Navigating My First Relationship (With Help From the Bible)
When it comes to romance, the Bible is clear on certain things. Firstly, it must be between a man and woman who share the same faith (1 Corinthians 7:12-16). Secondly, sex is reserved only for married couples (Hebrews 13:4).
But everything else—where to find the right partner, how to deepen a relationship, or who it is really going to be—seem to be mired in cultural context or left unsaid. So, it’s not surprising if you feel that the Bible isn’t a book you can run to for advice on modern-day romance.
Nevertheless, there are biblical truths that can offer us helpful perspectives for our romantic pursuits. Let’s look at some of our usual considerations and see how the Bible can guide us in these areas.
It’s not about how you meet “the one”
If we look at the Bible, most couples had arranged marriages or met through mutual circles of influence (e.g., Genesis 24, 28, and 29). But these stories are told as events that happened and not prescribed as formulas. And of course, today we have dating apps, and that brings its own benefits and challenges.
But when we turn to most rom-coms, we know the drill: a boy and a girl have a meet-cute, get to know each other, fall in love, maybe fight a few times, then reconcile and go on to live happily ever after!
Life isn’t like the movies but watching a lot of these can sometimes make us wonder if there’s a formula somewhere.
The way things turned out between me and my girlfriend, Larisse, was totally different from what I had envisioned. I thought I would meet her in church and get to know her more alongside mutual friends and ministry mates.
But in actuality, we met through Instagram. And yes, I slid into her DMs…only to correct a mistranslated verse that she had shared. Soon enough, we were chatting and talking on the phone every day, and now we’ve been together for two years.
Looking back, I wouldn’t have our love story written any other way. It’s been amazing to be with a woman who loves God and is committed to follow His will for us, and I know that’s what ultimately matters—having God at the centre of our relationship.
In Deuteronomy 6:1-9, the Lord commanded Israel to love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. And Jesus affirmed this as the greatest commandment—the ultimate guiding principle for our lives.
I’m not saying that we love God so we can find our significant other. Let’s not hack God’s Word for our own benefit. Instead, let’s be reminded to put God first by knowing His heart. That gives us the wisdom, not a “formula”, to navigate the different aspects of life (love life included).
It’s not all about physical attraction
Oftentimes, we’re concerned about how we look because we’re reminded that “first impression lasts!” and we don’t want to miss our shot. But when we obsess about making that perfect first date and keeping up the romance, all that can overshadow what we should be paying attention to: character.
Thinking about looks always reminds me of Saul’s story. As Israel’s first king, Saul had won the people over with his impressive stature and good looks (1 Samuel 9:2). But over time, it became clear that his heart was not with the Lord (1 Samuel 13 and 15). Therefore, when the Lord told Samuel to anoint the next king, He warned Samuel to not decide based on the physical attributes (1 Samuel 16:7).
Now, in my case, were Larisse and I initially attracted to each other physically? Absolutely! And we’re still attracted to each other that way. But it’s not the main reason we’re together.
Larisse has had relationships where the guys were passive towards even the simplest decisions, which irked her, and it made her seem overly aggressive. That’s why when we got together, she appreciated my decisiveness, even if she didn’t always like or agree with what I chose. Her maturity in the Lord enabled her to respect and trust my leadership, which I deeply appreciate.
What I love about Larisse is how she provides a godly perspective for decisions that I want to make immediately. There were countless times that she saved me from making a bad decision because I had talked to her about it first, heard her out, and trusted her insight.
It’s not just love and feelings
I never forgot what my dad said to me when I was still a teenager: “Philip, ask yourself if you’re ready for the responsibility of taking care of another person. Meaning, you’ll have money for dates and spend for her because, as the man, you’re the provider.”
“You’ll also need to sacrifice your time. Are you ready to talk on the phone into the night when she wants to unload her problems? Are you ready to give up weekends and bonding times with your guy friends just to be with her?”
“Remember, a relationship is not just about love and feelings. It is a responsibility.”
These hard-hitting questions from my dad made me wiser concerning romance. It’s also why I only had my first-ever girlfriend at 28 years old because I wanted to be sure I was ready for the physical, emotional, financial, and spiritual responsibilities.
In Luke 14:25-33, the Lord Jesus taught us how, in following Him, we ought to count the cost. And in Ephesians 5:23-33, Paul likens the relationship between a husband and a wife to the relationship between Christ and the church. From these Scriptures, we see a parallel in the seriousness of these relationships. Christ died for the church willingly and sacrificially. Thus, so too must a man and a woman be ready to give selflessly for each other.
Are you ready to work towards that level of responsibility and sacrifice? If not, it’s better to wait.
I write all these from my own experience, as someone who learned all these romantic principles from others vicariously before committing to my first (and hopefully last) girlfriend. My mindset early on was to find the one girl and to save myself the heartbreak and financial losses from dating many others who would not be good for a long-term future, i.e., marriage.
I hope that some of my learnings can be helpful for you, even though the path and timing of your love story will likely not be the same.
Leaving and cleaving begins now
Genesis 2:24 states that a man and woman are to leave and cleave, meaning fully separate themselves from their parents to create their own family together.
Our pastor once gave a talk with his wife on romantic relationships, and I’ll forever remember this piece of advice: “Don’t prepare for a marriage only when you’re about to tie the knot. You start preparing for it even when you’re not yet married.”
For those of us in serious relationships, we need to factor in the leaving and cleaving, especially with our immediate family members. Think of it as peeling a band-aid carefully instead of ripping it out in one go. Inform your parents that you see a future with your partner together as husband and wife. Give them regular updates on how you two are. These small conversations go a long way in preparing them for when you eventually get married.
Dear reader, I encourage you to be wise, discerning, and ever so prayerful about the kind of partner you want. And I hope and pray that the Lord Himself will reveal His will to you: whether it’s to pursue someone intentionally, to wait, or to remain single according to His perfect plan.
Thank you so much Philip. I love these sharing from what you have learned ad experienced. I am also in a first relationship at 28, but I do have doubts and I am asking myself questions and prayerfully considering, asking questions and finding out more, while I trust God for His best – to marry right, the right person, He wants for me, rightly. Trusting God to learn more and me made perfected and complete in Him. Thank you again. God bless you more.
You are welcome, Oluwatobi! Thank you as well for your comment. For us first-timers, this is a great opportunity to seek God and apply His will — even in romance. May you and your girlfriend end up being more like Christ as you both seek Him in your relationship. 🙂