It’s very tempting when you meet your “special someone” to spend all of your free moments with them to the exclusion of everyone else. I made that mistake not that long ago. I accepted the offer to write this piece because I recently ended a relationship with someone I cared very deeply about, and I wanted to share some lessons which God has imparted to me through this painful process of healing.
As tantalizing as the prospect of spending time with your new boyfriend or girlfriend can be, you must still strive to maintain a healthy balance between your partner and the rest of the people in your life. The people God has placed around you will all help you in some way, either by providing a listening ear, or sometimes by offering stern warnings when you need it.
If you’re currently seeing someone, or even thinking about it, here are some people you will absolutely need to keep in contact with as the relationship progresses.
You need solid Christian friends.
A true “friend” when it comes to dating is a person who will not only keep the things you share about your relationship in confidence, but will also be willing to challenge your actions and speak plainly to you even when you’re against their advice. While it’s always nice to have someone who will rejoice with you when you “find love,” you also have to find someone who will have the courage to speak harsh truths to you when those feelings of love are blinding your better judgment. The friends you share your life with will be the first line of defense in your relationship, as they’ll be able to notice when you’re having relationship issues and/or making unwise decisions.
You need your family.
Your family might not always be the easiest to talk to, but the fact remains that these people raised you, and they know you better than you will ever know yourself. They can tell you whether you’re being too stubborn, or too submissive. They know your hopeless romanticism leaves you a little out of touch with what’s practical. More than all of that though, they love you unconditionally, and they will always be your biggest supporters. Don’t shut them out of your big decisions; include them at every step of the relationship. Also, keep in mind that siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents are all good people to turn to with situations you may not feel comfortable discussing with Mom and Dad.
You need a local church to plug into.
Being part of a congregation provides you with a critical support network during all seasons of life, especially while you’re dating. If you and your partner are members of the same church, this also gives you a great place to date in a group environment during the early stages of the relationship, so that you both feel comfortable as you’re getting to know one another. As the relationship progresses, you can also look within the congregation to find other couples at a similar stage to your own, and also those further along than you. This brings me to my next point . . .
You need “seasoned” couples around you.
Any couple that is further along than you in their relationship, whether they’re seriously dating or married, can be a huge source of wisdom. More established couples can help you understand what to expect as your relationship progresses, and oftentimes it’s reassuring to know that whatever struggles you’re experiencing as a couple are “normal,” in the sense that most couples have been through similar situations. Mentorship from an older couple is invaluable, because it allows you to absorb some of the wisdom they’ve acquired over their years together and it helps you anticipate and even prevent some of the common struggles that many couples go through during the bonding process. They can also provide an honest assessment as to whether your relationship issues are either “growing pains” or whether they’re actual signs of concern.
You may need professional help.
For some of us, relationships are more difficult than for others because of hurts we received in our past. Whether your home situation wasn’t ideal, or some past relationships left you with emotional scars, the fact is we all carry baggage, some of which can be very serious. It needs to be addressed before you can have a healthy and emotionally balanced partnership.
Before jumping into a serious dating relationship, you may want to consider sitting down with either a pastor or a professional counselor to discuss some things from your past that you know you haven’t dealt with. Although admitting you need help might seem scary, it is far, far better to resolve your issues in a healthy way instead of dumping them on the person you care about. Also, on a happier note, if your relationship begins to look like it might be heading toward marriage, then you will certainly want to seek out pre-marital counseling to help you prepare for your new life together.
Making mistakes is inevitable; as long as you live on this earth in your fallen flesh, you will never be “done” correcting yourself, and neither will your partner. The advantage of having many Christian friends and family (both biological and “church family”) around you is that they can provide timely guidance when you need it, and they can also be there to help you pick up the pieces if things don’t go the way you hoped. After my own failed relationship, because of the concern and support I received, I can rest assured that even though things didn’t turn out the way I hoped, I know I’m loved and cared about by many people.
The people around you are like a safety net which God has put in place to help guide and protect you as you walk through the exciting process of getting to know someone romantically. As Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Don’t push others out; welcome them into the process. As has been so often said, it genuinely takes a community.
J. R. Dudley is a Navy sailor and linguist who writes about his military experiences and his faith journey at his blog www.sailingforhome.com.