Written By M. Tiong, Malaysia, originally in Simplified Chinese
My boyfriend and I had marriage in mind when we first started dating. Hence, the possibility of us breaking up one day never crossed my mind. Sure, we had our usual tiffs every now and then, but we were always able to talk things out and resolve the problems together.
As part of our preparation for and anticipation of life together as a married couple, we would practise spiritual disciplines such as fellowship, prayer, and quiet time together. However, everything changed when I went abroad to study.
My boyfriend had expressed reservations about my decision, but I thought otherwise. After all, our relationship was stable and modern technology would make it easy for us to stay in touch in spite of us being in two different countries. And since it was just going to be for a year, I thought, everything would be fine.
Just shortly after I left the country, however, our relationship of more than two years started falling apart. The frequent calls and text messages turned into curt conversations and occasional text messages. I began to sense that my boyfriend was becoming weary of maintaining the long-distance relationship. My heart started to feel anxious, and I even began suspecting that he might have another love interest in church. Naturally, my suspicions only served to accelerate the demise of our relationship. Eventually, we decided to break up.
Being alone in a foreign land, I was hit hard by this unexpected blow. I recalled a phrase that he once said—“Love is a choice, not a feeling”—and this triggered many questions in my mind. “Haven’t we already made the choice to love each other? Don’t we just have to depend on God and all problems would be solved? Why do we have to break up?”
It was only after experiencing the pain of breaking up, that I realized that my admiration and love for my boyfriend had surpassed my desire and love for God. During our relationship, there had been times when we had engaged in unholy behavior or failed to fully obey God’s will, but we barely made any attempts to change or correct our behavior. Our fear of losing each other had blinded us to the fact that we had become overly dependent on each other and unwittingly made each other an idol.
I remember being struck by something I read in a book, Dear God, Where Is the Love You Promised Me?, by Pastor Zhu Hui Ci. She wrote, “God created marriage, but humans created dating.” While God clearly stipulates His will and design for marriage, He does not do the same for whom we ought to marry; He gives us the free will and ability to make choices. Dating provides the opportunity for us to learn to love each other and make it our goal to grow in Christ-likeness.
So if there are fundamental problems that cannot be resolved in the relationship, breaking up is an option. But this is not a call to choose this option flippantly. Here’s an example: If the person you are dating is a workaholic, and his extreme devotion to work often gets on your nerves, it would be silly to hope that he might change after getting married.
Though this does not necessarily mean that the person will stay the same for the rest of his life, simply hoping for him to change will not prevent this from becoming a possible problem in the future. You could seek counsel and try to work out the issues together. But if this too doesn’t solve the problem, and you feel that it will endanger your future relationship, then the most loving thing to do might be to break up before marriage, so that each person can focus on working through the problems in his or her life.
The world defines success as gaining something, and losing it as equivalent to failure. But from the Bible’s perspective, the benchmark for success is love. We fail only when we do not love. In her book, Pastor Zhu also wrote: “Whether you decide to stay together or to break up, the Christian basis should always be love.”
In my own relationship, I have experienced what it is like to love someone deeply, and I trust it is the same for him too. But it is precisely because of love that I decided to walk out of the relationship, and to accept that this outcome was the best for the both of us—even if it was not what I had intended.
I pray that God will help the both of us as we journey on our respective future paths, to submit to the Spirit’s leading and to walk in accordance to His will, always loving Him above all.