If you’re currently dating someone, what kind of boundaries have you set? Most people immediately think about physical boundaries when this topic comes up, but what about conversational boundaries? For instance, here’s a clip from a a helpful article by Marshall Segal:
Most of us have never thought of setting conversational boundaries. I wasn’t ready when one girlfriend’s dad asked in the first couple months of our relationship, “Have you mentioned marriage yet?”
[Long, awkward pause.]
“Um, yeah . . . I think we did talk about it once. . . . ”
“I don’t think that was appropriate for you to talk about, and I expect you to care for her better than that.”
I was totally caught off guard. I had never even thought of certain topics of conversation as inappropriate or dangerous.
Many of you in the young adults group know that my wife and I did not discuss marriage before we were engaged. Now, times were different then…it was way back…in 2002. No, really…it wasn’t that long ago. And even then I knew of no other couple that did it that way. We were weird. As far as I can remember, marriage discussions, life-planning, and even tandem ring shopping were common occurrences among all the couples our age. Sometimes it worked out, of course. They talked up marriage, shopped for rings, and got married. And sometimes it didn’t. They talked up marriage, shopped for rings, and then I’d be sitting with a shocked friend in a diner trying to help them hash out where things went wrong. And nothing’s changed, really. I know it’s basically the only way people in the young adults group do things, still. When you like each other, it’s just so hard not to talk about getting married, like, right away.
And of course, this isn’t necessarily sin. But I agree with Segal’s points here, too:
You don’t have to figure out your whole future together by the third date. You don’t have to talk about your relationship every time you talk, or even half of the time. You don’t need to remind each other why you like each other every fifteen minutes. You really don’t need to talk much about marriage until it’s reasonable that you might actually get engaged and married relatively soon. Conversations like these easily become places we compromise without realizing it in the moment. We indulge desires for intimacy without touching. If you don’t have anything to talk about now except your relationship and your future, you probably won’t have much to talk about if you do get married.
This isn’t bible. But to me, it has the ring of wisdom. And I found it to be true, and a source of strength, in my own life. I knew that my future wife’s heart would be “engaged” in a different way if I began to talk about marrying her than it would be if I was simply dating her. I knew pretty early on I wanted to marry her, but you know, I didn’t have a ring. I hadn’t prayed too much about it. There were a hundred details I hadn’t thought out. And I wasn’t sure exactly how she felt. I knew I could have forced the issue–I could have brought it up and made her think about it. In effect, I could have forced her to say “yes” to an offer I wasn’t really making–to make a commitment to me before I had actually made a commitment to her (including the very real financial commitment of buying a ring). And that just never seemed right to me. I mean, I waited to buy the ring til I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be rejected down there on one knee–there are ways to kind of know things without directly discussing them. But I’ve always been glad that I waited to ask her til I was all in. The first time it came up, it was kind of a surprise for her. There I was, kneeling down. It was real. If she said yes, we were getting married. That was it. You just don’t get many moments like that in life.
So of course, no one can say that this is the only way to do things. But I’d like to suggest, especially to you young men, that it is a sure-fire way to honor and protect a sister’s heart, and keep yourself honest before the Lord about how you’re conducting the relationship.
Something to think about…