By Tessa Emily Hall, Crosswalk.com
When first entering a dating relationship, it is nearly impossible to discern whether or not that person is “the one.” It’s similar to test-driving a car: we don’t always know whether it’ll work or not until it’s already in motion. So what if you have dated someone for a couple of months, only to discover that the two of you are incompatible? How are you supposed to know when to leave a relationship?
To answer this question, let’s first take a look at how God instructs us to approach the dating world.
What Does the Bible Say about Dating and Relationships?
Scripture has a lot to say to husbands and wives on how they should treat one another, but what about those who are still searching for their significant other? Although the Bible does not specifically use the term “dating,” the concept of relationships was clearly God’s idea, beginning from the Garden of Eden.
Genesis 2:24 states, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.” This partnership of husband and wife is the foundation upon which a family can be formed and we can then “be fruitful and increase in number,” as addressed in Genesis 1:28.
With this in mind, we can be assured that it is, in fact, biblical for us to look for a potential spouse. But are there specific guidelines God has given us when it comes to approaching the dating scene?
Not specifically; however, we need to remember 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” If it is our aim to glorify our Father in all that we say, think, and do, then we need to apply this to every aspect of our lives. Including relationships. How?
To start, we need to remember this relationship guideline addressed in 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers.For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?” In the intimacy of a marriage relationship, we become one flesh with that person; therefore, it is crucial we find someone who radiates the light of Christ. Otherwise, there is more of a chance of us sharing in their “darkness” as opposed to them sharing in our “light.”
That is one way we can honor God in the dating world. The second is to align our own character, speech, and actions with the instructions provided in Scripture. 1 Corinthians 13, for instance, provides us with a detailed account of how we are to treat others with godly love, and the book of Proverbs offers a well full of wisdom on how we can cultivate healthy relationships in general.
We also need to discern if we are eagerly searching for someone to fill an emptiness that only God can provide. If so, this may be a sign that we should first spend time drawing closer to Christ on our own, without a partner. Song of Solomon 2:7 reminds us that we may first be called into a season of singleness: “Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”
So what if you have cultivated a close relationship with Christ and applied these biblical instructions on dating to a current relationship—only to discover that you may not see a future with this person? If you know that a breakup is on the horizon, how can you go about ending that relationship with grace?
Let’s take a look at what Scripture says about breakups.
What Does the Bible Say about Breakups?
The Bible doesn’t contain a “how-to” guide on breakups, but it does provide instruction on relationships and conflict in general. We can apply this to breakups as well.
For example, we can be sensitive to the other person’s perspective by choosing “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Even still, there is no reason that we should refrain from speaking the truth about why we have chosen to end the relationship. Giving the excuse that “God told me to break up with you” just isn’t going to cut it. Let’s be straightforward in the approach, applying the principle in Matthew 5:37 that tells us to stick with a “no” or a “yes”—no in between.
There may be a temptation to become defensive or angry in the breakup conversation, especially if the relationship has been in deep waters for some time. Be prepared for this by choosing to treat the other person with the same godly love as addressed in 1 Corinthians 13, even if you feel as though he or she is undeserving of it. This is, after all, the same way in which Jesus treats us when we sin against Him.
If you are struggling with how to go about ending the relationship, especially if the relationship seemed to be on the path toward marriage, you may want to consider seeking counsel. This, too, is biblical, as Proverbs 25:6 tells us, “Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers.”
There is no denying that breakups can be painful, especially when you had already imagined a lifetime with that person. You may find yourself tempted to look in the past, scrutinizing every decision you made and perhaps even regretting entering the relationship to begin with.
When this happens, try to be gracious toward yourself. Consider Paul’s advice on moving on that is found in Philippians 3:13: “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.”
We can trust that God can work all things together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Allow the broken relationship to help you learn and grow so that you can better know how to approach the next one.
5 Signs of When to Leave a Christian Relationship
So how can you know if you do, in fact, need to move on from a relationship?
Your Boyfriend or Girlfriend Does Not Know Christ.
Again, there is a reason why God warns us against pursuing a relationship with unbelievers (see 2 Corinthians 6:14). You may be holding on to the hope that he or she could come to know the Lord, but a relationship that is truly blessed is the one in which both sides are seeking Him first—together as a couple, as well as separately.
You Find Yourself Unable to Understand Your Identity and Worth Apart from This Relationship.
