"It’s best to stay in touch with both sides of an issue. A person who fears God deals responsibly with all of reality, not just a piece of it."---Ecclesiastes 7:18(Message)
While I'm preparing for the next devotional that I'm going to pen about waiting vs. settling, I peeped an article entitled "Top 10: Signs She's Settling for You" on a men's website.
I know, right? Not signs that *he's settling* but *you are*. I'm just gonna share the bullet points from 10-1; feel free to click on the link for more details:
You have logical discussions, not passionate ones
Routine is the foundation of your relationship
You don't spend time together, yet she talks of marriage
You don't have much in common
Her views on love are jaded
She describes your relationship as "nice"
Parenthood is her main excitement
Your world is ordinary rather than special
Conversation is practical, not personal
[1 is irrelevant because we're not having sex yet. Or anymore. RIGHT?!?]
The reason why I think this is a good way to start off this particular message is because it reminds me of something that a wife once told me as I was going on and on (and on...and on) to her about problems that I was having with my boyfriend at the time.
Her (after a sigh): "Shellie, you're not like me. You didn't make any vows to God. You're single. You don't have to tolerate all of that. All you have to do is break up."
At first I was like "Whaaaat?" Then, after internally ranting about how insensitive she was being about my relationship for a few days, something...just...clicked. She was right! Even though I broke every rule that I'm about to share when it came to my relationship and even though doing that caused my heart to deceive me (Jeremiah 17:9) into believing that I was "basically married", I really and truly wasn't. If I was that unhappy/dissatisfied, I owed that man nothing. I was free to bounce. And I should have...way before I actually did.
That's a huge part of the reason why I oftentimes say when I'm public speaking...
What wives go through? That is called "commitment".
When single women oftentimes send themselves through? That is usually called "settling".
And yes, a lot of women, because they don't date properly, appropriately or responsibly, they find themselves settling for a stagnant boyfriend rather than waiting for the right man to become their husband.
There are a lot of reasons why this is the case (fear, desperation, low self-esteem, pop culture, coveting, envy, impatience, etc.); today I'm going to share only one of them. It's one that isn't discussed nearly as much as it should be, but it's also one that I'm coming to realize is a truly toxic practice. Not only because it hinders women from truly and fully embracing each relational season as it comes (when you're single *act single*, when you're engaged *act engaged* and when you're married *act married*) but because it actually causes many of them to prepare to divorce rather than marriage.
Just look at the cycle (Proverbs 26:11):
Date. Act married. Break up.
Date a new guy. Act married to him. Break up with him too.
Find another guy to get over the other two guys. Act *really married* with him. Break up again.
See my point?
And so yes, since a man or woman who fears God is called to deal with the reality---the facts---of things and deal responsibly with them at that, here's a reality check that all of us tend to need from time to time:
YOUR BOYFRIEND IS NOT YOUR HUSBAND.
ONLY YOUR HUSBAND IS YOUR HUSBAND.
And the best way to keep this all in check is to pay attention to the signs of acting married when you're simply not:
You're having sex. I can't remember if I recently mentioned it here but I definitely did in one of the devotionals that I recently penned. After listening to two men talk about not being ready for a marital relationship (although they have sex and one of them has a serious girlfriend), I interjected and said "This is our fault. If we refused to have sex with you until you married us, you'd have no choice but to get married, become homosexual or masturbate." They paused for a moment, shrugged their shoulders and then said "Yeah" basically simultaneously. Ugh! Sex is not for single people. *Sex is for married people* (Hebrews 13:4). There are no exceptions. *At all*. Adding to that, I'm a firm believer that when two people were raised with the understanding that sex before marriage (not "married in your hearts" but *legally bound*) is wrong and they partake anyway, a breach of trust transpires. A woman doesn't totally believe that the man will protect her (or nourish and cherish her--Ephesians 5:25-33) because he's already uncovered her and a man doesn't totally believe that the woman is a good helper (Genesis 2:18) because she's helped him to sin. If you're having sex with your boyfriend, that's *acting married* and trust me, sooner or later, the physical pleasure will not outweigh the spiritual consequences (Psalm 106:15, James 1:14-15, I Corinthians 6:16-20-Message)...*even if you do end up getting married*. Most of the married people I know who had sex before marriage, in hindsight, wish that they never had. Satan *only comes* to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10) and sexual sin is a temptation (I Corinthians 10:13) for a reason. He's not "hooking you up". He's "bating you in". BIG. DIFFERENCE.
