Posted by: jmark | August 18, 2006

Letters: On Relationships – Not getting too physical

Hi XXXX

Glad things are turning the corner with the doubts. Now on to the big one – relationships!

Things with xxxx and i are not that great. At the start we didnt really prepare ourselves for a relationship, and sometimes went a bit ‘far’. We strived to not do it, and focus more on Christ, by Bible studys etc. But at times we fall again.

Yeah, I remember that feeling. I think for me one of the key things was realising that we can substitute the physical side of things (especially prolonged kissing), for almost any other aspect of the relationship – conversation, doing things together. In a sense the physical side of things is a cop out. It’s quick and easy satisfaction. And if it is taking more time than anything else, or is going too far, we need to be fairly ruthless, and cut back a lot.

I have no hard and fast rules here, because people are different. But it might be a good idea to say, “We’ll limit physical contact to holding hands and a brief peck on the cheek” and both of you stick to that, holding the other accountable.

In my experience its nearly always the guy who wants more physical contact, and its nearly always the guy who expects the girl to draw the limits – so he takes and takes until he then realises that its going too ‘far’.

As the bloke you need to draw the lines and stick to them, and not wait for her to tell you to stop. And yet she needs to help you and hold you accountable.

Also, most girls are more happy with a show of affection, and some attention to who they are and what they’re doing in life, than with a long passionate snog.

Most recently being yesterday. We’re talking about it tomorrow. I said that if it was her best Christian friend and she was doing what we did would she want that relationship to continue. She’s coming round tomorrow to talk. I feel that maybe if we wanted to grow closer to Christ it could be better apart – even though i think that she would make an amazing Christian wife. I’m pretty unsure what to do.

I think the key question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I going out with this girl because I want to be in a relationship, or because I really want to marry her? Do I want to serve her sacrificially in a Christ-like manner (Eph 5:25) for the rest of my life?”

I tend to think you should only enter a relationship if you are aiming for marriage, in other words if you can specifically see yourself marrying, and want to be married to, this person.

If you’re only going out with her because you want to be in a relationship, then that’s not fair to her. If you think that she’d make ‘someone’ a great Christian wife, but aren’t necessarily convinced that you must be that ‘someone’, then I would feel that it might be better to stop.

On the other hand, if you really can see yourself marrying her, and feel that she would be good for you as a Christian (Does she spur you on in the Christian life?), then I wouldn’t see the need to break things up now.

It might be the case that you need to sit down together and set down some basic guidelines. Both of you are at uni – so your priority over the next number of years is your studies, not each other. Therefore you need to limit the time you spend together – say, twice (or three times) a week. Perhaps you need to say that only one of those occasions will be alone, the others will be when lots of other people will be around — say meeting up for lunch. This will provide a safe-guard, to some degree.

The thing about the physical aspect of a relationship is that it is like lighting a fuse that only burns for so long before it explodes. And while marriage is a long way off, for example when people are at university, the longer you can keep from lighting that fuse the better. By our very nature, our bodies know that sex is the final destination, and we quickly get dissatisfied with each level below that, and want more. So there is little point in starting the process when the goal isnt attainable, ie when marriage is a long way off.

(Also the more you lay off the physical the more you can develop the relationship.)

Another guideline might be that you lay off the physical side of the relationship and concentrate on building up the conversational, the spiritual, the enjoyment side of things. For example:

  • read the same books (not necessarily Christian ones) and talk about them.
  • Buy a kite and go and fly it together.
  • Find an interest and work at it together – photography, putting together an album of the trip to Guatemala etc.
  • Or start up a blog at Blogger.com and both write about what you have learned from a passage of scripture. It doesn’t need to be for others to read, just for each other. The idea is to spend time working together because that is what a marriage is, working together.
  • Or if you are doing a bible study dont feel you have to use a study book, try taking a book of the bible and agreeing to read a chapter a day, and then meet up once a week to talk about what you’ve both learned. Judith and I used to do that. Its much less formal and preparation can easily be incorporated into your own devotional time.

Why don’t you map out the areas you want to grow in as a Christian, and get her to do the same, and talk about them, and talk about how you can help each other, and how best achiving your goals can be realised.

Sorry for such a long email. Give us a shout and let me know if any of this makes sense!

In Christ,

Mark

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