Question:

I would first like to start that I enjoy reading your comments and tackling difficult questions that many people are afraid to address. My question is regarding my current relationship.

My partner and I are both Christians and we have been together for less than a year. It has overall been a great relationship and we rarely argue, but when we do, it becomes serious and we end up breaking up for a day and then get back together. We have broken up a total of five times! I feel that, on one hand, if a couple breaks up, then it was for a reason and they should stay broken up; but on the other hand, it could be that there's something there that keeps bringing a couple back together.

There are several issues that I wanted to address, the first and most important, is regarding us being involved in sexual temptation formost of the time we've been together. I told him when we started dating that I was abstaining until marriage, but there were times I would usually instigate our sexual encounters. Even though we were "playing with fire" and never went "all the way," we were nonetheless involved in sin until we could no longer tolerate it and asked the Lord to forgive us. In fact, he recently broke up with mebecause he didn't feel right about how we allowed lust to be a part of our relationship, andhe wants to be closerto God.We both came to the conclusion that we need toovercome sexual immorality, and he felt he didthe right thing to do to break up with me. I, on the other hand, was upset because I wanted him to be more patient with me as I was serious about getting back onthe right path. As evidence, even though it's been two weeks since we've taking amini "break" and westill attend church together and hang out together, there has been no inappropriate touching or behavior.I thank God first for his forgiveness and in givingus the strength do what's right. I learned it is essential that one isfully committed in doing the right thing and avoid certain situations altogether.I knowmany of us have struggled with this issue, but it can be done and it's my testimony regarding being able to overcome this area.

Unfortunately, my partner still is upset about the situation because before we first met, he wanted to be celibate without any sexual activity and focus on getting to really know a person. He has had many bad relationships in the past and this is his first relationship where things have been going well, for the most part. This is my first serious relationship, and I date peoplewhom Iwould consider marrying.

One of the other issues of our relationship is that he runs away from conflict and does not like it when I put him on the spot about our relationship. I am the type of person who tackles situations, instead of hiding from them. Regarding his past relationships (he is not a virgin), he has forgiven himself and his past partners. Of note, he told me that he has cheated in every single relationship but not our relationship. As strange as it sounds, he has been honest with me and has given me reason to trust him during our time together. When he broke up with me regarding our sexually immorality and how I instigated but "never went all the way," he thought about cheating but did not want to hurt me so that was another reason why he broke up with me. Now that we no longer engage in such activity, it makes it a bit easier for him. I feel likehe is really trying to do the right thing and wasupset at himself for letting sin get involved in our relationship.

He is looking for a wife and really felt that I was the person for him. We are both attracted to each other. I really care about him but I'm not sure if he's the one for me. He has so many qualities that I admire about him, like he's caring,chivalrous, etc., but I still need more time to think about it, and we are not financial stable for marriage right now.

Lastly, my Mom met him and thinks he nice, but she feels like I can do better because of his profession; he's a jazz musician and loveshis job.He does not fit into the typical stereotype of a musician. One of the many qualities that drew me to him is his humility -- he's one of the most talented musicians in our city -- he's easy going and personable. Both of myparents went to grad school, and I recently graduated from grad school. My boyfriend has supported me in what I do and is understanding of how my schedule will be hectic when things settle down for me.Iknowmy parents won't accept him with open arms the way his family has really opened up to me because of his profession.

Givenmy novel I wrote above, I'm not sure if I shouldstay in this relationship or move on. If we break up for good, I'll really miss a lot of qualities about him, and, until the recent difficulties we've faced, I'm happy with him. I want to be with someone who will be able to work through situations together as a team, and he's always been one to run when things get tough. I know there is no perfect person, and I am far from perfect but being in a committed relationship means working with each other's flaws and growing together.At the same time, there may be someone better out there for me. We've both been praying about the situation and want to do what's right. I've encouraged him to meditate onScripture about love in God's eyes (I Corinthians 13:4-13). I was thinking about premarital counseling at my church, but it is only for those who are engaged. I would appreciate your advice in this situation.

Thank you and God bless,


Answer:

That there will be disagreements in any relationship is basically a given. Two people, being raised in two different homes, will find difference in thought about situations at times. What really makes a relationship is not how often disagreements come but how well those disagreements are handled. It is interesting that you brought up I Corinthians 13:4-8 because most people miss what Paul was saying. He wasn't actually talking about husband and wife situations but about how brethren ought to love each other in a church. That it happens to also apply to husbands and wives makes it more special. But what people miss is that love is a choice and it is is seen best in how a person reacts to an unlovable person.

Think about it. "Love is patient." When is it that you need patience? When everything is going smoothly between two people or when the other person is being really annoying? "Love is kind." Kindness is trivial to show to someone you like, but love is shown when a person can be kind to a person who irritates you. "Love does not envy" only comes into play when everything seems to go great for the other person but not for you. Go through the list and think about how these characteristics truly shine when a person chooses to be that way, specially when the other person makes it hard to be that way. See "Love Is .." for more on this topic.

