Every Monday I like to post a reader question that I received, and then take a stab at answering it.
Today’s question is definitely from God, because I got FIVE variations of it in one 24 hour period. So I know God wants me to write about it. Here’s a snapshot of two of them (the others are pretty similar):
My boyfriend and I have been dating for three years. We agreed that we wouldn’t have sex until we were married, but one year into our relationship we started sleeping together. We stopped going to church. But lately I’ve felt God calling me back. I decided that we really needed to stop having sex, and I told him, but he’s really upset with me. Does God want me to lose what’s most important to me? How can I make my boyfriend understand?
I’ve been living with a man for seven years. Two years ago we both became Christians. I felt very convicted that we should get married, but my boyfriend says that he was married before (we both were), and he’s never doing that again. We’ve tried counseling and all kinds of things, but he won’t set a date. What should I do?
Here are a few thoughts:
You already know the answer.
No matter how you ended up at this blog post–whether you were one of the initial letter writers, or you searched Google, or you followed a link from Pinterest–you had that same question: “how do I make my relationship right with God?” And if you’re asking the question, you already know the answer. It’s just that it’s really hard to accept.
I understand that.
But that voice that’s telling you, “what you’re doing isn’t right” is God’s voice. He’s trying to woo you back. He wants you to do what’s right. And having sex before you’re married isn’t right. It’s not because God’s mean, either. It’s because He honestly wants what’s best for us.
If you were comfortable with the way things were, you wouldn’t be asking the question. So the question really isn’t “should I stop sleeping with my boyfriend?” You already know the answer is yes. The crisis you’re likely having is this one: “what about my relationship? Will I lose him?” Let’s look at that.
You can’t take a bad route to a happy ending
You want that happy ending: you want to be married to a guy who loves you and respects you and will be a great dad for your kids. You want to be married to someone that can cherish you and that you can love and share your heart with.
But here’s the thing: you aren’t going to get there using the wrong route.
Yes, occasionally people live together, and get married, and then both turn right with God together and they end up blissfully happy. Certainly that does happen, and you’re hoping that it will happen with you.
But usually that’s because NEITHER of them knew the right thing to do at the time, and then BOTH of them came to God together. It wasn’t that one person was deliberately tuning out God’s voice.
So let’s take a step back for a second and examine what you want: you want someone who loves you, respects you, and shares your heart. Yet if your boyfriend isn’t willing to value your opinion and honour your deeply held beliefs, does he respect you? Does he share your heart? Does he love you?
If he doesn’t respect you and love you now, he will not suddenly start respecting and loving you once you’re married. Believe me, I get so many OTHER emails from women who married in exactly your situation. They loved the guy, but the relationship wasn’t a good one, and they hoped that marriage would fix it. It doesn’t. It just magnifies all those problems. I wish I could put these letter writers together with the women who are in agony ten years into the marriage, because I think it would be very illuminating. If he doesn’t respect you now, he won’t respect you then. He just won’t. And he won’t suddenly become the kind of man that you want. So there is no point in just waiting around, hoping that one day he’ll marry you, because marrying you won’t fix those problems.
Besides, if he won’t set a date now, what makes you think he will in five years? In ten years? I have known women who have lived with the same guy from age 25 to age 40. They missed out on their childbearing years, because they kept thinking, “next year he’ll marry me and we can start a family.” It never happened.
If he won’t move out (or stop sleeping together) until you’re married, and set a date for the wedding, then he is not a stable person who loves you and respects you. You won’t get what you want from him.
To wrestle through this more, Gary Thomas has written a book that I can’t recommend enough called The Sacred Search. He talks about what you should look for in a mate, and how the mate’s CHARACTER is the most important ingredient for a happy marriage. It’s a great read!
Do the right thing
So I would encourage you to do the right thing. If you’re living with him, move out. If you’re sleeping with him, stop.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you break up. It could be that he will agree with you. But take that time apart to really examine your relationship and make sure it’s a good one. Sex confuses things. It makes us feel closer than we otherwise would, and it bonds us together. It can obscure what are obvious problems. So don’t just move out and then rush into marriage. Take at least a few months to work on spending time together doing things OTHER than sex, and see if you still feel the same way about him.
Remember: if he is the one that God has for you, then the relationship will survive the split, and will in fact grow deeper and better, because you’re doing the right thing. God blesses you when you do the right thing. So moving out won’t end a good relationship; if it’s a good relationship, it will survive. Moving out will only end a bad relationship, and even though that may hurt now, in the long run, it is so, so much better.
What about Kids?
Here’s a twist in the problem, though. Here’s another letter, with an added element:
A year ago I moved in with my boyfriend. It was supposed to be a prelude to marriage–we just hadn’t set the date because we weren’t sure of his work schedule. Now we’re still not married, and there’s still no date, but in the meantime I’ve had a daughter. I know what we’re doing is wrong, but what should I do? I don’t want to hurt my daughter.
In this case, there are children to consider. I take that very seriously. I firmly believe that children should grow up with two parents. So I’m a little more ambivalent about this one. But here’s what I would say:
God does not ask us to sin in order to save another person. He is not saying to you, “keep living with him and sleeping with him for the sake of your daughter.” What He is asking you to do is trust Him: Trust Him that if you do the right thing, God will be there for you AND your daughter. It may be that your boyfriend changes his mind and gets serious about his family. Or it may be that God has another future for you. But He will carry you, and He will be enough for both of you.
So I would move out, and I would tell him that you will no longer sleep with him until you are married. Your daughter needs the stability of married parents. If he agrees, and sets a date, I would seriously consider going through with the marriage, even if he isn’t an ideal husband, because you have already had a child with him. Obviously if abuse or alcoholism or porn is involved, you should take a step back. But all of this is still dependent on you stopping the relationship the way it is now. God is asking you to stop; that’s why He’s been nudging you. He wants to take the situation you’re in and redeem it. I don’t know how He will do that; it may be with this man, or it may be that God will plant you in the middle of a Christian community that will be there for you and help you raise your daughter. But I do know that He does not ask us to keep sinning.
Pray a ton right now. Turn to Scripture and start reading it regularly. Go to church and get some support around you. You’re going to need it! Doing the right thing is always hard. But I do know that God honours it. He really does.
This will likely be one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. Your heart is breaking. But it is better to do the right thing, and to do it early, than to drag out something that you know is wrong and is leading you down a bad road.
I pray that you will have the courage and the trust to listen to God.
Do any of you have any words of advice? Have you ever been there? Let’s encourage each other in the comments!