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This past month, John and I shared our thoughts on dating over two Saturdays. There was a call for questions afterward and we received a couple. Having promised to address them, I shall do so here-

 

Loving Him, Loving Her

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How do you know what you love about someone?

(That you’re) happy together when homeless and broke? Or lov(ing) the person even when the person gains 35kg and grows ugly and is disfigured and becomes snappy and unhappy?

It seems to me there are two main ways to understand this question. I will address them in turn:

1) How do I know which qualities I love  my partner for, aside from temporary attractions such as wealth and beauty?

Reasons for attraction can range from the superficial to the deep. Neither are wrong per se, although a wise person will give more weight to the latter- the deep endures. Kindness and courage, for example, are qualities are not affected by time, unlike, say, physical charm.

Certainly, one way to know, as the questioner suggests, is through the disappearance of a certain quality, with the relationship carrying on as lovingly and contentedly. For instance, I have often been assured by John that even if I begin to bald (a once-secret-no-longer-secret fear of mine), he will continue to love me as before. Should it come to pass as he promises, I will know he loves me for more than my hair – although I would prefer not to have this tested! Fortunately, there are less drastic ways to measure ourselves.

One of the ways we know which qualities we love, is by how much importance we attach to it. What we love, we delight in, and show that delight through verbal and acted-out praise. Conversely, what we dislike, we criticise. So, when we listen to ourselves, we begin to realise what makes us proud of our partner, and what we wish they didn’t have. This can mean listening to our own thoughts, or how we describe our partner to others, or when we interact with our partner him/herself. Are we bragging to our friends about our partner’s ability to spend on us? Then we know we love the riches of our partner. Do we find ourselves dreaming about how romantic our last date was? It’s likely we’re totally into our partner’s charm.

Relatedly, we tend to be attracted to the person because he or she displays qualities we already value. For example, if we believe the intellect to be superior, we naturally gravitate towards people who are acknowledged as such. It’s not difficult to figure out which qualities we value; simply complete the following task: ‘List 5 Ways to Win My Heart’. What wins our hearts are qualities we put a premium to. But I suppose if you really need further help identifying values after completing the task, just list the 5 ways on the comment box below and I’ll try, haha.

In any case, this may cause some worry in the more enlightened ones amongst us. What if we know we value superficial nonsense that won’t last the tests of time and conflict? However, all is not lost, even if we know we’re superficial idiots. As a closing to this discussion, I’ll list a practice which should be helpful-

Cultivate a love for qualities that can stand the tests of time and conflict; seek to understand why these are superior to the superficial. Faithfulness is better than prettiness, for you can trust a faithful partner to stay with you through the good times and bad, while a featherhead is likely to be a source of anxiety and insecurity each time a new person is attracted to their charms. Our partners are supposed to have our backs, not backstab. Together with prayer and godly fellowship about this issue, in time, we will find out values changing- and in this we can be confident, because God’s Spirit is real and will help.

Mmm yup, done. Let’s move to the second reading of this question-

 

2) How do I know my love is true, beyond our financial comfort, physical appearances and my own emotional stability?

We don’t need to go through tragic circumstances and heart-wrenching pain before we prove our love, although to survive them confirms beyond all doubt that we do. Once again, as above, cultivate a love based on qualities that outlast the superficial, and are good to endure.

Life will bring heartache and trouble. We live in a broken world. But a relationship based on enduring qualities finds itself true.

Christ- He is the ultimate enduring everything. Therefore, you know you love truly when your love is based on His love – Him who loved the world more than His own self, loved so much that He died for the world’s redemption. In our daily lives, daily crosses and daily deaths means the ignoring of our own selfishness and pride, to bite our lip and choose to prioritise our partner’s wants over our own. Have faith in the truth of the Gospel, that sin is broken and death, defeated – and in this faith, proclaim the kingdom and its King. Then hope, for the future – for the Day when the King of kings returns, and we will be perfectly loved to love. In the words of a certain song, that’s how you know. ;)

 

Boundaries With The Other 

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“What are some boundaries we should have in interacting with the opposite gender?”

The key words that come to my mind with regard to this, are respect, and honour. Display respect to both yourself and the other individual through your conduct while interacting, show honour because he or she belongs to God Himself (through the claim of creation, if nothing else).

Respect and honour are attitudes, more than specific actions. They include spaces both real and virtual, person-to-person and in a group. They are necessary whether you’re single or attached. To this end, I suppose I can say this: interact with the other individual as though a sibling is present, and the boundaries should naturally arise. As you converse with that person, pretending that one of your siblings were around to witness, you should find yourself behaving respectfully and honorably to the other individual.

This, I want to add, extends to relationship with people you don’t like. Even if you dislike a trait or two in someone, control your scorn because we are all made in the image of God, and there’s a certain sacredness in that. More than that, Christ died for all. That means He doesn’t discriminate or exclude anyone from the offer of salvation, and He certainly didn’t choose us because we are any better than the person we dislike. We all have our ugly sides, some just know how to hide it better. Salvation is through the Son of God who offers it to all regardless, and if we’re Christian we need to begin loving those around us likewise. (didn’t say it’d be easy)

Mmm. Back to the exercise in imagination- what if you’re attached to that person of the opposite gender? Surely some intimacy is allowed then? Yes. However, simple rules remain. For instance, even if you’re attached, interact with your partner only in open spaces, where you can be seen. Closed doors and empty homes are for the married.

In Conclusion

I hope what has been discussed has been helpful and clear. Feel free to leave any further questions you have in the comments below, and I will address them the best I can in due time. I’d also like to say thank you to the Youth Fellowship for inviting us down to share a topic near to our hearts, and may God show us His perfect love!

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A nice note to conclude this post! haha thanks Liz, John and I happen to like that dress too. :)

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