Dating or courting can be an exciting time, but it can also be a time with many questions. What if you thought you found the one God wanted for you, but it didn't end up working out? What if you fall for someone and start dating, only to find out they aren't a Christian? Until you find the person you wish to marry and spend your life with, all other romantic relationships will come to an end. Often this is through the awkward and sometimes painful process of a break-up.
Maybe you're thinking, "I know I won't be ready for marriage for several years!" That may be, but for the Christian, think of dating/courting as practice for marriage. This doesn’t mean you should necessarily stay with the first person you date/court and marry them (although you might). God may lead you to someone else, but there should be serious considerations to determine who you date and why.
Casual dating (hopping from one relationship to another) often leads to hurt feelings and misunderstandings about relationships. Your friends aren't disposable and neither should be your girlfriends/boyfriends. While dating, young men and women should treat each other with the same love and respect that God expects from husbands and wives. God hates divorce, so we should be very careful when choosing a spouse.
While most of us never want to hurt others, there are valid reasons for breaking up, such as refusal to resolve conflicts, a change in faith, or sexual sin. When a relationship is unhealthy, breaking up can be the best course of action in some cases. If you discover that the one you're dating is not the person you want to marry and spend a lifetime with, ending the relationship will save you both from entering a doomed marriage.
Maybe you have been dating someone for a while only to discover that this person is not the one for you. Maybe you have nothing in common now because your interests/lives have changed drastically. Maybe you have discovered he does not share your faith or convictions. Maybe you just don’t feel a romantic love any longer. Maybe you have been hurt by the one you are dating. These are all valid reasons to end a dating/courting relationship.
Maybe you have discovered that your boyfriend or girlfriend indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. The Apostle Paul advises, "Don’t even eat with such people" (1 Corinthians 5:9–11); the relationship must end. Those whose lives are ruled by greediness, immorality, idolatry, etc., are not suitable potential marriage partners.
Anytime we deal with people, God expects us to treat others with dignity and respect—even if they have disappointed us or chosen not to treat us with respect or dignity. We must treat him or her with the grace and compassion that Jesus grants us when we aren’t measuring up. That doesn't mean the other person will receive it well, and you are not responsible for how they respond. Each person is responsible for their own actions (Jeremiah 31:30). However, you ARE responsible for ending the relationship in a loving, respectful way.
Three words come to mind when I think of how Jesus dealt with people He encountered during His earthly ministry: forgiveness, compassion, and truth. Using these principles, we can find a God-honoring way to approach a break-up.
Sometimes friends, family, or someone we are dating hurt us. Keep in mind that painful hurt occurs in marriages too, and we must learn to forgive one another for marriage to work. Whenever possible, it is best to forgive and try to work things out (Hebrews 12:14). You should put into practice the idea of resolving conflicts, as you would in marriage, instead of running away when your potential spouse does something that bothers or hurts you (Matthew 18:15-17).
That said, forgiving someone and having the goal of trying to make things work doesn't mean you are "stuck" in a dating relationship. If, through careful, humble prayer, God has led you to leave the relationship, then that is the route you must go. Yet, no matter what evil another person has afflicted on us, we, as Christians are called to forgive as Jesus did. “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mathew 6:14-15). Whether we choose to work on or end the relationship, Christians must forgive others.
SIDE NOTE: There is no question that when abuse (physical, emotional, sexual, etc.) is occurring in a relationship, that the victim should separate immediately and seek treatment. Forgiveness can still be goal however—from a safe distance.
Jesus had compassion for the rejected. When the woman caught in adultery was dragged before Him in her shame, Jesus restored her dignity and sent away her accusers who would have stoned her to death (John 8:1-11). Even if two people know that a relationship isn’t right for each other, ending a relationship is likely to be painful and may be humiliating if it is not handled respectfully.
Remember the compassion Jesus shows us and extend that to others. No matter the reason for the break-up, we can demonstrate kindness, empathy, and compassion when we end a relationship. Sometimes it is difficult to maintain a friendship after a break-up, but even if the couple no longer interacts much, they can make the choice to wish each other well in their respective futures. Luke says it best in the Bible, "Treat others the same way you want them to treat you" (Luke 6:31).
Jesus is a truth teller, but He tells the truth in love as should we (Ephesians 4:15). When He encountered the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), He knew she lived a sin-filled life. He could have condemned her harshly, but He spoke with her in a way that was truthful, loving, and showed the way to salvation.
Yes, breaking up is difficult, but everyone deserves the dignity of hearing the truth in person and in a way that leaves no doubt that the relationship is over. A text message or email is not a kind or respectful way to end a relationship, and it can leave unanswered questions about the state of the relationship or the reason for the break-up. Suggesting that the relationship is not over but intending to never call or show up again is a lie and a terrible way to treat another person.
We can speak the truth in love AND preserve the other person's dignity by treating them with compassion, kindness, and empathy. If we've been hurt by a relationship, we must work on forgiving the other person in our hearts. Remember, forgiveness doesn't mean you must allow yourself to continue to be hurt, but forgiveness will prevent bitterness and anger from taking root in your heart (Hebrews 12:15; Acts 8:23). Even if your relationship was only a brief one, always keep in mind that, while this person may not be your ideal future spouse, he or she is still a child of God and deserves to be treated as such.
While most of us never want to hurt others, there are valid reasons for breaking up, such as a refusal to resolve conflicts, change in faith, or sexual sin. Even in the process of breaking up, God expects us to treat others with dignity and respect—even if they have disappointed us or chosen not to treat us with respect or dignity. We must grant forgiveness, compassion, and truth. Breaking up is difficult, but everyone deserves the dignity of hearing the truth spoken with respect and grace.
Rhonda is an author, wife, mother, and mentor. She graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in English and Religious studies. She loves studying God’s Word for truth and wisdom and uses it as a compass and roadmap for her own spiritual journey. Rhonda believes in sharing the Good News and the hope found in Biblical truths with others. She uses her writing and mentoring opportunities (often with a pinch of humor) to do just that.