I am writing this to let you know why I won’t date you. It’s not because I don’t like you. I do. I really do. And it’s not because I don’t care about you. That goes without saying. In fact, it’s because I like you and care about you so much that I would like you to know why I can’t and won’t date you.
I know a decision like this is open to so much misunderstanding. I sincerely hope and pray that you won’t misunderstand me. I’ve thought hard about this and would like to share with you what are not the reasons why you and I can’t have a romantic relationship:
1. It’s not because I am judging you as a non-believer.
I know it may seem so judgmental that I would exclude you as a potential partner over the issue of belief or non-belief. But please hear me that I don’t think less of you because you’re not a Christian. This is because being a Christian doesn’t make me or anyone superior in any sense. We recognise that we are all hopelessly broken before God and it takes the generosity and grace of God for anyone to be a Christian. I can’t judge you any more than Jesus judged those who were considered by his contemporaries to be on the ‘outside’.
2. It’s not because I don’t think you can change for me.
I do believe that a degree of change and compromise is possible and necessary in any intimate relationship. However, to expect you to change the most fundamental orientation of your heart to embrace Jesus as a believer is something that takes more than just superficial adjustments. It’s neither fair nor loving for me to put that pressure on you or to give you the impression that you have to become someone you’re not in order for our relationship to thrive.
3. It’s not because I’ve been pressured by my Christian friends.
The Christian community (church) I belong to has lovingly taught us about the kind of relationships that God wants for his children. However, I have not been pressured or guilted to make a decision like this. My Christian support network are there to help me and I am glad that they are doing what’s most loving, both for me and for you, in helping me make a decision like this. But this is no cult. It’s not brainwashing. It’s not control. It’s simply my wonderful church family giving me the strength to make a decision I am personally convinced is the right one.
I hope that clears up some of the potential misunderstandings. Those are not the reasons why I won’t go out with you. Let me now share with you what are the reasons why this decision is important for both me and you:
1. Dating is not an end in itself. Marriage and family are my goals for a romantic relationship.
I’m not going to date anyone just because it’s a bit of fun. That would be selfish of me and unloving to you. No. My view of dating is on the road towards something more permanent and more wonderful: God’s gift of marriage and children. For me to date you with the condition that I would marry you only if you became a Christian would be a way of ‘using you’ in the meantime for my own romantic indulgences. You need to know that for me, dating is the beginning that has an ending.
2. There are choices that you won’t want me to make when we are married.
As a Christian, Jesus isn’t just a part of my life: he is my life. He is my first love, my greatest joy and the source of my identity and happiness. Were we to have a successful and happy marriage, either I would have to put Jesus beneath my love for you, or I would have to put you beneath by love for Jesus. Unless we both share a love for Jesus, it cannot be both. I take it that you don’t want me to have to make a choice like that every single day of our lives together as husband and wife.
3. While you may be happy just being supportive of my love for Jesus, I want more than support to make a family work.
I have no doubt that you won’t get in the way of my faith. In fact, I know that you’ll even make the effort to occasionally come to church with me. I have no doubt that my Christian friends will love and accept you as one of their own. But consider this: one day we will have children. As a family, I don’t want my children to be confused about the importance of Jesus in our lives. I can only be a good parent if I am lovingly leading my children to share in my passion for Jesus. As any parent knows, children know how to ‘divide and conquer’. If our children know that Jesus is important to me but not to you, they will use that to their advantage. I don’t want to fight you every Sunday when the kids don’t want to go to church and cite our difference of beliefs as an excuse. I want us to work together for the growth of our children: not just physically and educationally, but spiritually as well.
I know that perhaps from where you’re standing now, these aren’t going to seem like insurmountable problems. It’s because you like me and are attracted to me. And nothing seems insurmountable at this stage. But I want us to take a longer-term view of our relationship. What happens when the attraction wanes and the grind of making a marriage work sets in? What happens when your willingness to go along with me to church now is tested by busyness, career, tiredness and hobbies? I don’t ever want to have a niggling sense that my spouse wishes I were someone else or had different beliefs or was less passionate about Jesus. Conversely I don’t ever want you to think that I would love you more if you had different beliefs or could be more accommodating to my beliefs.
In the end it comes down to something I already mentioned: Jesus is my life. He’s more than a religious conviction; he is everything to me. If I am to grow in my passion for him when he isn’t your all-consuming passion, we will necessarily grow apart. How can I lovingly and knowingly subject my future spouse to increasingly occupy the fringes of my affections? I can’t do that to you and won’t do that to you.
So please understand why I’ve decided as I have. I would love nothing more than for you to one day share in my love for Jesus, but I don’t want to make that a condition for our future life together. That is a decision that you have to make independent of any pressure from me. That’s why it’s a decision you are most positioned to make if we weren’t already in a romantic relationship.
With love and prayer,
Most people associate the song R-E-S-P-E-C-T with Aretha Franklin. What they don’t know is that a man, Otis Redding, wrote it.
My wife and I have been reading a book called Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs (only Americans can come up with names like that!).
This book is a gem and a must read in particular for women.
You see, what women don’t realise is that for the majority of men, they need respect more than they need love. It’s true. Ask most men if they would rather be alone in the world and unloved by everyone, or not be alone in the world but despised by everyone, the majority would choose to be unloved rather than despised.
You’ve heard of the 5 love languages. I think this is just as important. If you like, ‘love’ and ‘respect’ are the syntax (or grammatical rules) behind the various love languages of men and women. In other words, different men might have different love languages, but all of their love languages share the same syntax: respect. And the same goes for women, only their syntax is ‘love’.
A lot of the times women wonder why it is that their men are frustrated when they give and show them so much ‘love’. What they don’t realise is that you can speak love but not respect. If you mother them, boss them around, nag at them, put them down (especially in front of others), take sides with your own family (read: parents) against them, don’t empower them to make their own decisions, don’t affirm their career choices, make them feel inadequate to lead… all these might be motivated out of love, but to a man, it’s incredibly hurtful because it’s read as disrespect.
Ever wondered why your man was so romantic and considerate and proactive during early courtship but not so much now? Maybe it’s because early on their girlfriends oozed respect and admiration for them. Now that they know their men better, often that respect is lessened and years into marriage could even be replaced by an unspoken contempt. A man will shrivel in those circumstances and God-forbid be tempted to be unfaithful with other women who admire them and adore them like you used to.
Please note: I’m not saying that it’s ever right for a man to be unfaithful. A married man has made vows and needs to honour those vows, regardless of how they’ve been wronged or treated. His wife’s lack of respect is no excuse before God for cheating on her. I’m simply trying to explain why it is that some men are tempted to cheat.
Eggerichs makes a good point: we always speak about ‘unconditional love’. What about ‘unconditional respect’? A woman would hate it if a man only loved her when she earned his love. And yet, most women communicate to their men that they are to be respected only when they’ve earned their respect. That’s not only inconsistent, it’s unbiblical. Ephesians 5:33 says:
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
And a final helpful point I might mention is this (really, go out and buy the book, it’ll be great for your relationships): if a man receives the respect he needs, he’ll give the love you need. It’s true. When men feel empowered and respected and affirmed as leaders, they go out of their way to protect, cherish, adore, be considerate… love the women who are in their lives.