Episode 108

Lisa Anderson: We are opening up this week’s inbox, and I have Candice on the phone. Candice, hello!

Candice Watters: Hi Lisa!

Lisa:  Well, we’re going to help a girl out here, who is in quite a dilemma. Poor thing, this is one of those things that’s just heart-breaking to deal with on a Valentine’s Day show. Because we want all the good stories and this one’s just a difficult one, so, poor thing. But let’s see if we can help her out, Candice.

Candice: Yeah, let’s turn a yucky into a good.

Lisa:  Yes. Let’s try to do this. She says:

Five months ago I broke up with my boyfriend of a year-and-a-half. I do not regret breaking up with him. We were way too emotionally intimate (not to mention physically) and on top of that he wasn’t a Christian. I knew that I needed to break up with him if I were to stop sinning and follow Jesus.

Here is the problem, though: I still have feelings for him. Whenever I see him, my heart still aches. I’m surrounded by young, attractive godly men and still I can’t see myself with any of them. To be honest, if anyone even tried to pursue me, I’d probably turn them down because I still can’t see myself dating or marrying anyone but him.

I don’t know how to move on from this heartache. One of my closest friends broke up with her boyfriend at the same time under the exact same circumstances. She’s moved on and is now being pursued by a good Christian man. I keep looking at her and wondering why she’s moved on and I can’t.

I feel like having feelings for this guy still must be a sin, but I don’t know what to do. I’ve prayed and prayed and nothing helps. I’m afraid that I’ll be alone forever if I can’t move on from him because dating him is not an option. What can I do?

Candice: This is such a heart-wrenching question, because the reality is the physical intimacy that this woman had with this guy has created a bond that she’s finding really hard to break. And that’s exactly how God designed sex to function. It is a glue; it’s a superglue that bonds a couple, that in the words of scripture makes them “one flesh”, and that’s not just a literal description, it’s a metaphorical and spiritual reality of what happens when you bond with someone physically.

So even if she wasn’t having intercourse with this man, if they were sexually intimate in any way, shape or form, she has to know that that glue is there. So the first thing she needs to do is recognise that for what it  is and understand why that is not just wrong, but sin, and repent of that and ask God to forgive her and to help her move on from this man. Because she does know intellectually that he’s not a good match, that he’s not a legitimate match because he doesn’t share her faith. But now she’s got to somehow figure out how to know that emotionally and spiritually.

And I think a big part of that is repenting of the activity for what it is, not just inappropriate, not a great a fit, but that it literally was sin and it was an offense to God, an affront to God. So just to start there. I’d encourage her to do that in the safety and in the context of relationship, whether it’s with her pastor and his wife, or her parents or a mentor, to have the support and the encouragement of other believers walking with her through this.

A second thing that I think she should do is maybe ask her friend, “How did you get over the guy you were dating? Because your relationship really seemed to mirror my own, and yet you’ve moved on and yet I can’t.” It’s just the simple, practical, aspect of asking a friend for help.

And then, thirdly, I would say to start to pay attention to the men that are in your life who are believers. Ask God to give you His perspective on them and to have a biblical vision for what marriage is. I think the more you study and read about and pray about having a marriage that honours God, the less desirable the man who didn’t know the Lord will become in your eyes, and the more desirable a man who actually is a good candidate to be a godly husband and father will become.

Lisa:  I think that’s good, Candice. And I think that was good to kick off with the whole concept of where did they go physically? Because that obviously, like you said, is that superglue.

I’ve actually been, on some level, in this situation and have friends who have or are walking through stuff like this, that’s similar. Here are a couple of thoughts that I have. First, I don’t want women out there to underestimate the emotional connection as well. Because some women are going to say, “Well, I haven’t been physically intimate; I know how to draw that boundary.” But I have seen over and over again, and I think I myself have gone there emotionally, where you are putting out dreams, you are putting out a desire for connection, you have connected on that level. And that is also extremely powerful and we can’t underestimate how powerful that is.

The fact that this guy is a non-Christian has just muddied that water. The fact that she went there emotionally with him, probably gave up things emotionally that weren’t his to have… Even on possibly a spiritual level, that obviously it’s just an unequally-yoked issue—

Candice: Well and it wasn’t just for a week. This was a year-and-a-half relationship. Which makes me think she needs a little bit more involved community in her life—some fellow believers walking alongside who would, as you would say, Lisa, “get in her bitnit”. Because she’s doing this for a long extended period of time without any accountability.

Lisa:  Exactly. And I fully understand, and I want to acknowledge her grief in this, because I know what that feels like, and I’ve often said to the Lord myself, I’ve been like, “God, this isn’t even a good stewardship issue. I’m just like going through these relationships and grieving them.” Especially when it takes months to get over; you just feel like you’re limping along.

But I would tell her, I mean I know she mentioned “whenever I see him”, I think she needs to be very intentional in breaking that connection. The distance is necessary and she needs to get out of caring what he’s doing from day to day; she needs to get out of knowing what he’s doing from day to day, if in fact that is the case. And she needs to take captive, it’s almost a spiritual issue here, of taking captive those thoughts when she’s tempted to have fantasies about being married to him, or dreaming that that may happen, or hoping and wishing and praying that: “Oh well, maybe he’ll become a believer and then we’ll be together.” That is not her reality, and she needs to abandon that.

Candice: Well, and if marriage is something she truly desires, she needs to understand that the more time she spends grieving this guy is time that she’s not looking for and connecting with guys who really could be good husbands. And I know she touched on that. But I can’t stress this enough, being in the middle of reading Lori Gottlieb’s new book, Marry Him, I am just overwhelmed by the statistical evidence that suggests that if you don’t get intentional about this in your twenties, you really may be walking away from marriage.

Lisa:  Yeah. It’s very difficult. I know so many women and my experience in the past has been, we want to gather around one another and we want to say, “Oh this is so terrible! It’s going to take a while to heal, and you just need to put on your chick flicks…” I mean, there’s an element of that; you have to grieve what you’ve lost, but there’s also a point where you have to realise that these thoughts can be sinful. And you have to say, “I am no longer going to go there, it’s done. This is not my story; this is not my reality.” And when you start thinking about it, you just put them away; you put away those thoughts.

I think too often we nurse and coddle our feelings that are not right. This guy is not a believer, this guy is not an option. That is her answer, she doesn’t have to pray about that. So—

Candice: And you don’t have to feel something to believe it and to act on it. Emotions play a part, but we give them way too much power over us and I think what she needs to do, again, in the context of biblical community, mentoring, good support of friendship, decide what the right thing to do is, and then start acting on that. And I think the emotions will follow, but she’s probably going to have to go there as an act of the will to begin with.

Lisa:  Exactly. She needs to go there and she needs to recognise that if this guy is not her story—and currently he is not, he does not believe in Jesus Christ—then someone else is her story and she needs to actively look ahead to that and actively open herself up and pray about that possibility.

Candice: That’s right.

Lisa:  Well, Candice that is it. Thank you so much for weighing in on that question. We at least have given our thoughts, hopefully, prayerfully consider that and help this girl out with moving along. It’s tough.

Candice: It is. But this is such an important thing for Christian women these days, to say it’s worth it to meet and marry a godly man.

Lisa:  It is.

Well thanks Candice. That is it for this week’s show. Write to us at editor [at] boundless [dot] org with your feedback.

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