What saddens me is that you seem to have been toying with your boyfriend. You would stir up his passion, even when you knew it was wrong, and when his instincts want to take over you insist that he stop. It is not that he should be committing fornication, but the point is that the situation should never have started. I can understand why he backed away. Young men have a really hard time with self-control, and his past proves it has been an issue for him, and here you are acting as a seductress pulling him away from his commitment. It has happened often enough that he doesn't trust you because he doesn't trust himself. He's right. When sex enters a relationship, it dominates everything. How can two people learn to love the other person when the only thought that comes up is how far are we going this time.

If he is the man that you want in your life, then why are you undermining his faith instead of building him up? "Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification" (Romans 15:2). Love "does not rejoice in iniquity" (I Corinthians 13:6), but you seem to want to control your boyfriend through his passion.

I can't tell you whether to move on or not, but I can point out that you need to change regardless.

Thank you for your response. I definitely need to change because I do not like the person that I've become and the fact that I caused him to stumble in fornication especially when that was not even supposed to be in our relationship. I'm normally not that kind of person, but there is no excuse for my behavior. I definitely learned from my mistake and am working to not repeat it. It's interesting you said that I was toying with him because he felt like I was playing games with him. I am working on being more patient and less impulsive. He's a sensitive person, and I admit that I took advantage of that. When I think whether it's best to move on and start with a clean slate, I just feel like I'm missing out on a great person whom I care about and I need to show him more appreciation.

I stumbled upon Ephesians 4:2 this morning during my meditation: "Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love," which falls in line with what you wrote as confirmation to pray for the person instead of dwelling on their imperfections. I also came to the realization a few days ago when reading about how Satan tried to test Jesus (Matthew 4) after his fast and if God does not want us to test Him then we should have no business testing people. I can start with memorizing and repeating those two scriptures as I work to change myself, but do you have more suggestions?

I definitely learned from this experience and will not allow that to take part in my relationship, whether current of future. It's strange because, even though I still find him attractive, I don't lust after him as before. I know that I will have to work hard to regain his trust, and we actually just spoke while writing this email. We decided to give it another try and work on being more patient with each other. He's always felt like I was the one for him since the first day we met, but I was still undecided and wanted to get to know him more as we haven't even dated for a year.

One of the personal conflicts I had about the whole relationship was regarding his profession and how my parents would rather I date someone who has had more "schooling" (I'm trying not to sound offensive) and financially stable instead of a jazz musician. Growing up, I also wanted to please my parents and this is something that I recently realized that I need to do what's best for me. On the one hand, I know my parents wouldn't approve of his profession without even getting to know him, but on the other hand, I think he's an amazing person (or maybe I'm just blinded my love). I feel that he has many qualities about him that I admire, and we get along so well almost like we've known each other for years. I feel that at the end of the day, it's important to be with someone who makes you happy and enjoy spending time with, and I finally came to terms with doing what's right for me and dealing with the consequences of my decision.

One question I have for you, Mr. Hamilton, is how do you feel about the "consumer" mentality to leave a great person who meets every criteria in my checklist in order to find someone who has a profession that's "socially acceptable" and what I know would please my parents? I understand that at the end of my day it's my decision, but I wanted to read your thoughts. I am in a profession that's rather "incestuous" where most people marry someone in their field. At the end of the day, I feel that God has given us different gifts and that's one of the things that make us unique. Thank you again for your time and comments. I really enjoy reading your web site!

A typical mistake people make in relationships is to assume that another person's thought and reactions are the same as your own. Men and women do not approach sex or even sexual situation from the same viewpoint. If you don't feel it, then you assume the other person has the same reaction. As an example, girls will often dress provocatively because they want the attention of some guy. But they get upset that they get more attention and from guys they do not care about; worse the type of attention is too sexually charged to be comfortable. Yet, because they do not feel sexy about how they dressed, they think the guys who respond to their dress are the ones with the problem. Yes, guys are to behave themselves, but girls shouldn't be stirring up passion either.

Yesterday I was talking to an older preacher and we got off on the topic of how we found our spouses. I know my family isn't what you would call typical, but one of the lessons my father taught us was that you pick out the type of person you want to marry long before you have anyone in mind, and you do not adjust your standards to accommodate to match whomever you are seeing at the time. The result was that almost all of us met and decided to marry our spouses in very little time. None of us asked for our parent's input on our spouses because we knew that the process of getting married meant we were leaving our parents behind. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24). My parents were wise enough also to know that whomever we picked would be the parent of their grandchildren, they didn't want any bad feelings between them and future in-laws. Besides, if they had not taught us well enough by that point, it was too late.

If your parents have opinions, it is worth considering them to see if they have merit, but the decision is your own.

But as I mentioned before, the real key to a successful marriage is the ability of the two people to resolve problems that are bound to come up. Good marriages don't just happen, they are constantly worked on. That was something my parents taught us, and the result is that all their children remain married to their original spouses. My wife and I were the first of the children to get married and we will be celebrating our thirtieth year together this year.

