Your boyfriend brings you flowers, treats you to dinner, and maybe even buys you a gift. Sweet things that indicate he could be the “rest of my life” partner but is that all you want? Or perhaps that’s what he did when you first started dating, but less so now. And the other things you might be looking for haven’t yet appeared. Maybe you’ve compromised on some things you thought were important. Or accepted some that you didn’t think you would accept.
This happens to nearly every woman who is seeking that ever-after relationship. The concessions don’t happen quickly; they occur slowly, often without even realizing you’re giving up what you thought you had found. Settling for the opposite of what you were looking for.
When the relationship began, your time together was exciting; this was a new adventure with a man you liked. You had fun, shared interests, and he was attentive and understanding. Even his explanation for failed relationships made sense. All seemed to go well. There were a few things that didn’t quite gel, and they placed a slight doubt in your mind. Nevertheless, you pushed those aside, believing he was who you wanted him to be.
Perhaps you made “the list,” the one we all make… or at least intend to. The qualities and traits you wanted in a man before you entered the dating world. Your first list probably contained more than 45 items, everything from he’s taller than me, he doesn’t leave dirty dishes in the living room, he’s really cute, he’s willing to do the laundry, he pays his bills, he drives a great car, he holds a job, and he shares my faith.
As you move forward in a relationship, you realize some of the items that made their way onto your list don’t really matter. These are things you can overlook; they’re easy to cross off. Perhaps he’s not taller than you but is incredibly secure when you wear heels, so that’s no big deal. Maybe he’s not good at laundry, but he does make sure your car gets serviced. A man “kind of cute” becomes a whole lot cuter when you discover he’s a really great guy.
But, there are a handful of items that you don’t want to lose from your “I wrote this before I met this guy” checklist; these need to be written in red, bolded, underlined, and taped on every mirror in your home!
Unfortunately, you will find that the more involved you get with a man, the harder it is to separate your emotions from these absolutes. The list comes off the mirror, placed in the bottom of the makeup drawer. I want to tell you that this happens to even the strongest woman. Our feelings become more prominent as our investment in the relationship goes deeper, and our absolutes take a back seat. Trust me on this. You are not alone!
It makes sense. You are having a great time with him. He gives you gifts; attention takes you to lovely places. He says the things you want to hear. He attends church with you. After the sixth time you pull into the parking lot together, he reveals he hasn’t walked through the church doors in five years. He has a job, but it’s the fourth one held in his undecipherable timeline.
At this point, you probably think that there are so few good men out there, and there’s a lot about him you like. So, isn’t he good enough? And if he’s not, you think maybe you can help him become the man you believe he is capable of being.
So, you move forward, not veering off the course of planning a long-term relationship with this guy with whom you have already invested so much of your life. You see, as women, we are looking for a man to whom we can give our heart. When we do, we offer our all. Our emotions, our attention, and our willingness to help fix whatever needs fixing. We seldom hold anything back: soul or body. In today’s culture, it seems that this is expected of us, even when we are unsure. Holding oneself out for something more is often looked upon with confusion and even, at times, with disdain.
Unfortunately, you will find that the more involved you get with a man the harder it is to separate your emotions from the absolutes.
But ladies, holding out is something that you should do.
You should want a relationship built upon the emotional health and integrity of both partners; it’s something you not only want but need. You need a man whom you can trust in everyday life. Before you hand him your emotions, your allegiance, your certainty in the future of “two shall become one,” before you surrender your very body to another, you must know who he truly is.
You will not discover the true character of a man in the excitement or thrill of a new relationship. It’s more than the words or simple actions that are part of a dating relationship. Instead, it is looking behind those words to see whether he is the man you need or not.
What every woman needs will probably not make its way into a romantic movie. It isn’t the candlelit dinner by the edge of the pond or the last kiss with the camera tilting upward, fading for the final shot. Life is not the ride off into happily ever after because life doesn’t create a happily ever after; instead, the future is real-life.
Before you hand him your emotions, your allegiance, your certainty in the future of “two shall become one,” before you surrender your very body to another, you must know who he truly is.
Ask yourself, “Does my boyfriend have what it takes to build a good life together?”
It is in those real-life moments that you want to believe he has the integrity to partner with you and handle the day-to-day. He may bring you flowers, but I’m here to tell you that it is not enough. You want to know which man you are dating: does he simply bring flowers, or does he bring more?
He willingly carries my purse in public
He lovingly carries my pain in private
He remembers our special days
He remembers to pick up the kids
He makes reservations for Valentine’s Day
He cooks dinner when I’ve had a bad day
He keeps my picture on his phone
He holds my needs in his heart
He makes promises of good times
He keeps his promises in bad times
He tells me he loves me
He shows me he loves me
You see, we aren’t looking for a man to turn our head; we are looking for a man to give our heart. It is the most valuable part of what we offer, and when we do, we are also willing to give everything—body and soul—in a lifelong relationship.
If that is true, then the man must be trustworthy. He must be honorable and willing to offer his all in return. Before you hand over your heart, dear friend, you must know that you are with a man who is not only capable but willing to keep your heart safe. Not just for today but until death do you part.
To download a printable PDF of the poem above, click here.
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: When to Leave an Unhealthy Relationship with Your Man – with Dr. Zoe Shaw – 024