So, you are in your first real relationship. Maybe you are just starting to date this guy and you still smile and get butterflies every single time you see him, or every time his name pops up on your screen. Maybe it’s been a few months and you are still very happy to be with him; those initial feelings of infatuation are starting to wear off, but you are starting to realize that you have fallen for him and that you are starting to love him. I am happy for you! I hope that you continue to feel all these feelings for the long haul. There are just a few things that I would like for you to keep in mind as you continue further into a relationship with this person.
You are not perfect.
You should know this already. Regardless of the fact that you are now in a relationship that will often times show you how flawed you are, you should know that you are not perfect. We were not born as perfect people. Romans 3:23 says, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” It is essential to understand and accept this in order to enter into any relationship, whether romantic or not, because to enter into a relationship means adopting humility. We adopted humility when we admitted that we need a Savior to be cleansed of our sins. We came to God’s table to ask him for his forgiveness, and he mercifully allowed his Son’s blood to cover our sins and wash them away. We adopt humility when we enter a relationship that requires putting someone else’s needs before ourselves. In the future, we will adopt humility when we become mothers and have to care for a human being that is completely unable to do anything for themselves. You are not perfect, and therefore, you should never expect yourself to be. Instead, you should hold yourself to the idea of being humble.
He is not perfect.
Romans 3:23 applies to him as well. No matter how wonderful he seems in those first few days and weeks of your relationship, he is not perfect. He has flaws just like you. He has different flaws, flaws that will frustrate you and cause tension between you. Your job as a girlfriend, or fiance, or wife is to be a partner to him and love him through those flaws. Genesis 2 and Proverbs 31:10-31 outline what is means not only to be a woman, but also how to be a helper and companion to the man that you are with. Study up on these passages and learn what your role is and how best to fulfill them, rather than expecting him to be perfect. Expecting someone to be perfect puts an enormous amount of pressure not only on that person, but also on the relationship itself. As difficult as it may be, love him through his flaws, and he will love you through yours.
He is not your redeemer.
No matter how much you love him, he will never be able to save you like Christ does. There is a hole in your heart that can only be filled by one man, and that man’s name is Jesus. If you do not know this man, then you will always be searching for someone to fill this hole, but you will never find them. Christ knows you, loves you, and craves to have a relationship with you before you are even born. Having a relationship with him is the basis for having a relationship with others. We were created in his image, just as we see in Genesis 2, so it makes sense that our relationships with others should and will resemble our most significant relationship with Him.
You will learn a lot about yourself.
Being in a romantic relationship will push you in ways that you have never been pushed before. As you grow deeper into a relationship with this person, you will start to see things in the way that he sees them. This includes learning how other people perceive you. You will learn some things that you like about yourself, and you will learn some things that you don’t like about yourself. Regardless, being in a relationship will make you conscious of things that you were not conscious of before. This may be a painful process, but use it as a learning experience. Use it to grow into a kinder person, and a person who looks more like Christ.
Communicate, communicate, communicate.
Did I mention that you should communicate? Ya. It’s important. If you are feeling angry or feeling hurt by your boyfriend, you should calmly communicate with him why you are feeling that way, and talk through the situation with him. You will hurt each other. It happens. Sometimes it happens more often than you would like. But letting issues build up without talking about them will only lead to a great big explosion of anger, emotions, and crying. That’s not pretty. Trust me. It may be hard and emotionally taxing to fight, but in the long run it is better the bring issues up as they arise. And do not be discouraged, everyone fights. You fight with your parents sometimes, you fight with your friends sometimes. Fights are inevitable, but they lead to growth and an ultimately stronger relationship. Not only does communication lead to growth in your relationship, but communication also harbors emotional and spiritual intimacy. It is a wonderful feeling than being able to cry, fight, and be completely emotionally vulnerable with another person. It is not an explicitly wonderful feeling like happiness, but it is wonderful to know that you are accepted and still loved in this way. Reconciliation results in emotional closeness, and assures you once again that you can work through any issue if you are committed to this person. Commitment is hard sometimes. Being in a committed relationship means you won’t break up with this person after the first wrong they do you. It means communicating to work through it.
Sex, sex, sex.
