Real Talk About Relationships: A Post For Valentine’s Day

Relationships.

Admittedly, this is a topic that I haven’t talked much about on my blog. It’s also probably the one topic that most people would expect to see on a teen blog. For years, I’ve been trying to figure out how to address this topic here, and have never really come to a resolution.

Nonetheless, lately, I feel very much compelled to address it, and I feel that it’s about time I did a post on dating relationships

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You see, the reason I’ve never posted about relationships on here is because I’ve never been in one myself. And I have always felt sort of inadequate to give advice on such a complicated topic. Throughout high school, I was always heavily immersed in what some have dubbed “the Christian subculture“. Almost none of my friends dated. Almost none of my friends were even allowed to date. So, when I started this blog, I focused on things that I either knew something about or current social issues that could be easily resolved through research.

Needless to say, dating didn’t exactly make the cut.

Considering I barely had a fully formed view of dating relationships in high school, I decided to hold off on this topic until later—when I had more insight into the topic. Admittedly, I’m not much further along than I was a couple of years ago, but I do feel more equipped to speak about dating at this point. In fact, my lack of knowledge serves as sort of a lesson in itself for this post.

Christians need to talk about relationships. 

In the midst of relationship messiness, we as young people need instruction. And most of us, if we’re really honest, are seriously lacking in dating-expertise. 

Speaking on behalf of Christian teens (of which I still sort of qualify, at nineteen years old), most of us half been hit with dating theories left and right. Many, which my friend Emily so apty pointed out, that are born more out of fear than wisdom. We’re bombarded with a billion prerequisites that go beyond the realm of Biblical truth.

We’re expected to know if we can marry them before our first date. We put up so many boundaries that we throw trust, intuition, and normal interaction out the window. We’re encouraged not to “get too attached” or “give our heart away” while on the hunt our soul mate. We’re encouraged to start dating at eighteen, and get married three or four years later, because it would be simply dreadful to end up as an ‘old maid‘ at twenty four.

It’s enough to make you want forget dating altogether and live vicariously through chick flicks and Nicholas Sparks novels. 

Nonetheless, lately, despite my own lack of experience with dating, I have started thinking more actively about dating relationships and what makes for a good relationship—as I’ve discussed the topic with friends and talked about it with my mom.

Thus, I would like to keep it simple, and list some of the basic principals that I believe equal a healthy relationship.

Love, Honor, and Trust.

For many of us, it has been all too easy to grow up with presuppositions about the opposite gender—especially for us gals. I’ve spoken about it previously in relation to male-female friendships, but the struggle is all too real with dating relationships.

Between TV, movies, and offhand comments from well meaning people, girls aren’t taught to hold out for a man with self-control. We’re taught that all men are all basically walking hormones—and within this toxic teaching, we fail to teach girls to wait for someone they can trust. As a culture, we’ve failed to differentiate between normal, self-controlled, imperfect guys with struggles and sexual predators.

Even Christians have often been guilty of making excuses for inappropriate behavior—thus choosing to stereotype our brothers in Christ rather than assume the best about the majority of men. Because of this, too many girls have come to expect the worst of guys, and stayed with toxic, abusive boyfriends—brushing it off as “typical male behavior”. Girls aren’t taught about warning signs to watch out for, and abusive men are often been brushed off as “normal”—creating a recipe for disaster.

As God’s children, fearfully and wonderfully made in His image, we deserve to be with someone who respects us and respects the God that we serve. We deserve a man who will treat us right and honor us. We deserve to know that there are still good guys left in the world, and that we ought not to settle for less than our best.

The Freedom of Not Knowing 

Sometimes, a date (or a courtship) can be just that. A date. Not an engagement; not a marriage proposal. It doesn’t make us shallow or a ‘serial dater’. It just makes us human. It just means that early in the relationship, we might not know if they’re the one. And that’s OK.

Expecting a person to know 100% who they’re going to marry when they’re still getting to know the other person and themselves is asking a lot. True, we should be someone we could potentially see ourselves marrying down the line. And true, they should have our core values and beliefs. But we don’t have to sign a contract on our first date. Sometimes, it’s OK to not know—that’s what the dating process is for. So we can get to know them. We don’t have to book a chapel on our first date, just as long as we treat the other person right, and don’t lead them on.

Listen To The Voices 

Oftentimes, our intuition can be a helpful aid in making big decisions, such as ‘who to date’. While we shouldn’t solely listen to our intuition, we shouldn’t ignore it altogether either. This pertains both to the specific person and to our standards. Do guys who are quick to anger make you nervous? Then stay away. Do you want a guy with certain core values, like honesty and integrity. Listen to that. Oftentimes, problems arise when we refuse to listen to our gut and the Holy Spirit’s counsel and try to rationalize behavior that we know is wrong. Don’t ignore that still small voice in the midst of strong feelings.

In addition to listening to our own intuition, it’s important to hear out what others have to say. Friends and family can provide insight on things that we haven’t even considered. Furthermore, it can be easy for judgement to get cloudy in the midst of a feelings for another person. If we listen to our voice and the voice of others—including God, through prayer and Bible study, we’ll save ourselves from a lot of mistakes and heartache.

