In your book, Get Married, you explained how as you and Steve were becoming friends, he dated another woman for a short season. If a woman is growing in friendship and connecting well with a guy to whom she is attracted, but he is dating someone else, what would you advise her to do? Should she continue to develop the friendship? How can she discern if God wants her to forget about the guy and move on, or to continue to hope and pray for a relationship with him?
Thanks for writing. This is a perceptive question and a reminder that much of what I share from my own story is descriptive (it tells what did happen) and not necessarily prescriptive (telling what should happen). To know what we should do in any given situation, we have to go to God's Word, the Bible. It's there that we learn who we are, who God is and what He requires of us. We learn of our design — how we were made by God to flourish, and how, because of our sin nature, we often limp along against the grain of that design.
There is no verse in the Bible that says, "Thou shalt not hope a man who's dating someone else will become available for you to marry." Nor is there a verse that says you should. What's needed in situations like this is wisdom (see the book of Proverbs, especially chapters 2, 8 and 9). It may help to ask some questions about the situation:
- How long have they been dating?
- How serious is their relationship?
- Have they stated an intent to marry or to date exclusively for the purpose of considering marriage?
If the answer to those last two is yes, then I'd suggest that you be a true friend and pray for them that God would give them wisdom, guide them to a God-honoring marriage through His Word and other believers in the church, and ask Him to guard your heart and mind, helping you to have honorable thoughts. It's really tempting to envy others when we see them forming matches that lead to marriage. Especially when the match includes a man you had hoped to date. But it's not true friendship to work against their budding romance, if that romance is being walked out biblically (see the Biblical Dating series).
This brings us back to my friendship with Steve. In answering those three questions above, 1) he and Kelli had gone out two or three times (I think — that was 18 years ago!), 2) their relationship was just percolating and not serious, and 3) they never got to the point of dating exclusively or talking about the possibility of marriage. Though they decided not to date shortly after those few outings, it was nearly a year after that that Steve and I started dating. Our friendship grew as we spent time in class, working on our webzine and studying (for more on our story, see "Learning From Ruth").
When you spend a lot of time with a peer group of single Christians — if you're in a school setting like we were or belong to the same church — it's natural for men and women to pair off and date and eventually marry. That's good. But it can also be hard if the man you're attracted to pursues one of your friends. Inevitably, in a close-knit group of friends, someone will be disappointed when a match occurs that doesn't include them. If as a group of single Christians, you are hoping and praying for God-honoring marriages (and you should be — marriage is God's design for human flourishing), then it's important to guard against envy and bitterness.
One of the best ways to do this is to treat your Christian brothers just that way: as brothers (1 Timothy 5:1-2, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12). Resist the desire to cultivate intimate "friendships" that are more like platonic dating relationships or even marriages. Remember, how you treat the men in your life now is practice for how you'll relate to them once you're married. Pray to be honorable and above reproach in your thoughts and in your actions, knowing that Lord willing, each one is someone's future husband, even as you're someone's future wife. Pray Psalm 19:14, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer."
And keep an eye on how the new match-up is developing. Not every dating relationship will end in marriage. Those early days and weeks say a lot. If it appears that the relationship isn't going to continue, you may yet be the one he chooses. Pray for patience and be kind throughout. But don't hold on too long. If he and she are getting serious, let your hopes go and wish them well.
May God give you wisdom.
Copyright 2013 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.