You're sleeping together (even without sex). If the only thing that made a marriage intimate was the fact that a husband and wife could have sex, then they could still live in separate houses and have sleepovers. My point? *The marriage bed* is sacred across the board. And so, sleeping with your boyfriend is also a not a girlfriend right but a wife privilege. If you live in the same city, time your dates to where you are not too sleepy to drive home to your own place. If you live out of town, it's pretty impressive if he's able to put you into a hotel. Yeah, it might sound antiquated but more than that, it's *spiritually/sexually safe*. Plus, it will give the two of you just one more thing to look forward to *after* you're married. Some of the wives in my life tell me that some of their fondest memories of their husband is spooning with him during the middle of the night or early in the morning. Girlfriends shouldn't be chiming into that sentiment. Besides, how would you feel if you knew that you were just one of many that he did that with? Not too hot, huh? Wanna throw out the mattress, eh? *Even if there was no sex?* Yeah, why *is* that? Ohhh...it's intimate and special? #checkmate
You claim you're not single. Yeah, this is actually a really big pet peeve of mine. Listen, everyone (EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON PLANET EARTH) who is not married is single. There are only two exceptions. If you're divorced, you're also not single. You're divorced (which is why God tells divorced people that if it is at all possible, they should try and reconcile with their ex--I Corinthians 7:10-11). And widows are free to marry someone new (I Corinthians 7) but they do bear the title "widow" until they do. Everyone else? SINGLE. Yeah, I know some of y'all are like "What about the engaged couples?" I hear you but technically, *they are still single* too. You can't check "engaged" on your taxes. You don't earn the rights that married people do by getting engaged and (praise the Lord!) breaking off an engagement does not fall into the category of what God hates: divorce (Malachi 2:16). This is something to keep in mind because when you're walking around telling people that you're not single or changing social media statuses to reflect that your not single, even if it's on the subconscious level, it conditions you to think that you're "off the market" and "off limits". A man who takes vows before God to care for you for the rest of his days is the one who takes you off of the market! Until then, you are free to...consider other possibilities. Sadly, a lot of people---especially women---rob themselves of all of the joy and opportunities that come during their season of singleness. And what if you are in a serious relationship? I'll say this: If it's *so serious* what the hold up on the *legal* status shift? And if it's because you feel that you are too young, then you're probably *also* too young to be in something so serious in the first place. Bottom line: Unless you have a marriage license and a wedding band, when someone asks you if you're single, the answer is "yes". Enjoy it! If you plan on being as responsible in your marriage as God expects you to be (Ecclesiastes 7:1-5), there will be no going back once you're married. So really...what's the rush?
You command monogamy. SMH. True confession: As much as I write about relationships, guess what I just discovered a couple of weeks ago? *The true definition of monogamy*. And you know what? NO ONE IS MONOGAMOUS BUT MARRIED FOLKS. And technically, married folks who have only been married one time! The definition is "the practice of marrying only once during life". For the record, another is "marriage with only one person at a time" but again, unless your spouse dies, God is expecting you to live out the first definition. So, if you're dating someone and people ask you "So, are y'all monogamous?", the answer should be "no". *You ain't married, so you ain't monogamous*. And you know what else? Unless you're engaged to one another, there shouldn't be a ton of pressure for the two of you to be exclusive either. Are you gasping? Hear me out: Spending years only seeing each other serves what purpose? If you're ready to enter into that kind of territory, again, *why not get married*? And if you're not ready for marriage, *why rush (or is it force?) exclusivity*? All that does is set people up for being expected to "not cheat" and yeah, that's another big no-no to me. How is some guy "cheating on you" when he's not *married to you*? Adultery is not a word that is to be tossed around lightly or loosely. *Vows were taken for that to truly transpire*. Some guy who you are not in covenant with, no matter how much the two of you care for one another, did not *cheat on you* if he decided to talk to another girl or even sleep with another girl (if he did the latter, he was disloyal to himself and God). He may have *lied* (also a problem), but you are not his wife. Therefore he did not *cheat*. That said, marriage should represent a monumental transition from the single state. But how is that a big deal when you and he were acting married way before your wedding day? Trust me, you're going to feel a lot more secure in your marriage if a man chooses you out of all of the possibilities that he had *while he was single* rather than being with you because he's expected to after *being on lock down* during his single years. Date? Sure. Get closer? Within reason. Feel like you can't ever take a date with someone else or even be attracted to someone and you're not some man's wife? Yeah, that's over the top. Single people need to act single. Until *both of those single people* are mutually ready to marry one another. Until then, monogamy, for them, does *not* exist.
