“I’ve met someone I really like–but should I fall in love with him?”
When is a man worth falling in love with?
On Monday I like to take a reader question and answer it, but as we’ve been talking about the criteria for a good marriage partner lately, I thought it was time to revisit this question. And today Katie and Rebecca and I are taking a road trip to go film some TV shows about our course The Whole Story to help prepare kids for puberty (we’ve got the boys’ version launching this fall, too!), and so I wanted to rerun a post instead of writing a new one.
We’ve been talking a lot about preparing for marriage lately, because I see so many difficult marriages, and I wish I could go back in time and give people advice about how to choose someone to marry. Since I can’t, I’d rather help warn the next generation to be wise! So here we go. And please–pass this along!
When is a man worth falling in love with? I have so many women on this blog who aren’t married yet, but who would like to be–and who are even aiming to marry young. And I’d like to share some thoughts with them.
I’ve written before about the 4 things you need in a husband, and those are so important. And last week I ran a post on 10 ways to tell if a guy has good character. But I thought of another way to look at it today that I’d like to share.
So let’s imagine this: You’re 19, and you notice a guy that makes your heart flutter a bit. You get to know him, and you start texting and meeting for coffee. At what point do you let yourself emotionally invest in him? At what point do you give your heart away? When should you fall in love?
I know that it’s not easy to protect your heart, but I’ve always tried to teach my daughters to be wise and not to think about being with someone with whom it would never work. Just don’t even think about it!
But when is it okay to start down that road When is it okay to let yourself fall in love?
I’m going to assume first of all that there is some kind of spark. That’s usually what starts this whole process, after all. So I’m not going to mention that. Instead, here are the two things that are important:
He has to have good character; and he has to treat you well.
That’s it. Just two things! Let’s explore them a bit.
1. Don’t love somebody without good character
He simply has to love God, be wise, and be a steady, reliable person. Under this category would be most of what I wrote in my post on the 4 things you need in a husband.
You need someone that you can serve God with, because that is the purpose of our lives. As Gary Thomas wrote in Sacred Search, Matthew 6:33–Seek ye first the kingdom of God–should apply when choosing a mate as much as it should apply anywhere. Seek God first, and you will choose someone who is also seeking God whom you can serve with.
Ironically, if you are a strong Christian this is often the easy part. Finding another strong Christian, when you belong to a good church or are involved in college & career groups, isn’t hard. And here’s where the difficulty comes: you find someone that does love God, that you can picture serving God with together, and your heart starts to flutter. You begin to imagine the two of you married, or having kids, or whatever. And that’s a danger, because you also need the other element:
2. Don’t love somebody who doesn’t treat you well or invest in the relationship
You may have found someone with good character–but if they’re not willing to invest in the relationship and treat you well, it’s not worth it. If you’re the one always texting them and arranging to meet up; if you have to remind him to call you; if you sit at home and wonder if he’s thinking about you and you have absolutely no idea–then don’t do it.
I fell in love hard when I was 18. He had amazing character, I thought: he led the campus prison ministry (our university was in a big prison town, and a lot of the campus groups were involved in prison ministry); he was planning on going on the mission field; he led Bible studies. He was a lot older than me, but he was impressed with my dedication to evangelism and God, too. And so we started seeing each other, if that’s the term. But he didn’t want anybody else to know, likely because he knew his friends would wonder why he was dating a first year student. And he was also planning on going around the world the following year to do missions work before medical school.
I was madly in love with this guy. I would have followed him anywhere, had he asked. But he didn’t. He liked being with me, he liked having my devotion, he liked all the perks I brought–but he wouldn’t invest anything of himself.
If you are the one who is invested more in the relationship, you need to guard your heart. You can’t force someone to love you. They have to come to that themselves. It’s better to take a huge step back and leave it in God’s hands than to chase after someone. If you are meant to be together, God will let it happen. But if you force something, you set up this dynamic where you’re needy and you’re trying to keep the relationship going. And that’s awful!
