Keep Your Dating Boundaries and Don't Settle

Mar 13, 2021

"I don't know what to do with my boyfriend," Stephanie said. "We're having problems, but I love him a lot. He's just not into the spiritual life. He pushes me for sex, and my values are important to me, so we get into a fight over being physical. And it doesn't seem like I'm a high priority to him. We do spend time together, but I feel like I'm second to everything. I don't mind that he has hobbies and has friends. It's great! But I seem to always come in second."

"How long have you been together," I asked.

"Almost a year," she said.

"So what's the problem?"

"I love him, and I want us to get married, but these things are bothering me. I don't know what to do,” she said, her voice trailing off into disappointment.

"Sometimes it seems as though I should end it."

"So, why don't you?"

"I told you. I love him.”

"So what?”

“I don't think you should just throw away love. It's too precious when you find it.”

“ ‘Throw away love' is a pretty tough phrase," I said. "I don't think that's how I'd put it. But let me tell you what I'm hearing. I hear something from you that is very, very common. You have gotten the cart before the horse.”

"How?"

"You are evaluating this relationship by your attachment to him instead of by what you value. Let me ask you something. What do you want in a husband?"

"I want someone who is committed to me, is spiritually compatible, lives out our values, stuff like that."

"Those are good things to want in someone you commit to. Now, if you had never met your boyfriend, and if I said to you, 'Stephanie, I have a guy for you to fall in love with and marry. I want to fix you up. He is available, and you will probably find him attractive. But he won't pay attention to you, he will pursue his interests over the relationship, he is not into keeping his spiritual values, he is spiritually passive, he will leave you alone a lot while he does his own thing and get bugged at you when you try to talk about it, and he will pressure you to have sex, even though he espouses the same morals you do and says he is committed to waiting until marriage. But I think you will love him.' What would you say? Do you want him?"

"No! I would ask you to find me someone else."

"Exactly, because your values and your senses would be leading your selection process instead of your attachment to him. But now because you 'love him,' your attachment to him is getting in the way of seeing what you want and what is vitally important. You cannot lead with whether or not you are attached to someone. You have to be guided by your spiritual values and the things that make love last. I am not suggesting you 'throw love away.' I am suggesting that you protect love and require the character that makes it work. That is what values do — they protect and preserve love and all the good things in life."

"So what do I do?"

"You lead with your values and what you want. You say, 'Joe, I am looking for a certain kind of relationship with a certain kind of person. The person I will ultimately commit to is honest, loving, responsible, spiritually committed, able to value the relationship and me as well as his own interests, and respectful of my boundaries, and he lives out our spiritual values. That is who I want to be with. Right now, that is not you. You do not do these things, and we have talked about how you don't many times. You know what they are. So, until you are that person or seriously are becoming that person, I cannot be with you. I will wait for that person. I hope you do become that person. I want that person to be you. But right now you are not. Let me know if you become him. Until then, I have to move on."

“I get it,” Stephanie said. “Lead with my values, not how I feel about him, even if how I feel about him is very strong.”

“You’ve got it,” I said. “How strongly you feel is not the test.”