You're all up in his family (and vice versa). After my last boyfriend, which was over a decade ago now, my mother implemented a rule: No more bringing me into your relationships until it's time for me to get my "big white hat". The hat is code for her wedding day attire. The rule is inspired by the fact that when we bring the people we date into our families and things don't work out, *we're not the only ones who have to grieve that out*. So do they! And it's not fair. Not by a long shot. So, am I saying that the first time your parents should meet your significant other is at your engagement party? No. What I *am* saying is 1) a guy really needs to show the signs, fruit and character of truly being a significant other *first* and 2) a guy doesn't need to be treated like "one of the family" until he actually *is* one of the family. Your future husband has earned the privilege and right to call your parents "mom" and "dad" and to spend all sorts of holidays with them. A boyfriend? Unless he donated one of them a kidney or something, what did he possibly do to get that kind of right? Same goes for you and his family. Families are sacred ground and should be honored as such. Plus, their hearts need to be guarded and protected too. If your family is a part of your accountability team, that's one thing. But bringing your boyfriend home for Christmas just so the two of you can be cuddled up in your mom's living room especially when there are no guarantees that he'll be there next year? Yeah...rethink that. *For real*.
You have access to his personal accounts. Unless you pay your boyfriend's internet and smartphone accounts (and if you do, that's another blog for another time because why can't he afford to pay for those things himself?!?), what are you doing having access to his social media accounts, email and smartphone? *You are not his mother or his wife*. Whatever is going on is *his* business. If you don't trust him, *why are you with him*? And if he "can't talk" to the opposite sex, that's unhealthy anyway. Same goes for him having access to all of your info. A part of the joy of being single---a single adult---is you're answerable to the Lord, not some guy you're dating. Submission is a privilege (Colossians 3:17) he has to earn. Therefore, it's none of your boyfriend's business who you're talking to *unless you choose to tell him*. And the same goes for him. If you don't like this particular point, you should really ponder (Proverbs 4:26) long and hard about why you want to be all up in one another's stuff to begin with. My recommendation: "Police less" and *pray more*. The awesome thing about taking that approach to dating is you can trust that God will reveal to you just and only what you *need* to know. And you'll get the information without being a controlling stalker or a meddling snoop.
You're calling your *boyfriend* your "husband". I used to do this and one of my married friends would correct me every time: "Shellie, *you* don't have a husband. *I* do. I earned the right to use that word. You haven't yet." At the time, just like with the other wife, I thought she as being "too much" but basically, she's right. I ain't got no hubby, I ain't no man's wifey either. I'm Shellie Renee' Warren and until a man goes to God and asks for me to "get on his team" and take his last name (and I agree that it's what's best), the guys that I date have their name while I have mine; titles are irrelevant and unnecessary. Pet names are cute to a point but nothing even remotely close to husband or wife should be referenced. At all. Ever.
I'll say this: Satan is slick. By getting us into the practice of "playing house", even outside of "shacking up", it desensitizes us. Just like we get all hot and heavy with boyfriends and then "break up", we then find ourselves moving into marriage with a very similar mentality. Yet if certain things were off limits before getting married, they'd be held in higher (much higher) esteem after.
I already know. Some of y'all ain't gonna listen to any of this...
Yet one day you'll look up and realize, I really shouldn't have acted married before marriage.
Here's praying you don't have to learn it the hard (full of regret) way)...
Don't act married.
Until you *are* married.