It never ceases to amaze me how many people I know who end up in bad dating relationships. Not only are the relationships unhealthy for them, but for whatever reason, they are attached to the relationship and don’t want it to end.
I received an email from a young woman asking for advice in her current dating situation. She shared with me that she was struggling in her relationship with her boyfriend. She said she loved him, but in her email she described her boyfriend as “clingy, bossy, demanding, and too proud of himself.” She described how he pressured her to have sex with him and how he didn’t support her faith. She hoped that he would change, but deep down, she said she knew that, “he wasn’t the one for me.”
My first thought was, “Isn’t the next step obvious?”
It’s a dead end relationship. It’s time to break up.
When I was sixteen years old, a friend of mine gave me the best dating advice I’ve ever received. He told me, “Every dating relationship ends in one of two ways—you either get married or you break up. If you know the person that you are dating is not the person that you are going to marry, end the relationship immediately. Waiting to end the relationship simply delays the inevitable.”
While this advice is simple, common sense, there is some subtle wisdom in the words. Too often, people get into relationships for all the wrong reasons or they stay in dead-end relationships due to some kind of emotional dependency. Dating should always have a purpose and the purpose of a dating relationship should always be to discern marriage. If, during the course of a dating relationship, you discover that the person you are dating is not a person that you would marry, you should end the relationship. The conclusion is inevitable—one way or another, if the relationship is not going to end in the lifelong commitment of marriage, then it is going to end in breakup.
Sometimes, we get comfortable in relationships and we don’t want to face the reality that it’s going nowhere. I knew a person who had been dating the same person for seven years. I asked her, “Do you think you are going to marry your boyfriend anytime soon?” She responded, “I still don’t know if he is the one for me.” I responded, “After seven years, you still don’t know?! That may be a clear sign that you aren’t supposed to be together.” It can take courage to move on from a long-term relationship. But you have to understand that the longer you stay connected to something that isn’t God’s plan for your life, the more difficult it becomes to find the vocation and path that He has for you.
Sometimes people ask me, “Isn’t it good to date lots of people? After all, how will you know what you are looking for unless you have tried dating a lot of different people?” There is nothing wrong with going on lots of dates—you certainly need to get “out there” if you are going to meet a future spouse. But a person who consistently jumps from bad relationship to bad relationship is not, “learning what they are looking for.” That is a person who is training themselves in the habit of bad relationships.
Not everything in a relationship is black and white—but one thing that should always be straightforward is the purpose of the relationship. If it is not heading toward marriage, then it’s not headed in a direction that you want to continue. Keep your eyes on the purpose and it will improve the quality of your relationships.