I had never dated my entire life (all 21 years) until recently. In January, a guy I had had a crush on for three years started pursuing me. He’s a lot older than me — he’s 33. The adults in our church encouraged him last semester to pursue me because we always got along really well.
This past January we started talking on the phone a lot. He’s taken me out on a few dates — probably six in total. He really likes me but doesn’t put any pressure on me to like him back.
The problem is, all of a sudden, I’m not attracted to him anymore, and I don’t know why. He fits all the qualities of a guy I ever wanted and prayed for. I liked him for so long. Why do I all of a sudden not feel attracted to him? I’m slightly embarrassed to say he’s my boyfriend.
The thing is, our church is in support of this — even my parents are fine with it — but why does it not feel right? Is this a common feeling in a first relationship? Maybe not having a boyfriend for my whole life makes this experience awkward or weird for me. Can attraction grow over time? Why do I feel repulsed by him?
Crushes are a funny thing. They’re usually on guys who are, for one reason or another, off limits. I think that’s part of what adds to the excitement. Much, if not all, of what fuels the feelings of attraction is our imagination. We fill in all the unknowns, of which there are many, with what we hope to be true. And in most cases, crushes never go beyond being crushes. Rightly so.
In your case, you have the longed-for, and what you assumed would be desirable, opportunity for relationship with the object of your crush. It actually went beyond, to something outside your imagination — a relationship with a flesh-and-blood man. I suspect your aversion is in large part from realizing the man you thought you knew — who occupied your thought life for three years — is much different in real life. And not only different, but flawed, fallen, human. (There’s a lesson there about the downsides and dangers of crushes.)
But your situation has an added reason for caution and concern: namely, the 12-year age difference. That’s a lot of years — a lot of difference between the two of you in maturity, life experience and more. It might not be as big of a problem if you were older (I’ve known couples with a 12-year-difference who’ve made it work in marriage, and others who’ve crashed and burned) but consider that two years ago, you were a teenager. You are still worlds apart. That gives him a significant advantage over you. Understandably, you may feel like you aren’t on equal footing or well-matched for marriage.
I think it’s important to listen to your intuition on this — the Bible calls it conscience — because to go against your conscience is sin. That’s not to say a 12-year age difference is sinful, but that if the idea of the difference, and of marrying him, is troubling to your conscience, to violate that, or ignore it — to stifle your inner conviction — would be sin.
In Romans 14, Paul talks about not violating the conscience of a fellow believer by putting “a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” He uses the examples of food offered to idols as well as Sabbath day observance and says that one who is at liberty in his conscience to eat anything shall not judge or despise the one who eats only vegetables. Similarly,
One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself…. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God (5-7, 12).
Just as it’s sin to condemn a fellow believer with a weaker (or more sensitive) conscience, so too is it sin to ignore or violate your own conscience. Paul says, “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (22-23).
In his new book The Hole in Our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung writes,
The conscience is no substitute for the Bible and must never be in opposition to it. But a good conscience is a gift from God. As we pursue holiness we must always be mindful of God’s voice speaking to us through a tender conscience informed by the Word of God. It will lead us not into temptation and will deliver us from evil. … When we violate our sense of right and wrong, even if the action in itself is not sinful, we are guilty of sin. “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). That means, if you don’t believe what you are doing is acceptable, then it’s not acceptable for you to do it. You must not ignore your conscience (p. 42).
I’m not suggesting you follow your feelings — as I’ve said before, feelings are fickle. Conscience is not the same as feelings; often it is at odds with them. You might want to do something fiercely, yet know in your heart that it would be wrong to do it. Conversely, you may not want to do something but go ahead and do it anyway, knowing it is the right thing to do. For those of us who have read and been taught from God’s revealed Word, the conscience reminds us of moral instruction we’ve received. But even those who’ve never read the Bible are without excuse before God for their disobedience of God’s moral laws. Conscience is what Paul says in Romans 2:14-15 bears witness to the truth of God’s moral demands:
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.
Marriage is a good gift from God for all mankind, believers as well as unbelievers, but it is no trifle. Marriage is hard work and a huge responsibility with implications stretching into eternity. God calls husbands and wives to no less than working together, side-by-side, to “take dominion, subdue the earth, and to be fruitful and multiply,” and that within a headship/helpmeet relationship characterized by selfless love. If you are in Christ, it is imperative that before you marry, you are certain that you’re ready to embrace all that Scripture commands of husbands and wives. That doesn’t mean you’re ready or able to obey all of them perfectly, but that you are willing and eager to work at it.
If you feel dread, anxiety, apprehension — and certainly any sort of revulsion — you must listen to the voice of conscience and end the relationship. No amount of support for this relationship from family, friends or church members will be enough to sustain you in lifelong commitment to your vows. No matter how much they affirm your relationship — if you do not affirm it wholeheartedly, you are heading for disaster, or at a minimum, a very hard road. They are not the ones considering marriage. That falls to you alone, as must your decision. But you are not alone. Jesus promised He would be with you always: “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). James encourages you to “ask God for wisdom,” and I do the same.
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. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8).
May the Lord, by His great power at work within you, give you the faith to pray for wisdom and believe He is able to give it.
In the Love and Grace of Christ Jesus,
Copyright 2012 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.