How to Not Treat Your Boyfriend Like a Husband
(Or Your Girlfriend Like a Wife)
There I sat in the middle of class letting my mind drift away into thoughts about him. Mr. Dreamy. We'd had such great conversations in the hallway. He was so funny, and he loved Jesus. The questions bounced through my thoughts one after another: What if he asks me on a date? Where would we go and what would we do? What if we have a great time? What will be the first song we dance to at our wedding?
Wait, what? Our wedding?!
How do thoughts escalate so quickly when an attractive man or woman enters the picture? I have no idea, but I've seen it happen many times and witnessed it firsthand in my own mind more than I would like to say. I believe part of it lies in the fact that many single people know they want to one day be married. When we see the first glimpse of this possibility becoming a reality, we get excited. We might even skip a season or five.
Sometimes this shows itself in a girl treating her boyfriend like a husband or a boy treating his girlfriend like a wife. She justifies it in her mind thinking, "Well, eventually I do want to be his wife." He justifies it in his mind thinking, "I want to show her what a great husband I would be." Pretty soon, she's doing the guy's laundry on the regular and cooking all of his meals. He's picking up her mom's dry cleaning, and they've only been dating a couple months! The problem with this is that the level of their involvement in each other's lives is exceeding their level of commitment. They may think they're going to get married, but there's no ring. Until there's a promise of a lifelong commitment, you have to treat your boyfriend like a boyfriend or your girlfriend like a girlfriend. This is how you keep yourself and the other person safe.
So how do you do that?
1. Don't be his mom. I know it can be fun to take care of him, and caregiving is often in our nature. The problem comes when you give him all the benefits of having a wife with none of the commitment. A man can get a lot of his needs met outside of marriage by his girlfriend who takes care of him. This is especially true if she starts sleeping with him. This is why some men can be dating or engaged for years without any desire or plans to get married. Many women enter these relationships with a desire for security and stability, but this is only truly found in a committed relationship where both people are staying together... forever.
2. Set physical boundaries. Here are some thoughts people use to justify crossing the line physically: "We're going to get married anyway. He said he loves me. She said we're going to be together forever." Until there's a pastor, vows, and a couple of rings, it doesn't matter what they said. He is not your husband, and she is not your wife. Commitment is a big deal, and until you've actually made one, the other person's body is not yours. Make a plan for how you're going to respect them until then. Don't just look for where the line is. Look for how you can best honor the person you're in a relationship with and their future spouse that may or may not be you.
3. Don't spill all your emotions. Emotional boundaries are also important and not always talked about. Sometimes it's tough as a girl when he's asking you questions, looking at you with those dreamy eyes, and suddenly a shooting star crosses the heavens. You want to tell him your whole life story, every feeling you've ever felt, and what kind of cake you want to have at your wedding. (Okay this is obviously an exaggeration, and I understand not all ladies are like this. I've been here before, so there might be a few who can relate). This is where self-control comes in. Leave a little mystery. The dating season is for finding out about each other and building trust little by little. Don't uncover everything at once. Whoever you're dating doesn't get all of you, physically or emotionally, until they've made a forever commitment.
4. Have your own full life. Hang out with your friends. Join a bowling team. Go after your dreams. Pursue other interests, and don't stop when a cute man or woman walks in. Eventually, if you get married, you will put him or her before a lot of things in your life. In the dating season, don't let go of the other things that make you happy. It may sound romantic, but he's actually not your everything. Don't forget the rest of your life because you're so wrapped up in him.
5. Keep people around you. Have leaders in your life who can speak into your relationship and give you an outsider's perspective. When you're in the middle of it, things can get a little fuzzy: "Flaws? What flaws? They're perfect!" It's wise to invite people who have great marriages and have been through this dating thing before to help guide you.
The dating season is fun. Everything's new, and you're finding things out about each other. How does he like his coffee? What's her favorite kind of music? You're never going to get this initial time of discovery and excitement back, so don't rush it. It's okay to take things slow and let them develop naturally.
We don't want to set solid rules on how involved you can be at each stage of a relationship. That's why you use wisdom and bring other trustworthy people in to help you out. The thing to remember is your involvement in your boyfriend or girlfriend's life should match the level of commitment you are at. Know what season you're in, and enjoy it. Don't try to jump to the next one before it's time.
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