Attachment is a temptation that can arise in any relationship, but this is a form of idolizing someone other than God. Our purpose and identity should come from Christ alone because He is the only One who will never leave us in this life or in eternity (see Hebrews 13:8). We are reminded in Matthew 6:33 of the value in seeking God first in every aspect of our lives: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
While a relationship can be a blessing, we will end up doing ourselves more harm than good if we seek to gain from that person fulfillment and identity that can only be found in Christ alone.
The Relationship Is Self-seeking on One or Both Ends.
This is probably the biggest temptation when it comes to dating; after all, we enter the dating scene in hopes of finding for ourselves a partner, someone we can remain with for the rest of our lives. And, really, what is so wrong with not wanting to be lonely?
But we often forget the only love that lasts is the kind that avoids the “me-first” approach. This kind of attitude is rampant in our society today, yet it is a sure-fire way to set a relationship up for failure.
1 Corinthians 13:5 reminds us that love “is not self-seeking”—instead, it is focused more on giving than receiving.
Your Boyfriend or Girlfriend Is Abusive Emotionally and/or Physically.
There are plenty of red flags to watch for when it comes to relationships, and often these signs are subtle and insidious.
Have you found yourself having to mold aspects of who you are and/or your appearance in order to appease the other person? Has your boyfriend or girlfriend convinced you to part ways with some—if not all—of your close friends? If so, this is likely an indication that you have stepped into a controlling relationship. Consider seeking counsel on how you can part ways with this person.
The Relationship Doesn’t Seem to Be Evolving into Romance and instead Feels More like a Friendship.
You may be thinking, “But isn’t a relationship built upon the foundation of a friendship?” That is true. But what happens if the relationship has been in motion for quite some time and you still seem to lack romantic feelings for the other person?
If so, try not to feel guilty. Remember the test-driving analogy from earlier? The driver shouldn’t feel responsible if the car breaks down during the drive. It wasn’t his fault. And, again, it is nearly impossible to discern if a friendship could blossom into romance without first spending time with that person.
It is true that a thriving marriage will only work if each person chooses to love the other, even after the feelings have faded. But dating provides us with the opportunity to find someone we are attracted to on an emotional, physical, and spiritual level. If that has not happened and you have yet to enter into a marriage union with that person, then you are under no obligation to remain with them. But if you do feel an obligation to stick with them, then see #4 again, because that could be a sign that you have entered a controlling relationship.
Finding the person with whom you will spend the rest of your life should never be taken lightly. Therefore, if you are in a relationship that is not leading to marriage, it is best to end it while you can. Putting it off until the “perfect moment” arises will only make it more difficult, and frankly, that perfect time may never arise.
Goodbyes are never easy and moving on from someone that you may have connected with on a deep level will likely be heartbreaking. This is why I advise drawing close to the Healer of broken hearts during this time. Allow Scripture to serve as healing balm for your grief.
Keep in mind, however, that this heartache does not necessarily indicate that this was the right person for you. If you have used biblical wisdom, prayer, and perhaps godly counsel to discern that the relationship needed to end, then you can have the confidence necessary to put the relationship in the past (as long as this is done out of godly love and respect toward your ex).
The process of finding the right person may not come fast or easy. But as Christians, let’s strive to put 1 Corinthians 10:31into action by glorifying God in all aspects of life. Let us refuse to settle for less and instead allow Him to guide our steps, trusting that there is no place more rewarding than remaining in the center of His will.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/proud_natalia
Tessa Emily Hall is an award-winning author who wrote her debut novel when she was sixteen. She is now a multi-published author of both fiction and non-fiction inspirational yet authentic books for teens, including her latest release, LOVE YOUR SELFIE (October 2020, Ellie Claire). Tessa's passion for shedding light on clean entertainment and media for teens led her to a career as a Literary Agent at Cyle Young Literary Elite, YA Acquisitions Editor for Illuminate YA (LPC Imprint), and Founder/Editor of PursueMagazine.net. She is guilty of making way too many lattes and never finishing her to-read list. When her fingers aren’t flying 128 WPM across the keyboard, she can be found speaking to teens, teaching at writing conferences, and acting in Christian films. Her favorite way to procrastinate is to connect with readers is on her mailing list, social media (@tessaemilyhall), and website: www.tessaemilyhall.com.