, in solitude, that He can convict our hearts in areas we need to correct, and He can provide us with the peace and rest we need to continue out the calling He placed in our lives. But, we must not forget that we seek Him to be refilled, in order to continue to minister to others.
In Jesus’ ministry He spent a large majority of His time not with the hurting, but with His disciples. This group of men that believed in His teachings, and were literally willing to follow Jesus wherever He went. The men that were fishermen, and tax collectors, from different towns, and varying tribes, all united around a singular, eternal purpose. Jesus chose to surround himself, and make an inner circle of friends with men that were willing to learn, and sought the truth. Again, He lived in balance, keeping those closest to Him that would remain loyal, and had built trust and love with one another. From there, He taught those men the importance of looking after the poor and the widows in such a powerful way that their ministry continued even after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
There is no equation to figure out how many Christians to have in your life or how often you reach out to the lowly. But following the example of Jesus is a great place to start. In order to minister to others, you have to be willing to meet them where they are. But you must first know who you are in Christ, and have trusted friends in your life that will keep you focused on Him and hold you accountable in your words and actions. It is through this healthy balance that we are able to help the less fortunate, be led and used by God, and still stay grounded in the truth.
How do you feel (from a woman's perspective) about dating around instead of having the mentality of "the next man I date, I want to marry”? Is dating around recommended for a woman or is waiting for the one?
I’ve been right where you are. Actually, I still am in that place. Single, not always 100% sure of when I’ll meet the right guy. I’d be lying if I said that the uncertainty of not knowing when, or who doesn’t get difficult at times.Trust me when I say that I’ve cried many tears of frustration, I’ve had a long season of bitterness and anger towards God for withholding something I felt I had deserved. I’ve run the other way, trying to find Mr. Right on my own. Let me be the first to say that trying to figure this romance game out in my own feeble strength doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. Without God guiding my steps, I am impatient, demanding, and can feel entitled to being treated like a princess. Without God, my pride takes over, and it isn’t pretty.
Personally, I’ve tried the waiting game, and I’ve tried dating around, I don’t think either are bad options, but you also need to evaluate your heart and why you’re considering dating around. Is it to fill your time so you don’t feel lonely, or maybe you just want to do what’s considered normal for a single 20 something. If either of those is the case, then you may want to take some time and really pray before entering into the dating world. If you do so and really feel that God is leading you that direction,let me give you a piece of advice:guard your heart, and don’t apologize to anyone for doing so. Be prayerful about those you consider dating, whether it’s a first, or seventh date, or you just met them. Anyone that you have any interest in, surrender those relationships to God, and let Him work things out, according to His will and His timing.
Can I let you in on something I’m learning? It is totally okay to be single! I am thankful for the time that I’ve had to be single, to discover who I am, independently of anyone else. It’s also an incredible time to fill my life with great friends, and fill my time with serving God. I am also thankful for the guys I’ve dated that have challenged me, and played a small part me discovering what I need in a future husband. I’m a firm believer that any relationship, whether romantic or platonic can teach us something. But, when we get ahead of God and what He planned that relationship to look like, it can become hurtful. He will always have grace for when we go astray, but submission to His will and His plan should be the end goal with any relationship in our lives.
Instead of focusing on the who, what, where and when’s, I challenge you to shift your questions back to you. I’ve been doing the same in my own life, and it’s been amazingly humbling. When I find myself dreaming of what may be and how to go about finding the one, I stop and force myself to answer what I’m doing now to be the woman God has called me to be. Not to please a futuristic husband that I don’t even know yet, not to make friends or impress others. It’s a matter of making God proud by trying to be more like Him.
In the moments that I can’t seem to help but wonder what will happen in my future and who God has for me, I revert back to one of my favorite verses in Matthew 6:
“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
It’s natural to wonder what the future holds, but never forget that it is God who holds time in His hands. He sees so much more than you or I ever will, and when our gaze is truly focused first on Him, the questions and details of life fade in importance.