Q&A: Dating a non-believerWritten by Candice Z. Watters
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Dear Boundless Answers:
In one of my calculus classes, I met a young man (I'll call him Jeremy) who offered to help me on a project. At the end of the term, I gave him a Christmas card. To my surprise, he e-mailed me and told me I could e-mail.
I did e-mail him, and we continued to e-mail for almost five months before we had another class together. During that time, we asked each other numerous questions and told each other a lot (or what I thought was a lot) about each other – our likes, dislikes, opinions, etc. When we finally had another class together, Jeremy asked if I could drive him home (he lived really close to my house and it gave us more time to talk about things). My parents had no problem with it, and I said OK. I drove him home for the rest of the term.
Eventually, we began to do non-academic things together. I invited him over several times to my house. He came over and we (along with my younger sister) had a lot of fun. Also, we went to see movies together, played in the park, etc.
Although Jeremy wasn't a Christian (but he did have a religious background), I started to like him a lot and think that maybe he was The One. I know it was wrong – I have told myself that I shouldn't "missionary date" and should only set my eyes on men with the same beliefs I had – but I thought maybe he could be. Jeremy liked a lot of the same things I did, was getting a degree in the same thing I was and prioritized a lot of the same things I did. Even a lot of our opinions were the same. Although I continued to "fantasize" about our having a dating relationship, I never acted on these feelings and kept them to myself.
Things changed when he transferred from a community college (where we had both been going) to a university, and I did not. I didn't hear from him as much (previously, he had e-mailed almost twice a week) and, of course, didn't see him as much. But I knew, though, that we were both busy with classes and couldn't get together as much.
Things continued like this until winter when Jeremy hinted that he had found someone "to spend more time with." I didn't know how to respond or what to say, and, not wanting to seem overbearing, I didn't ask.
But then this summer, Jeremy mentioned that he went to see the fireworks with another girl, whom I will call Mary.
For awhile, I just let this boil in me and it nearly destroyed me. I could stand that he had a girlfriend (although I had feelings for him). What I couldn't stand was that he hid her from me for almost seven months. It ate me up so bad, and I began to feel so down that I told my parents and a trusted friend. Both told me I needed to tell him how it made me feel and to pull back from him.
So when Jeremy started talking about getting together, I told him how I felt about his hiding Mary. He was really sorry in the e-mail, saying he "hid" Mary because he wasn't sure how I felt about him and because he hadn't told his family yet. He also said he hadn't hid anything else and wanted to mend the friendship.
After that, our relationship has trickled down to almost nothing. My dad tells me I shouldn't e-mail him too much, that Jeremy should be the one asking to get together (before it was almost always me).
My question is: how could I have prevented this from happening? Were there any signs that Jeremy would have been so deceptive? What should I do with our relationship now? Do I let him go, knowing it will hurt and make me mad that I wasted almost two years of my life with him (possibly ignoring other men) or should I give him a second chance, since he seems to want to repair our relationship?
I believe you suspect what I will say because you've already said it. You wrote, "Jeremy wasn't a Christian . . . I know it was wrong."
That's the bottom line. Despite all your common interests, your affectionate feelings for one another and even your family's seeming approval of your friendship, you should not have "fantasized" about dating this young man. Jesus was clear that indulging sinful thoughts is as bad as committing the sin.
Now to answer your specific questions: How could you have prevented this from happening?
If what you mean by "this" is falling for a nonbeliever, the way to prevent it from happening is to limit your contact with nonbelievers to purely platonic friendships. That means no one-on-one outings – what casual observers would call dates. It also means that if you start falling for one, even with limited contact in group settings, you must restrict your time together even more. J. Budziszewski, aka Theophilus, wrote about this a few years back and the article remains a helpful classic.
Were there signs Jeremy could have been so deceptive? You call the fact that he didn't tell you he was dating someone deception. I'd say you had unrealistic expectations of him. He didn't owe you that information. You weren't his girlfriend.
What should you do? Let it go. Repent to God for wilfully disobeying His Word and defying the testimony of your own spirit. He is clear that as believers we are not to be unequally yoked.
That command includes not just marriage but dating relationships (after all, what are dating relationships for if not for finding a mate?). Any anger you feel over the loss of your alliance with Jeremy should be directed at yourself. And it shouldn't be anger, but conviction, remorse and repentance.
The worst thing you could do is avoid taking responsibility for your sin by blaming the whole episode on Jeremy, and learn nothing from the past two years.
If, however, you repent, allow God to cleanse you and start over by dating for the purpose of finding a suitable mate (as defined by God's Word), these past two years may end up standing out as a time of great protection. The fact that you're escaping this relationship not married to someone who does not profess Christ is a sign of God's great mercy. May you give Him the praise He is due.
Candice Z. Watters is the founding editor of Boundless.org, a Focus on the Family webzine helping singles find their way to marriage, at time of publication.
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