“Loyalty in relationships does not start when you say ‘I do’ or even commit to dating". -Shelly Lynch
There is much wisdom in that statement. I’ve had several girls tell me over the years, “I don’t have to submit until we’re married.” Ok if you want to get technical about that verse, yeah it says “Wives submit to your husbands.” But if you’re not practicing submission while your dating or courting someone, how are they suppose to know how you’ll act in a marriage? Would you date a guy that says “I’ll start loving you after we get married?”
The same goes for practicing loyalty. I hear women say all the time, “I’m very loyal when I’m in a relationship” but what does that really mean? To some that means they don’t cheat on the person. To others that means they’re committed but they still have their own group of friends which can include any number of guy/girls and even ex boyfriend/girlfriends. To others, and the idea I’m encouraging, it means you go out of your way to let the other person know that they are your one and only.
I think that is loyalty at its core but the problem then becomes, when does it start? In my original note entitle “We’re just friends, you should trust me” I talked about practicing loyalty now by limiting the time you spend alone with members of the opposite sex if there is no romantic interest. I talked about the value of having relationships of the opposite sex but also the difficulty that comes in reevaluating those friendships once one or both of the parties enter a relationship or get married. Naturally, if you are in fact loyal, those relationships with guy or girl “friends” need to change. They don’t have to end necessarily, but your primary concern should become your significant other. If they aren’t ok with that prior friendship, it’s got to go.
Some of you think that thought is absurd. “He can’t demand I not have a particular friend” or “She’s just jealous.” My opinion? Yeah, she is jealous. And if she is, it’s probably because your doing something that is not helping her feel secure in your love. People react so quickly and assume the worst, particularly regarding this topic. I wish people would take the time to 1) communicate, that would eliminate most of the problems and 2) be willing to lay aside their own selfishness for the betterment of the relationship.
I think if we could learn to do that, you’d find that you ultimately do yourself a favor by laying the friendship in question down. You’re going huh? I’m losing a friend and he/she is getting their way? How is that doing me a favor?
I’ll explain with an example I came up with a while ago. Suppose I have a girlfriend. She’s eager, attractive and outgoing. Naturally that’s a great combination and certainly I’m not the only guy vying for her attention but somehow I’ve managed to win her affection and am the lucky one called “boyfriend.” Because she’s eager and outgoing, chances are she’s got lots of friends and more than likely several guy friends in there too. Suppose she’s of the belief that I should trust her even enough to go have coffee or spend time hanging out with these other guys without becoming jealous or worrying because she’s assured me they’re “just friends.” As in so many relationships today, it’s not a trust issue it’s a preference. I just rather she didn’t spend time alone with guys. I know how guys work so I mention it to her.
“Sweetheart, you are outgoing, attractive, you love people and I love that about you. That’s part of why I was attracted to you to begin with. But because of that, its difficult for me to see you maintain relationships with guys, even though you are just friends. Part of it is because I know how guys work, but mostly, its just another way that I can feel secure in your love. It would mean the world to me if you would choose not to spend time alone with other guys, having coffee and speaking on the phone for great lengths of time. It would help me know without a doubt that I’m your one and only.”
To that she responds as most people would, “well you should just trust me Seth. If I say we’re just friends, we’re just friends.” “I do trust you. It’s not that I don’t, but I would appreciate you not spending your time with other guys. You might not understand why, you might not think it makes any sense, but it would mean the world to me if you would make that sacrifice.”
She has a choice. She may, as is the case with many relationships, truly not understand why this is so difficult for me. After all, she trusts me. Why is this so difficult for Seth to understand? But what she doesn’t realize is at this very moment she has power. She has real power to do something that will in turn motivate me to love her better. She can show me love and bless me so much by respecting my wish. Her sacrifice is amplified all the more because she doesn’t understand why she should do it.
And why does she have power? Because she can make a sacrifice that will bless me so much, removing any foothold or stumbling block that’s between us and out of gratefulness, I will lavish upon her so much more love because I’m so thankful that she made that sacrifice. She has the power to help herself. Maybe she already feels loved. That’s fine, is anyone going to turn down an extra expression of love from their significant other? Heck no!
It takes action on both parts. My girlfriend needs to actually stop spending the time with other guys and I need to go out of my way to express how thankful I am that she has made and is acting on that sacrifice. I don’t think that will be too tough though. Our natural response when we feel loved, is to love. When your cup is filled, you overflow!
I received some interesting responses from that first article and I want to share my findings. By and large the people that agree 100% fit a couple of demographics: they are either happily married or divorced. The first response I received came from a young woman who is divorced after a painful marriage and even now struggles with this topic in her relationship with her boyfriend. Several other divorced women responded in agreement as well as several people that I would put in the happily married category. In either case, they have lived this out and have seen how it either positively or negatively affects the relationship.
I didn’t receive any negative feedback per say, but more so “I agree and disagree.” My assumptions are that these people agree with the aspect of commitment in marriage, but disagree with the notion of reigning back on those relationships now. You know what I find fascinating? Each and every person that I received this type of feedback from falls between the ages of 18 and 30 and is a single, “independent,” Christian woman.
Am I knocking these women? Not in the slightest. It think they are the ones poised for the greatest success in marriage. They often times have the desire, the heart, and the ability to be the best wives. They also have the greatest opportunity for hardship because their “independence” can get the better of them. “I want him to know I don’t need him to take care of me. I’m fine on my own.”
Yes you are. But what if the guy wants to take care of you? That’s part of our ingrained nature as men. Women say all the time, “I want someone to lead me, to protect me, to love me.” Ok...let us! Yes I’ll be the first to admit that many guys today don’t get this and won’t take the initiative to step out and lead. I think part of that is because they are intimidated.
Many women today spend so much time telling the world of their independence that many guys aren’t going to waste their time because they know its going to be a struggle. I’m in that boat. There is nothing more attractive to me than an able, capable woman who has done a great job of setting up a home for herself, is hospitable and able to provide. And I’m still hesitant to express an interest because I’ve seen far too many times these very women, while they claim they want to be lead, cannot let go of that independence once they’ve tasted it. It becomes a control issue. “He’s trying to control me.” No, he’s trying to love you the way you said you wanted to be loved and lead.
The same goes for our relationships. We ask our boyfriend or girlfriend to stop spending time alone with the opposite sex and they think we’re trying to control them. It’s not a control thing it’s a commitment thing. It is being committed to the relationship over the friendship, even enough to saying “Ok, I don’t totally understand why, but I’ll make this sacrifice because you are more important to me.” Whoever figures that out and can bring themselves to act on it is practicing true love, true submission and has power. Real power.