I've been seeing a man I met online for three weeks. I'm 24; he's 27. He is everything I had ever hoped to find, and he treats me wonderfully. He has already said he loves me, and I think I could be falling in love.
I found out on my own he was arrested for DUI in May. This has really changed my view of him. Should it, or is this in the past? It's such a new relationship. I'm not sure what to think, and I haven't asked him about it yet.
Should I forget the relationship, or try and get past this? I saw his mug shot and can't get it out of my head. I don't know what to do. He says he has changed a lot recently and is a man of God. I just don't know what to think or do.
For starters, your question reminds me in a very short space why online dating can be treacherous. It brings together people who would otherwise never meet. Unlike days past when you were most likely to meet your spouse through a family member or friend's introduction, or in your local church or community, the internet makes worlds collide. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does pose many risks. As you've discovered, the man you at first thought was perfect is not all he appeared to be. That, too, is a downside of online meetings: premature, artificial intimacy and the ability to present yourself falsely — or at least greatly edited.
Discerning someone's character takes time and attention, not merely hours on end of deeply personal conversation, but real-life observation. What does his apartment look like? How does he spend his free time? Where and how often does he go to church? What does he buy? Is he ever late to work? Does he work weekends? Does he help people who are weaker than he (the elderly, the young, etc.)? How does he speak to his mother? These and questions like them are easy to answer when you're dating the guy next-door. Much more difficult when you live in different cities, or if in the same city, live very separate lives (different churches, different communities, etc.) and only know what the other is telling you is true.
In your case, you have the added angst of having done a little digging only to find real dirt. A DUI is no small matter. Drinking alcohol isn't sinful (Jesus turned water into wine), but drunkenness is (Proverbs 23:20, Ephesians 5:18). And endangering the lives of others by driving under the influence is a serious offense. This should definitely change your view of him. It's a man's design to protect the weak, not terrorize them.
Remember, you just met him. Three weeks is a brand new relationship. This is just the sort of thing you should be glad to have found out early on. Thank God for revealing it, and take it as the red flag that it is. This is just the right time to break things off. He may indeed have changed a lot since May — the Gospel has the power to change criminals into evangelists; read the book of Acts. But someone telling you he's a man of God isn't enough. He must live like one. He must have evidence of the fruit of the spirit and a pursuit of holiness in his daily life.
There are a few things it would be nice to know: Do you have any friends (preferably older married Christian friends) in common? Have you gone to church together? Has he met your parents? Are you walking out this new relationship, at this point of exploring if you're a good match, in the context of a supportive, involved Christian community? As you can guess, doing so makes it much easier to navigate the sort of difficult conversation you will have if you decide to move forward. And I wouldn't advise you having this difficult conversation alone, without the input and protection of your father (or father figure) or pastor.
Some might say I'm making a rash judgment, that he's probably not hiding anything but doesn't want to scare you off, and three weeks is too soon to tell you about a DUI. But if that's true, then I'd say he's got his timing all wrong. He's already told you he loves you. To rush that, but hide the other, is another sign that something's fishy.
What if I'm wrong? If he really does love you, he will understand why you're breaking up and act honorably toward you. The Lord may yet restore to him his hope for a wife and family. But it is not a guarantee. Even if he's repented and received forgiveness from the Lord for his sin, there may be natural consequences to endure and even penalties to pay for his crime. Such is the nature of sin. Listen to the voice of wisdom in Proverbs:
Because I [wisdom] have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you (1:24-26).
As one of my older friends says, "Jesus forgives, but wisdom doesn't."
This applies to you as much as it does to him. I fear you've rushed to conclude "he's everything I've ever hoped for" without really knowing him. There is much to learn from this experience going forward. The early part of dating should be more like a job interview, peppered with a good dose of skepticism, than a gauzy romance scene in a movie. You need to be respectful (he's a human made in God's image) and kind, but you must also be wise and not give a potential mate premature access to your thoughts and heart.
I think you should ask God for wisdom in keeping with James 1:5-6, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind."
And that you should check your own motives and actions, in keeping with 2 Timothy 2:22. "So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart."
I pray you'll have God-given power to do it yourself and that you'll wait for a man who is doing likewise.
Copyright 2012 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.