by Nancy Wilson
This article is directed to unmarried women, whether young and in their fathers’ households, older and on their own, or widows who would like to remarry. The principle is that you must guard your heart so that it does not become entangled emotionally without the protection of a covenant. Many of these exhortations that follow may seem a trifle negative, but believe me, the results will be positive.
When a woman leaves her heart unguarded and becomes attached to the wrong man, she exposes herself to great hurt or harm. Many women, anxious to be married, respond to the first man who comes along and even allow themselves to become physically involved when they “know better.” It is easy to have convictions as long as you are not called upon to stand up for them, especially if you must stand up to a man you have allowed yourself to fall in love with. Never assume you are “strong” and can “handle” being alone with a man that you are attracted to. Remember, whoever he is, if he is not your husband, you have no business submitting to him in any area, especially if he wants you to engage in a little physical affection when there is no fence of covenantal protection around the relationship. Virginity is a priceless inheritance you bring into marriage.
You must guard your imagination if you want to guard your heart. Don’t feed a lonely heart with cheesy romance novels or chick flicks and fantasize about the men or the relationships described. This can quickly become lust—lusting to be lusted after. Don’t allow yourself to imagine someone is interested in you when he is just being friendly. Don’t imagine that he had a tender look when he said hello to you, when he was really just giving you a polite greeting. In other words, do not develop wild crushes. If the man in question shows an interest elsewhere, you will be hurt, and depending on how much you indulged your imagination, you may be devastated. Be realistic about the men who show you attention. If you are too eager for a relationship, you can imagine he is godlier, funnier, sweeter, smarter, older, or taller than he really is. If you have to talk yourself into someone, you are not being realistic about this man. Don’t get desperate! Don’t allow yourself to get involved in an inappropriate relationship because you are lonely. Don’t look for a man as a ticket out. You may want to move out or move on, but that is not a good reason to get married.
Just because a man shows an interest is no good reason to assume he is the one for you. There is no fire. Think about it. Get input from someone who knows you. Take your time. Don’t fling yourself in his arms as soon as he shows his hand. Women are sometimes in love with being in love, longing for a relationship more than they long to please God. Marriage is not an end in itself; it is a means of glorifying God. There is one thing worse than being single: being married to the wrong man.
Cultivating male group friendships is a healthy alternative to the world’s dating system, but we must not use these friendships to fill a void. Friendships can be sexually charged, and women are usually very ignorant about this. Friendships should not be intimate, but good-naturedly distant. Would you be able to maintain the friendship on an equal footing if you were married? If not, it is probably an inappropriate friendship. Women should have the kind of friendships with the brothers that are characterized by purity and propriety. If you have to alter your behavior after you are married, you have probably been behaving in an unwise or ungodly manner. This means you should not be spending one-on-one time with men (unless it is in the context of courtship), whether you are married or single. If you are going out for coffee and allowing men to pour out their troubles to you, this behavior will have to stop if you marry someone else. That tells me you should stop now.
Beware well-meaning friends. “He’s so good looking,” they say, but you know he is also so ungodly. Don’t encourage them by talking too much about your interests. Things have a funny way of getting back to the person. And if he isn’t interested, you will just feel foolish, and you may get hurt.
Finally, when in doubt, throw it out. Do not stay in a relationship that you have doubts about. It is very unwise to marry someone hoping for changes in him. If you have concerns about his godliness, his character, his theology, his relationship to his parents, his lifestyle, or anything else, back off, and maybe you should back out. Of course you have protection in the counsel and advice of your parents, but be careful not to marry someone simply to please your parents. Surely your parents have good intentions, but you must be honest with them about your hesitations. I cannot imagine parents (if they are loving and godly) pressuring a daughter to marry someone she did not want to marry!
Do cultivate a biblical view of marriage. Do cultivate godly group friendships. Women can learn a lot about how men think from being friends with men in groups. Do cultivate a godly character in yourself because marriage amplifies all you are. Look for likemindedness in a man: do you agree doctrinally? Are you similar culturally? Is he attractive to you? Be realistic, trust God, and be content.