Be OK with singleness

Too often, society and the church elevate marriage and dating relationships so much that they isolate people who are single—either out of calling, or for a period of time. Single people are often viewed with suspicion, or as somehow ‘less-than’ compared with their married counterparts.

Nonetheless, both statuses are fully respected in God’s eyes. Whether we eventually marry or not, we’re all likely to be single for at least some period of time. It’s important that we all learn to be comfortable with ourselves before we jump into a relationship with someone else. Ultimately, God is the only one who can give us true joy, and when we replace God with anything else—even a good thing, we will always be disappointed.

How about you? Do you have any relationship advice that you’d like to share? If so, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section! It’s always great to hear your thoughts!

 

 

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So What About Feminism? (Part Three)

Warning: Extremely long post. Grab a cup of tea, put on some good music and make yourself comfortable if you dare to read all of this. 

I’ll be honest, I enjoy a good love story. Though I come across fairly ‘tomboyish’ to most who know me, I have a weakness for chick-flicks and Hallmark movies (The secret’s out y’all!). I love books by Karen Kingsbury, pretty much any movie with Reese Witherspoon.

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Furthermore, since marriage and family is likely to be a huge part of the lives of many Christians, I feel that it is very important topic to address within this series.

Admittedly, as a girl who has been single since birth, I’m coming at this from an “outside looking in” perspective. Nonetheless, I do not live in a bubble and I’ve had the opportunity to witness relationship dynamics in both real life and the movies. Plus, like many millennial girls, I have a fair amount of old Taylor Swift songs on my iTunes account. 😉

Joking aside, I have taken the time to research this topic and have read passages in the Bible that relate to marriage. I’ve also searched reputable, outside-sources by people who know God’s word and have studied this topic much longer than I have.

I believe that our best starting place in studying this topic is asking what God intends marriage to look like. Because humans are fallen, we’ve likely witnessed, or even been in, an unhealthy relationship before. Look no further than television to find dysfunctional relationships abroad. Many TV shows portray blatant disrespect, borderline emotional-abuse, and lust as commonplace, something to be expected in dating or marital relationships. This should not be so. God takes this covenant so seriously that He uses the metaphor of marriage to describe Christ’s relationship with the church. Clearly, God has high standards for marriage.

God calls for love and respect on both ends of the relationship. Some people have tried to create a power imbalance between the husband and wife by misusing the word ‘submit’, but I do not believe that hierarchy in marriage is God’s intent. In the Garden of Eden, God gives Adam and Eve equal dominion over the earth, as co-stewards of creation (Genesis 1:28).

Furthermore, in the original Greek language, submit means to ‘voluntary yield in love‘. The word used to refer to husbands and wives is different than the word used for parent-child relationships. The wife is not called to absolute obedience, but rather to love and respect her husband, just as her husband is called to love and respect her. To quote an article from godswordtowomen.org Absolute obedience belongs to God alone (www.godswordtowomen.org/patriarchyriss.htm).

So what does it mean for both partners to love and respect each other? It would seem that the first step is to treat each other kindly. Colossians 3:19 instructs husbands not to be harsh to their wife and Proverbs 21:19 warns against wives being quarralsum with their husband. In short, it seems that the Golden Rule applies to both partners in marriage, Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31). 

A second thing that I believe is highly important in a marriage is for both partners to encourage one and other. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” I believe that both partners should do their best to encourage each other’s dreams, goals, careers, and callings. God has a unique plan for each person’s life, and it’s important that both the husband and the wife encourage each other to become all that God intended them to be.

It is also import for both spouses to provide emotional support when their partner is going through a difficult time. Oftentimes, people place the emphasis on financial support, but  many gals believe emotional support is just as important. There is much more to marriage than “putting food on the table”. Taking the time to listen and understand your spouse is something that will likely stay in their mind much longer than a number on a paycheck.

Last but far from least, marry someone who shares your faith and values. I cannot stress this point enough. I have seen people marry someone from a drastically different faith background, or no faith at all, and it always causes a truckload of problems. Complications come in with raising children and the couple misses out on the bond of a common faith. 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” This is not saying that unbelievers are bad people. All of us were unbelievers at one point (After all, even if we were raised in church, we weren’t born Christian). What it is saying, is that it’s important for our close friends, and especially our spouse, to share our faith and convictions.

. . . .

This post concludes my three-part series on Biblical gender-equality.

I hope you all have enjoyed reading this series as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I have received a lot of positive feedback and have been challenged in a very positive way as I’ve searched the Bible for answers to hard questions. If you pull nothing else away from this series, I want to leave you with one thing to think about; God loves us and wants to use us in the midst of countless of differences. 

We’re all in slightly different pockets of life and come from a variety of backgrounds, but through Christ’s blood on the cross, we are one giant, amazing, beautiful, diverse family.

Called to emulate, follow, and share the love of our Savior, and shine as a light to a broken and dark world. ❤️