Last week, I was super excited for a friend whose boyfriend basically popped up out of nowhere. The last relationship conversation we had was about how there aren’t enough guys in church… then BAM! A few months later she meets this lovely guy! Although I’m a tad bit envious, I’m also conscious that I can’t throw myself at the first guy that gives me attention, just for the sake of being in a relationship.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)
You might be more familiar with this scripture as ‘guard your heart…’ That’s because the Hebrew word for keep (natsar) also means guard. Irrespective of the translation, Solomon’s point was that your heart is too valuable to be left exposed. Unlike other body parts, the explicit need to guard your heart speaks to both its importance and fragility. If, like me, you’re also in a season of singleness, guarding your heart from unnecessary relationship stress is something that requires forethought.
Successful relationships are built in singleness.
Godly relationships thrive when you mentally prepare for them in singleness, and subsequently commit to those actions during your courtship. Guarding your heart requires vigilance before and during the courtship phase; it’s imperative that you know what that will entail prior to the start of any relationship. You simply can’t afford to let your guard down (pun intended) until you have sealed your commitment to one another in marriage.
Trying not to catch feelings prematurely is definitely something that you have to be intentional about. As a girl, if the frequency and depth of your conversations makes you feel like you’re together, but he hasn’t actually declared his feelings, then that’s a problem. For me, the key thing is ensuring that there is a qualitative difference between how I interact with male friends versus how I’ve interacted with past boyfriends. If there aren’t sufficient boundaries, I may start to think of him as ‘more than a friend’ even though he isn’t a boyfriend. In general, I plan to avoid:
- Castle-building/daydreaming – I need to discipline my mind to stop over-analysing or amplifying little actions or words. If he didn’t say it then I don’t need to imagine it!
- Giving my number – I used to feel bad about saying ‘no’ but I’ve realised that social media handles are sufficient in the beginning.
- Late night conversations – I’m sure we can carry on the conversation during the day at a sensible hour.
- Making him my ‘go to’ person – there are others I can continue going to for help/advice instead of allowing myself to feel like his input is somehow more valuable.
- Oversharing – disclosures forge trust, but I have to be mindful of sharing too much too early.
- Time spent alone – there are few, if any, activities that would warrant time alone. Therefore, it’s best to always interact in a group.
- Unscheduled calls – almost all of my phone calls occur after pre-arranging a time. If I allow random calls, I’m essentially giving him time that was reserved for something else. Nope. You have to be pretty special to ruin my schedule, Mr!
In Becoming One, I mentioned that I have a male best friend; however, that isn’t actually something I would advise. It’s all too easy for the friendship to progress into something more, or interfere with your respective relationships. He’s an old friend and whilst our friendship has always been platonic, I wouldn’t risk a close friendship with a ‘newer’ male friend because the likelihood of a romantic relationship is higher.
The increased vulnerability and openness of an official relationship presents a greater opportunity for heartbreak. It’s one thing to be upset about a relationship that never actually happened (e.g. rejection or castle-building), however, it’s quite another to mourn the end of something you thought would go the distance. Therefore, you need to remain vigilant throughout the duration of your courtship. For me, this phase will include:
- Examining fruits – is he who he says he is? People love to sell dreams…
- Having an accountability couple – being transparent with trusted individuals is highly beneficial and they may spot things that I’ve missed.
- Limiting assumptions – this can lead to confusion over my interpretation of his actions when I could simply seek clarity before becoming unduly upset/angry/annoyed.
- Not inviting sexual temptation – i.e. no physical contact, time alone in bedrooms, or holidays etc. It would be silly to make the same ‘mistake’ twice (see Playing With Fire)!
- Paying attention to red flags & knowing when to walk away – not glossing over negative traits in a rush to get to the to altar because the pain of ending a courtship is nothing compared to realising I married the wrong person.
Don’t ignore the counsel to guard your heart simply because you’re convinced the person you’re interested in is ‘The One’! Neglecting to stick to these (and/or your own) points may result in you bringing more baggage into a relationship than necessary.