There is really only one criteria that I consider essential to a good marriage and that is whether the person you are marrying is dedicated to God and improving himself and those he is with. God teaches us how to have good marriages and a person willing to put effort into putting those teachings into practice will succeed. The idea of marrying for money is foolish because money is not a stable commodity. "Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven" (Proverbs 23:5).

First and foremost, congratulations on celebrating thirty years of marriage and may God continue to richly bless you and your family. It's interesting how you chose your spouse because I made my list in my journal almost three years ago before meeting my boyfriend. We first met last year and about two months into meeting him, I went back to my list and realized that he met every single criteria almost like it was written about him. My problem has been I never mentioned anything in my list about educational background or profession but rather wanted someone who loves the Lord and other important characteristics to me. His lifestyle or profession is one of the things that gives me pause at times, but I need to be more optimistic that if we are committed to each other then we will find a way to work things out.

I understand my parents concerns, including how one "can't live on love alone" and other important things based on societal standards, but based on my list, I focused first on if he has a relationship with the Lord and is he a man of character. Actually, last year before we even met, we finally decided to pray about finding a spouse and putting God first and eventually met a few months.

I've been praying about what I should do and really felt at peace last night that if we did break up, I would not harbor any ill feelings towards him and wish him the best. At the same time, I remind myself how happy he makes me feel and that I love spending time with him, so it's a matter of me deciding what I really want. He has always known what he wanted in this relationship but I've been hesitant until now. I feel like I'm gaining more clarity about this as well.

How are you?

As a follow up to our last correspondence, I have worked on changing myself regarding having the right motives in my relationship, but I must admit that my boyfriend and I are still having difficulties largely because of me. I know that I need to change and continue to seek God first, but I get upset about the situation at hand that I caused. I understand that I need to work on myself and it will take time regarding being more appreciative of him, patient, and using my tongue to bless and not curse him; unfortunately, these have been an issue for me to the point that we are yet again currently broken up to give us time to work on ourselves. I know that I made a huge mistake, and I don't want to miss out on such an amazing person. What are some recommendations that you have regarding working on myself, so that I'm better prepared in the future? I still would like to study with you on relationships if my partner and I do reconcile.

Thanks again for your advice.

"So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20).

Typically people get angry because they want to make something happen, but it is out of their control. So they "push" through anger, but that rarely causes a resolution.

See:

Thank you, Mr. Hamilton, for the recommendations. I appreciate your time.

Hello again Mr. Hamilton,

I wanted to briefly update you. My boyfriend no longer wants to be with me because of the several hurtful things I said to him the past few weeks which really broke his heart. He felt that if I was truly the woman for him then I would have never made those comments. He's already seeing someone else at this moment and thinks there's nothing I could do to fix this because he was really hurt by my words especially when he felt that I was "the one" for him.

I pray that he would forgive me of those comments, and I know that it will take time even though I've apologized. I had my doubts about the relationship from the beginning and that is one of the reasons why we had an on-off again relationship for 10 months and why I made those statements. I felt that I allowed fear and doubt to take over my thoughts, unfortunately. I really feel like God brought us together and I was starting to take control of those fears, and to be honest, it's something that I still have once in awhile, but I want to have faith and know that he is the man for me, especially because he has everything that I am looking for. However, I really wrestled with him not having a college degree, which I now realize is superficial, and he does plan on going back to college, since I was raised that a college education is very important. Because the tongue is powerful, I basically ruined a relationship with an amazing person. I have been working on these areas, and I really wanted my former partner to work with me, but he just couldn't take it anymore regarding the difficult past three weeks. We had a great relationship prior to that.

I know that I need to move on and work on myself and drawing closer to the Lord. He feels like there's nothing I could do to salvage our relationship and it's over. We still love each other so is it crazy that I want to be patient with him as he works through his hurt (and is already seeing someone), but if he decides in the future to come back to me to really work hard on our relationships because I feel that it could really work out especially since we had a wonderful connection. Or, if he in the future decides to give me another chance just move on because he's not the one for me? I ask because isn't true that if God has a gift that's for us then there's nothing that can really take it away, not to use that as an excuse to take advantage it, but if it's true love "it will come back?"

Thanks again,

You had several chances to improve your behavior. While you probably made progress, you did not manage to make a radical change. Those changes still need to be made for your own sake. But in regards to this relationship, you need to stop deceiving yourself. Men tend to be direct. If he says it is over both in word and in behavior, then it is over. Waiting won't gain you anything more than confirmation that it is over. You discarded your opportunity to reverse the course, mostly because you could not fully commit to it.

So take what you've learned with you. There is no such thing as just one person for another. There are thousands of men whom you could happily live with. You made mistakes with this man, but you know better what kind of man you are looking for.

Thank you again for your response. I learned so much about myself and others. My past relationship was such a huge learning experience, and even though I don't always get what I want, I give God thanks.