Monday, February 17, 2020

Anonymous Asks (80)

“What are valid reasons to break up?”

If you are talking about breaking up a marriage on a permanent basis, the only possible valid reason given in scripture is a spouse engaged in a sexual perversion. Usually this is limited to adultery, but the Greek term the Lord used in Matthew is a fairly broad one, and there could be several other sorts of perversion that qualify.

Sorry, that’s a bit grim, but there you are. However, I suspect you are inquiring about a dating relationship or perhaps an engagement. In that case, I believe the Bible’s answer would be a little different.

Frankly, almost anything qualifies.

Serious Business

Marriage is serious business. It is intended to be life-long, and is not to be undertaken lightly. A close friend had two engagements end after wedding preparations were well underway, and I am fairly sure she would agree terminating both relationships was absolutely the right way to go; not because the parties involved were bad people, but because for one reason or another they had demonstrated they were not the right person for her (or perhaps she was the wrong person for them).

Now, many people get the “commitment jitters” and ride them out. Often this turns out to have been a good thing. But if prior to marriage you and your intended have fundamental differences in worldview, character, understanding of scripture, future plans, views about whether or not to have children, spending habits, priorities, opinions about how problems should be solved in a marriage, etc., these will not disappear once the union is formalized. If anything, they will be ten times worse.

Reasons to be Fearful

Sometimes dating couples break up because one party or the other feels they can do better. For obvious reasons, they don’t usually put it precisely that way, but that’s really the bottom line. If that’s the case, then please don’t do your partner any “favors” by hanging around, even if you put some sort of spiritual gloss on the decision. There are few things worse than winding up married and unloved. Nobody deserves that. Ask Leah.

Sometimes dating couples become so used to each other that they take the other person for granted and lose sight of the qualities in their partner that attracted them in the first place. Again, a time out prior to making any marriage plans is an excellent idea. I know of one young couple who took two years off, saw other people casually, then realized everyone they were meeting was a step or two down from what they had already experienced. When they got back together, they were a lot more serious and appreciative of one another.

Sometimes dating couples realize the hurdles they thought love would overcome are bigger than they thought. Perhaps parents are opposed, or living in separate cities while going to university is a grind, or cultural differences are turning out to be more significant than they first appeared. If both parties are thoroughly determined to gut it out, so be it. But if you feel you are no longer committed to moving forward, it is fairer and more honest to say ‘so long’ rather than coasting along until circumstances provide a stronger incentive to break up. The other person’s time has value to them, and it is a decent thing to respect that.

Reservations and Complications

I could make a long list of possible reasons couples might break up, but I’ll simply sum them up this way instead: almost anything qualifies. If you have serious reservations of any sort about going the distance, well then, don’t start. Marriage is too important and affects too much of one’s life and testimony for Christ to coast into it nonchalantly and then find it doesn’t suit you.

Dating is not a biblical concept. You find it nowhere in scripture. That doesn’t mean it’s evil, or that nobody should ever do it, but it does mean nobody can oblige you to date, and nobody can say you “have to” continue dating someone if you have decided you don’t want to. If you think breaking up will hurt your partner’s feelings, imagine the ever-increasing hurt if you eventually feel compelled to call things off days, weeks or months further down the road.

What complicates breaking up is that far too many professing Christian teens and twenty-somethings have gotten far too physical far too early in the relationship, or have made verbal (or implicit) promises they are no longer prepared to follow through on. As a result, questions of whether or not to continue together are muddled by profound guilt and a sense of ongoing obligation that unbelievers rarely experience. For this reason, I strongly believe it is better for Christian couples to stay away from all kinds of sexual and pre-sexual contact, as well as enthusiastic promise-making, until you are 100% ready to tie the knot — legally, emotionally, financially, and otherwise.

Facing the Music

If you are already well into that sort of mess, the thing to do is to face the issue square on, not run from it and allow guilt or a sense of misplaced duty to dictate what you and your partner do for the rest of your lives. This is the time to get some serious guidance from older Christians, either together or apart, so that you can confess what you have done together, be forgiven for it, work through how to respond biblically to any obligations you have created to one another, and do your decision-making with a clear conscience.

In short, deal with the sin first, then figure out where you really are. Settle for anything short of that, and you will definitely come to regret it.

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