Young People Ask . . .
Should We Break Up?
‘We have been dating since July and are talking of marriage. But I have so many doubts about him . . . ’
AS A romance approaches the crossroads of decision, it is not unusual for doubts to emerge. Marriage is honorable among Christians—not something to be taken lightly. (Hebrews 13:4) And while marriage can cause a couple to “rejoice,” it can also bring “pain and grief.” (Proverbs 5:18; 1 Corinthians 7:28, The New English Bible) There is thus good reason to approach marriage cautiously.
At times, though, more than a simple case of the jitters is involved; the doubts stem from serious flaws in the person you are dating or from the relationship itself. If you are ready to take on the responsibilities of marriage, what should you do if you find yourself plagued by such doubts?
‘We Always Argue’
This is a common concern for dating couples. Many, though, feel that a lovers’ quarrel is nothing to be concerned about. And it is true that even people who love each other may disagree at times—perhaps quite emotionally. (Compare Genesis 30:2; Acts 15:39.) But if you disagree on just about everything, if every discussion turns into a shouting match, or if your relationship is a never-ending cycle of breakups and makeups, beware! It might indicate a serious lack of spiritual or emotional maturity on the part of one or both of you. Christians are told to put away “wrath, anger, . . . abusive speech.”—Colossians 3:8.
A poll of 400 physicians revealed that constant bickering is a strong indicator of “emotional unreadiness for marriage,” perhaps even revealing “irreconcilable conflict between the couple.” Further, warns Dr. Judson T. Landis, “quarreling . . . is definitely predictive of what is to follow in marriage.”a
Cracks in the Armor
Another cause for concern may be your discovery of disturbing personality traits in this person. During the opening stages of courtship, it is only natural to try to conceal one’s own shortcomings and project kindness and consideration. Sooner or later, though, “the secret person of the heart” becomes manifest. (1 Peter 3:4) You may begin to observe disturbing hints of selfishness, immaturity, moodiness, stubbornness—even violence.
What is revealed may be serious enough to make you wonder if you want to spend the rest of your life with this person. “I have so many doubts about him because of his past [questionable conduct] and the things that have been happening since we’ve been dating,” said one young woman regarding her boyfriend. “All the while we’ve been dating, he’s shown no self-control.” How secure could a marriage be with a man who shows “no self-control”?
Yet, determined to make a relationship work at all costs, many overlook or try to justify the most glaring of shortcomings.
Looking the Other Way
Why do so many look the other way when it comes to a loved one’s faults? Since courtship is taken seriously among true Christians—as well it should be—some feel pressured to marry the person they are dating. They may dread having to confront and perhaps hurt the person they have dated. Others fear they will not be able to find someone else to marry.
None of these in themselves, though, are good reasons for prolonging a problem-plagued courtship. For one thing, while the opinions and feelings of others should be respected, you must live with the consequences of your choice of a marriage mate. The purpose of courtship is to investigate the possibility of marriage to someone—it is not the same as marriage itself. If a Christian starts a relationship in good faith, he or she has no obligation to continue it if it proves faulty. Nor is it wise or loving to conceal your doubts from someone you are contemplating marrying.
Remember, too, that there are a number of potential marriage mates available within the Christian congregation—not just one. Since the Bible exhorts us to ‘keep an eye, not in personal interest upon just our own matters,’ would it not be wrong and selfish to prolong a deteriorating relationship on the premise that ‘maybe I won’t find someone else’? (Philippians 2:4) It is thus important that you face—not evade—your problems as a couple.
Having Your ‘Eyes in Your Head’
Solomon said: “As regards anyone wise, his eyes are in his head; but the stupid one is walking on in sheer darkness.” (Ecclesiastes 2:14) Ignoring obvious relationship flaws amounts to walking “in sheer darkness.” The wise person, though, has ‘his eyes in his head’ and sees things clearly, objectively. He or she considers how the prospective mate measures up to Bible standards.
For example, is there evidence that this is a woman who will be a submissive, capable wife? (Proverbs 31:10-31) Is there evidence this is a man who will show self-sacrificing love and be an able provider? (Ephesians 5:28, 29; 1 Timothy 5:8) A person may claim to be a zealous servant of God, but are there works to back such a claim of faith? (James 2:17, 18) “The past ten years have been . . . sheer misery,” says one young woman who married a man lacking such works. “I wound up marrying someone . . . who didn’t love Jehovah as I did.”
Research into Bible-based publications on the subject of marriage can help you gain God’s view on the matter. Also, your parents may be able to help you look upon a potential mate with fresh eyes. “I brought a girl home,” recalls one young man, “and my mother said, ‘You know, I can’t say I don’t like her, but I can’t decipher her. It’s like the girl’s got something she wants to hide.’” The young man brushed off his mother’s observations. But later on he found to his dismay that the girl really did have something to hide—immoral behavior. “You know, my mother’s very perceptive,” he later admitted.
Settling Your Doubts
Squarely facing your problems as a couple is only a beginning. If you have invested much time and emotion in a relationship, do not be quick to call it off just because you have discovered that he or she is not perfect. “We all stumble many times,” reminds the Bible. (James 3:2) So no mate will be perfect. (Romans 3:23) Looking at matters objectively, you may well conclude that the person’s flaws are ones you can live with.
On the other hand, what if you cannot live with them? A breakup may still be premature. First engage in some “confidential talk” and try to resolve your doubts. (Proverbs 15:22) Far from destroying your relationship, talking matters out may well reveal the potential it has for future growth! A successful marriage is built upon trust. Would it not be wise, then, to see if you can establish a pattern of honest communication before you become a party to a marriage? One sign of a mature relationship is the ability to work out problems.
If constant bickering is a problem, together you can thus try to figure out why you disagree. Are there fundamental differences between you in goals or viewpoints? Or have there been misunderstandings? Could it simply be a case of both of you learning how to ‘restrain your spirit’ and settle matters more calmly? (Proverbs 25:28) If irritating personality quirks concern you, does he or she humbly admit the shortcomings and show a desire to improve? Is there a need on your part to be less sensitive, less touchy? (Ecclesiastes 7:9) ‘Putting up with each other in love’ is the lifeblood of a good marriage.—Ephesians 4:2.
If discussion simply results in another frustrating standoff, do not ignore clear signs of impending disaster. (Proverbs 22:3) Things are not likely to improve after marriage. Calling the courtship off may be in the best interests of both of you. On the other hand, facing up to your difficulties could well result in laying the foundation for a mature, enduring marriage.
a This also appears to be the case with courtship violence. In one study of 82 abused wives, it was discovered that “30% eventually married someone who had abused them during courtship.”
[Blurb on page 14]
Constant quarreling is one strong indication that a relationship is faulty
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Some try to overlook or justify obvious personality flaws