In high school, I was only asked once if I was ever going to “go all the way” with my boyfriend of two and a half years. The fact that I was only asked once actually shocks me, but nevertheless, the answer is no and will continue to be no until we are married. Sex is not God’s purpose for a dating relationship. Sex is not even God’s purpose for marriage. Your relationship will never be wholly based on sex. Sex is a gift given by God to man in order that “two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5, Mark 10:8, 1 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 5:31). It is a mingling of souls. It is beautiful. It is only one component of a marriage. It is not for you at this moment in time. Be patient.
Dating is for the marriage-minded.
There are no references to dating in the Bible. None. Dating was not an institution until the 1800’s at the earliest. Our best examples of “dating” in the Bible are the few instances of courting such as the one depicted in the book of Ruth. Today, however, courting and dating are two distinctly different things. Check out this article for some clarification on the difference between the two. (The article obviously leans toward a specific opinion, but I found it to be extremely informative and interesting. You are entitled to your own opinion.) So, for the modern-day teen, it is hard to discern what is right and what is wrong about a dating relationship. A lot of it is gray matter. Talk to your parents or other elders or mentors about what guidelines you should set for your dating relationship. But what should be absolutely clear is that a dating relationship is designed to prepare two people for marriage. It involves learning about your potential husband and getting to know him on a deep level. Being in a dating relationship is not about how good the person makes you feel at the moment. Ephemeral feelings are not something to base a relationship on. If you cannot see yourself marrying this man, then, as hard as it may be, it is better for the both of you to break off this relationship before you become any more attached to each other. This is hard, and at the time it may feel unwarranted because you cannot pinpoint a specific reason for needing to break up. Maybe he is a fantastic and godly individual, but if you can’t see yourself marrying him, then you have to be patient for the one that God has planned for you.
He needs to be a spiritual leader.
This is his role as a man. Ephesians 5: 22-33 gives clear instructions for how a man should treat a woman, and likewise how a woman should submit to her husband. “Submit” is a sticky word in today’s feminist culture. Submission is not helplessness; submission is not slavery; submission is not the inability to think and act for oneself. Submission is willing humility and obedience. Submission in a relationship is no different than submission in your relationship with God. And in fact, our romantic relationships and especially our marriages should look very much like Christ’s relationship to the church. He gave himself up for her and is patiently waiting until the day that they will be married for eternity. Therefore, your boyfriend should most definitely be a strong christian (2 Corinthians 6:14), and one that is able to lead you spiritually by encouraging prayer, being in prayer for you, and keeping the focus of your relationship on the Creator that gave it to you. If he cannot lead you in your spiritual walk, he will not be able to train children in the ways of the Lord in the future. Look for these strong leadership qualities in a man.
Both of you will commit a multitude of sins, but God’s grace is always available.
God’s grace is the only thing that can fully heal and forgive. Refer back to what I said in the communication section. You will both fault each other. The process of forgiveness begins with forgiveness in Christ. Pray over your hurts and your actions and ask Christ for forgiveness. This is vertical healing and it will lead to smoother and more heart-felt horizontal healing.
Love is not a feeling, it is a choice.
Love is not the over romanticized joy that your see depicted on the movie screen. Life goes on after the big marriage scene at the end. Life is sticky, life is messy, life is tough. Love is not even a feeling. It is a choice that you make. Love is a choice to be committed to another person through thick and thin. Love is a choice to put another person’s needs above your own. Love is a choice that you have to make everyday. You will never arrive at a place of perfect love. Christ is the only one who possesses perfect love. We can strive for it, and we can come very close to it, but we are not perfect, so our love will not be either. But love is worth it! Love is so worth it. Never forget that.
I have absolutely no intentions of overwhelming you or scaring you with what I have said. I am speaking to you out of experience. I am by no means an expert. I don’t want to make it seem as if relationships feel like responsibilities or chores. There are some negatives to relationships, as I have pointed out. But the positives you feel from a spiritual, emotional, loving, growing relationship far outweigh those negatives. Every day is a chance for you to grow closer in love and in Christ, and there is a wonderful feeling that goes along with that. I wish you the best in your relationship. Strive everyday to look more like Jesus and more like His love.