Here’s the rub. My boyfriend just started his master’s degree, at least a 2-3 year program, and I am about a week away from finishing my bachelor’s degree. Later this summer, I will be going into the Air Force and will be moving from Kentucky to Hawaii. My assignment is four years, although there will be brief periods of time when I will be back in the continental United States. There is no chance that we would be able to stay geographically close, other than infrequent visits, for the next four years.
Additionally, I have a completely different concern about the relationship. I am only slightly emotionally attached to my boyfriend. I’m sure that I will miss him, and I definitely enjoy spending time with him, even dating him, but I’m finding that he is more emotionally invested than I am. Is it OK for me to not feel emotionally engaged, especially this early in the dating relationship? Or is there something wrong with me? The stereotype is that the girl is usually the more sentimental/emotional one, but I rarely fit the stereotype.
I know it was probably not the best idea to start dating, knowing that I would be leaving in just a few months. I had actually become fairly content with the prospect of being single for the foreseeable future. Yet, he initiated the relationship, fully aware that I wouldn’t be around much longer. We were mutually interested in each other, so we decided to give it a shot. We have started discussing what this relationship will look like long-distance, and whether we are both willing to try it.
So, I guess my big questions would be:
- Is it OK that I don’t feel emotionally attached right now?
- Is it fair to him to continue the relationship after I move, especially since I am not very emotionally invested?
I really don’t want to hurt him, so if it is doomed to fail due to either of the previous concerns, I think it would be best to end it now, before either of us invest too much.
I appreciate your letter and your desire to serve our country. I understand that the professional commitment you’re embarking on comes at a high personal price and as a beneficiary of your — and other service members’ — work, I’m deeply indebted.
You’ve asked some excellent questions about how to proceed in a dating relationship with emotional as well as geographic hurdles. I think lots of 20-somethings can relate to one or more of your concerns, even though the details may vary.
You say that you are not emotionally engaged and that he is more emotionally invested. It’s hard to know exactly what you mean by these statements without the benefit of conversation, but I’ll do my best.
I’m guessing he “likes” you more than you “like” him. That’s not necessarily a deal breaker, especially early on in a relationship when what both of you should be focusing on is not your feelings as much as an objective evaluation of the other’s suitability for marriage. Will he make a good provider and protector for you and your future children? Is he spiritually mature and walking faithfully according to what Scripture says is a young man’s role (Titus 2:6-8)? Do you respect him as a leader enough to see yourself submitting to him as his future wife? Are you ready to fit in with him? In biblical dating, these are foundational questions to answer early on in any romantic relationship.
Hopefully you’re holding your emotions in check until you know the answers to these questions. Until then, it only adds trouble to let your emotions dictate your plans.
If you’re thinking, this is all too serious, too soon, and besides, we’re just having some laughs together, now would be a great time to start thinking more deeply about your relationship. Especially given the fact that you’re getting ready to move far away from him. The geographic distance is a good reason to either get engaged or call it quits. That may sound sudden, but given your age, the amount of time you’ve already spent together as a couple, your parents’ approval and the fact that you’re entering a long season of separation, it’s time to fish or cut bait. (Incidentally, if you do decide he’s a strong candidate for husband, I’d advise marriage sooner rather than later. Certainly waiting four years is not ideal.)
If you’re able to answer those questions in the affirmative, then you are in a position to get to know him better and “let love grow.” Feelings are fickle and prone to change on a whim. Even couples that start out with emotional skyrockets eventually move into a more stable, sustainable companionate love. If you already have that kind of deep friendship love, there’s a good chance romantic love would blossom if given the chance. And yes, romantic love and attraction are a necessary part of marriage. They aren’t everything, but without them, couples have a hard time fulfilling their marital duties, let alone approaching the intimacy in Song of Solomon. If you don’t foresee being able to love this young man as a friend and a lover, you really should end the dating relationship now. It’s not fair to string him along.
You said you were mutually interested in dating, that leads me to believe the possibility for agape, as well as erotic love is there. You also mention that you were content with the idea of an extended season of singleness when this young man came along and initiated a relationship, even knowing you were planning to leave. Good for him. That much is a mark in his favor. Douglas Wilson talks about the “ability to be disruptively masculine” in his book, Her Hand in Marriage. He writes:
Suppose John wants to marry Susan. But he knows that after she graduates, she is going to try to get a job in Seattle where her grandparents live. He goes to her father and says that he would ask her to marry him, but she has other plans. Now if John is really interested in Susan, and if he is masculine, he should cheerfully want to interfere with her plans. If she is not interested in marriage, she will not mind if he asks her father; there will be no imposition. Her father will just say no. If she is interested in him, it will not be an imposition either.
How does this apply to your plans to go to Hawaii? Should you not have made them in the first place? Wilson says,
Women are not supposed to sit on the couch and wait for somebody to marry them. They should always seek to do something productive with their lives in the meantime. Consequently, men who are seeking a helper are going to have to seek this helpmate from among women who are going in other directions at the time. A man who understands masculinity and marriage should know generally what he wants to do, and he should be seeking a woman who agrees to come with him. It is not the other way around. He is not coming into her life in order to help with her vocational calling. Of course if a husband loves his wife as Christ loves the church, he is going to help her in many ways. But the basic direction and orientation of their lives should not involve him surrendering everything God has called him to do for her sake. The Bible teaches that the woman was made for the man, not man for the woman (1 Corinthians 11:9).
This is a hard teaching for modern ears to hear. Our culture works actively against such a direction, telling men and women their jobs are equally important while preaching a message of balance and taking turns: You follow him for his promotion then he follows you for yours.
Your commitment to the military poses huge obstacles to following this biblical model. Depending on your commitment, it may be impossible to follow your young man’s vocational calling any time soon. Again, for this reason, I think it’s only fair to him that you stop dating. If after your tour of duty is fulfilled, you realize you deeply love this man, not just emotionally, with all the attendant feelings of infatuation, but in a way that you’re ready to serve him as his helper and relocate to follow him, it’s entirely possible the marriage can work.
I pray God will give you the wisdom to do what’s honorable and bless you for it.
Copyright 2007 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.