I remember one fall day last year. I was in the cafeteria eating my food, when suddenly a student approached me, and with a concerned look asked, “are you okay.” Perplexed I asked, “what do you mean?” I was rather taken aback, and was unsure if something bad had happened to me that I was unaware of. He responded, “I see your girlfriend sitting over there with her friends, and you’re over here with your friends. I just wanted to make sure you two were doing okay.” I responded that we were fine, and that she has her own friends, and as do I, and that we can sit apart or together, that it doesn’t really matter. That began to get me thinking, perhaps there are some ideas floating around that are not the best for relationships. Everyone knows about the divorce rate for TFC graduates, but everyone seems to encourage any behavior or relationship toward marriage. So, I thought I would write over a couple things that I have seen happen to my friends, classmates, and occasionally myself .
The first issue is the “together always” syndrome. During my freshman year, a guy on our hall had recently gotten a girlfriend. After about two days, it was hopeless. He was never on our hall again. Whether it was homework, eating, or chapel, he was never away from her side. His friendships with the guys on his hall died out, as his girlfriend was his only time focus. Perhaps the greatest killer of friendships on the Toccoa Falls campus is your friend getting into a relationship. Yet, is it healthy to spend every possible second with one person? Is it healthy to not place any priority in friendships of the same gender? While I understand that it is fun to hang out with a boyfriend or girlfriend, at what point should it become unwise to spend too much time together? I have seen some couples burn out. They have spent so much time together that they want to be away from that person, but their lives have become accustomed to planning every moment with their significant other. Sometimes people would have relationship problems, but they would not have a close friend to confide in. Most often, breakdowns would start happening in their relationship. Perhaps, it would be wise in a dating relationship to work on maintaining friendships.
Another issue I wonder about as being healthy is thinking that they will be in a constant state of love. Marriage is not about being in love. It is not about feeling like you like the person. Marriage is about building a life and family together. It is not always going to be great. Conflict and fights are bound to happen. Not realizing that these exist, or truly opening one’s eyes to this possibility, I feel that is dangerous. I view it a lot like a friendship. I have a friend who I have been best friends with since junior high. When we first hung out, everything was fun. We would play soccer and talk about our small Lutheran junior high. Now, I do not have the “this is a new person to hang out with” syndrome, but I enjoy hanging out with my friend. We know each other, and know what we like to do together. We’ve had fights, we’ve had times running from the police , and we’ve had times laughing as we’ve tried to talk to girls. I think marriage is like this. It is enjoying building a life together and incorporating someone into your life through the good and the bad. The goal of dating is not to focus on getting to the married point, the goal of dating is to find someone you want to spend the rest of your days with. Some highlight the act of being able to be considered married. The ceremony is what they hold in high esteem, without truly understanding that they are going to grow old with another person.
Some people might ignore big issues in order to stay in a relationship with someone. Settling is perhaps a problem that affects many couples. Perhaps it is fear of being alone, or not wanting to feel like they wasted time, but people settle. I once knew of a couple that was in a relationship. They had dated for a while, and had no outwardly wrong problems. He had confided in a friend that he was not overly happy with her, but he would not end the relationship. After time, he felt he should marry her due to the time he had been with her. The years past, and he began to hate his wife. He felt tied down to a woman whom he never really wanted. He was not a immoral man, but he now found himself cheating on his wife, longing to have a relationship with a different woman. While anyone can work out a marriage with anyone, there are some who it is much easier to do with. If a person feels that they could do better or be happier with someone else, maybe it’s time to break up. Perhaps staying in a relationship is not the right thing to do.
The last and perhaps most dangerous is becoming physical in the relationship. I am not speaking of this as an ignorant youth, but as someone who has seen and talked to many people in many places. If someone doesn’t like you for who you are, how will becoming physical solve this? Yes, being physical is fun for a lot of people. If it wasn’t enjoyable, many people wouldn’t fall into this choice. I am not here to say what the line should or should not be, but rather to say what is wise or unwise. Becoming physical locks you into a relationship. It is a feeling of being obligated to see how things work out, and it also cements the other person to you emotionally. To those who claim to not feel anything from being too physical, perhaps you have never truly loved, or are with someone you have never truly loved. I am not trying to preach on chaste morals, but to say that in a relationship one should seek to make a harder choice and live more wisely. For every broken heart, there is baggage that will be taken along to the next person they will date. If that person truly loves you or is interested in loving you, would they not be willing to wait? Perhaps some of my greatest memories from past girlfriends is sneaking up onto a school roof, watching the hours fly by and we spoke getting to know each other better under the starlight.
I am not trying not knock on anyone’s relationship, but wish and hope for the best for everyone as they seek to find someone they want to be with forever. Every person can always strive to have a healthier relationship, and perhaps some have gleaned some useful information from this. In all things, do it for the glory of God. People look at the relationships of Christians, are we representing ourselves well? Are we living different than the world, or adopting and practicing the same standards? None are perfect, but it is that we are fighting. We are fighting to become more like Christ in a world that opposes him. We are fighting to have the type of relationships that Christ desires for us.