So should you fall in love with him? No, not if he isn’t equally into you.
One more thing: treating you well does not equal making out. Perhaps that seems obvious, but here’s what often happens: you totally love someone, and whenever you get together he kisses you and it’s amazing and you feel so close. And then he’s gone for a week and doesn’t text you. A physical relationship makes you feel close. It insinuates that you love each other. It makes it seem like, “he must be invested in me!” But it doesn’t necessarily mean anything of the sort. He may just like kissing you. Don’t mistake physical affection for treating you well; in most cases, it’s the exact opposite. If a guy will kiss you breathlessly but then not text you or call you for a while, he’s DEFINITELY not worth your attention. Don’t let hormones warp your judgment.
When you’re falling in love, don’t settle for just one criteria
When I was having a heart-to-heart with one university girl this weekend, I said to her: You have one guy with a great character who doesn’t treat you well, and one guy who treats you well but doesn’t love God that much. Neither is worth your heart right now. Move on and grow yourself, even if that’s difficult.
Because that’s really all you can do.
If a guy has a great character, and he falls for you, he will most likely treat you well. But a guy with a great character can still treat you badly if he’s immature; he’s not ready for a relationship; or he’s too focused elsewhere right now. He may be a great guy, but that relationship is doomed. Don’t invest in it. Should you fall in love? NO. Absolutely not.
Then I know another young woman who just broke off an engagement, and it was heartbreaking. He treated her well and worshiped the ground she walked on–but he didn’t love God and he was rather lazy. Ultimately, you can’t marry someone like that.
Most heartaches are caused because we sacrifice one point
Most of the time that we get our hearts broken it’s because one of those conditions isn’t met. Either we pursue a relationship with a guy we’re attracted to but who isn’t ultimately right for us because he doesn’t love God or is lazy or is self-centered, and then we have to break it off after giving him years of our lives, or we fall for a great guy who just isn’t ready for a relationship.
Every heartache that I can remember in my life, except for one, was caused by sacrificing one of the main criteria. If you are with someone who invests in the relationship and who is good to you who also has good character–it’s rare that that relationship won’t work if you are both praying people. If you’re both listening to God, then things likely will work out well. The one heartache where I had both criteria met was with my now-husband. He broke off our engagement, and then came back a few months later. But even then, he was worth giving my heart to!
So don’t give your heart away unless both criteria are met. Don’t let yourself fall in love with anybody who doesn’t have a great character, or who doesn’t invest in the relationship, too.
I know it’s hard to look around you and feel alone, like there’s no one that you can imagine marrying right now. I know it’s nicer to have someone to think about and dream about. That’s natural. But don’t do it. Don’t dream about someone who hasn’t returned your affections. And don’t even think about falling for someone who doesn’t love God.
My daughter Katie made a video about this, too! Here’s Katie talking about these exact two things!
Just a note to those living with someone already
And now, a final word for those of my readers who are living with their boyfriends, but the relationship isn’t going anywhere. I get a ton of people on this blog for marriage advice, and even though this is a Christian marriage blog, I often get people who aren’t Christians. And that’s fine. That’s wonderful. I’m glad you’re here!
But I’ve had so many comments left lately saying something like, “I love my boyfriend and we’ve been living together for four years, but he won’t get a job,” or “I really want to marry my boyfriend, but I just found out he uses porn and he never cleans up around the house,” or “My boyfriend never wants to talk to me or do anything with me. He treats me like a roommate he gets to have sex with. I love him so much, but how do I get him to treat me well?”
One of the problems all of these women have is that they are already living with these guys. They’ve given so much of themselves away–without the men having to give much of anything back.
Living with someone before marriage is really dangerous. It makes you feel closer than if you were just dating, which makes it harder to break off what may be a very dysfunctional relationship. Here’s a post I wrote for women who need to put the brakes on a relationship and see whether it’s worth it.
And can you all do me a favour and share this post with young people you know? Let’s get the word out! Just put it on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter!
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